Published: January 14th 2012
January 14th 2012
Belgrade at dusk
The chrissy lights come on in the main pedestrian mall.
Well come to think of it, dear reader
, partying in Belgrade would have to come pretty close. The Serbian capital is a legendary party spot in the Balkans, and a place where sleeping habits get turned upside down. The hostel guests become creatures of the night, and like a ghoulish nightmare out of Transylvania search for the elixir of eternal life ... Rakia! They seem to appear out of nowhere as a beer chaser, and a night out in Belgrade is bigger than Ben Hur, it's bigger than ten men, it's bigger than the Beatles. In fact it's nearly as big as my hangover! Like everywhere else there are seven days a week in Belgrade, but here that means seven opportunities to party like there's no tomorrow. We spent monday night clubbing till six am at the heaving Mr Stefan Braun nightclub and the evening was insanely great, as the legendary Steve Jobs was wont to say.
The time's come to show me some love if you would, as we bring the journal up to speed. We left off in Sarajevo, and I was up early on christmas day here to catch an 8:00am bus to Belgrade. The station
The Bohemian quarter in Belgrade.
was locked up, the temperature was minus two degrees, and a guy told me the early bus was cancelled cause of the holidays. Merry christmas, he added. So I'm left hanging like a shag on a rock outside the station stamping my feet and pacing for a few hours, when a French woman and her daughter turned up to stamp their feet, pace, and most importantly chat to pass the time. Suddenly it was fun being outside the locked station in the middle of winter. I can't remember ever feeling so happy just to get onboard a bus, it was akin to arriving at a tropical oasis. The drive from Sarajevo took around nine hours through picturesque country, before arriving in Belgrade at 5:30pm.
At times it seems everything happens in fast motion during European travel, as you race around trying to pack in the sights on the continent. So I decided to pull up stumps for a bit, and booked five nights at the brilliant Manga hostel. The staff are super friendly, and they have winter specials including a free night after booking three nights, and also including free washing. It feels like home at this hostel, and
Restaurant in Skadarlija
All cobblestone streets and gorgeous little buildings in the old bohemian quarter.
I've had a great time in the city. The guests are also warm, friendly, and up for a party. Yes indeedy, I've had a rip roaring time of it in Belgrade. But of course there's more to a major European city than the nightlife, no matter how momentous those nights may be.
My day time explorations started with Neboljsina tower, which held Serbian prisoners in the dungeon during Ottoman times. Belgrade has historically been separated into Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian sections on opposite sides of the river, and it was great exploring the floors of the tower to soak up the history. Belgrade fortress is also impressive, and within the walls of the fort is a comprehensive war museum. Spending a few hours at the museum gives a great overview of the plight of the Serbian people during the first and second world wars, and comes highly recommended.
The highlight of my visit to Belgrade, however, has been going to the Tesla museum. The Serbian genius Nikola Tesla was perhaps the greatest inventor in human history, and the scale of his patents and inventions almost defies belief. Tesla is a man who has changed the world forever, thanks to
the momentous inventions borne of his visionary mind. He moved to the United States at the age of 28 to chase funding opportunities, and lived there for fifty years. He was overlooked for the nobel prize awarded for the invention of the light bulb, even though he won a subsequent court case against Thomas Edison. The same state of affairs occurred with Guglielmo Marconi relating to the first transmission and radiation of radio frequency energy. Despite being overlooked twice for the most prestigious scientific award the world can bestow, it pays to take note of his achievements. The Tesla electric car debuted in 1903, he invented the induction motor, he invented the first ever remote control device steering a model ship to the complete incredulity of his peers, and was the first to use AC and DC in a high voltage transformer. He also built the world's first hydro-electric dam harnessing the awesome power of Niagara falls. His breathtaking achievements go on and on, and the museum includes a guided tour with small scale working versions of his groundbreaking inventions. We even got to put our hands above a transformer producing high voltage electricity, which to my surprise passes straight
through the human body and down to the ground without causing electrocution. Of course as an Aussie I love high voltage rock n roll AC/DC style, but was a bit toey watching the crackling blue light of the electricity passing through my skin. You can feel the power of the great man's invention, that's for sure. Tesla always thought himself a Serb first and foremost, and after his death his ashes were returned to Belgrade to be housed in the Tesla museum.
On the last day in Belgrade a young Aussie guy checked in, after booking a random ticket the night before from London. We had to show him a time of it, and having recently completed a Contiki tour through Europe he didn't take a whole lot of encouraging to get out to party. We went to a student party (I joked with my friends that I was to be their professor!) and proceeded to get amongst it, as you do. Back at the hostel I had the luxury of an hour's sleep before getting up in time to catch an 8:00am train. Travellers in the Balkans who come to Belgrade are sure to have a rip roaring
good time in this pumping European capital. You know something, basically all of you should be here now!
There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking." Sir Joshua Reynolds
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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