Belgrade is not a beautiful city but it is an interesting city that's full of hedonism. Architecturally, it's a mishmash of two centuries of grandiose buildings and ugly Soviet-style concrete blocks - a bit like other cities in the former eastern block. Regardless, the city holds some real gems. Perched between the Danube and Sava Rivers, the ancient Kalemegdan Citadel has always sought (not always successfully) to protect the city. Leading from it into the city are some lively streets with young bars - one street in particular, Strahinjica Bana, is known as Silicon Valley, because of the quantity and quality of breasts on display.
The food is very good and though it wasn't cheap it was because we chose to eat at some of the better eateries. Having said that, cheap pizza was readily available. As for the drinks prices? I can't remember.
21 Nov 2009 - Belgrade (The Kalemegdan), SerbiaWith sore heads from the night before and very little sleep, the day time was dedicated to exploring just a little bit of Belgrade before hitting the drinks hard again in the night.
A walk to the Kalemegdan, Belgrade's principal tourist attraction, took us through a few less important sites but the main intention was purely to while away a few hours before the festivities began again. For their daytime entertainment the hags did some hag like activities such as a spa and a facial thus giving us a break from watching what we said in front of them.
After the limited sight seeing and some food we retired to the hotel to prepare for the evening. Richard went missing for a short while to get a hair cut - the kind of thing everyone does on a stag do - and then we began the all male drinking action. However, Jint was under orders to be at a certain night club at a particular time, meaning that we were all under the Russian yoke. Unfortunately for the stag we arrived late and the expression on his boss' face was pure thunder. Priceless for us.
Once in, the stag proceeded to get hopelessly drunk while his missus bought £200 bottles of champagne. He was not too happy and so got even more drunk which resulted in him having to be taken back to the hotel. Jint drink too much? This really was a blast from the past. His missus and brother took him back and then she returned to continue partying. We left shortly after spotting her dancing on the bar and then took the stag back out again so we could continue the night. Again, we didn't get back till after 6AM but instead of sleeping, packed our bags and got a taxi to the airport.
Serbia - Zindan Gate Tower in the Kalemegdan
Kalemegdan is a fortress and park. It forms the core and the oldest section of the urban area of Belgrade and for centuries the city population was concentrated only within the walls of the fortress. The name 'Kalemeydan' betrays Belgrade's Ottoman history as Kalemeydan means "castle square" in Turkish. The cliff like ridge overlooks the Great War Island and the confluence of the Sava river into the Danube and makes one of the most beautiful natural lookouts in Belgrade.
Serbia - The Kalemegdan I
First mention of the city is when it was founded in the 3rd century BC as Singidunum by the Celtic tribe of the Scordisci. The city fortress was later conquered by the Romans, became known as Singidunum and became a part of 'the military frontier', where the Roman Empire bordered 'barbaric Central Europe'. Singidunum was defended by the Roman legion IV Flaviae which built a fortified camp on a hill. Between AD 378 and 441 the Roman camp was repeatedly destroyed in the invasions by the Goths and Huns.
Serbia - The Kalemegdan, Zindan Gate
The Kalemegdan has upper and lower sections, each enclosed within its own wall. This, the Zindan Gate is part of the upper section.
Serbia - The Kalemegdan, Despot's Gate
Looking out through Despot's Gate and the innermost city wall with Dizdar's Tower. It is connected via a bridge to the Zindan Gate. The gate was built in 1404-1427 and is named after Despot Stefan. He was the son and heir to Prince Lazar, who died at the Battle of Kosovo against the Turks on June 15th 1389. The Battle of Kosovo is particularly notable to Serbian concepts of history, heritage, tradition and national identity. The gate and tower are the best preserved medieval part of the fortress.
Serbia - The Kalemegdan, Panzer IV
The Kalmegdan has a display of old weapons within the grounds, this Panzer IV being one of the exhibits. The Panzer IV was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Robust and reliable, it saw service in all combat theaters, and has the distinction of being the only German tank to remain in continuous production throughout the war, with over 8,500 produced between 1936 and 1945.
Serbia - Inner Stambol Gate
Inner Stambol Gate is southeastern gate in the second city wall, connected via a bridge to the Clock Gate, and via a land bridge to the outer ravelin (a triangular fortification or detached outwork in front of the bastions of a fortress. The ravelin is placed outside a castle opposite a fortification curtain. The edges are placed so that the guns there can sweep fire upon the troops that have to run along the fortification curtain), where the way forks towards the Outer Stambol Gate. The gate was built around 1750.
Serbia - The Kalemegdan, Clock Gate
Clock Gate is south eastern gate in the innermost city wall, connected via a bridge to the Inner Stambol (Istanbul) Gate. The gate got its name as it is located directly under the Clock Tower. It was built in 17th century by Venetian architect Andrea Cornaro, and is hence sometimes referred to as Cornaro's Gate.
Serbia - At the top of the Kalemegdan
At the top of the ridge on the Kalemegdan it is clear to see why this patch of land has been contested for centuries. The left is the Danube river and a number of floating bars that we visited on the first night. The fog was so intense that at the time we had no idea what surrounded us and could not see the ridge.
Serbia - Republic Square and National Theatre
The present square was formed after the demolition of the Stambol Gate (1866) and construction of the National Theatre (1869). The Gate stood between the monument to Prince Mihailo and the National Theatre building. It was the largest and most beautiful town gate at the time when Belgrade was encircled by a moat. It was named after the road which led through it to Constantinople (Istanbul). The Stambol Gate is where the Turks executed the 'raya', their non-Muslim subjects, by impaling them on stakes.
Serbia - Prince Michael Street (Knez Mihailova)
This is the main walking street in Belgrade. It is a pedestrian zone and shopping center, protected by law as one of the oldest and most valuable landmarks of the city. It has a large number of impressive buildings and mansions built at the end of the 1870s. The street follows the central grid layout of the Roman city of Singidunum. During the time of Turks, there were gardens, drinking-fountains and mosques along its lengths. The inset picture shows the same location at the end of the 19th century.
Serbia - The rarest of rare steaks
Very tasty, very tender and very raw. Actually I would have liked it to be cooked more but it was still very enjoyable. Nick thought is should be used a male device for solo pleasure.
Serbia - The coc market
A place whose name also greatly amused Nick.
Serbia - The chaps
The club in which Jint drank himself silly with about...two shots.
Serbia - Jint in familiar pose
When we retrieved Jint from his sick bed and dragged him back out he was still far from recovered. After this and a few slices of pizza he was able to carry on. I wonder if his missus knows this?
20 Nov 2009 - Belgrade (Belgrade Stag Do), Serbia
I must be getting old. Over the last year there has been a rash of friends getting married. If two is a rash. One of the chaps got married on the quick and inconsiderately did us all out of a stag do. Jint, the stag in question on this 'do' elected to bring his missus and her chums along thus also doing us out of another 'do'.
A disastrous start to the trip began with me missing the flight by literally one minute thus also causing Rich to miss out. As it was my error I then paid up for two more return flights (BA would not allow us to return on the return portion of our ticket because we missed the outward flight). I'm glad to say that the flights were with another carrier. When BA's inflexible staff lose their jobs because of militant unions I will be the first to laugh.
We arrived at about 7pm and met Hywel and Nick, two uni chums who I haven't seen for far too long and of course the stag and his brother. Who are these guys? Well, if you weren't part of the merry uni throng then you won't be interested. If you are, then go back to the early 90's and reminisce Exeter University 1992-1995
The night was fairly civilised and began with a meal on one of the floating restaurants on the Danube. Nice food but an egg cup full of rice with truffles can not be expected to keep someone accustomed to a mountain happy. A rip off bottle of vodka (£40!!) was consumed between the aforementioned and the birds before buggering off to a bar/club named Gaocosi which in reality is all the lads wanted to do anyway. F*ck food. A few sideways looks at the beginning of the meal confirmed that suspicion.
Belgrade - Floating on the Danube
Life should be enjoyed in the company of good friends dining on fine cuisine. Or actually it should be enjoyed in murky watering holes, the seedier the better, and food relegated to the sidelines. This is a toast with the rather expensive vodka we bought. £40 for vodka!!!! What's wrong with cheap, brandless fire water that tears the lining off your oesophagus? Seems that our Russian and Armenian lady friends have a particular taste for fine vodka, two words I previously thought would never be used together.
Belgrade - Gaocosi bar, it seems that the stag has pulled
Out on his stag night, gyrating and grinding his groin into some foreign lass, Jint seems to have pulled a result out of the bag. Actually, it's his missus so negative points scored.
Gaucosi is actually a pretty chilled out bar which while busy, isn't UK busy i.e. you aren't packed in like sardines. The Europeans do bars a lot better than us Brits.
Belgrade - Gaocosi bar
A couple of the chaps.
Belgrade - Gaocosi bar, the Grim Reaper minus hood
More beer. More vodka.
Belgrade - Gaocosi bar, Nick and the stag hags
This would have been a good photo if it wasn't for the deaf dude. For Nick's stag do we went to Iceland and that was an all boys affair - just as the fine tradition dictates. Check out the pre-credit crunch Stag in Iceland.
Belgrade - Gaucosi and a thick, Danubian fog
I was surprised by how foggy Belgrade was but I guess that in November with the Danube, one of Europe's major water ways adjacent, fog should come as no surprise. Someone is speaking to a taxi driver whilst I and others find relief behind a car. Such terrible ambassadors for Britain.
Belgrade - Mid way through a good night
Rich as usual ends up over doing it and bends over to attempt to empty the contents of his stomach. This was just outside of our hotel after we returned from Gaucosi and the stag and the hags retired for the night. Not us though. The night was still young. and we eventually didn't return until...no later than 6AM.