A STEP DOWN AS FAR AS CAPITAL CITIES GO

Trip Start Sep 14, 2012
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Trip End Oct 15, 2012


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Where I stayed
Belgrade City Hotel
What I did
The Fortress and the pedestrian mall

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

A better sleep [if first looking at the time after 0440 so counts]. Actually got up with Arjan's 0630 alarm but not all smooth sailing in the intervening time. Calling Arjan 'Dutchman' got me back a 'Canadian'. These Dutchies are sensitive to the non-use of first names I guess.

The first impressions on the BBC and the CBC suggested Obama fared relatively poorly in the first presidential debate, Roddy. Whee!

Down at 0700 for by and large the usual assortment of brekkie items with a few local items thrown in for good measure. I have taken a liking to the little pate tins on cheese and/or cold cuts. Bozo Ben comes down and is on his mobile phone at brekkie.

In South America, Africa or parts of Asia one might expect the 'hold the schlong with one hand and hold the toilet seat with the other' trick but surely not in Europe. Welcome to Serbia!

Went at 0800 for a half hour walk around the square and down the pedestrian walk for further pictures. Having a coffee in the square, watching people go by, would have been nice.

Assembled by 0900 for the short taxi ride to the bus station. Our cabbie was talkative, suggesting as a dinner 'black George steak', beef which is poached and cheese is wrapped up in it. It is apparently a big, thick steak. Apparently the cab of Arjan, Bozo Ben and Ms BB was involved in a little mva but nil of note.

Bags put underneath the public bus to Belgrade and on we went. It left at the scheduled 0930 time. Poor Arjan couldn't get Nathalie to sit beside him on the bus. It was full, mainly with locals. By the ticket given us, the cost of the trip is roughly $9 US.

It's just 87k to Belgrade [Beograd per the signs] as we headed out on E-75. Rachel and I had a good discussion on British films and Hollywood plus American and British tv influencing each other. Arjan later suggested to Natalie with Rachel's sudden talkativeness that they had traded places. Somehow the comment was not found to be amusing.

We exited the main road, taking largely slow roads through suburbs. We eventually got to the Belgrade Bus Terminal at 1100. It was no more than a 10M walk with gear to the Belgrade City Hotel. We are in room 13 so no triskaidekaphobia here. The Dutchman did seem to be a bit tired.

More time than needed given for people to freshen up but off at 1145 for lunch first and tour with Boyanna [?] second. We had lunch at the oldest restaurant in town, dating from the 1820's from memory. The lunch itself was nothing special: the beef goulash filling and the Jelen draft not much better than the bottled version 950 SD. Ms BB said she did not see any eclairs in France recently, to the amusement of Arjan and yours truly...hey hey hey Rosie!

Someone mentioned poutine. I said it was one of many bad things associated with Quebec, Nathalie responding 'don't push me, Terry'...how rude! Guess she didn't really want to see the blog.

Boyanna was a character. She had greyish hair save for two bangs of an orange hue. Her attire was bohemian. Her gravelled voice was unique. I felt like walking today so I wished some of her segments had been a bit shorter.

Our walk began at 1345. She noted the complex history of Belgrade, under seige many times due to its position on the edge of several empires. It was bombed heavily four times last century: once in WWI, twice in WWII and during the Balkan War. Boyanna said Belgrade has 5 seasons: the usual four plus bombings.

We headed to the Belgrade Fortress, passing through the Inner Stambol Gate. It was more for the view than anything else. We saw where the Sava River on our left merged with the Danube River, eventually heading to the Black Sea. She pointed out distant Zemun, suggesting the area for tomorrow [readily accessible on tram 83].

Heading back, we stopped at the Brunocaffe. I had a cappuccino 160 SD, not really catching much of what Boyanna had to say as she held court. Nathalie tried to pay in a foreign currency, winning the foreign transaction duh award. It is quite hot.

Boyanna liked to joke that Serbians' favourite pastime is to do nothing, implying few liked to work. She noted the main pedestrian mall area in Belgrade was the former military road in Roman times. Ending off in Republic Square, she said locals refer to it as meeting at [or by] the horse re a statue of the chap who beat the Turks in 1867, rescuing the city from Ottoman rule. Zsolt saw people from a Viking Cruise ship, calling them 'boat people'.

People split thereafter. Arjan and I went to the nearby Cafe Theatre to do what Serbians do: have an ice cream, chit chat and let life drift by. The 'Golden Girls' congregated at a nearby table. The Aussie blokes spent time at the table of Boyanna and Zsolt, cutting in to the time the two guides were probably planning on. Had a coffee milk shake which was nice.

We've seen little of Belgrade so far but it seems a cut [or two] beneath most capitals we've visited. Suffice to say places like Vienna and Budapest [even Prague for a period] that were capitals of empires have benefitted from the largesse of mighty rulers. I feel nevertheless tomorrow will bring out some good aspects of the city.

Being classy guys, we walked over to the city theatre to see The Merry Wives of Windsor was on tonight; Swan Lake, on Friday night. Should impress Nathalie re our dedication to the arts.

We walked toward the St Sava Cathedral, a fair distance, but veered off eventually, passing by the bombed buildings Zsolt had referred to earlier. Couldn't get the basic connection re the wifi so did part of the diary and downloaded pix where Arjan had a quick nap. We differ re how close Zemun is: I think 2H+ as a walk whereas Arjan thinks it is just an hour away. Tram tickets here are bought at tobacco shops: who came up with that dumb idea?

By 1930 went for a walk back to the pedestrian area. It was some 25M in duration. Ran into the girls who bagged dinner and were non-committal re tomorrow.

Off in search of dinner, Arjan said he hated Belgrade and would have been happy to be off tomorrow, suggesting there was nothing to see here. After running the gamut of the pedestrian walkway, we settled on La Moliere, a French restaurant. Arjan was not in the best mood but things turned around with good meals [turkey for him and trout for me] plus his first [gratis] shot of raki.
The waitress suggested about 5 terms in Dutch he knew. Both the Efes beer and the raki were local brews, neither product as smooth as the stuff I had earlier this year in Turkey 2,020 SD.

Arjan and I discussed travel, not saying goodbye to sundry people and the dissatisfaction with the group dynamics. He is disappointed as well with the lack of group chemistry. All in all, it was a good meal.

There were lots of people in the pedestrian mall area. Restaurants seemed fairly busy. I must try some popcorn tomorrow with what I take to be a chili or paprika seasoning.

Back c 2230 and diary update since the wifi is still a mystery. Selected pix for the day and bagged out a bit after 2300.

 
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