Belgrade’s Rivers, Bridges, Islands, and Lakes

Savamala Clubs  Sava River – serbia.com

Serbia is a land of rivers, lakes, valleys, and mountains. Each one “tells its own story”. I’ve been exploring Belgrade’s interesting riverside and Savamala District on foot. Spring weather is warm and beautiful – perfect for walking.

Park Ušće Belgrade – Wikimapia

Transportation isn’t Belgrade’s forte. Traffic is heavy and drivers impatient. There’s no underground, bus routes seem slow and complicated, taxi drivers are not trustworthy, and local transportation apps I’ve tried – Moovit, CarGo – don’t work very well. My apartment is well-located, so it’s easier and less stressful to walk.

Building Savamala Neighborhood

Belgrade rests along the banks of two major rivers – the Sava and Danube. They “connect the city with the world and provide food, fresh water, and recreation”. In addition to the big rivers there are “192 smaller rivers and streams, a dozen lakes, 20 islands, three large beaches, and countless tiny inlets”!

Italian Embassy Near Sava River

French Embassy Belgrade  Near Sava River– lakwatsa.net

Savamala Riverside

Savamala is a “happening” place for young people. Party riverboats and trendy clubs are popular destinations. The cobbled streets are home to art galleries, embassies, unique architecture, and Brankov Bridge.

Sava River from Ušće District at Night – Wikipedia

Karađorđeva Street is Savamala’s “main artery”. It follows the Sava connecting Belgrade Fortress and the Port with Sava Square. The Belgrade Cooperative and Bristol Hotel are two of many spectacular buildings in the area.

Bristol Hotel – Vestinet.rs

There are interesting restaurants in Beton Hala (concrete Hall) on Karađorđeva. I’ve walked the area – usually teeming with young people – but personally enjoy quieter more isolated backstreet restaurants.

Geozavod Building Savamala Belgrade

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For Belgrade residents “the rivers are their seaside”.  In the summer they come to the rivers to escape the heat.

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Port Splav Belgrade – Belgrade Experience

Splavs – Floating Restaurants, Nightclubs, and Cabins

On hot summer days Belgrade residents visit splavs – floating restaurants and nightclubs. The opening of splavs is the first sign of summer.

Sava Square Savamala – shutterstock

Hundreds of floating restaurants, bars, clubs, and cabins anchor along the river bank. I haven’t noticed any splavs open yet but with warmer weather it may happen soon.

Belgrade Port – belgrademyway

In addition to restaurants and clubs, Belgrade rivers have hundreds of floating cabins of various size and design. They’re usually built on wooden platforms buoyed by metal barrels for stability.

Belgrade Fortress – Belgrade at Night

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“Belgrade’s splavs are a unique experience that, especially to foreigners, could seem surreal, magical, and incredible.”

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Floating Cabin Belgrade Sava River – Depositphotos

Each splav has a distinct personality – usually characterized by its music. There’s something for everyone. Finding the right splav could be a challenge but local guides are available to provide expert help and advice. Fashionable splavs – for young people who want to be seen – blast international pop music, casual splavs play Serbian folk music, and cool hipster splavs play underground music.

Rivers

Danube River

The Danube is Europe’s second largest river, after Russia’s Volga. The Danube flows through 10 Central European countries and “connects Belgrade with the North and Black Seas via a series of canals and waterways”.

Splavs Sava River – Serbia.com

Sava River

The Sava was the largest “national river in Yugoslavia, connecting three capitals – Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Belgrade”. The Sava and Danube meet in the center of Belgrade. The meeting point – Ušće – forms two islands – Great and Little War Islands.

Great War Island – Enjoy Belgrade

Great Island is an uninhibited nature reserve with wildlife and lush green vegetation. If the “Danube is Europe’s great river, Sava was its equal when it came to Yugoslavia”.

Drina River Canyon – visegradturizam

Drina River

The Drina River is the most famous body of water in the Balkans. It forms a border between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Drina became famous in 1945 with Yugoslav novelist, Ivo Andrić’s Nobel Prize-winning Novel The Bridge on the Drina.

Old King Alexandre Bridge – Wikipedia

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Belgrade is third among world cities with the most beautiful location – after Rio de Janeiro and Istanbul.

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Valley of Lilacs Serbia Ibar River Valley – Breathtaking Places in Serbia WordPress

The Drina is the Sava’s longest tributary. It’s known for speed, character, and sharp curves. The river “became a modern lexicon – someone trying to solve an impossible problem is said to be attempting to straighten the Drina”. The river has inspired songs and stories and is “close to the hearts of Serbs”.

Ibar River Valley – Company

Uvac River

The Uvac River forms some of the “most majestic natural sights in the Balkans”. The river has bends surrounded by dramatic cliffs and lush forests.

Uvac River Special Nature Reserve – Avanturista

Ibar River

The Ibar River is the most polluted river in Serbia. However, the lower course of the river “created a number of gorgeous valleys, where famous Serbian monasteries like Studenica, Žiča and Gradac were built over the centuries”. The Ibar Valley has several spas and natural springs. It’s also called the Valley of the Kings and Lilacs.

Bridges on the Sava River

Urban Belgrade has six bridges on the Sava River and one on the Danube. The Danube has three more bridges in Belgrade’s southern suburbs. Many of the smaller bridges over streams don’t have names. Brankov and Ada are the most famous.

Danube River – mix.com

Ada Bridge

Ada Bridge is the newest and tallest bridge in Belgrade. It’s also “the longest-single pylon bridge span in the world”. It opened at midnight on New Year’s Eve 2012.

Ada Bridge – Wikipedia

Gazela Highway Bridge – Wikimapia

Brankov Bridge

Brankov Bridge is the most famous bridge in Belgrade. It’s the main connection between city center and New Belgrade and is visible from Kalemegdan and Ušće Parks. It has a walking path. One of the oldest bridges in Belgrade, its pillars are from the King Aleksandar Bridge destroyed in WWII.

Old Tram (Sava) Bridge

The Old Tram (Sava) Bridge is the “only arch bridge in Belgrade”. During World War II it was the only bridge that remained intact in Belgrade and one of few bridges the retreating German forces didn’t demolish”.

Banko Bridge – A. Nalbantjan

Gazela Bridge

Recently reconstructed, Gazela Bridge “has the shape and color of a gazelle”. The bridge is part of Route E75, the major highway passing through city center connecting Belgrade with Niš to the south and Novi Sad to the north.

New Railway Bridge – Wikipedia

Old Railway Bridge

Located between Gazela and New Railway, Old Railway Bridge is the oldest standing bridge in Belgrade. It’s also the only one from the 19th century.

Gradac Monastery Ibar River Valley – TrekEaeth

New Railway Bridge

New Railway Bridge, Belgrade’s second railway bridge, opened in 1979.

Sunset at the Confluence of Sava and Danube Rivers – Lonely Planet

Danube River Bridges

Pančevo Bridge

The Danube’s Pančevački (Pančevo) Bridge is a “combined road and railroad truss bridge”. Built in 1935 it was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt after the end of the war. Although Pančevo bridge was constructed as a temporary 10-year solution, it’s still being used.

Pančevo Bridge – Wikipedia

Islands

Great War Island

Great War Island is an uninhabited island and “oasis of wildlife and tranquility in the heart of Belgrade”. Located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube it has “strategic importance for either conquest or defense of the Belgrade Fortress”.

Ada Međica – alo.rs

Great War Island is accessible by boat from Zemun Quay or by crossing a pontoon bridge connecting it to the mainland in summertime. Undeveloped but popular Lido Beach is on the northern tip of the island. The island is “covered in forests providing a habitat for a variety of small game and over a hundred bird species, many endangered”. It’s an ideal location for birdwatchers.

Ušće Park Belgrade – Belgrade Beat

Bela Stena

Bela Stena (White Wall) is a getaway resort on an island in the Danube River. It’s between Belgrade and the city of Pančevo and only accessible by boat.

Ada Cignalija – serbia.com

Ada Ciganlija Island

“From the hand of God to the plans of man” – Ada Ciganlija was once an island in the Sava River. Now it’s a man-made peninsula known as ‘Belgrade’s Seaside’.

Old Sava Bridge – Wikipedia

Ada Međica Island

Ada Međica is a small island in the Sava, covered with trees. It’s unspoiled by modern tourism. and the Ada Međica Fan Club makes sure it stays that way.

Ada Međica Mapio.net

The only means of transport to and from Ada Međica is a small local boat from Sava Quay in New Belgrade. There’s a concrete path running the length of the island which is surrounded by “picturesque and private floating cabins and stilt houses”. There’s a small café next to the boat platform but no electricity, water, or public toilets on the island.

The south-eastern tip of the island is a good place for swimming but the Sava’s current is strong. The island’s code of conduct “requires that you take all your garbage with you when you leave”.

Ada Ciganlija – belgrade-beat.com

Lakes

Sava Lake

Sava Lake is the largest lake in Belgrade. Also known as Lake Ada Ciganlija. The lake is Belgrade’s “summer resort” with picnic spots, ground and water sports, and other attractions. The beaches are pebble. There’s are walking, biking, and skating paths, and cafes. A small fishing lake brimming with carp, marina, rowing clubs, and floating cabins make the lake a popular spot.

Sunset Lake Palić – serbia.com

Lake Palić

Lake Palić is North of Subotica on the border with Hungary, “the story goes that Lake Palić was made from the tears of a shepherd who lost his golden lamb”. The area near the lake has many spas.

Vlasina Lake – serbia.com

Vlasina Lake

Vlasina Lake is another “magnificent body of water in Serbia”. The “highest lake in Serbia, it’s home to two permanent islands and several floating islands.

Silver lake Summer Resort – belgrademyway

Silver Lake

Silver Lake is an oxbow lake on the right bank of the Danube. It’s near spectacular Golubac Fortress on the Danube River.

Bela Crkva Nature Reserve – serbia.com

Bela Crkva Lakes

Bela Crkva Lakes contains six artificial lakes considered the “most unpolluted water in Serbia”. It’s a favorite cooling off spot during the hot summer months.

Ada Ciganlija – belgrade-beat.com

Ada Ciganlija Lake

Ada Ciganlija is a big island on the Sava. It’s Belgrade’s most popular resort. Embankments connect it to the Belgrade’s mainland, creating an artificial lake with beaches. Bathing season lasts from June through September.

Golubac Fortress Danube River -tvrdjavagolubackigrad1.rs

Perućac Lake

Perućac Lake is a fisherman’s paradise. An artificial lagoon on the Drina River it’s named after a nearby Serbian village. The lake’s the result of a dam that created the Bajina Bašta Hydroelectric Power Plant.

Zemun Quay – belgrademyway

Belgrade is truly a fascinating city – there’s so much here. The time in Belgrade was well spent. It reaffirms the need to visit a place yourself to understand it!

Jeunesses Musicales Competition Belgrade Serbia

Radio-Television Symphony Orchestra of Serbia (RTS) – Belgrade Beat

This week I’ve enjoyed exceptional performances in Belgrade. Last night the concert was part of the 49th International Jeunesses Musicales Competition. It enables young musicians to “test and confirm their artistic values”.

Belgrade Philharmonic Studentski Square 

I tried to get tickets for the Belgrade Philharmonic in Studentski Trg (Students Square) – a different venue than ballet and opera at the National Theatre. I missed the Philharmonic’s special March performances. Officially, symphony season begins in April and annual passes sell quickly. Single tickets are almost impossible to find.

Ilija M. Kolarac (1800-1878) – Wikipedia

As the name suggests, Studentski Trg is lined with educational and cultural institutions like the University of Belgrade and Kolarac Public University. Kolarac University Concert Hall is the venue for the Musicales Competition.

Kolarac Music Center Studentski Street – British Council Takeover

Kolarac Public University Music Center

The group sponsoring the piano competition – Ilija M. Kolarac Foundation – isn’t associated with the Philharmonic. The Philharmonic performs in the foundation’s Concert Hall but tickets and information are in another building. Maybe I’m getting rummy learning my way around new European cities?

Kolarac Concert Hall – News Kolarac

Jeunesses Musicales Competition

Founded in 1932 by successful Serbian merchant Ilija Milosavljević Kolarac, Kolarac People’s University is a “unique cultural institution”. Its aim is “spreading knowledge and cultivating the attributes of its own culture”.

Buildings Studentski Trg Belgrade – Itinari

Since 1971, the Jeunesses Competition has promoted the discovery of new international music talent. The “multidisciplinary competition has a five-year cycle”.

Johannes Brahms Composer – Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Brahms and Dvorak

The performance last night was the Opening Ceremony. Everything was in Serbian, so I didn’t understand the introductions and tribute to distinguished judges.

Antonin Dvorak Composer – Classic FM

The music was beautiful! The program lasted a few hours and included two pieces:

Dvorak’s dramatic New World Symphony is a favorite!

Pianist Eugen Indjic and Conductor Bojan Sudjic

Piano soloist Eugen Indjic was masterful during the Brahms piece! The Serbian Radio-Television Symphony Orchestra’s (RTS) performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony was outstanding! It’s one of the best philharmonics I’ve heard! Before leaving Belgrade, hope I can hear them perform again.

Bojan Sudjic – Chief Conductor Serbian Radio-Television Symphony – mp.rts.rs

Bojan Sudjic is chief conductor of the symphony and artistic director of RTS Music Production. He’s a powerful but happy conductor, smiling during the entire performance.

Eugen Indjic Pianist – Bohemian Ticket

It was an impressive and memorable evening.

Central Belgrade Serbia

Church of St. Mark

After catching my breath, I’ve continued exploring Belgrade. It’s an impressive European city influenced by Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Serbian, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian empires. One of the oldest cities in Europe, it’s the only capital built at the confluence of two rivers – the Danube and Sava.

Old Telephone Exchange – Wikipedia

Complex history, language, and names make writing about Belgrade a formidable task. Belgrade’s history runs deep. Memories are short, so the purpose of my blog is making the effort to capture travel experiences.

Branko Radičević Serbian Poet – sikari.rs

Belgrade Tours

I’ve taken several guided walking tours and learned about Belgrade on my own. The complex history is a bit overwhelming. One tour guide – the owner of my rental flat – is “strongly connected with the history of Belgrade and Serbia”.

St. Mark’s Cathedral

Aleksandar’s family has lived in Belgrade for four generations. He’s knowledgeable about its history, traditions, and heritage and enjoys sharing his knowledge with visitors. The goal is providing tourists with an “understanding of Belgrade’s history and a perspective on modern life and culture”. Aleksandar is developing tours of Belgrade and outlying areas. His central city tour was fun and well-organized.

Syndicate House – Wikimedia

Central Belgrade

Central Belgrade is near my apartment. It’s a short walk to iconic buildings like the Old Telephone Exchange, Central Post Office, Church of St. Mark, Parliament Building, Presidential Palaces, and other landmarks. Many of the buildings were damaged during WW I and II and rebuilt.

Building of the Patriarchate Serbian Orthodox Church

Old Telephone Exchange

The Old Telephone Exchange is around the corner. Completed in 1908 it was designed by architect Branko Tanazević in Serbo-Byzantine style. The beautiful building is part of Belgrade’s cultural heritage. I enjoy admiring it from cafés along Kosovska Street.

Belgrade Central Post Office

Belgrade Central Post Office

A significant cultural monument, Central Post Office architecture reflects the “complexity of social and political circumstances during the interwar period – 1919 to 1940”. It represents modernist and functional architecture. Built as a branch of the National Mortgage Bank, Serbian architect Aleksandar Đorđević designed it in the “spirit of the French school of academic style”.

Belgrade Historical Museum – Virtuelni Mazei Dunava

Orthodox Church of St. Mark

The Church of St. Mark is spectacular inside and out! Dedicated to Apostle and Evangelist Mark it’s in Tasmajdan Park near the National Assembly. Spring is in the air and trees in the lovely park are beginning to bud. Walks in the park and stopping for coffee at nearby cafés is always on my itinerary.

Old Telephone Exchange Belgrade

The original church was destroyed during the war. Construction of a new building occurred during the interwar period. There are several tombs inside the church, including Mlan Obrenovic, King Alexander Obrenovic, his wife Queen Draga Mašin, and King Stefan Dušan the Great.

Belgrade National Assembly – Parliament Building

Completed in 1936 and designed by Russian architect and painter Nikolay Petrovich Krasnov, the National Assembly is the Republic of Serbia’s “supreme representative body holding constitutional and legislative power”. The Assembly has 250 elected members. The scope of the National Assembly is “given by the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia”.

Belgrade National Assembly

I haven’t been inside the National Assembly but it’s beautiful and the sculptures at the entrance are magnificent. Entitled Black Horses at Play, they’re the work of Croatian sculptor Toma Rosandića.

Belgrade National Theatre – Shutterstock

Supposedly, the theme of the statues is the struggle between man and nature. There are other more “political stories” about the meaning – most of them over my head. Belgrade has sculptures throughout the city honoring leaders and historical events. Some are by exceptional Croatian artist and sculptor Ivan Meštrović.

Black Horses at Play – Toma Rosandica Sculptor

Old and New Palaces

Belgrade’s palaces are across the street from the National Assembly on Andrićev Venac Street. Each palace has complicated history. There are interesting stories of Serbia’s two royal dynasties – Karađorđević and Obrenović – including an assassination.

Terazije

New Palace – Novi Dvor – was the royal residence of Serbia’s Karađorđević dynasty and later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Today, it’s the seat of controversial President Aleksandar Vučić.

Belgrade National Assembly

Built when Serbia became a Kingdom, Old Palace – Stari Dvor was the Royal Palace of Serbia’s Obrenović Dynasty. The beautiful palace was restored after damage from WW I and II. Today it houses Belgrade City Assembly.

King Alexander Karageorgevich – Heroes of Serbia

Nikola Pašić Square

Serbian and Yugoslav politician Nikola Pašić is an “important statesmen and diplomat”. He’s credited with protecting Serbia from Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian influences.

Mihailo Obrenović III, Prince of Serbia

Pašić founded the People’s Radical Party and held prominent government positions including president of the Serbian National Assembly, Prime Minister of both Serbia and Yugoslavia, Mayor of Belgrade, and Serbian Envoy to Russia. He was one of the authors of the St. Vitus Day Constitution of 1921 giving Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes a unitary monarchy.

Belgrade National Assembly

A square in Central Belgrade is named after Nikola Pašić. In 1998 a monument created by Serbian Sculptor Zoran Ivanović was erected in his honor.

Tasmajdan Park – debuggil.wordpress

Terazije Square and Fountain

Terazije Fountain began as a water source for Belgrade. Towers were built throughout Belgrade to bring water from wetlands into the city. The “Turks called the water towers terrazioni,” so the square was named Terazije.

Nikola Pašić – en.wikipedia.org

Located close to famous hotels, taverns, and shops, Terazije Square was “the center of Belgrade’s social life”. It’s also near the location where German fascists hanged five Serbian patriots in 1941. Moved and reconstructed many times, the Terazije is now in front of famous Moscow Hotel, a great place to enjoy tea or coffee.

Terazije Square Moskva Hotel Belgrade – Tradesco Tours

Republic Square

Republic Square is undergoing major renovation. The square features a monument to Prince Mihailo Obrenovic (1823-1868), son of Prince Miloš and Princess Ljubica. He came into power following the death of his elder brother Milan in 1839.

Belgrade Republic Square Statue Prince Mihailo Obrenovic – Travel to Serbia

Italian sculptor Enrico Pazzi created the monument in 1882 honoring one of Prince Mihailo’s most important political achievements – “expulsion of the Turks from Serbia after five centuries of governance”.

Djura Danicic Serbian Scholar – Wikipedia

Mihailo Obrenovic was elected. He wasn’t a hereditary prince. In 1842, an uprising forced him into exile and brought Alexander Karageorgevich to the throne. Obrenovic spent six years outside Serbia collaborating with writers and poets including Vuk Karadžić, Đura Daničić, and Branko Radičević. When Prince Miloš returned to Serbia in 1858, Mihailo accompanied him and took command of the army.

Nikola Pašić Square – Relja Ivanić

After the death of Prince Miloš, Mihailo regained the throne in 1860 and established an army to “rid Serbia of the Turks”. “Expecting war with Turkey, Mihailo made alliances with other Balkan states – Montenegro, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania.” In 1868, he was assassinated in Košutnjak, a forested Belgrade suburb.

Black Horses at Play Toma Rosandića – Atlas Obscura

Albania Palace

Built in Republic Square in 1939, Albania Palace is one of the tallest buildings in the Balkans. It replaced beloved 19th century Albania Tavern, a popular but cramped and neglected establishment. In spite of its shabby condition, the old Turkish-style building was a favorite spot for local socializing.

Palace Albania

Albania Tavern’s loyal patrons were “reluctant to abandon their favorite gathering place”. On the day it was demolished they gathered at the tavern. Guests were served “until firemen started taking tiles off the roof”.

Belgrade National Assembly

The Palace was the main headquarters of the Nazi work organization Todt. During 1944 in a WW II Allied bombing it was hit by a “half-ton bomb”. Luckily the well-constructed building only suffered minor damage. In 1983 Albania Palace became a Belgrade Monument of Cultural Importance.

Cathedral Church of St. Michael – Flickr

Belgrade National Theater

As directed by Prince Mihailo Obrenović, Aleksandar Bugarski, the “most productive Belgrade architect in the 19th century”, designed the National Theatre. The architecture is based on the design of La Scala Theater in Milan. It’s built on the location of former Stambol Gate – one of four gates placed at each way out of Belgrade.

Belgrade National Theatre Republic Square – Hostel Show Belgrade

Built in 1869, it’s a symbol of Serbian culture, tradition, and spirituality. The popular theatre hosts opera, drama, and ballet performances. The amazing performing art venue has performances every day of the week. Most are sold out. National Theatre was declared a Monument of Culture and Importance in 1983.

Nikola Pašić – Zoran Ivanovic

Bombings during 1941 and again in 1944 damaged the theatre’s exterior, interior, and façade. Many architects and engineers participated in upgrades, annexes, expansions, and reconstruction between 1870 and 2018.

Vuk Karadžić Serbian Linguist – Kurir

The design is a blend of Vienna Secession and Baroque architecture. Even with auditorium and stage expansions, there’s limited seating.

King Alexander Obrenovic and Queen Draga – balkanekspresrb.rs

Belgrade National Museum

Established in 1844, Serbia’s National Museum is the largest and oldest museum in Belgrade. Since 1950 it’s been in Republic Square. The “museum’s collection has grown to over 400,000 objects, including several foreign masterpieces”. It was declared a protected Cultural Monument of Great Importance in 1979.

Belgrade National Museum – Like A Local Guide

Like the National Theatre, the National Museum experienced bouts of redesign and renovation. Various architects and builders were involved, including Andra Stevanović and Nikola Nestorović. It’s built in Neo-Renaissance style with Neo-Baroque elements on the domes. WW II bombings destroyed the domes.

Sergei Polunin’s Sacré Belgrade National Theatre

National Theater Belgrade – Apartment Beograd

While exploring Belgrade last week I discovered the magnificent National Theatre. Founded in 1868 the theater has a museum and two stages for ballet, opera, drama, and comedy performances. The March repertoire is amazing with something different appearing every day of the week! I joined the ticket line and booked two ballets and an opera. The total cost for all three performances was an unbelievable $30.

Sergei Polunin – The Independent

I’d heard of Sergei Polunin but didn’t know much about his career. His modern dance performance looked interesting. Luckily, I got the last available seat in the house – third-floor balcony! The elegant main stage has limited seating forcing many to watch while standing along the sidelines.

Sergei Polunin – Art2Arts

Sergei Polunin

Sergei Polunin is a 29-year-old Ukrainian ballet dancer who has danced since the age of 4. He attended London’s Royal Ballet School and holds citizenship in Ukraine, Russia, and Serbia. After resigning his position as principal dancer with the British Royal Ballet Polunin began freelancing.

Interior National Theater Belgrade – Itinari

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At 19, Sergei Polunin became the “British Royal Ballet’s youngest principal male dancer”. A few years later he resigned from the company with the words ‘the artist in me was dying’.

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Sacré Finale – Kolarov, Oishi, Polunin, Lyubimov

Polunin has been a guest artist at major dance theaters all over the world, including the Royal Ballet, Sadler’s Wells Theatre London, Bolshoi Theatre, Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow, La Scala Theatre Paris, Teatro San Carlo Naples, and Bayerisches Staatsballet Munich.

In 2014 and 2015 Polunin “collaborated with American photographer and music director David LaChapelle“. He participated in several new projects, including a dance video to the song “Take Me to Church” by Hozier.

Yuka Oishi Choreographer – Noizz

Polunin also performed in ballet-related film roles in Red Sparrow, Murder on the Orient Express, and a new film called Passion Simple, his first lead role.

Sergei Polunin – Dance Hall News

Controversial Polunin was the subject of the 2016 documentary film Dancer, directed by Steven Cantor. The documentary “analyzes Polunin’s childhood, training, and rise to international fame”.

Sergei Polunin and Laetitia Dosc Film Passion Simple – Wiki-commons

Sergei Polunin Sacré – Facebook

Sergei recently started the “Polunin Foundation dedicated to finding young and underprivileged individuals, providing them access to a professional dance education, and encouraging and developing their creativity “.

Yuka Oishi Choreographer, Dancer – Fiveprime

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“The goal of the Sergei Polunin Foundation is promoting ballet and dance to a wider audience while honoring traditional ballet and combining it with the most cutting-edge approach.”

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Vaslav Nijinsky Legendary Dancer and Choreographer – Wikiquote

Sergei Polunin’s Sacré

Last month Sergei Polunin performed his powerful new show Sacré in MoscowIt premiered in Switzerland in 2018. In the production, Japanese choreographer Yuka Oishi reinterprets Igor Stravinsky’s iconic ballet Le Sacré du printemps – Rite of Spring.

Alexey Lynbimov Soloist, Principal Ballet Dancer – Kulturserver

The ballet is a “tribute to legendary Russian dancer and kindred spirit Vaslav Nijinsky with Igor Stravinsky’s music taking center stage”. During Polunin’s solo he “explores Niminsky’s madness and his demand for a feeling, not thinking human”.

Igor Stravinsky Composer, Pianist, Conductor – The Guardian

Yuka Oishi Choreographer and Dancer

Yuka Oishi graduated from Hamburg Ballet School. She became an apprentice in 2002 and danced with the company as a soloist. Oishi began choreographing in 2012 and won prizes and recognition for her creativity and talent. Since 2015 she’s a freelance dancer and choreographer.

Alexey Lynbimov Soloist, Principal Ballet Dancer – tickets-to-the-theatre.com

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Sergei Polunin’s Sacré brings back the visions and music of the glorious Ballets Russes 1909 – 1929.

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Alexey Lynbimov and Dejan Kolarov

The evening began with dramatic performances by Alexey Lynbimov and Dejan Kolarov. Alexey is a soloist and principal dancer at Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow. He was awarded Ballet Magazine ‘Soul of the Dance’ Award in 2017 and has danced in ballet productions with Polunin.

Alexey Lynbimov Soloist, Principal Ballet Dancer – Pictame

Dejan Kolarov attended Serbian ballet schools in Zrenjanin and Belgrade and became a soloist at Germany’s Theatre Augsburg. In 2010 he returned to Belgrade National Theatre and became the ballet company’s first soloist. A multi-talented artist, Kolarov is a dancer, director, and choreographer.

Dejan Kolarov Dancer, Director, Choreographer – Narodno Pozoriste

It was a splendid performance! I’m still processing the deep message and creative performance – so much talent!

Dejan Kolarov Dancer, Director, Choreographer – Narodno Pozoriste

Belgrade Serbia

Orthodox Church of St. Mark Belgrade

I arrived in Belgrade Tuesday evening open to a new experience but feeling a bit apprehensive and uncertain about what to expect. One writer compares the Serbian culture of “historical, religious, culinary, and psychological narratives” to “knots that must be carefully untangled”.

Subotica Synagogue Belgrade – Living+ Nomads

It takes a few days to acclimate, and I’m exploring areas near my apartment but haven’t used the trams. I got lost at night but friendly locals were helpful. Transportation is all above ground – no subway. Drivers seem impatient. Crossing the street in the wrong place resulted in a severe honking admonishment – won’t do that again

Novi Sad (Freedom Square) – visitnovisad.rs

Crossing the street can be strangely complicated. In Belgrade’s city center you cross the main thoroughfare via underground stairways and passages. Maybe this is because of the trolleybus tracks – a characteristic of former socialist countries.

Vojvodina District Belgrade – Aegean Airlines

Food

My first Serbian food experience – karadordeva – was interesting but not a favorite. Meat and roasted peppers are especially popular.

Serbian Roasted Peppers – Itinari

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Some describe Serbia as “fascinating, baffling, captivating, frustrating, and vibrant”!

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Serbian Dolmas – Culture Trip

Most restaurants have live entertainment with small groups including a singer, accordion, Serbian guitar, bass or cello, tapan drum, and violin. To my ear, the sound is somewhere between Balkan Gypsy, Greek, and Russian folk music. All smiles, the locals clearly love it!

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When drinking rakija (fruit brandy) with friends, the process is “clinking glasses, locking eyes, and saying ZIVELI”!

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Gardoš Tower Belgrade – Destinelo

There are many Serbian breads – pogača, lepinja/somun, đevrek, proja, pogacica – can’t pronounce them. Bakeries and snack kiosks are everywhere. Kiosk vendors are friendly and helpful. I’ve asked them silly tourist questions and they’re always kind.

Saint Sava Temple Belgrade – Vogue

Savamala District Belgrade – belgrade.com

As in Montenegro and Croatia potent rakija is popular. In the Balkans rakija cures all ailments known to man.

Domaći Devrek Looks Like a Bagel – Kurir

Pogacica Looks Like a Buttermilk Biscuit – pictaram.me

Lepinja Somun

Serbian Time and Communication

I’ve learned that the meaning of time in Serbia is up for grabs. In some cases, an hour means a day or more. There’s no mercy for those who don’t understand this. Above all you must remain flexible unless you want to be frustrated. Complaining or being uptight doesn’t help. There are layers of understanding in Serbia – each somewhat right and at the same time inaccurate – communication is challenging.

Hotel Moskva Belgrade – serbiancoming.com

Belgrade National Theater – Serbia Tour Operator

Orthodox Church

Luckily, I was in Dubrovnik during Serbian Orthodox Christmas in January. Orthodox religious celebrations, food, traditions, feasts, slavas (patron saints), and dos and donts seem dizzyingly complicated.

National Museum Belgrade – Narodni Muzej

There are many spectacular churches to explore throughout Belgrade. From what I’ve seen, you should learn basic Orthodox Church rituals before entering.

Orthodox Church of Alexander Nevsky Belgrade

Smoking

Smoking is another subject. Serbia is the “number one country for per-capita cigarette consumption” – enough said. Although I have a problem with smoking, there’s no point in being judgmental. Soon enough smokers discover the error of their ways.

Tamburicas Small and Large – 123RF.com

Serbian Musicians Belgrade Restaurant

Attractions

There’s much to explore so I’m staying in Belgrade through March. The second time around I found a reasonably priced apartment in the city center. The first apartment wasn’t for me, but since I only booked one week, it’s manageable.

Terazije Square Belgrade – Belgrade Cat

Points of interest include Savamala District, Hilandarska and Terazije Streets, National Museum, Gardos Tower, Zemun Neighborhood, Vojvodina District, Novi Sad Trg Slobode, Subotica Synagogue, and Hotel Moskva. That’s the tip of the list and doesn’t include day trips to villages, parks, rivers, music, museums, or galleries.

Serbian Musaka – belgradeatnight

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“Where there is Slava, there is a Serb.“  Serbian Proverb

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Stairway Zemun Neighborhood Belgrade – Redddit

Street Scene

The Belgrade street scene – words don’t do it justice – is colorful with plenty of local “hipsters”. Women go all out with their attire. Younger women wear skin-tight clothes with lots of leather and makeup. Fancy boots, spike heels, rhinestones, and sequins are indispensable. Most of the younger men are fit and well-groomed. Except for artistic types, older men and women are low-key.

Karađorđeva Snicla – Explore Serbia Online

There’s much to learn, beginning with how to get around :o(. More later…

Sarajevo Farewell and Isa-begov Hamam

Isa Begov Hamam Hotel – Getaroom India

I spent my last day in Sarajevo walking around enjoying the beautiful city. Late afternoon I had a hamam at Isa Beg Hamam Hotel in the Bistrik neighborhood. The process was invigorating but a little different from Turkish hamams.

Isa Begov Hamam Entrance to Stone Sitting Area

Isa Beg Hamam Process

The hamam had a large Jacuzzi and steam room divided by a warm stone sitting area. Before the bath process began, I loosened up by going back and forth between the Jacuzzi and steam room. There was no göbek taşı – a central, raised marble platform above the heating source or “kurna stone”. Laying on the göbek taşı is the first step in most Turkish hamams. It’s meditative and special, especially if you’re looking up at a beautiful dome.

Jacuzzi Isa Begov Hamam – Destination Sarajevo

The thorough bath process included four different washings, scrubbings, and exfoliation. At the end I was literally squeaky clean! After the scrubbing I had an aromatherapy massage with rosemary and rose oil.

Steam Room Isa Begov Hamam Hotel – A-HOTEL.com

Hamam has been the “meaning of clean” through history. The old Arabic word means the “spreader of warmth” and dates back to ancient Rome.

Isa-begov Hamam Sarajevo – sarajevo.co.ba

Isa-beg Ishakovic – BNN.ba

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The main idea of the hamam is “using steam and hot water to cleanse and relax the body”.

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Old Town Flags Bosnian Independence Day March 1

Šeher Ćehaja Bridge Sarajevo

Depending on the culture, hamams have different structures. Earlier blog posts describe the Turkish bath process I experienced in Istanbul and Cappadocia.

Pomegranate Juice Stand

Sarajevo from Mt. Trebević

Hamams consist of three parts. The first step is heating your body and relaxing. The second part is opening your pores and sweating. After these steps, the “tellak” (masseuse) massages and washes you vigorously with a traditional olive paste soap and thin cloth. Bowls of water poured over the body wash away the dead skin cells.

Mostar Bridge

Jajce Waterfall

The next step is an “intensive scrubbing with a rough mitten called a kese” followed by another extensive rinse with alternating hot and cold water. My tellak was a Bosnian woman who spoke little English but enough to tell me she had a degree in physical therapy, a common occupation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Latin Bridge Sarajevo – Wikimedia Commons

The whole process lasted 3 hours leaving me rejuvenated but feeling like rubber. The cost, including a 60-minute massage, was $50.

Travnik Bridge

History Isa Beg Hamam

Isa Beg Hamam is Sarajevo’s first and oldest bath. It has over 500 years of history and was an old Waqf building donated by Isa-beg Ishakovic. His family came from Saruhan in western Turkey. In the first half of the 15th century the Ishakovic family “played a significant role in Macedonia, Serbia, and Bosnia”.

Abandoned Building Near Isa Beg Hamam Hotel

Sarajevo City Hall Vijećnica – Sarajevo Times

Isa-beg Ishakovic built the Sarajevo hamam in 1462 during the era of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The building is of “great importance and symbolizes the transition between the rule of the Bosnian Kingdom and Ottoman Empire”.

Kriva Ćuprija Bridge Mostar

Lašva River Travnik

Isa-beg Ishakovic

Isa-beg Ishakovic – known as the “founder of Sarajevo” – was a successful Ottoman General and the Beg (Governor) of Bosna Sandzak. He’s credited with Sarajevo’s urbanization and creating many “magnificent buildings”.

Orthodox Congregational Church of the Holy Mother Old Town Sarajevo

Mt. Trebević Balkan Vista

Isa Beg Hamam is next to Careva (Sultan’s) Mosque which Ishakovic founded and gifted to the Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. The Mosque and hamam were built at the same time.

Careva Mosque Bistrik Sarajevo

Old Town Clock Tower and Mosque

Damage During the War

The Hamam suffered serious damage during the war 1992-1995. After renovation by architect Ferhad Mulabegovic it became the Isa Begov Hamam Boutique Hotel. The hotel is protected and preserved as an important cultural heritage icon.

Modern Art Sarajevo

I’ll miss Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sarajevo – a special place! Photo memories are attached. More later from Belgrade Serbia.

Old Town Building

Sacred Heart Cathedral

Sarajevo Cable Car and War Bunker

View from Mt. Trebević Cable Car – Monocle

This week I explored new areas of Sarajevo mostly on foot. Sarajevo’s cable car (Sarajevska Žičara) was on my list, but I didn’t do much research before the ride. It’s the fast way up Mt. Trebević to popular recreational areas and favorite picnic spots of locals escaping the city. Riding the cable car made me think of alpine skiing which I miss but so far have not tried in Europe.

Houses from Mt. Trebević Cable Car

Mt. Trebević Cable Car

The cable car base station is on Hrvatin Street in Bistrik, one of several neighborhoods on the mountain’s northern slopes. It’s a short uphill walk from Old Town, Latin Bridge, and Obala Kulina Bana along the Miljacka River. A round-trip ticket is $12 with tourists paying four times more than locals. It costs extra for bicycles and pets. The new system has 33 cable cars that accommodate a total of 1,200 people. 

Trebević Cable Car – Dijspora.tv

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Mt. Trebević became a “deadly sniper position on the frontline”.

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Trebević Cable Cars – Sarajevo Travel

I shared a gondola with three fun German guys from Hanover. One of them pointed to a village below where his grandmother had lived during the siege. As we worked our way up the mountain, the area along the lift line was full of ice, snow, and protruding rocks.

Trebević Cable Car – Balkan Insight

Before the 1990s Siege of Sarajevo millions of passengers rode the cable car. Built in 1959, it was one of the “most recognizable symbols of Bosnia-Herzegovina”. Sadly, it was destroyed during the early days of the war, and Mt. Trebević became a “deadly sniper position on the frontline”.

Inside Sarajevska Žičara

Mt. Trebević – Lungs of Sarajevo

With its fabulous panoramic views and fresh mountain air, Trebević is known as the “lungs of Sarajevo”. I’ve explored a few of the lower hiking trails but in winter the upper ones have snow and ice and are difficult to transverse on foot.

Mt. Trebević Vista

Like everything in Sarajevo, the war had a devastating effect on Mt. Trebević. Shortly after Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence in 1992, the guard on the old Trebević gondola, Ramo Biber, became the first victim of the war. “The Serb-dominated Yugoslav army shot him dead as they began a campaign to encircle Sarajevo and capture key positions.” The 1,425-day Siege of Sarajevo began four weeks later and became the “longest blockade of a capital city in modern history”.

Makeshift Homemade Rifle

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Ramo Biber, the guard on the Trebević gondola, was the first war victim. The Yugoslav Army shot him as they began encircling Sarajevo…

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Mini Snowman Mt. Trebević

Front Line Sniper Position

“Hundreds of mortars and countless bullets rained down on Sarajevo from Mt. Trebević, killing a large proportion of the 11,541 people slain. Gunfire was a part of daily life for more than three years.”

Mt. Trebević Vista

In 1995, NATO intervened by bombing artillery encampments on Mt. Trebević forcing the Bosnian Serbs into retreat. The Dayton Peace Agreement followed. The nation was “split along ethnic lines with two autonomous entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska“.

Inside Mt. Trebević Bunker

The boundary line between the two entities “skirts the mountain”. For years disagreements between the Federation and Republic on redevelopment “turned Mt. Trebević into a ghost town”. The remains of destroyed houses, restaurants, hotels, sports facilities, and mountain huts “were left to rot”.

Cable Car Ticket

The arduous process of clearing thousands of landmines moved slowly. Bandits “roamed the hills attacking tourists visiting the bobsleigh tracks”.

Cable Car Entrance Hrvatin Street Bistrik

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“With death hot on their heels people sprinted from one side of Sniper’s Alley to the other to deliver supplies to family and friends.”

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Top of Mt. Trebević

Reconstruction

After the war, rebuilding the “cable car wasn’t a top priority”. Many Sarajevans drifted away from the troubled mountain divided between two entities and strewn with dangerous landmines.

Inside Mt. Trebević Bunker

Over the years, Sarajevans slowly returned to their “favorite excursion site”. An “awareness that the cable car could be renovated” began to grow. After 25 years, renovation was complete and the cable car began running again on April 6, 2018.

Bunker Makeshift Radio

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“PAZITE SNAJPER! – Beware Sniper warning signs appeared along Sniper Alley – the name for Sarajevo streets exposed to marksmen looking through telescopic sights from the top of Mt. Trebević.”

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Mt. Trebević Snipers – Kurir

Many see reconstruction of the cable car as a final step in the restoration process. Despite frustration that it took so long, there’s a sense of optimism with the reopening of access to Mt. Trebević.

Village Water Supply During Siege Mt. Trebević

March 1 was Bosnia-Herzegovina Independence Day. It was only observed by half of the country – the Bosniak-Croat-dominated entity called the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the other half, the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, March 1 was an ordinary working day.

Bunker Map of Encircled Siege Territory Mt. Trebević

For a few days before and after the March 1 holiday, police patrolled the area near my apartment along the Miljacka River. Since I wasn’t certain of the right spot to turn off toward the cable car, I asked one of several machine-gun-carrying policemen for directions. None of them spoke English, so I pointed toward the mountain and said, “cable car”. They gave me a slightly funny look – now I understand why… Of course I should have asked for directions to “Sarajevska Žičara” :o(. They may have been too young to have experienced the snipers first hand, but I’m sure their parents and grandparents had a tale or two to share!

PAZITE SNAJPER Sign – haber.ba

Views from the cable car are great but the adventure was somewhat disappointing. Unless you have skis, hiking up and down the mountain is better than riding the cable car, and summer is definitely a better time of year. Interesting hikes include the Prvi Šumar recreational area, remnants of the Olympic bobsled and luge track, and the Observatory (Čolina Kapa), formerly Bistrik Kula, an Austro-Hungarian fortification.

Map of Mt. Trebević Hiking Trails

War Bunker and Museum

As I walked back down to Old Town, I saw a makeshift sign for a “War Museum” and stopped to check it out. It was an amazing emotional experience. The man leading tours had lived through the siege with his wife and 6-month-old son.

Mortar Shells and Landmines from the Siege

The museum was an underground bunker exactly like those used during Siege bombings. He described what it was like living in an overcrowded bunker without electricity, food, plumbing, or water. Despite great obstacles and the tragic deaths and injuries of friends and family, somehow, they survived. They used innovative methods to protect themselves, communicate, and get food, water, and the other essentials needed to survive. Their life certainly wasn’t for the faint-hearted.

Trebević Mortar Shells

My photos aren’t great but they give an idea of what the bunker looked like inside. It contained mortar shell remnants and other items from the war. The mountain was full of booby traps and landmines. It’s amazing that these brave people survived!!

Trebević Landmine – Swissinfo