HERROOO/HELP from Belgrade! I’m currently nursing a major hangover thanks to copious amounts of rakia, which is the drink/poison of choice of the locals in the Balkans. It’s a brandy made out of fruit (rule of thumb is.. if you can make a jam out of it.. you can make rakia!) and its about 40-50%+ ABV, though homemade rakia can be stronger. ANYWAY, i’ve drank a lot of it.. along with beer & wine which has been a deadly combination/regrettable choice….
getting to Belgrade from Montenegro was a pain in the ass and required a strong drink once I arrived. The 10 hour journey from Bar actually took 13.. I wouldn't normally mind this, but it was hot as hell and i was trapped in a 6 person compartment with 8 people.. including 2 hyperactive children and one fat, snoring man.. still it was an experience, and i made it to Belgrade in one piece so i can’t RELALY complain (well i can.. and i did i suppose!)
As indicated in my intro, I've been having loads of fun in Belgrade. The city is known for its nightlife, and even though clubs aren’t really my things nowadays… i can never say no to a good boat party. There are tons of floating clubs called splavovi (moored floats) anchored on the Sava and Danube rivers that people flock to during the summer. They play cheesyyyyy pop music and blast turbo folk.. which, for those who don't know, is a musical genre that Vice (accurately) describes as traditional Yugoslavian folk music played over some of the most violently techno ever recorded.. basically what you would expect to find at the Jersey shore (lots of the women have built in floating devices if the boats were to ever capsize…) its definitely a true balkans experience and tons of fun,. especially if you had 5, 6, 10 shots of rake beforehand hehe :) I've been lucky to be staying at a hostel with loads of nice people coming thruu..
In addition to the partying, Belgrade has been a pleasant place to spend a few days… it’s super cheap and has a really great cafe scene. my favorite place to spend my afternoons and evenings since i haven't woken up before 12PM have been at Skadarlija, which is known as the Bohemian quarter of the city aka the Montemarte of Belgrade. I’ve been spending many hours at the kaffanas there.. which are essentially bars/cafes/restaurants.. all in one!! The streets are filled with little eateries and bars, flowers literally flowing from the pots, and musicians and artists sharing their craft. I've enjoyed people watching while sipping my coffee and beers , and.. when i'm feeling like less of a creep.. reading books, and enjoying the music in the area.
I’ve also climbed the fortress which has beautiful views of the city.. and indulged in a few homey comforts.. like Indonesian cuisine (whoddathunk in the middle of Belgrade, I'd wander past an Indo restaurant?)
I’ve been surprised by how modern this city feels. especially when you consider that the city was bombed by NATO for over 70 days during Operation Allied Forces in 1999... According to NATO, the operation sought to stop human rights abuses in Kosovo. It was the first time that the organziation used military force without the approval of the UN Security Council. Apparently the city has been destroyed 40xs throughout its history… and yet it somehow seems to rebuild.. though there are still devastating reminders/government propaganda scattered throughout the city... below are the ruins from the Ministry of Defense.. right by the train station for everyone to see.
To be perfecty honest, I was apprehensive to travel to Belgrade… after traveling around the Balkans and learning about its contentious history, it seems like a lot of people were accusing the Serbians of being the aggressors and agitators of the wars. Of course, I’m aware, history is extremely subjective, so I really wanted to experience it myself.. I’ve been blown away by the kindness and openness of the Serbian people. They’re definitely confident people but also extremely friendly… they’ll approach you with curiosity, invite you for a drink, and tell you their life story and their views on the world, all within moments of meeting them (my kind of people!) Also…side note i dropped my bank card, didn’t even notice until way later, and when i got to my hostel.. they said some guy found it.. called the hostel and brought it back to me!) SO FUCKING NICE…. I’ve obviously enjoyed my time here immensely.. and i can’t believe it’s almost time for me to leave the Balkans and fly to Israel.. another contentious area but WITHOUT ANY PORK (yay!!!)