Home to the New Bohemians
Belgrade (known locally as Beograd), the "White City," has been demolished and rebuilt nearly 40 times in its history. How can a city endure such conflict and still survive? The answer is in the resilient Serbian people. This is an amazing country, loaded with more than museums and churches – although you will find plenty of them. This is a place where people gather to eat, talk, fish and feel fancy-free.
Serbia isn't the land of high-tech, high-speed trains. But the ride is pleasant and comfortable, with scenery to behold and locals to banter with. It will take a bit over six hours from Zagreb, Croatia. Nearly nine from Skopje, Macedonia. With a Balkan Flexipass you can visit this area that truly is the cradle of European civilization.
Upon your arrival, you'll note the Belgrade Fortress dominates the city. The structure alone can provide a Serbian history lesson. At the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers, the structure dates back to the first century and has changed hands numerous times – from Roman, to Byzantine to the reign of Serbian despot Stefan Lazarevic. In the 16 th century, the Turks invaded and for 100 years the fortress went untouched. The war between Austria and Turkey opened a new chapter in Belgrade history. As a key fortification amidst the 18th century conflicts, the fortress was reconstructed three times. Wouldn't you know it, the Turks re-entered Belgrade in 1740 and the new fortifications were torn down. By the end of 18th century the fortress acquired its final shape. In some sections, you can see several layers of walls from vastly different historic periods.
With a bit of history in your pocket, head to the Stari Grad neighborhood and the street of Skadarlija. Styled after the Paris' Montmartre, this is bohemian Belgrade. Settled by Gypsies in the 1830s, their dwellings were replaced by brick buildings in the 1850s, and artisans moved right in. By the end of the 19 th century, the street was a rhapsody of creativity.
Today's Skadarlija is a short and curved street and a remarkable Belgrade tourist attraction. This isn't posh Belgrade but more of a "down with the people" kind of feeling. With hotels, art galleries and cafes, you'll find musicians playing traditional music and actors performing in Serb costumes. Come enjoy a frosty pint of pivo and rub elbows with intellectuals, artists and the hopelessly cool.
On Ada Ciganlija, a river island that has artifically been turned into a peninsula, you'll find up to 300,000 visitors on a summer weekend. Nicknamed, "More Beograda" or "Belgrade's Sea," you'll find sunbathers, fishermen and tourists soaking up the sun and atmosphere. The most noted landmark here is the fountain, a 460-foot tall water tower that operates during the day all year round. But during the summer, a laser light spectacle light's up the Belgrade night.
Not what you expected from this city? The news in recent decades focused on bombs bursting in air. Today, you'll find fireworks of a different kind. Serbs won't soon forget their tumultuous past, but there's a newfound energy here. Recently named "City of the Future" by the European Union, there's a thrust toward innovation and creativity. For the intrepid traveler, the future is now.
Contributed by: Amiee, Affiliate Marketing Manager, has traveled to 15 countries and over 45 European cities by rail, including Warsaw, where she attempted to find relatives!