Arriving into Belgrade at 10:30pm we could see it was going to be different to what we had encountered so far on the trip. It was busy and looked like a capital city from Western Europe. Wide roads and plenty of cars ran along sidewalks full of young adults, dressed in their Friday night best, ready for a big night on the town. Although it was actually a Monday night. Our backpackers, MeliMelo, was right near Republik Square, so we couldn’t ask for a better location. We had wanted a private room this time as Sarah was still not 100%, but unfortunately the owner had given the room away so gave us a dorm to ourselves. It was smaller than most of the 6-bed dorms we had been in, but yet managed to fit 10 beds. It was tight, but we managed to find a spot for our bags, on the other beds, before heading downstairs to get a quick bite to eat.
Now, Serbia uses Cyrillic Script. We had encountered it in previous adventures in Russia and Bulgaria, but are sad to say, we are yet to really get to grip with it. So as we arrived at a little fast food restaurant I confidently walked up to the counter and pointed at what they were cooking and said “one of those, please” I was met with confused faces who looked at me and looked at each other before shaking their heads. The chef looked over, I pointed at the menu then at what they were serving and said the same thing. Finally it clicked and the girl said “do you want a hamburger?” Ah… I ate the burger, and left slightly less confident than as I entered. It was time for bed.
The following morning we ventured out to see the sights. We walked through republic square, up the main pedestrian street, Kneza Milhaila, and through the park to the Fortress overlooking the meeting point of the Danube and Sava Rivers. Outside and lining the fortress walls were a heap of red clay tennis courts filled with heaps of young boys and girls, practising to become the next Novak Djokovic or Jelena Jankovic. We walked throughout the main gates and along the walls overlooking the new town and with a view of the ominous building that is the West Gate. It was close to 11am, so we had time for a much needed ice cream before heading to the hostel as they were putting us in the private room equipped with its own ensuite. The room wasn’t ready and the ensuite didn’t exist so we hit the streets again to see what else we could find. We wandered up the hill past the remains of the NATO bombed military head quarters to St Sava Cathedral as the rain started to pour. When we made it to the church and walked inside it was completely empty. There was a massive renovation in process so there were no seats, tiled flooring or paintings. Just a massive empty expanse of one of the biggest domed cathedrals in the world. We left as the sun was starting to shine back down towards St Marks Cathedral before walking down the “Bohemian” Street of Skandarska.
We walked up and down three times, yet no matter how many times the ladies in front of every restaurant tried to persuade us to eat in their restaurant and to order a plate of meat that would feed 5 men, it didn’t float our boats. Instead we opted for a busy little restaurant on a corner for some Cevapi that would feed only two men. We headed to their fresh food market to check it out, but unfortunately there was not really a kitchen in the hostel, so we could only look and not buy. Once we were able to put our bags in the double room, it was nearing time for dinner. We walked out, crossed the street before a massive strike of lighting hit the building behind us and torrential rain poured down on us. We quickly ran to the safest point, a bar, and ordered a beer to wait it out. It was going to be a long wait, so when it eased, we quickly walked down the Main Street as huge strikes of lightning lit up the sky above us. We made to a restaurant Tribeca, where we had a nice meal, some great red wine and watched as the storm continued outside. We were just about to settle the bill, when I asked the waiter if the had Sjvbica, a plum version of Rakije that is meant to be drinkable. He did, I had it, it was definitely tastier than Rakije I had tried previously, but it still had an underlying taste of, well, Rakije. It was time for bed, so we made it back to the hostel, fairly dry for a well needed double bed.