Thursday, December 12 to Monday, December 16
Vagabonding Days 73-77
Location: Belgrade (Beograd / Београд), Serbia
Before we began our vagabonding adventure, Daniel and I decided to get married. We had a lovely little wedding ceremony that was hastily crammed into a year already filled with quitting our jobs, moving out of our house, and planning for a multi-year international trip. Needless to say, we didn’t really have time to relax and celebrate our new state of wedded bliss. So we decided to treat the first part of our vagabonding trip like a honeymoon. And during those first six weeks of traipsing up and down the Croatian coast and canoodling in magical medieval cities, it really did feel like a honeymoon.
After spending copious amounts of time with only each other for company, however, we decided to mix things up a little and meet some new people. We’d primarily been staying in AirBnB apartments and hotels up to this point, which were lovely but rather isolating. So in Belgrade we decided to try something new and booked a room in a hostel.
Reveller’s Hostel in Belgrade’s Skadarlija Neighborhood (Bohemian Quarter)
While Daniel and I were looking forward to meeting new people, we didn’t really relish the idea of sleeping in a communal dorm room in bunk beds. Well, at least not for our first hostel experience together. So we searched online until we found The Reveller’s Hostel – which happens to own a fully furnished separate apartment in the same building as the hostel. This enabled us to hang out in the hostel and also have privacy when we wanted it – the best of both worlds!
On the day we arrived at Reveller’s, they had a pub crawl planned to celebrate the birthday of one of the hostel’s volunteers. The birthday boy also happened to be from Seattle (small world, right?) and he immediately made us feel right at home. Soon, we found ourselves exploring the city with a new crew of friends and eventually ended up at a beer pong bar. I’ve never played beer pong before and soon found out that Daniel is a crack shot with the beer pong ball. Apparently he used to play a lot of beer pong in college. I had no idea about this special talent despite knowing Daniel for almost 10 years. Who knew?!
We had a great time at Reveller’s Hostel and it definitely changed the way that we saw the city. Daniel and I spent most of our free time in the hostel’s common room or going out to dinner or clubs with other travellers, rather than sightseeing or blogging (although we did have time to fit in a little of both). I’ll always think fondly of Belgrade as a fun and vibrant city to hang out and party in, because we did a lot of that when we were there. The city has a bustling and gritty metropolitan vibe that reminds me of New York in some ways – but much, much cheaper.
Located only a 20-minute walk from our hostel, the Belgrade Fortress stands on a cliff overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers. Due to its strategically important location, the fortress was destroyed and rebuilt many times over a period of sixteen centuries. Situated inside Kalemegdan Park, the largest park in the city which also houses a dino park and a zoo, the fortress is a great place to spend a few hours.
Daniel and I spent an afternoon exploring the fortress on a cold December day and it was definitely one of the highlights of our Belgrade visit.
Museum of Yugoslavia
As we’ve spent our entire trip so far exploring former Yugoslavia countries, it seemed fitting to end our tour of the area with a visit to Tito’s grave. So we hopped a city bus and headed across town to the Museum of Yugoslavia. Tito is buried at the House of Flowers building, a peaceful glass-enclosed building filled with flowers and artifacts from his life. After paying our respects to Tito, we wandered through the Old Museum building, which houses even more artifacts from Tito’s life, as well as the May 25th building, which holds different art exhibits.
Nikola Tesla Museum
Another popular tourist attraction in Belgrade, the Nikola Tesla Museum came highly recommended. So we decided to check it out. Although Tesla spent much of his life in the United States, he was born in the village of Smiljan in the Austrian Empire which is now part of Croatia. I was a little confused at first about why a museum devoted to Tesla was located in Serbia, until I learned that his parents were ethnic Serbians. Serbia has definitely embraced Tesla as one of their own, even going so far as to name the Belgrade airport after him.
The museum is interesting and educational but it was really crowded and kind of a pain to visit. I don’t necessarily recommend it unless you’re really into Tesla or travelling with children. The museum is located in a very small building and entrance is only allowed by guided tours which are offered on the hour. We ended up having to wait in line outside in the cold for 30 minutes before being allowed entry and it was so crowded inside that it was hard to follow along the tour. But on the bright side (sorry, bad Tesla pun) we did get to see some of his original inventions. Oh, and Tesla’s ashes are located inside the museum in a weird spherical ball.
Temple of Saint Sava and Church of Saint Mark
On our last day in Belgrade, the hostel organized a group tour of the Saint Sava Temple so we decided to tag along. The second-largest Orthodox temple in the world, the Temple of Saint Sava dominates the Belgrade skyline and is truly an impressive sight to behold. After walking around the temple and goggling at its grand white marble facade and copper domes, we stepped inside the building. We hadn’t read up on the church’s history beforehand and were surprised to find it largely unfinished once we got inside.
I later learned that although construction on the temple began in 1935, the work has been halted and restarted numerous times over the years. The exterior of the building was finally completed in 2004. We weren’t able to see the main portion of the church’s interior as construction is still underway, but we were able to visit the basement. It’s absolutely spectacular.
On our way home, we happened to walk by the Church of Saint Mark and popped inside for a visit there too.
Belgrade Christmas Festival
And, last but not least, I’ll end this post with some photos of Belgrade’s Christmas Festival. As a Christmas enthusiast, I’ve been eagerly tracking down the Christmas festivities in each city that we’ve toured during the holiday season (including Dubrovnik and Sarajevo) and Belgrade was no different. Centered in Belgrade’s main square, Trg Republike, the festival features colorful wooden huts selling Christmas delicacies and stalls offering mulled wine and winter punch. The ice skating rink was not yet operational but Daniel and I spent a delightful afternoon sampling snacks from the various booths.
Where are we now?
View the map here: Belgrade, Serbia