Belgrade is almost what I had ignorantly assumed the rest of Eastern Europe would be like. It’s got parts which are beautiful, but it’s noticeably less developed, less wealthy and less clean than the other places I’ve been. As I move southwards, the cities I’m visiting are progressively getting cheaper and less developed. For the first time since leaving, I’ve seen children begging, stray cats and dogs, and understandably, some derelict buildings as a result of the NATO bombings.
However, I didn’t feel that it was dangerous, and through the language barrier, most people I’ve met have been very friendly and accommodating.
Through the hostel I was staying at, I found out about a free walking tour of the city run by students. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been on a walking tour before, but it was pretty interesting. Our guide was good, and had a number of interesting stories about various parts of the town, which give you an insight you wouldn’t get otherwise.
A few of us on the tour met up later that night to experience a Saturday night out Serbia style. After a few beers in the Bohemian quarter, we ventured into a nightclub (of sorts). After being frisked by a giant of a man*, we paid a small sum of money to enter what is essentially a restaurant. Rows of tables lined up, almost exclusively inhabited by either men or women, and almost everyone was smoking.
By the time the place was pretty much full, the curtains were drawn and the lights were dimmed. The waiters hurriedly served food and drinks to the tables and the live music got louder. I asked a chap at the next table what was happening, and he told me that a very good singer would perform later.
An hour or so later, the venue was literally thick with smoke, uncomfortably warm and the music had ventured into what could be best described as ‘folk-techno’ – a unique blend of a dance music beat with some string based tune and some wailing into a microphone. The night was just getting started.
Surrounded by the said giant of a man and his even bigger friend, a middle aged lady arrived and was escorted to the front of the room (shaking a few hands and giving a few kisses on the way). The star performer had arrived. Immediately the crowd went wild and progressively people began to get out of chairs and sing/dance along to her songs – to which almost everyone seemed to know every word.
Sadly, despite thoroughly enjoying smoking again (without actually touching a cigarette), we moved on shortly afterwards so didn’t get to see how the night unfolded. After visiting a couple of other places, it’s clear that this place was not necessarily the norm.
Of note during the rest of my time there was visiting Little Bay restaurant. Sister restaurant to one round the corner from us in London that we’ve been to a few times. Turns out there’s 6 in total – 4 in London, 1 in Brighton and 1 in Belgrade!
It’s perhaps telling that during my 3 nights there, I took a handful of photos – none of which are really worth putting online. The one shot above was taken on my phone when I first arrived, and is of the Serbian Parliament.
*Although this man was wider than two of me put together, they do grow them big down here! He was by no means the largest man in the establishment, or indeed that I saw during this trip. Apparently they eat a lot of meat in Serbia – that didn’t come as a surprise.