Belgrade’s Rivers, Bridges, Islands, and Lakes

Savamala Clubs Sava River – serbia.com

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

Ušće Park – Wikimapia.org

Transportation isn’t Belgrade’s forte. There’s no metro and traffic is heavy. Drivers are impatient and like honking their horns. Packed trolleybuses are slow and knowing where and when to catch them seems complicated. Taxi drivers are untrustworthy, and the transportation apps I’ve tried – Moovit, CarGo – didn’t work well. My apartment is well-located, so it’s easier and less stressful to walk. The most pressing issue is deciding where to go each day.

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, water, and recreation”. In addition to the two big rivers there are “192 smaller rivers and streams, a dozen lakes, 20 islands, 3 large beaches, and countless tiny inlets”!

French Embassy Near Sava River – lakwatsa.net

Savamala

Savamala is a lively neighborhood along the Belgrade riverside. Young people enjoy popular destinations like party riverboats and trendy nightclubs. The cobbled streets lead to Brankov Bridge, cafés, restaurants, galleries, and unique architecture.

Ušće District Sava River Statue of the Victor by Ivan Meštrović – Wikipedia

Karađorđeva Street is Savamala’s “main artery”. It follows the Sava connecting Belgrade Fortress and Port with Sava Square. Spectacular buildings in the area include embassies, Belgrade Cooperative (Geozavod), and Bristol Hotel.

Bristol Hotel Belgrade – Vestinet.rs

There’s a variety of restaurants and shops in Beton Hala. I’ve walked the area – usually teeming with people – but enjoy kafanas on quieter backstreets.

Geozavod Building Savamala

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

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Port Splav Belgrade – Belgrade Experience

Splavs – Floating Restaurants and Nightclubs

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

St. Sava Orthodox Church Sava Square – shutterstock

Hundreds of floating restaurants, bars, and clubs anchor along the banks of the Sava and Danube. 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 sizes and designs. Floating cabins are usually built on wooden platforms buoyed with metal barrels for stability.

Belgrade Fortress – Belgrade at Night

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Belgrade splavs are a unique experience that can seem surreal, magical, and incredible.”

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Floating Cabins Sava River – Depositphotos

Each splav has a distinct personality – usually characterized by its music. There’s something for everyone. Finding just the right splav is challenging, but local guides are available to help. For those “who want to be seen fashionable splavs blast international pop music; casual splavs play Serbian folk music; and cool hipster splavs spin underground music”.

Rivers

Danube River

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

Serbia Map – World Atlas

Floating Cabins Sava River – Serbia.com

Sava River

The Sava was former Yugoslavia’s “largest national river connecting three capitals – Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Belgrade”. The Sava meets the Danube at Ušće in the center of Belgrade. Great and Little War Islands are directly at the confluence of the two rivers.

Great War Island – Enjoy Belgrade

Great War Island is an uninhibited nature reserve with wildlife and lush vegetation. If the Danube is “Europe’s great river, the Sava is its equal for 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.

King Alexandre Bridge Destroyed During WWII – Wikipedia

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After Rio de Janeiro and Istanbul, Belgrade is third among world cities with the most beautiful locations.

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Valley of Lilacs Ibar River – Breathtaking Places in Serbia WordPress

The Drina is the Sava’s longest tributary. It’s known for speed, character, and sharp curves. The Drina “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”.

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“People don’t take trips, trips take people.”  John Steinbeck

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Ibar River Valley – Company

Uvac River

The Uvac River forms some of the “most majestic natural sights in the Balkans”. Dramatic cliffs and lush forests surround the river’s bends.

Uvac River Nature Reserve – Avanturista

Ibar River

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

Bridges

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

Danube River – mix.com

Bridges Sava River

Ada Bridge

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

Ada Bridge – Wikipedia

Brankov Bridge

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

Gazela Highway Bridge – Wikimapia

Old Tram (Sava) Bridge

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

Banko Bridge with Ada Bridge in Background – A. Nalbantjan

Gazela Bridge

Gazela Bridge “has the shape and color of a gazelle”. The bridge is part of Route E75, a major European highway passing through City Center connecting Belgrade with the Serbian cities of Niš and Novi Sad.

New Railway Bridge – Wikipedia

Old Railway Bridge

Located between Gazela and New Railway Bridges, Old Railway is the oldest bridge in Belgrade and the only bridge from the 19th century.

Gradac Monastery Ibar River Valley – TrekEarth

Studenica Monastery Ibar River Valley – Depositphotos

New Railway Bridge

New Railway Bridge, Belgrade’s second railway bridge, opened in 1979. It was built to help facilitate Belgrade’s traffic. It was the first railway bridge in Europe to use the cable-stayed girder system.

Sunset at Confluence of Sava and Danube Rivers – Lonely Planet

Bridges Danube River

Pančevo Bridge

The Danube’s Pančevo Bridge is a “combined road and railroad truss bridge“. Built in 1935 it was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt at the end of the war. Pančevo bridge was constructed as a “temporary 10-year solution”, but it’s still being used.

Pančevo Bridge – Wikipedia

Islands

Great War Island

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

Ada Međica Island – alo.rs

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

Ušće Park – Belgrade Beat

Bela Stena Resort

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

Ada Cignalija Island Belgrade Seaside – serbia.com

Ada Ciganlija Island

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

Old Sava Bridge – Wikipedia

Ada Međica Island

A small island covered in trees Ada Međica is unspoiled by modern tourism. The Ada Međica Fan Club is making sure it stays that way.

Ada Međica Island – Mapio.net

The only means of transport to and from Ada Međica is a small boat from Sava Quay in New Belgrade. A walking path and “picturesque floating cabins and stilt houses” run the length of the island. There’s a small café next to the boat platform but there are no electricity, water, or public toilets on the island.

Perućac Lake – serbia.com

The south-eastern tip of the island is a good place for swimming, but swimmers need to beware of strong river currents. The island’s code of conduct “requires taking all your garbage with you when you leave”.

Ada Ciganlija Island – belgrade-beat.com

Lakes

Sava Lake

Also known as Ada and Ciganlija, Sava Lake is the largest lake in Belgrade. Its pebble beach is popular in summer. Features include a marina, picnic spots, ground and water sports, fishing, rowing clubs, cafés, floating cabins, and paths for walking, biking, and skating. To the delight of fishermen, the small lake is “brimming with carp”.

Sunset Lake Palić – serbia.com

Lake Palić

Lake Palić is North of Subotica on Serbia’s border with Hungary. “The story goes that Lake Palić was made from the tears of a shepherd who lost his golden lamb”. The lake hosts a film festival and is known for its health spas.

Vlasina Lake – serbia.com

Vlasina Lake

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

Silver Lake Resort – belgrademyway

Silver Lake

An oxbow lake, Silver is on the right bank of the Danube. It’s near spectacular medieval Golubac Fortress, remnants of the medieval town of Golubac, and the entrance to Đerdap Gorge and National Park.

Đerdap National Park Serbia – Modern Flaneurs

Bela Crkva – serbia.com

Bela Crkva Lakes

Bela Crkva Lakes consist of six artificial lakes with the most “unpolluted water in Serbia”. A favorite “cooling off spot” during the hot summer months, Bela Crkva is known as the “Venice of Vojvodina“. The city is surrounded by the Serbian Carpathian Mountains in Banat – between Romania, Serbia, and Hungary.

Austrian Embassy Belgrade

Ada Ciganlija Lake

Belgrade’s most popular resort, Ada Ciganlija, is a big island on the Sava River. Embankments connecting it to Belgrade’s mainland created an artificial lake with swimming beaches. Bathing season runs from June through September.

Golubac Fortress Danube River – tvrdjavagolubackigrad.rs

Žiča Monastery Ibar River Valley – PanaComp

Perućac Lake

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

Zemun Quay – belgrademyway

Belgrade is a fascinating city – there’s so much in Serbia. Time exploring was well spent and reaffirms the need to experience a place yourself to better understand it!

Stilt House River Sava – Remorker Architects Miloš Martinović

Dubrovnik Croatia

Dubrovnik – easyvoyage.co.uk

I arrived in Dubrovnik yesterday afternoon to clear skies and a Mediterranean climate warmer than Berlin but nippy at night. My apartment is in the hills overlooking Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian Coast, Old Medieval City, and Adriatic Sea.

Dubrovnik Franciscan Monastery

Getting anywhere requires climbing lots of stone steps. Although Old City and the Franciscan Monastery are less than a half mile away, it’s all downhill and then, you guessed it, up, up, up on the way back – good exercise.

Defense Walls Dubrovnik Medieval Fortress

In June 2013, I passed through Dubrovnik quickly on the way to Split, Zagreb, Rijeka, and Opǎtija – hectic and only a short day, not sure that counts as a “real visit“. Glad to have more quality time here, and it’s off-season so there aren’t many tourists.

Steps Old City Dubrovnik

I walked to Old City for dinner last night and then had the fun surprise of seeing the Gypsy Kings perform at Orlando’s Column right in the middle of everything!! I’ve long been a fan and to see them performing in such a spectacular outdoor setting was fantastic – love their music! There was a crowd but not overwhelming. Old Town has a beautiful Christmas Market and Winter Festival where the New Year celebration will take place tomorrow!

Dubrovnik from My Apartment

On the way back I forgot which steps took me down to Old City : o( and got lost in the dark. After a long day I ran out of energy, took the easy way out, and called Uber… My landlord, a former ballerina, is active in the community and has great pointers on hiking, tours, restaurants, and cultural activities. More later after I settle in a bit – it’s a huge change from Berlin! I’ll be in Dubrovnik through January.

Dubrovnik Croatia – Croatia.hr

Gypsy Kings Performing at Orlando’s Column Old City

Opǎtija Croatia

 Opǎtija

Opǎtija

I arrived in Opǎtija (means abbey in Croatian) last night and in characteristic fashion got lost finding my hotel. The train from Zagreb to Rijeka arrived at about 9:30 pm. It was impossible to find a taxi, so I took a local bus. When I got off the bus, no one was in sight. Some high school girls passing by helped me find the secluded hotel (giggling all the way). I was grateful and gave them a big hug.

Maiden with the Seagull

Maiden with the Seagull

Hotel Imperial

Hotel Imperial

This morning I decided to change hotels. Accommodations in Opǎtija are pricey but I found an interesting, reasonably priced renovated Austro-Hungarian hotel. It’s in a great location across the street from the beach and Angiolina Park and surrounded by old churches and the sound of tolling bells. The architecture is amazing with 20 foot ceilings in the rooms and more like 30+ in the open areas. The huge dome ceiling in the dining room is a masterpiece. These are nearby attractions:

  • Benedictine Abbey of Saint James – 14th century
  • Neo-Romanesque Church of the Annunciation
  • Villa Angiolina built in 1844 by Iginio Scarpa and now a museum
  • 12 km (7.5 mi) coastal foot path along the Opǎtija Riviera
  • Famous Maiden with the Seagull statue by Zvonko Car
  • Učka Mountain and nature park
Opǎtija

Opǎtija

Opǎtija (aka the Pearl of the Adriatic) is a 20 minute drive southwest of Rijeka along the Adriatic coast. It’s near the Gulf of Kvarner at the foot of Učka Mountain with a population of about 13,000. Because of its beauty and temperate climate the location is a popular European summer and winter resort. The city is surrounded by bay laurel woods and a rocky coast that leads from Volosko through Opǎtija, Ićići, Ika, Lovran, Mošćenička Draga, and other medieval villages.

Villa Angiolina

Villa Angiolina

Učka Mountain

Učka Mountain

There is much to see and do after I get orientated – very different atmosphere than Zagreb. It feels like I’m getting deep into Europe now.

More later…

Backstreets and Ballet

Dolac Flower Market

Dolac Flower Market

On Tuesday I hung out in Zagreb’s backstreets – fun! First stop was the Dolac district where I enjoyed a cappuccino and discovered the open-air food market – called “the belly of Zagreb”.

Petrica Kerempuh

Petrica Kerempuh

St. Mary's Church

St. Mary’s Church

The backdrop to Dolac market is St. Mary’s Church built in the 18th century. On the other side of the market there’s a square filled with fragrant flower stalls.

“A mischievous looking statue of Petrica Kerempuh stands in the midst of the flowers… Petrica Kerempuh is a Croatian plebeian prophet rascal and cynical commentator on contemporary events – a sort of predecessor to modern-day stand-up comedians.”

Dolac Market

Dolac Market

I continued to Tkalčićeva (tkal-chee-tseva) Street built along the course of the former Medveščak Creek, a Croatian landmark. Medveščak Creek was the location for most of Zagreb’s watermills. In the 18th century it was an industrial site used to produce cloth, soap, paper, and liqueurs.

Glyptotheque

Glyptotheque

“Medveščak Creek was the traditional boundary between the settlements of Kaptol and Gradec. Everything to the east of the creek belonged to the church-controlled Kaptol. The west side belonged to the secular Gradec.”

Tkalčićeva Street

Tkalčićeva Street

Marija Jurić

Marija Jurić

Tkalčićeva Street is famous for its colorful architecture and interesting residents. Near the beginning of the street there’s a bronze statue of novelist and equal rights advocate Marija Jurić – the first female journalist in Croatia. Her pen name is Zagorka and her novels which intertwine love stories and historical themes are popular in Croatia.  “The Witch of Gric” is one of her most popular writings.

North of Tkalčićeva Street the Glyptotheque museum houses contemporary art and design exhibitions and plaster copies of famous sculptures. It was a leather tannery before the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences converted it into a museum.

Zagreb Ballet Troupe

Zagreb Ballet Troupe

The Zagreb Ballet performance last night was really something! It was a mixture of classic and contemporary ballet. I’ve never seen stronger or more talented dancers. The ballet was called Baletini Triptih and included three separate pieces specifically choreographed for the Zagreb Grand Ballet. Each piece consisted of three segments with a short break between dances. For three hours the dancers tirelessly gave their all during extremely demanding performances. The audience appreciated their amazing stamina.

Croatian National Theater

Croatian National Theater

National Theater Dome

National Theater Dome

National Theater Interior

National Theater Interior

I had a great seat next to a friendly and gracious Danish man involved in Croatian ballet production. He explained the layout of the ornate theater. He said in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire the presence and support of the royal family was a major part of every performance.

In Europe the upper front section to the left of the stage was for the king and his friends who were patrons of the ballet. The king’s family occupied the section directly across on the right side of the stage.

During high-profile ballet and opera performances kings and other royalty would show off their daughters and try to find them suitable husbands. He said to this day in Denmark no one will sit in empty seats reserved for the king – even if a performance is sold out.

It was a wonderful evening and I’m happy to have experienced a ballet in the majestic Croatian National Theater – a fantastic memory!

Split to Zagreb

Zagreb

Zagreb Croatia

I arrived in Zagreb early this morning – 3:00 a.m. The city and country transitions on this trip have been a bit rough. This one was no exception. A few minutes before departure passengers received news about cancellation of the overnight train (9 pm to 7 am) from Split to Zagreb. Instead, a bus picked us up and drove everyone to Zagreb. The bus arrived in Zagreb four hours earlier than expected and dropped us off at the central train station. What now?

The trams aren’t running at that hour of the morning but several taxis were waiting outside the train terminal. I talked to a few Aussies who were new to Zagreb as well and equally bewildered about what to do. They decided to use their smartphone mapping software to walk to their hostel in the dark – about an hour away by foot. We wished each other good luck and parted.

The owner of my apartment in Zagreb specifically advised against taking a taxi from the train station. He said the taxis waiting there were known for confusing and cheating tourists. I was a little rummy from the bus ride but realized there was no way to get to my apartment at 3:00 am without taking a taxi. The original plan was to go from the train station to the main square in central Zagreb and catch a taxi there since I was aware of the proper taxi fare from that point. After talking to (or trying to talk to) several shady drivers, I declined getting into their taxis. They were unhappy to be asked questions about their fares.

As I was pondering my predicament, a man standing by the train terminal approached and asked where I was going. I gave him the address – an upscale residential neighborhood near the university. He said his friend was an honest driver with a metered taxi and he would take me there and not cheat me. Since there was no choice except to trust someone I got into his taxi and the driver proceeded to the apartment – about a 10 to 15 minute drive. Central Zagreb was lite up beautifully at night and the buildings were gorgeous!

Zagreb Cityscape

Zagreb Cityscape

The taxi driver was soft-spoken and polite. I got there safely and paid him a reasonable taxi fare. The owner was up and let me into the apartment – which is the beginning of the next story…

The apartment owner, Mladen Kahlina, is a former opera singer who was up at that hour playing the piano and working on some lyrics. He’s retired from opera singing and now teaches and manages his small apartment building. Surprised to see me at 3:00 am – a really early arrival – Mladen said he wasn’t quite finished preparing the apartment.

While he finished putting things together, we had an interesting conversation about opera (he did the talking) which lasted for over an hour. At that point I’d been up all night – so what was a few more hours? He lectured me on Giuseppe Verdi and various other operatic composers and even sang a few lines – nice voice. Then he brought me a beautiful CD by Maria Bethania (a Brazilian singer) to listen to while winding down after the long day of travel. I love her music – it’s in Portuguese.

The apartment is cozy (with a Jacuzzi bathtub – yeah – and a small deck). Since I hadn’t slept for over 24 hours I almost immediately fell into a deep sleep. Will begin exploring tomorrow…

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and considered the cultural and political hub of the country. Mladen left a brochure on June 2013 events and performances – there are plenty of interesting things to see and do in Zagreb!

Marjan Hill Split, Croatia

Dusk from Marjan

Dusk from Marjan Hill Split, Croatia

Marjan (pronounced MARyan) is an exquisite hill on the Split peninsula. Covered in a lush Mediterranean pine forest it overlooks the city of Split and the Adriatic sea.

Bene Beach

Bene Beach Marjan

The area is a beloved park enjoyed by the citizens of Split for picnics, weekend excursions, and recreation. Marjan has beaches, jogging paths, hiking trails, tennis courts, a zoo, and the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries.

Split Peninsual Rovinj Fenomeni

Split Peninsula – Rovinj Fenomeni

Sweeping views from Marjan include the entire city of Split, surrounding islands, and the mountains of Mosor and Kozjak part of the Dinaric Alps. I’ve visited Marjan several times and plan to go back again. The entrance is about a 25 minute climb from the Split’s riva (boardwalk).

Pine Forest

Pine Forest

Daytime View

Daytime View Split, Croatia

“In ancient times Emperor Diocletian built his palace near Marjan and organized areas close by as parks. There is a rustic 13th century AD church on Marjan dedicated to St. Nicholas, a favorite saint of fishermen of which there are many in Split.”

Hermitage Caves

Hermitage Caves

The 15th century church of St. Jerome lies along Marjan’s south rim. Directly above and behind St. Jerome are a group of Renaissance hermitage caves built into the cliffs. Split’s old Jewish cemetery is on the eastern slopes of Marjan just above the city.

Steps to Marjan

Steps to Marjan

The Meštrović Gallery is on the south side of Marjan. It’s the former villa of Ivan Meštrović, considered “one of the greatest sculptors of religious subjects since the Renaissance”. I will visit the famous gallery later today.

Mestrović Gallery

Meštrović Gallery

On Friday evening I leave Split and head north to Zagreb via train. The glorious weather and time spent here in Split has been a highlight of this trip!