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Belgrade by foot!

large_aa1e5960-eb1f-11e9-85ee-af5d09d7e91f.jpgRepublic Square, with the statue of the Prince riding a horse (hence, the local slang name for this square "to the horse")I slept at 2am the previous night! Or should I say, early this morning. That said, I did do a bit of homework and if there's one thing I learnt from the books - Belgrade [Belgrade-travel-guide-1204132], at least the old town isn't too big and can be covered in a day. So I decided to take it easy, woke up close to 9a and headed for the buffet breakfast.

It's nowhere as good as the ones I'm used to having in the Ritz, and very low on local vegetarian variety but overall, was good and the service was prompt and friendly. I then returned to my room, cleaned up a bit (before the cleaning team arrived) and headed out. It was close to noon when I left the hotel. Front desk called me a taxi. I was told that when in Belgrade, only use Pink Taxi or Naxis (with the green sign).large_aa1be860-eb1f-11e9-b101-676df481803a.jpgRepublic Square, with the statue of the Prince riding a horse (hence, the local slang name for this square "to the horse")Front desk also gave me a map of the town along with some recommendations.

Anyway, got a fairly friendly driver who drove me to the heart of the Old Town aka Stari Gard - Republic Square. This stands in a place that has seen non-Muslim executions by the Turks, followed by a gate during the Austrian rule. Today, all that has gone, and is a more cultural bohemian melange, with the National Museum, National Theatre and the city's busiest pedestrian only shopping street all in stone's throw. The square commemorated the (then) Prince in an equastrian pose and all, but today the role of the Prince, and the statue doesn't mean much. To a point that the locals refer to the statue and Republic Sq as "to the horse" (so, a phrase "let's meet by the horse" means "let's meet at Republic Sq"!).

I had a wander around the shopping street before heading to the first of several attractions of the day - Kalemegdan Fortress.large_aa1f6ad0-eb1f-11e9-bf44-bb9586fdce2c.jpgRandom shot, reminded me of the ruin bars in BudapestThis fortress proudly dominates the city's skyline, and overlooks the area of confluences of the 2 powerful rivers of the region - Sava and Danube. Read review for more details and photos.

From here, I headed back to the main shopping area and headed into a fancy mall for lunch. It was at a popular Serbian chain, Vapiano (as in, "go slow" in Italian). It's a pretty cool concept: they give you a credit card like thing at the entrance. You go from counter to counter ordering what you want (like in a food court), your "card" gets charged. And you pay when you leave. I ordered a pizza, a rice dessert and a latte. All faultless with generous servings and spotless service. The weather was amazing so the terrace portion of the restaurant was full, so I had to make do with a bar stool.large_aa4ae7a0-eb1f-11e9-9afd-312a75cc5c41.jpgKalemegdan Fortress (see review for more photos)

Refuelled, I continued on to exploring other parts of Stari Gard. This included the very posh and leafy neighbourhood close to the river. Literally every building here had its own style including the famous French Embassy and the 2 popular attractions - Cathedral Church of St. Michael and Palace of Princess Ljubica.

The town had definitely grown on me. It did have a lot of similarities to some of the other former Yugoslavia and Russian countries I've been to, but this one was a cleaner, quieter and felt better organised. Serbians seem very quiet, very well behaved and polite. I already started to feel safe wandering around with my DSLR hanging off my shoulder!

A vast majority of this country is Orthodox Christian, aka their churches are amazingly ornate, and Serbian Orthodox Churches have their own uniqueness: several illuminated manuscripts, iconostatis (rich iron covered screens which separate the apse from the naos), altar covered in brocaded cloth usually with a relic placed above them, and the Holy Relics themselves.large_aa4baaf0-eb1f-11e9-b147-b9a07607955e.jpgThe very unimpressive Palace of Princess Ljubica with the minaret style chimneys (see review for more) Cathedral Church of St. Michael kickstarted my journey into appreciating several more along the way.Read review for more details and photos.

I then peeped into the Palace of the Princess. To be honest, this was one of the more different "Palaces" I've been to. It's easy to miss. It really is a whitewashed house with ornate windows. You pay a very small fee and are ushered inside. I won't say it was breathtaking, but after understanding the history, I didn't feel as underwhelmed as I did upon arrival.Read review for more details and photos.

Back to the main strip I went. It was full on socialising mode now. And was very interesting seeing the mix of people.large_aa3bcc70-eb1f-11e9-b9ea-9fe21ae0f734.jpgSelfie by St. Sava's Temple (see review for more)I find this town very much like Indian towns. It's not just couples and families like I see in the US, but several old men all out for a drink without the wives, school kids larking around, was very varied and fun. The sunset was crisp, slightly on the chilly side but very pleasant. And from here, began my long long walk on Prince Milos street all to the very end of the Stari Gard to visit the holiest of them all - the Temple of St. Sava. St Sava is the founder of the Serbian Orthodox, and this is one of the largest and tallest Orthodox churches in the world. There's a church next door that was built 3 centuries later.Read review for more details and photos. I really did enjoy it very much. The small church was delightful: I was completely awestruck by the music playing inside.large_aa5dac50-eb1f-11e9-a074-9bfe173ff679.jpgSt. Sava's Temple (see review for more)I asked the lady outside at the counter who didn't understand English. Thank God for Google Translate, she told me the CD was for purchase which I bought.

And no, the day wasn't done yet. The final stop was about 10 mins walk from the Temple, and is the most visited Serbian attraction. yes, the man himself - the Nikola Tesla Museum. For the uninitiated, he's the man who invented AC, his pioneering work on X-rays, and a whole bunch of things. You also see him on the country's 100 dinar note. And yes, the airport after him. Nikola was predominantly based in the US and died there, but requested that his ashes be brought back and properly cremated in his home country. This was an incredible experience, probably the best and made my trip worth it.Read review for more details and photos.large_aa74ddd0-eb1f-11e9-a9a2-11fab4d03c4e.jpgNikola Tesla museum (see review for more)

I had the museum folks call me a taxi, and was back in the hotel shortly after 6pm. Boy, I was knackered to the bone! I visited the restaurant in the hotel itself. I've fallen in love with their phyllo doughs (made of cabbage and cheese) drenched in cold buttermilk. The best appetiser hands down. They should just add 2 and make it a main course! I ordered some tofu course that was best forgotten but filling. And finally, dessert, something called "hot and cold creme brulee" was rubbish, had nothing to do with the name. It felt like fruit salad covered in whipping cream. FAIL.

Anyway headed back to the room, bloody tired and just waiting to hit the sack.

All in all, a very nice day! I have to say, it's a very chilled town, very well planned. It didn't feel as claustrophobic as the Old Town part of Prague. At the same time, it had that small town feel unlike Budapest that was bigger. I'm glad I got to visit Belgrade!

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Posted by vikramonthemove 17:00 Archived in Serbia

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