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Published: October 18th 2010
Belgrade 30 (24-Sep-10)
Cathedral of Saint Sava - the world's biggest...
I was alone again - after a couple of weeks travelling in cars, buses and more buses with Jon we finally went our separate ways in Sarajevo. Jon had caught his bus north to Slovenia and I had boarded my flight to Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia.
I wasn’t expecting much. Belgrade, according to Wikipedia has been battled over in 115 wars and razed to the ground 44 times. Sounds like they're a combative lot then and now
. And I knew that modern Belgrade was extensively bombed during two campaigns in World War II, the first undertaken by the Luftwaffe in 1941, and the latter by Allied air forces in 1944. Oh, and in 1999 it was heavily bombed by NATO, during the Kosovo War. The strikes lasted from March 24, 1999 to June 11, 1999. So, would there be anything left to look at? The Lonely Planet was ambivalent in its guide insisted that its party scene was the highlight - which I soon realised was a way of hiding the lack of any real tourist sights. But my trip had always included the Balkans and I didn’t wish to overlook a capital city on my way north.
I made a serious mistake with my hostel selection though; it was quite possibly the worst I’ve encountered so far on my journey. The Belgrade Eye
was overpriced at 15 Euros a night and I should have taken heed the fact it seemed deserted. Firstly the promised wifi internet didn’t work; the dorm room was dirty and during the two days I was there the room wasn’t cleaned nor the rubbish bin emptied; the showers were half broken, decrepit and dirty; the staff were indolent and unhelpful and then they ran out of maps of the city to give me.¬ The only person I spoke to was sharing my dorm - a German film critic from Berlin which I’m not sure of his reviews because he thought the place was fine.
However, I almost forgave how bad it was because sat in the living room one evening I turned on the TV not expecting anything to be and low and behold it was ‘Rocky’. I kept it and me and the night reception guy watched it together. Rocky is such a bloke movie and gripped by Rocky’s journey we sort of had a bonding session; discussing boxing, (where
does ‘south paw’ come from) and Sylvester Stallone. This one moment of nostalgia for a film that I couldn’t even remember seeing last - made me mellow.
The one thing you have to do in Belgrade is visit Belgrade fortress; it’s the biggest in the Balkans but so huge it looks more like a park than a classic citadel. Moreover, there are few photogenic ancient remnants that are or can place you back in time - maybe I needed to use my imagination a lot more. Or perhaps it was visitor fatigue? The Military Museum (Serbian:Vojni muzej ) was basically endless corridors of badly lit and dusty exhibits explaining Serbia’s history - in Serbian - and nothing else. The Tito exhibit upstairs was interesting enough and the NATO ‘aggression’ was fascinating for the remains of the downed U.S. Stealth bomber and the sheer bias and lack of acknowledgment of why Serbia was bombed to shit during 1999. Later, in the city centre I caught trams without paying and was surprised by huge buildings that were still lying derelict from the NATO bombings.
Various travellers I’d met on the road had raved about the beauty of Belgrade women
and as it was warm and sunny I strolled and sat outside cafes drinking cappuccinos - watching. However, I found that many women dressed and looked alike with their over-sized sunglasses and tight jeans, in fact I was startled by the mismatch of looker attached to paunchy dowdy hooligan. Belgrade certainly wasn’t a match for the variety and individualism of women back home - something that I had taken for granted. Oh, and Armenia is still prime totty for me - in case you were wondering.
I visited the world’s largest Christian Orthodox church, the Cathedral of Saint Sava which lies on the spot where the supposed remains of Saint Sava (1175 - 1235), who is considered the founder of the independent Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbian Orthodox Christianity, were burned by the Ottoman Turks in 1595. I is very grandiose but I found the interior hanging with Serbian national flags and given the results of Serb nationalism in recent years - found the mixture of the holy and chauvinism distasteful. But I wanted a picture and outside I approached two young women chatting on a bench. I asked if they weould take a photo with my camera
but to my shock, one said no and shooed me away. I had interrupted them and my arrogant use of English annoyed them - it had to happen at some point I suppose.
Serbia is largely flat and flicking through the guidebook unexceptional so I spent my last night in the city at a cinema one street away, watching a terrible Leo Di Caprio movie and later wandering around the flood-lit Parliament building. The next morning I was up early at 6.30 to catch a bus to Zagreb - the capital of Croatia.
BTW: Bathos is an anti-climax, usually so strongly marked that it becomes funny.
OED calls it "Ludicrous descent from the elevated to the commonplace in writing or speech; anticlimax", and goes on to define anticlimax as "The opposite of climax…; the addition of a particular which, instead of heightening the effect, suddenly lowers it or makes it ludicrous."
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