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.

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…