On entering the city, tall grey buildings and cement blocks make it difficult to dispute against the “Communist dormitory” reputation Belgrade has. However, once you roll through its streets, you will quickly realise that the capital has much more to offer than anybody would initially expect.
Wherever we go, we like to walk/cycle through the place we are visiting so to taste the daily life of local people. We believe that doing so gives you much more insight into the cultural environment than simply ticking off the main touristy sights.
Letting the ex-Yugoslavia’s capital soak into our skin left us surprised and delighted to have decided to spend our day off the bike here.
Belgrade is definitely a city busting with life. The traffic is frantic but, contrarily to that, people enjoy sitting in cafes sipping coffee, beer or homemade rakija – a fruit brandy, and the national drink – at any time of the day.
Kafanas, local bistró for social gathering, are countless. Here you can taste typical Serbian food and regional wines, and you will end up rolling out of the tavern with fully satisfied taste buds and a wallet that is not crying for help.
Music can be heard in every corner: buskers on the main shopping streets, a full blown up stereo fomenting a youngsters’ basketball match at the foot of the old fortress, live bands animating your nights in Skadarlija, the Bohemian quarter.
Life is relaxed, and people seem to be oblivious to the shadow of a war not too long ago finished and to the tensions still present in Southern Serbia.
Or at least, that is how it feels.
The ugly dangerous roads on entering Serbia are behind our back and Belgrade has left us longing to discover the rest of a country inhabited by a population that is eager to make up for the dark days.
Some of the buildings bombed by Nato in 1999 are still there, somehow standing in complete decay. But below the derelicts, Belgrade is pumping energy, creativity and a cultural awakening worth to be given a chance, or even a few.