Belgrade- it's no war zone
Trip Start Aug 20, 2007
13Trip End Sep 25, 2007
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Where I stayed
The Hotel Royal must have seemed just that- round about 1958 in the middle of the Communist era. It was big, had a bar, covered outdoor bar, snack bar AND restaurant, as well as amazingly beautiful rooms complete with combination woodgrain bed/desk furniture and red (well, it was once red...) wall to wall carpet. It cost me €42 for the night, but that also included an incredibly greasy breakfast served in the underground tomb of a restaurant by a wait staff that seemed as though, much like the restaurant itself, they too had not seen the light of day in many decades. If you want to check out the hotel in all its glory, here's a video! http://www.hotelroyal.co.yu/english/video_overview.html
After getting over the excitement of checking into such a fine establishment, I went in search of the famous Belgrade nightlife. Unfortunatley, I found myself too exhausted from my 24 hour train journey to really put my heart into it. I ended up in the touristy (Serbian tourists, that is) pedestrian zone, which was great for people watching but not much in the way of offering me any alternative entertainment. In fact, I never saw any sign of alternative anything in Belgrade, which really surprised me. I was expecting it to be like a miniature Prague, less attractive visually but equally as exciting and avant-garde culturally. Half the people in the street in Prague look Bohemian (well, they are I guess...) whereas half the people on the street in Belgrade looked Mafioso. I must say, it wasn't very pretty. I finally found an old flea market, which had been eluding me the entire trip, but there wasn't even any good junk to be found! boo.
The other surprising thing, other than the lack of surprises, was that the only real apparent sign of the war was one city corner where they left the bombed out buildings (those were the result of NATO bombs). That and I guess the mafia that has rolled into town in a big way to fill the void that the war left behind. Somehow that Balkan hospitality I was looking for was lacking. Or maybe my expectations were too high after coming from Turkey, the hospitality centre of the universe! In any case, nice place to visit for a day but not in a hurry to go back, unless I had a local guide, which I;m sure like everywhere else would make all the difference.
Oh, yeah, and the Czechs won't like this. In Belgrade you can order a beer in a LITER mug!