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Published: September 8th 2016
BelgradeDay 229 Saturday 3rd September 2016 – Budapest to Belgrade
Celebrate Fish Fest by eating them
No great rush today as we didn’t need to leave the hotel till 10.30, and we were able to have breakfast, pack and even watch some TV before leaving. As we were getting ready there was this sudden crescendo of classical music and we suddenly thought that our life had a sound track till we realised there was an orchestra in the park putting on a free concert. As we were leaving the hotel the music had stopped but there was a Punch and Judy show going on for the kids, a nice way to leave Budapest with a bit of puppetry violence. Taking the Budapest Metro out to the train station was not a problem at all, even changing trains wasn’t a hassle. At the train station we had to wait twenty minutes before our train arrived and then from our tickets we were able to decipher that we were in carriage 214 and seats 85 and 86, stay here another week and we will be reading Hungarian novels. The seats were fairly tight, but there was plenty of overhead storage for our bags and
Kalemegdan Citadel walls
the train was clean. No power points for your electronics or WiFi though. Before leaving two elderly local ladies sat next to us, and I don’t think they took a breath for the entire trip. We think they were gossiping as they would start to whisper and had that look on their faces “OH really they did that”, we almost leant over and said don’t worry we can’t understand but then again they could not understand us.
At 12.15 we pulled out of the station instead of the scheduled 12.05pm and started our journey and then two hours later in the middle of the Hungarian countryside we first lost air con and then the train just stopped. The conductor came through telling people something which was translated to us by another woman that the train had broken down and we had to wait a while. After 40 minutes the train limped down the line to a siding where we waited for over an hour before another locomotive turned up to take us away, we were now 2 hours behind schedule. Sort of nice to be out in the Hungarian countryside except with no air con the carriage
just turned into one huge sweat box, and it wasn’t much better outside.
The train did lots of stops at smaller regional stations as it went along dropping off people and picking up more and we soon lost the two old dears that were sitting next to us (we waved and said goodbye to each other) this gave us more room to spread out. Got to the town of Kelebia where the Hungarian border police came on to the train to stamp us out of not only Hungary but the EU Shengen Zone. This process took 30 minutes before we were underway and then passed through the razor wire fence barrier that has been recently erected on the Hungarian border and into Serbia. Another stop to be stamped into Serbia and we were off again but noticed that the train now travelled a lot slower on this side of the border and the stops at regional towns continued. We were meant to arrive at Belgrade at 8.13pm but due to the breakdown we didn’t arrive till 10.05pm – 10 hours. Love my trains but it was a bit ridiculous when if we could have got the bus
Artillery line up in the War Museum
it would have only taken 5.5 hours.
Put on our backpacks and walked the 2 blocks down to our hotel, which although maybe not in the best corner of Belgrade is fabulous. Dropped off our bags and thankfully just outside our hotel there was an ATM so we got some cash. Serbia uses the Dinar and the exchange is $1 AUS = 83.5 RSD, yet again another difficult number for the mathematically challenged. Pretty tired from sitting on our bums all day so was glad there was a burrito place only a block away and picked up a huge burrito each with drinks for $12. Picked up a take away beer from a shop across from the hotel and then sat up till 1am in the morning planning the next couple of days, life on the road can be tiring. Day 230 Sunday 4th September 2016 – Belgrade
Up at 7 to kick start the computer so I could call home and wish my Dad a happy Father’s Day, always good talking to the old man and my Mum. Shelley then called her Mum to
Kalemegdan Citadel tower
add to our homesickness, but before we started crying and contemplating buying plane tickets home we hit the streets of Belgrade. First job was getting tickets for our bus trip on Tuesday and despite not speaking Serbian and limited English at the bus terminal everyone was helpful and we soon had tickets in our hands. From here we walked along the river frontage trying to find a memorial to “the ministry of silly walks”. Both big Monty Python fans and wanted to know why there would be a memorial to the legendary sketch in Belgrade, but I cannot answer this because the memorial has been removed/moved. From here we followed a small crowd of locals along the shoreline into an area that must have been old docks but is now being turned into swish restaurants. Came across a mini festival that was called “Fish Fest” that looked pretty good with lots of small markets and cooked fish but before settling in for a feed I wanted to first do some more site seeing.
Belgrade sits at a point where the Danube and the Sava Rivers meet and on a high bluff above these rivers sits the Kalemegdan
Boats anchored near the Fish Fest
Citadel. The castle was started by the Celts around 300BC and since then it has seen 115 battles and been destroyed 40 times. Everyone from the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and even the Nazis and Soviets have been through here and it is also reputedly the last resting place of Attila the Hun. It is actually a large rambling fort and you can see how it has been added on and modified and destroyed countless times over the years. Today it makes for a great lookout over the local area and also harbours the Belgrade War Museum. Shelley still owes me from some of her shopping sprees so it was easy to twist her arm into going for a walk through it. Only cost $4.50 AUS for both of us and it is filled with a large collection of antique arms and armour, but is a bit short on English text. We are still trying to get our head around the 20th
century grouping and disintegration of the Yugoslavian state, it is a complex history lesson and I think the museum confused us more than answered questions. The final exhibit was bits of a stealth fighter shot down during the NATO
Charles gate near the Kalemegdan Citadel
bombings in Serbia in 1999 – yes history is complex in this corner of the world. The best part of the museum was the large collection of tanks and artillery outside, with some very rare pieces like a world war I French tank and early German Panzers. Well Shelley was just so thrilled by this collection and just kept saying “you owe me big time”. From here we wandered back down the hill to the “Fish Fest” where we both got a great feed of fish. The people running the stores could see we were a pair of dumb tourists and helped us through the ordering process. Lots of different fish and veggies on offer and it was a difficult choice. Unfortunately, today was over 30 degrees and we just about cooked ourselves in the heat whilst we ate and so were glad when we made it back to our room to cool in the air con for an hour. Still pretty full after the late lunch so just went down the road to an outdoor bar where we could get a few drinks and enjoy the Belgrade vibe. The area we are staying in seems like it is in
Pathway up to the Kalemegdan Citadel
the process of transformation, with lots of derelict buildings sprinkled with hip clothing stores and trendy bars. Really get the vibe that in a few years (or maybe more) this will be the next big destination. Day 231 Monday 5th September 2016 – Belgrade
Yesterday we did a long walk around the riverside and checked out the Citadel, today we headed into the centre of town for a bit of a look. After travelling through so many beautiful cities Belgrade is noticeably a bit rougher around the edges and perhaps not as pleasing to the eye. Here for the first time we saw signs of refugees and we passed a refugee support centre. It is estimated that 500 refugees enter Serbia a day and the Government has acted humanely in accommodating them in camps but many simply want to keep moving onto Europe. Do not know a lot about Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic but from what I have read he seems to be taking the high moral ground in dealing with the refugee issue and unlike his neighbours has not built razor wire fences to keep them out.
Fenced off park from our room
The authorities have tried to get them registered as refugees and get them into camps, we have noticed how the parks across from our hotel has been fenced off and ploughed to stop them from sleeping there, in the hope they will move into the camps which offer better shelter and food. Once again it is another complex problem with no simple solution but acting in a humane manner is a good start let’s hope what we have read is correct.
Checked out the large orthodox church of St Marks that is still being decorated inside despite it being built in 1941 it has had a few interruptions over the years and then it was onto the Parliament Building. Out the front was a large banner with the faces of all the civilians killed in the NATO bombing of 1999, and with a message that “families of murder victims still want justice”. The bombing was in response to the war in Kosovo and forced Serbia to the negotiation table and stopped the fighting. Yet again another complex issue with arguments for and against on both sides, I have always believed that the bombing was necessary but it
is hard justifying over 500 civilian deaths and has me once again wanting to buy more books and read more.
We eventually made it to our final destination today which was the Belgrade Automobile Museum, which I think was only fair since we did visit another church on the way, and besides it was the only museum open today. Only a small museum but it did have a great collection and the star attractions were a 1935 supercharged Auburn Speedster and the Cadillac owned by Josef Tito. From here we were going to walk deeper into town but the clouds above us got darker and it started to drizzle. Forecast storms today and the last thing we wanted was to be caught miles from home in one so we headed back. Lucky us, as it didn’t start to rain till we returned to our room and then continued to pour all afternoon. By night time the rain hadn’t let up so we just had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Belgrade has certainly been interesting and a change of pace to where we have just been, it feels and seems like this place is still suffering from the
wars, and recent economic woes but there are signs that things will soon be improving. The people are friendly and it does have a good vibe and this may one day be the next big destination – just don’t pack your bags yet.
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