Monday, March 03, 2014

Belgrade

Every year I try to visit new capital cities. It gets me around the planet and seeing more and more of the world. I also like to find new rollercoasters and as my count gets higher I'm switching from increasing the count to locating ones that people haven't been on. My first trip of 2014 was going to be India but I dropped it due to having been gazumped in favour of Eastern Europe. The plan was to spend a couple of days in Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia. The Romanian capital I had done before, the other two were new.

So let's start with Belgrade and the plan here was just to spend the day walking as much as I could, checking a number of small parks and confirming 1 new coaster that I could see on satellite imagery.

This was my hotel, which looked pretty classy for a Holiday Inn. It's located in the new town (Novi Beograd to the locals) which sits to the west of the river Sava. The city has the Danube to its north and the Sava running off that separating the old town from the new.

To the West sits the Western City Gate, a bonkers looking skyscraper, tower and revolving restaurant built in the Brutalist style. It's the third largest tower in Eastern Europe and quite some way off in the distance (I was zooming in when I took this and its around 2K). I knew that I'd probably end up there later in the day.

I have no idea what style of building or what this building was for but it looked very futuristic and stuck out like a sore thumb

To the north of the hotel is the main city arena, home to many a concert and gig. Whenever I see "Il Divo" I am reminded of the scathing review of their album which simply read "Il Divo - Italian for 'the Divs'" and I belly laugh everytime I see it.

That's the Svetok Simeona Church which is smack bang in the centre of a building site.

This monstrous building is the Federal Palace, a huge administration centre that looks very imposing. It sits on the bank of the Danube and having reached it I knew I had to turn NW and head off in that direction.

A staple of Western commercialism in Eastern Europe. A huge concrete tower block with a huge advert on its roof. There were several of these visible around the city.

These are skylights into an underground shopping complex. Perhaps in an earlier guise they housed missiles. I can but dream. 

First graffiti of the trip. Nice and bright but looked more like a local school project than anything decent.

Heading off into the small woods that runs alongside the river. There were a few people out running. In the days leading up to the trip the weather was rain, rain, rain and when I arrived the night before it was raining so heavily that the taxi leaked. However I'd been quite lucky today as it was dry.

That font looked like a throw back to the 70s. This is apparently the main casino in the city. It looked very tacky but with an old James Bond villain vibe. I imagine a lot of cigars are smoked inside.

This castle isn't a real river defence structure but merely a smurf-themed playground for the kiddies. It was closed but it was 8am and I'd already been walking for an hour. Early start kiddo!

and just to the north of the Smurf Fort was the small amusement park that I could see on the satellite imagery. A bonus was that they had their coaster still. I knew this was here having found some Youtube clips. However it was still early and there were no signs of life anywhere. 


The other rides were fairground staples. Breakdances, kiddie rides etc.

Note the fourth dodgem on the left. It was themed like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I'd not seen that before!


Having confirmed the presence of the park and to steal an Arnie phrase I knew I'd be back I decided to follow the river east. There are a number of floating restaurants and hostels, some in better condition than others. I imagine with the weather of late the river had risen above its usual levels and caught some structures unaware.

Gang standoff between the white and brown geese gangs of Serbia.

This is where the Sava begins and I'm looking across at the old town. The tall structure in the background is the Cathedral. I'm hoping that the thing in the foreground isn't a sunken ship. I think it may be :(

Along this bit of the river the floating structures are predominantly nightclubs, hence the Michael Jackson figure. He'd make a great figurehead on the bow of a ship.

Some romantic horizontal graffiti at the rivers edge. I'm on the northern most bridge about to cross over to the old town. 

Loving the building on this side...

Loving the graffiti even more. This is a huge mural by Spanish artist Remed and was painted here 6 years ago. It was holding up well and I loved how much was hidden in the picture.

Some slightly less artistic but equally pleasing graffiti. It translates as "My Belgrade"

Another huge mural and this I recognised immediately as being by Blu. This piece by the Italian Banksy (he has the same anonymous mystique) was painted in 2009 and is obviously a criticism of fat cats destroying green belt land to make way for housing. 

This piece is opposite the Blu piece. I've no idea who painted it but it portrayed a pretty bleak story. There's a lot of anti-corporation sentiment in these pieces and you would accept them if they were tucked away. But these are on the main road and visible to all; I spotted the Blu crossing the bridge. This makes me wonder if the pieces are anti-an old regime here.

This is Princess Ljubica's place. Now a museum it was built in the early 1800s. 

Just up the road to the north is the cathedral church. This was also built in the 1800s and is now the most important place of worship in the country...moving on.

Very old looking tram. The city has an above ground public transport only. No metro. Not that this matters of course as this stupid visitor was walking everywhere.

At the northern end of the old town is the Kalmegedan park in which you can find the Belgrade Fortress.

This is the highest point in the city and offers amazing views of the city. The huge suspension bridge in the distance was visible from my hotel window which is to the right.

Copper tinged water fountain.

These little look out towers were cute but I could barely fit in them. Old Serbs were tiny!


Inside Kalmegedan park there's an advertised Lunapark but it's just a tiny collection of rides and no coaster. 

That's the zoo entrance. I'm not a fan of zoos especially ones that look to have dogs and chickens as animals in it. (that was all I could see through the fence and I'm sure they have more exotic animals inside)

This is the Zindan Gate. Zindan is Ottoman for "dungeon" so lord only knows what went on downstairs. 

Either the entrance to the castle grounds is free or I'd inadvertently found a way in without paying. As it's in the park I think it's the former. I did eventually convince myself I'd found the wrong way in as others were wearing tour guide headsets. 


Overlooking the city towards the new town. Just at the right edge is where the Sava meets the Danube.

A brass rendering of how the Fortress looked before Hogwarts did them for copyright. 


Tucked away within the Fortress walls is a really cool tank museum. My father would be able to name these immediately (it was his job in the military to know how to blow them up efficiently). So I spent a bit of time taking photos of all of them for him.


This one was ickle. Like a childs tank. I can only imagine how much fun it would have been to have zipped about in one of these. 

This is the Stambol gate. Stambol is "Istanbul". At some point in the 1700s the Turks ran things here but the Serbs eventually kicked them out.

Nice bit of paint...

This is the old HQ of the Belgrade National Bank. I'm not sure why this is listed as a tourist attraction but I dropped by it anyway.

Amelie stencil

This wonderful old building is a school. I didn't realise this until I got back. (Things not to do when you're single, in your 40s and bearded).

A salvaged sarcophagus now on display on the main pedestrianised area in the city, where all the shops are. 

I'm all for tribute bands but choose your name carefully. 

At this point my walking had taken me to the Republic Square and this building is the National Theatre. It was built in 1869 and looks amazing.

Across the street at the north end of the square is the National Museum. This seems to have been under renovation for quite some time. This building predates the theatre by 25 years. The statue in the front is of Knez Mihailo a former Prince of the country. 

To the south of that is Nikola Pasic Square. Named after a chap who managed to server as Belgrade mayor, the Serbian Prime Minister and Yugoslav Prime Minister in his lifetime. The immense building is the Trade Union Hall.

That's the City Assembly of Belgrade building. Basically it's local city admin.

This is the Belgrade Parliament building. Finished in 1936 its disappointingly new. This was my equivalent of taking something valuable to the Antiques Roadshow and being told its a fake. 

Glavna Posta is the Post office, quite an impressive building if you're wanting stamps.



This amazing cathedral and the intended destination in this walk is St Marko's Church. Its located at the NW end of Tasmajdan Park in the centre of the city. Like the Parliament building this is newer than it looks having been completed in 1940. 

That's one of the university buildings. Very grand indeed.

1 point if you can name the film; another if you know the name of the actress.
Well done if you got BladeRunner and Sean Young.

I usually ignore tags, but this was too good to ignore.

Finding myself drawn to The London Centre. I've no idea what it is.

This is the Yugoslav Drama Theatre. Slightly more modern than the other theatre up the road.


My walk south ended when I reached this, the St. Sava Cathedral. It's the largest Orthodox church in the world and having taken a quick look inside I'm also convinced its also one of the largest emptiest buildings in the world. All it contained were a few relics which the locals were doing their head, shoulders, knees and toes dance in front of before kissing them and moving onto the next one. Isn't gold paint toxic? Some people were even kissing the door frame on the way out. 

The chap with the sickle is Karadjordje cited as the founder of modern Serbia.

For all your laces needs.

From the cathedral I headed back to the fortress area to visit an area called Skadarlija. Deemed the Bohemiam area I found it mostly full of restaurants, bars, hostels and cobbled streets that ensure I was going on with blistered feet.

More famous than Beavis and Butthead. Perhaps he faked his death and came here. 



Trompe-l'oeil is a term given to a technique of painting a mural onto a building to make it way more interesting than it really is. It's basically clever graffiti. At the north-east end of Skadarlija are these which are stunning. Some of them are so deceptively good. 

Hanging with the locals at their local market. The fruit differs from the UK in that it tastes better and the public don't mind it being mishaped. 

Another big church. This one appears to be undergoing a conversion into another theatre. 

I've no idea who this is but I'm suspecting he's the originator of the "pull my finger" gag.

Beavis and Butthead are back but not appreciating that if they're going to lean over a bridge to paint their tag, they need to be writing upside down.

Leaving the old town and getting another photo with a better sky. Good bye old town, I'm literally tired of you now.

Immediately across the bridge is the Usce Mall. It's huge and new so a likely place for a possible indoor coaster. 

Nope, nothing. Nearest I could find was this which is just an indoor playground for youngsters. I didn't hang around.

So having tapped the wifi to check mail, and taken the opportunity to rest my feet and have some food, I said goodbye to the mall and head back to the little amusement park from the start of the day. When I got there I saw the dodgems running with some young kid having chosen the chitty car. Rather sadly he was on his own. Ignoring him, I managed to get the ride op to run the coaster. tick!

That's Svetog Dimitija and in typing this I now realised that Svetog means "Saint". The sun was starting to drop so I carried on.

I've made it to the tower, well I was one block away. This brutalist style just looks weird.

A mural to a local club supporter. I found this under a flyover. 

I spotted this close to the hotel. It's a set of some kind showing some the facades of older buildings in the city. I'm going to guess it's for a film.

So that was Belgrade in a day. I covered approximately 30km (a little over 18 miles).
I actually like it, it's easy to get about and not too busy at all. 


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