Belgrade, Serbia Budget

Goal pp/d: $40 CAD

Number of days spent in Belgrade: 3

Actual expenditure pp/d: $33.48

Cheap things: everything!

Expensive: N/A

We spent all of our time in the capital city so I can only assume it would be even cheaper elsewhere in the country.

Belgrade, Serbia

Hello everyone!

Picking up where I left off; the delightful overnight train ride from Bar to Belgrade. Feel the sarcasm?

Our tickets were 25 euro each which, for a 17 hour train ride in Europe, that really is a steal of a price. But you know that old adage, “you get what you pay for”? It rang true for this journey.

We boarded the train at 5 pm after having a surprisingly delightful supper at a small restaurant by the trian station. We were underwhelmed with the state of the train and our carriage in particular. We bought second-class sleeper tickets for a 6 bed carriage, so we did not expect a night at the Hilton, but we also did not expect to be transported back in time. The carriage was unbelievably tiny, when you sat on your bed you had to be doubled over in half, as the bed above you was directly on top of you, and your knees touched the bed across from you. If you stood up between the beds, you had to stand sideways, otherwise you wouldn’t fit. (I don’t believe Chris and I are big either!). This meant you could neither sit up in bed nor stand up in the aisle, so you had to lay down. The beds were not long enough for Chris’s frame and were not wide at all. There was Chris and I and a very lovely Serbian lady sharing the carriage. When we first boarded it was rather cold, but about 2 hours into the journey it was so hot it felt like I was in Dante’s Inferno. I immediately opened the window, drugged myself, and hoped for a quick night. Unfortunately, we had to wake several times throughout the night for border control. It was our first overnight train ride, so I have nothing to compare it to, but compared to overnight buses I would take a bus over that train any day of the week. Knowing how many people travel by train in Europe, I am assuming that this train is just an incredibly old train that they don’t bother replacing due to its location and route. I am assuming this, because if that was the normal, nobody would travel by overnight train in Europe.

We made it to Belgrade at 9:30 am and happily disembarked that devil train to the fresh air and excitement of a new city. Our first impression of Belgrade? It had a certain edginess to it that we hadn’t experienced in other places. We made our way to the tram to catch the number 2 to our hostel, armed with the direction and the name of the stop we needed to get off at. Should have been a piece of cake, right? Wrong. Welcome to Serbia, where all street signs and tram stops are in Cyrillic! We managed to find a map illustrating the tram routes and arrows pointing which way they were going, and counted the number of stops before we got to ours. We then boarded the tram with the hopes we had interpreted the map correctly. Luckily, we ended up where we wanted and found our hostel, El Diablo no problem. After getting the run down on things to do and see from the very helpful hostel worker Ivan, we quickly scarfed down our subs we had brought with us and headed out to explore the city.

Belgrade is listed as one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2015 by Lonely Planet. Also, several years ago LP listed it as the city with the best nightlife. Based on our first day of exploring we didn’t quite get to see why it earned either of those titles, but we were also extremely tired. We went to a traditional restauarant for supper and had a meal reminiscent of shepards pie, but instead of mashed potatoes it had a bread-like topping, and rather than ground beef it was a different type of meat. It also came with pickled vegetables as a side, rather interesting.

The next day we woke up and joined the free walking tour of Belgrade. Our tour guide was nothing short of adorable, and shared her families homemade rakia with us. We visited many places and learned what a violent history the city has had. There has never been a period longer than 50 years without either a war or bombing. Belgrade holds an excellent position on the intersection of the Sava River and Danube River which makes it appealing for defense purposes. Throughout history it has been ruled by just about everyone at some point, so it is a very eclectic mix in terms of architecture, food, traditions etc. It was a very interesting tour and I highly recommend it! After the tour we headed to a restaurant called Little Bay for what turned out to be an incredible meal. Little Bay is decorated like an opera house and the booths come with a rope that rings a bell to summon the waiter. We ordered the Rhapsody dish for 2, which came with duck confit with red cabbage, pork ribs with potato wedges, a vegetarian lasagna, and chicken with a blue cheese sauce with mashed potatoes. Each dish was simply delightful, we enjoyed the meal immensely. I find it hard to adequately describe how amazing it was, so all I will say is it definitely cracked our top 10 meals list! The best part was it only cost us $10 CAD each. (Remember that fish meal from Chris’s corner? That was $14.)

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After our second day in Belgrade we started to understand more why this rugged city appeals to people so much. It slowly began to win us over.

Our third day in Belgrade was again spent on a walking tour, but this time the Underground Walking Tour. During this tour we explored 3 underground areas in Belgrade; Tito’s military bunkers, The Roman Well, and the caves where traders used to store food that now house bars and a wine pub. The tour itself was not our favorite tour, but the guide was enthusiastic and we ended the tour with a glass of wine so we were happy enough. In Serbia they mix their red wine (usually a very sweet red wine) with coca-cola, which we tried at the end of the tour. It is a bizarre combination that is some-what like sangria, but no where near as good. I will just stick with the red wine. We made our way back to Little Bay for round 2 of the Rhapsody dish- if it’s not broken, why fix it?

That night we got heaps of advice on what to do and see in Turkey from 2 turkish guys staying in the hostel and the hostel worker who lived there for a while. I was in charge of planning Turkey so it just solidified the plans I made already- and gave us tons of useful advice for getting around, things to eat, other places to see etc. We then shared some wine with one of the turkish guys and headed to a pub for a drink. The pub was a house, inside a mall, that kind of looked dilapidated, but turned out to be awesome. For $1.70 CAD you could get a shot of rakia that was 3 times the size of a normal shot. It was also my favorite rakia I tried, it was much sweeter and smoother than the others. Our waitress from Little Bay and one of the cooks showed up at the pub around 2 am and sat with us and kept the rounds of rakia going. It was so fun to chat with them and learn more about life in Serbia. We ended up getting kicked out at 4:30 am when the workers wanted to go home for the evening. All in all, a successful night. Until we had to wake up at 8:30 am to catch our shuttle to Romania.

After three days in Belgrade, we can whole-heartedly agree with Lonely Planets classifications of Belgrade. Add it to your cities to visit in 2015 (and beyond)!