48 Hours in Belgrade

When I left for the Dominican Republic, way back in 2002, everyone I knew (no word of a lie) said, ‘I’m coming to visit you!’

My parents, my sister, and my aunt came- all at the same time, so it was technically like having one visitor.  No one else showed up.

When I moved to Kuwait, absolutely no one said they would come visit… and no one did.

In China, my in-laws came.

While we were in Guatemala, the in-laws, my side of the family, and S came for a bit of a globe-trot.

Bahrain brought visits from my sister and the in-laws.

I think a lot of people missed out on visiting me in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala- they were easily the most beautiful and accessible of the countries I’ve been in.   But now we’re in Eastern Europe- a gateway to everywhere and we’ve already tied with Guatemala for the most visitors, and we’ve only been here for four months.  This weekend saw our friends D and K from Bahrain pop over for a quick 48-hours out of the desert and we were more than happy to show them what little parts of the city we know.  Okay, The Rugby Star was happy to show them- I was caught up in my own little mess.  More on that later.

48 Hours in Belgrade- What to See

Ada Ciganlija  Even if you only have 48 to spend in Belgrade, you can see and do so much!  Our friends landed at noon on Thursday.  The Sprout and I met them at the airport, whisked them to our apartment for suitcase-drop-off and then we were all out the door for a jaunt around Ada Ciganlija.  The lake was half-frozen and the water spout wasn’t spouting, but the sun was shining and the excitement of being outside in the semi-not-freezing weather was palpable.   The girls ran around like the proverbial headless chicken and the grown-ups played catch up.  For the first time in ages, it was just warm enough to sit outside for lunch while the girls pushed each other on the swings, played on the see-saw, and got knocked upside the head by the roundabout.  We introduced our friends to Ćevapi, a typical Serbia meat dish, which The Ladybug consumed as though she had never eaten food before.  As the sun started to sink just enough to bring the chill back to the air, we headed back to the apartment for a bit of down time.  The boys went out to play a little friendly footy and the little girls went to bed while the bigger girls caught up on gossip and life plans.

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Reunited and it feels so good!
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Popcorn by the half-frozen lake
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Serbian Stonehenge- I don’t know… (photo credit- D or K)

Kalemegdan, Skadarlija, St. Sava, Zemun and the Danube  Friday morning dawned very foggy- we couldn’t even see the bridge from our balcony.  We had a busy day planned and got moving early… ish.  The Rugby Star was taking our friends out into the city and I would meet up with them later- after my ‘little mess’ was cleared up.  They got taxies out to Kalemegdan and spent some time roaming around the fortress.  I expected to be done in enough time to join them… but that didn’t happen.  From the fortress, they wandered over to Skadarlija, the bohemian walking street, boasting cobble stone streets, hoards of restaurants and cafes, artists, and just the right amount of funk.  I hoped to join them for lunch, but that didn’t happen.  Next was a visit to St. Sava, one of the the largest Orthodox churches in the world.  The outside is extremely impressive… but the inside is still under construction.  I have already seen a couple of beautiful churches in this area and I am excited to see this one when it is fully completed.  I had hoped to visit the church with my friends… but that didn’t happen.

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The view from Kalemegdan on a foggy day (photo credit- D)
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I don’t know where this was because I wasn’t there…
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I don’t know where this is, either.  
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Of course The Sprout found a cat

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The final stop of the day was Toro Grill in Zemun, which sits just across from the mighty Danube.  The restaurant was modern and clean- the non-smoking section was actually completely separated from the smoking section, which was a nice surprise.  I was finally able to join my family and visitors here and we watched Zemun start to come alive as evening fell.  I found myself excited for spring and the promise of lazy afternoons spent roaming through the city, strolling by the water, and enjoying the energy and hospitality of Zemun.

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Look!  I made it!

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The children were completely spent by the end of the day and the adults made the adult decision not to force a dinner out in a restaurant upon them.  We all went home, jumped into our jammies, and threw on a movie.  I would think if one were young(er), or had less children, this would be the time when the party boats start to come alive, and someone who is not me and enjoyed partying into the wee hours of the morning might find themselves out among the crowds of Belgrade.

I found myself knitting comfortably in my chair with my husband and friends.

The markets  D and K had to leave this morning.  There was not a lot of time before they had to leave for the airport, so we showed them the local green market and then we were all introduced to a weekend flea market that I knew nothing about.  It’s not so much a flea market as a souk, but it was still very interesting.  I think we will find our way back there in the near future- The Rugby Star wants ski pants and who knows what treasures I may find.

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The small girls have laid down for a nap- it was a whirlwind weekend of a lot more activity than they’re really accustomed to, but it was so much fun… even if I didn’t get to do most of it.

Why not , you ask?  I got a speeding ticket, okay?  Me, the girl who never speeds, who has only ever been in one accident- knock on wood- got a speeding ticket.  I did not see a sign anywhere and I was doing 75kph in a 50kph.  Let me tell you- I will NEVER speed again in Serbia- not because it’s ‘wrong’ but because the process is so unbelievably annoying!  The policeman- who didn’t speak English- made me drive home and get my passport while he kept my license, car registration, and Serbian ID card.  When I got back, he was gone.  Magically, our school facilities manager found him on the corner of this and that street.  He then proceeded to KEEP my passport and tell me I could go to the station on Monday to pay my fine and pick it up.

Unfortunately, we had hotel reservations in Zlatibor for Sunday to Tuesday.  I asked G- the facilities manager- if I could go and miss the ‘pay the fine’ day.  He said sure.  I said, ‘Will I get in trouble?’  He said, ‘Yes a little.  But I’ll be with you, so it’s okay.’  So I went.  And had a great time.  We came back and went to the police station on Wednesday.  The office we needed was closed.  So we went back yesterday.  Short story long, 4 hours later, two offices across town from each other and a 70Euro fine, and I’m not longer a Serbian criminal.  The whole process was reminiscent of the ‘Great Renap Adventure of 2011.’

Anywho- come visit.  This place is so amazing and it’s so close to so many other amazing places.  I am making a goal to see something new every weekend- I will be picking the brains of my Serbian coworkers, the Serbian husband of my friend who lives in Australia (you know who you are), guide books, TripAdvisor, and the foreign hires who have been here forever.  I want to know this great city… and I’ll be very happy to show it to you as well if you come for a visit (or have The Rugby Star do it, in case I’m in jail or something).


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