Published: March 11th 2011
August 22nd 2008
Stylish-looking architecture just off Belgrade's main shopping street
Mention to a media-influenced person that you're heading off on a trip to Belgrade might prompt them to question why on earth your choice of holiday destination would be a place with such a conflict-tarnished past. The answer to all of this is plain and simple - it is nothing short of fascinating and fulfilling to see the extent to which the locals in Serbia have turned their whole lifestyles around in the wake of a troubled history, and witnessing their path along the ever-ongoing recovery process is, for my money, all part of a soulful lifestyle. Belgrade bears the dubious distinction of being the location for the world's worst ever recorded inflationary rate, and while the city has gone very much back on track economically, the traces of a shakier past are in evidence, and are as essential parts of the urban fabric as any other. Highlights include the ornate-looking St. Sava's church, alongside the city's best-known landmark, Kalemegdan fortress, and neighbouring Belgrade Zoo, and the city can be roughly divided (by the river, it seems) into two halves, old and new. New Belgrade was the location for 2008's annual Belgrade beer festival, and clearly, this is a nation which
Off-the-beaten-track restaurant tucked away in a suburb of Belgrade - cute!
derives pleasure from harmless alcohol-fuelled hedonism just as much as any other, with the live music at the festival providing the energetic buzz for the whole event. Wandering around the city itself revealed a few unplanned (pleasant) surprises, namely the sizeable outdoor market in New Belgrade, where I stumbled upon a local Serb only too happy to share a conversation in English and a bottle of tasty locally-brewed beer under the Serbian sun, suggesting that experiences of this ilk make casual, unplanned treks so very worthwhile. Reflections on the city of Belgrade were shared upon departure at Belgrade airport with a Swedish couple whom I had met at the airport bus stop on the way back, and they seemed as equally enthralled as I was that the city had more appeal than you might have previously credited it for. All of this means to me that overseas travel is all about casting aside preconceptions, and making your own mind up about places once you have visited them, and experienced their sights and sounds to a substantial extent.
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