Belgrade Day #1

Trip Start Sep 25, 2012
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23
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Trip End Oct 20, 2012


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Flag of Serbia  , Central Serbia,
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mom and I arrived at our hotel, Le Petit Piaf, at 8:20 a.m. after a 6 a.m. flight from Skopje, Macedonia. A room was not yet ready, so Mom and I ate breakfast before getting into our Room 104 at 9:22. This is the first hotel I've ever stayed in where your fingerprint is used to open the door. Wow.

We napped for about 2.5 hours, getting up at 11:53 a.m. and heading out at 12:17 p.m. for sightseeing here in Belgrade. Our first stop was Kalemegdan Citadel, the enormous fortress at the strategic confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. My guidebook notes some 115 battles have been fought over control of Kalemegdan. Most of today’s fortress dates to Austro-Hungarian and Turkish construction in the 1700s.

Mom and I headed first to the Lower Citadel, then climbed up a narrow, steep, cobblestone pathway to the Upper Citadel. There are great views of the rivers and the city from atop the Upper Citadel. There we saw the Victory Monument, sculpted by Ivan Mestrovic in 1928. It was originally intended to stand in the city center, but was placed high upon the fortress grounds due to the victor’s nudity. He holds a falcon, symbolizing Slavic freedom, and a sword in defense of peace. On the plaza beneath the Victor are several display boards, in Serbian and English, about the metamorphosis of Belgrade from Oriental outpost to a fortified European Baroque city.

We made our way southeast to the outdoor displays of tanks, torpedoes, and other weaponry that are part of the Military Museum. Mom and I excited the fortress via Stambol Gate, the main gate built by the Turks in 1750. We then walked through the park surrounding the fortress, which includes several souvenir vendors. At one kiosk, I bought a set of hyperinflationary bills issued in Yugoslavia in 1993, when notes were issued in denominations of up to 500 billion dinar! It is supposedly the largest denomination bill ever issued in the world. See a photo below of some of the largest value notes. Crazy! I also purchased Belgrade and Serbia keychains for my collection, which now includes 99 countries.

After locating Restoran Piceria Kosava, Mom and I sat down to a late lunch at 2:58 p.m. The bill for our pasta dishes came to 1,470 dinar ($16.33). Next at 3:46 we entered the Ethnographic Museum, which cost 100 dinar ($1.11) each. The museum features exhibits on Serbian national culture such as folk costumes, early forms of transportation such was wagons, and urban embroidery.

Exiting the museum at 4:43, Mom went shopping while I strolled along the Knez Mihailova pedestrian mall, passing through Republic Square, Belgrade’s central plaza. I met back up with Mom at 5:15 and we walked to the hotel for a couple hours of downtime.

I received an e-mail from my friend Todd informing me that the 15-night Celebrity Infinity repositioning cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Valparaiso, Chile, via the Panama Canal departing Dec. 7 had just dropped significantly in price. I’ve been watching this cruise for a couple months now, wanting to go on it so I could do back-to-back cruises. My friend Mike and I booked last November a 13-night Star Princess cruise from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires departing Dec. 22. The Infinity sailing from Fort Lauderdale arrives into Valparaiso Dec. 22, enabling a perfect transfer to Star Princess, enabling one to cruise for four consecutive weeks from Florida to Argentina. The Infinity had recently been priced at $1,691 for a single-occupancy inside cabin; that price has now dropped to $1,309 (including all taxes and fees) as Celebrity opened up "Category Z," a category where you can book an inside cabin guarantee without being able to select a specific cabin. Cruiselines often open up this “GTY” category within two months of departure when there is excess inventory.

The Infinity price is now below my target of $100/night or less, so I sent Todd my credit-card information and asked him to book the cruise for me (Todd has a part-time travel-agent business). :-) I now have three cruises booked for the next three months – a total of 41 nights of cruising ahead in the next 85 days!

Mom and I headed out to dinner at 8:12, eating right next door at Restoran Dva Jelena (Two Deer). We started with a cucumber salad. It was nothing but a plate of cucumbers!!! Mom ordered grilled pork loin with baked potato. I had a salmon fillet with mixed vegetables and french fries. We shared a half-liter of house white wine and I also tried a shot of plum rajika, a Serbian specialty liquor. Everything was very simple but tasted good. Our bill came to 3,020 dinar ($33.56).

Returned to the hotel room at 9:29. Online and blog. Bed prep, paid bills online, and then bed at 12:53 a.m. I’m very excited about booking the Infinity cruise. So glad the price came down to my level! I had booked a plane ticket from Washington to Santiago, Chile, on Copa Airlines using United miles to board the Star Princess cruise. But now I’ll be able to cancel that ticket and get my 50,000 miles back to save for a future trip since I will be traveling via ship from the USA to Chile instead!
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