In honour of Teodora’s christening, Phil and I flew out to Belgrade for a 5 day tour of Serbia. Not your average weekend break destination, but that made it all the more interesting.
With masses of help from Snezana and Voja (thank you both), and armed with various items sourced from the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree – principally the InYourPocket.com Guide to Belgrade (PDF) and Ben Haines’ excellent guide – we explored Belgrade and Novi Sad. There’s no Guide book to Serbia, and only a couple of nondescript pages in Let’s Go 2004 and the latest edition of the Lonely Planet to Eastern Europe.
Not surprisingly, with tips and transport from S&V we actually got to see lots of old and new Belgrade. Top new spots were the floating cafes on the Danube by the Hotel Jugoslavija and the riverside path that runs all along the New Belgrade side of the Danube and the Sava past the bridges that join New and Old Belgrade. Very walkable, and pleasantly free from fumes, with lovely views out over the rivers and Old Belgrade. Belgrade Fortess and the Kalemegdan park remained as pleasant a hang out as I remembered from last time (Snezana and Voja’s wedding in 2002), as did the regular strolls along Knez Mihajlova, the pedestrianised shopping street that forms the spine of Old Belgrade. Later on Saturday, once we’d generated some small dinar notes (pizza lunch at the Snezana restaurant, serenaded by the Police Marching Band. It turned out to be part of the city’s 600 birthday celebrations), we also explored Princess Ljubica’s Residence (aka Konak Kneginje Ljubice).
Foodwise, we ate pizza at a cafe on the cobbles of Skadarlija and sushi (excellent sushi!!) at the Ikki Sushi Bar and Japanese Restaurant on Gospodar Jovanova (No. 46) only a 5 minute walk from Trg Republike and the National Museum. G. Jovanova wasn’t marked on any of the maps we got, but it runs parallel to (and between) Gospodar Jevremova and Strahinjica Bana. Admittedly, not your typical Serbian cuisine, but it was recommended by japan-o-phile Snezana, and they do do beautiful sushi, a lot cheaper and a lot better than some I’ve had in London.
On Sunday, we joined in the family celebrations marking Tea’s christening, in the beautiful Saborna Crkva (across the road from Princess Ljubica’s Residence), followed by a fantastic buffet lunch at the Hotel Intercontinental. Together with Lawrence and Heather we walked off our gluttony, and the delicious chocolate christening-and-birthday cake, in the spring sun, strolling from the Intercontinental, down to the river, along the north bank and crossing back to Old Belgrade over the Brankov Most, winding up at the iconic Hotel Moskva.
On Monday we took a bus (*) an hour north and spent a lovely couple of days in Novi Sad. It’s a complete contrast to Belgrade – beautiful Baroque architecture and a lot less traffic. The excellent Novi Sad tourist info office was a fountain of suggestions, maps and booklets, just a pity we only found it on day 2! It’s at Bulevar Mihajla Pupina 9, but lots of info is available on the Novi Sad Tourism website.
At Ben Haines’ recommendation, we stayed in the Hotel Vojvodina which has a prime position on Trg Slobode. Excellent location and a fantastic old hotel – we felt like we were living in luxury, albeit with a tinge of faded glory. To atone for our Japanese indulgence, on Monday night we dined at the Restoran Lipe, Mileticeva 7-9, which offers Serbian specialties…. Phil feasted on 5 (count ’em!) homemade sausages and I managed to find a variety of veggie options scattered across the bi-lingual menu. Earlier on in the day we’d had great coffee and cake sat outside the Figaro Poslasticarnica cafe just off the square behind the church of St Mary’s Name. We can confirm that every cafe we visited offered an extravaganza of excellent cakes!
On Tuesday we crossed the Danube and explored the olde worlde streets nestling at the foot of the imposing Petrovaradin fortress. Back in Novi Sad centre, our tour of the Vojvodina Museum was an experience too, with the ticket girl opening up the rooms for us as we went along and switching the lights off behind us! The exhibitions became more interesting and accessible as you progress from the stone etc age sections to social and cultural history rooms.
Postcards seemed hard to find other than at the postcard, card and map stalls in Old Belgrade. In Novi Sad we chanced upon some quite good ones in the Forum shop (newsagents-y) on Kra. Aleksandra.
One thing that struck Phil and I is that Belgrade and Novi Sad both seem to pander to the Serbian Shoe Fetish – as evidenced by the number of Office shoe shops in both cities!!
Back by bus to Belgrade On Tuesday and pasta dinner with Snezana, Voja and Tea. A lovely lovely visit.
Finally, my photos are up!:
Friday 16 April – Belgrade and dinner chez Petrovic
Saturday 17 April – Belgrade (and sushi)
Sunday 18 April – Teodora’s Christening, and my Belgrade Birthday
Monday 19 April – Bye bye Belgrade, Hello Novi Sad!
Tuesday 20 April – Splendid Novi Sad
December 2012: Following Fotopic’s demise, I’ve uploaded the photos onto Flickr: Belgrade and Novi Sad, April 2004
* The procedure for the bus was a learning curve – maybe not for those more used to travelling by bus. For other novices, the main novelties to get to grips with are:
a) Buses have designated departure stands. These are numbered, and the number is on the ticket underneath the departure time on both tickets we got. In Cyrillic it looks like “nepoH”.
b) You get given a token when you buy your ticket. This gets you through the gates/fencing that separates non-travellers from the buses and the departure stands.