22.06.2016

TWO DAYS IN BELGRADE

TWO DAYS IN BELGRADE, Beyhan Ünal | 22.06.2016

If you are in need of a beautiful, calm, quiet, green, cheap, dependable, and close European city to visit for a couple of days or for a weekend, Belgrade is the right choice.

Belgrade, which means "White City", is the capital of Serbia and its largest city. The city enjoys views of rivers and forests due to the fact that it is located at the plateau where the Sava and Danube rivers meet. The Danube and Sava Rivers are 60 km and 30 km long respectively.

Belgrade fell under the Ottoman reign in 1521 and became one of the largest cities in Europe at that time. It was declared as the capital of Yugoslavia in 1918 and maintained this status up until 2006 when the country was completely split. Yugoslavia was split into seven separate sovereign states in 2006 after the 20-year civil war which began due to the rising ethnic conflicts and economic crisis following the death of Tito.

The country’s currency is the Serbian Dinar. You can find currency exchanges that are open until late evening in Belgrade.

The city is safe in general; you can walk the streets late at night but of course it is better to be safe than sorry. :) It would be logical to pick a hotel close to the Knez Mihailova Avenue for your stay.

You could say that Belgrade is generally a cheap city. You can enjoy delicious food and not have to pay too much for it (In an average restaurant a main dish, glass of water, and cup of coffee are 400-700 RSD, 45-70 RSD, 120-160 RSD respectively). The taxi fares are also reasonable; they use taximeters in their taxis.

The people are generally friendly, respectful, and helpful.

The best time to visit the city is during the months of May, June, September, and October due to its continental climate.

PLACES TO VISIT

Knez Mihailova Street: You can walk from end to end and get a feel for the city on this avenue which is reminiscent of İstiklal Avenue in İstanbul. The avenue, which is decorated with impressive buildings built during the 19th century, is quite lively both day and night. The restaurants on the avenue and its side streets are the best that you will find in the city. You may drink from the fountain in the middle of the avenue and cool yourself off. You can also find musicians and different street performers throughout the day.

Kalemegdan: You reach Kalemegdan after walking Kneza Mihailova Street end to end and then crossing the street at the last lights. This touristic area, made up of a castle and a park, was given its name (which means "Castle Square") during the Ottoman reign. It isn't just glorious because of its history, its view is also magnificent. It is located at the place where the Danube and Sava Rivers meet. The castle’s history dates back to the Celts. The castle, which was extended during the Roman period, was attacked many times throughout history. It overcame 115 battles in total, fell into ruin many times, and was rebuilt. The restorations made by the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires during the 19th century shaped the castle into what it is today. It is a large and beautiful castle with its wooden bridges, greenery, wonderful gates, and a great view. There is a military museum, which you can visit for a small fee, a small zoo, and souvenir shops inside.

Skadarska: It is an avenue which is very close to Mihailova Street but in the opposite direction to Kalemegdan, and in close proximity to the Republic Square. The avenue and its surrounding area; the colorful buildings, cobblestone pavements, flowers, walls, and restaurants with live music are a bohemian corner of Belgrade. You can have a meal or a drink, buy souvenirs for loved ones, and have a great time here. It’s not to be missed.

Sveti Sava Cathedral: The church, which I find to be among the most beautiful structures in Belgrade, was built in the place the founder of the Serbian-Orthodox Church Saint Sava's relics were burnt to honor his memory. It is also said that it was built to look like Hagia Sophia. Its architecture is also reminiscent of a mosque.

Sveti Marko Church: Saint Mark's Church, which is another lovely Orthodox church with its colorful and different architecture, is just beside Tašmajdan Park. Its construction began in 1935 and ended in 1940. It was built on top of the original church built in 1835. It is a beautiful example of Byzantine architecture.

House of the National Assembly of Serbia: The National Assembly of Serbia, which is located at the Nikola Pasic Square and which was once the Yugoslavian Parliament, is a very elegant Neo-Baroque building. Even though its construction began in 1907, it took many years for it to be finished.

Zemun: The Zemun district, which is the center of the new city, is located on the banks of the Danube river across the Sava river; it is worth visiting with its authentic and touristic style. It has many churches in it. Its streets are full of colorful houses with gardens. The Zemun Tower is also very lovely with its color and appearance. It has a beautiful view as it is at a much higher altitude compared to the city. You can go down to enjoy a walk along the river, watch the swans or the people rowing on the river, or go to one of the cafés and restaurants along the river to have a meal or a drink. The Millennium Tower (Kula Sibinjanin Janko) is located in Gardos, which is the most popular neighborhood in the region, with narrow streets.

Ada Ciganlija: Is an island situated next to the banks of the Sava River in the center of Belgrade. It is a very enjoyable venue where you can do many sporting or seaside activities. If you want to spend some time in the water in a city without a coast, cycle among the greenery along the river, and dine at nice restaurants, Ada Ciganlija is just the place.

If you are interested in museums, you can visit the Nikola Tesla Museum, which is dedicated to the famous inventor and physicist, and the Serbian National Museum.

If you wish to take a pleasant city tour you can make use of the open-air Hop On-Hop Off buses setting off from in front of the National Assembly Building. Some of the buses even go to the forest and the city’s highest peak. You can find out about their departure times and routes from your hotel reception.

The meat dishes are generally very tasty, and the servings are generous. You should try their famous meat dish called Ćevapi, which is much like our İnegöl meatballs. Some other tastes to sample are; the soup made of veal called teleca, the "Balkan hamburger" famous throughout the Balkans called pljeskavica, grilled meatballs with cheese and chili peppers called ustipci sa lijutom paprikom, the meat fried within a wrap with cheese and cream called karadordeva snicla sa pomfritom, the salad served with grated cheese much like our shepherd's salad called sopska salata… It is also said that the quince brandy is absolutely delicious. 

Have a delightful trip! :)

'WHITE CITY' BELGRADE

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