Belgrade first time

Serbia was one more European country I’d never visited. From Bucharest I flew to Belgrade. My first impression of the Serbian capital was rather sombre. It seems the Serbs love the black colour, and generally there is certain melancholy in the character city. But the longer I stayed, the more pleasant it appeared to me. The view of Belgrade from the Brankov bridge:

Looking down from the Brankov bridge onto the Sava river:

The fortress of Kalemegdan dominates the historical Belgrade. Surprisingly it is open for visit at any time of the day and night. I visited in the evening as the dusk set over the Sava river. It was full of people on a warm summer day. The view from the fortress on the modern areas of Usce and New Belgrade:

The view in the other direction, towards the North and the Danube:

One of the reasons of the Belgrade’s melancholic mood. One of the buildings that were bombed by NATO’s planes in 1998 – the Ministry of Defence. It is situated on the Kneza Milosa prospect – the main thoroughfare in central Belgrade. A number of other bombed-out buildings line it.

This particular building is quite particular. It was built in 1960-s in a modern style and symbolises for the Serbs not just the NATO bombings, but also the disappeared old Yugoslavia with all its faults and desire to unite the various characteristics in a single ensemble.

NATO bombed primarily the objects with a strategic importance but there is one bombing that remains a mystery. I can still remember the puzzling news that the Chinese embassy was destroyed by a NATO strike. In Belgrade a theory was presented to me that would explain it – apparently on the day of the strike Milosevic himself was supposed to visit the embassy. The NATO strike then was calculated to eliminate him.

A complex of museum by the name of Museum of Yugoslavia is situated in a parkland to the South of the centre.

Inside the main Museum building. An exhibition of photos made by Tito himself and his accompanying photographers on their many trips around the world. Thanks to his proactive stance, Tito’s influence and prestige were out of proportion to the real weight of Yugoslavia in the world.

I visited the complex in the first place in order to see the so-called House of Flowers. It is a mausoleum of Tito and his wife, Jovanka Broz, who died in 2013. The entrance:

Inside the House of Flowers:

Tito’s monument. The House of Flowers is surprisingly dignified, full of light and comes across as sunny and optimistic. Somehow it fits the artist of life that was Tito. And is in great contrast with macabre mausoleums of Lenin-Mao-Ho Chi Min, that I have also visited. It bewilders me that a mummy is still lying on the main square of two of the world powers.

To each side of the monument inside the House of Flowers there are exposition halls. The exposition does feature a certain sympathy for Tito, and yet it helps you feel a certain atmosphere of the times. These are the local batons that were presented to Tito annually on his birthday, that doubled as the Youth Day. Each baton was made in a new fashion and had first travelled all around Yugoslavia in the manner of the Olympic flame. The collection of annual batons in a certain way is a symbol of the Yugoslav years.

Tito among the five leaders of the Non-Alignment movement. I find this photo utterly fascinating. Tito, Sukarno, Nasser, Nehr and Nkrumah (the latter is the first president of Ghana) in New York in 1960. The attempts to render the world multi-polar did not start yesterday.

Another fascinating photo, Tito with his best friend Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian emperor, in Addis Abeba:

A very sociable friend in a café right next to the Museum of Yugoslavia. Looked at me with such sympathy that I couldn’t help photographing him.

And finally some shots of the Serbian food. I should start by saying that Serbia is no place for vegetarians. I’ve never been to a place where people would eat so much meat. Let’s start from a moderate dish called mućkalica. It is a stew made of minced meat and peppers. It is so juicy that I almost licked the plate!

Another typical Serbian dish, the chicken hearts wrapped in bacon. In particular the juice in which it is all swimming is incredibly delicious. A very heavy dish though.

A Balcan classic – Karageorgiev schnitzel – in the restaurant “?” (“Interrogation mark”). Pork wrapped in the form of a roll and filled with cheese. I could eat only half!

Beef skewers in a traditional restaurant on Skadarska street. I was quite disappointed with Skadarska – didn’t find anything truly authentic there.

But the musicians do sing local songs in the old taverns and the local Serb visitors sing and dance along with obvious joy!

Baked mushrooms (only champignons) and another traditional dish – pleskavica. It is made from a mixture of ground meats – normally pork and beef, baked on grill with onions. Not my favourite dish in Belgrade.

In the menu of Vuk restaurant I came across one of my favourite foods. I know it from Belgium where its very popular in traditional places. These are sweetbreads (ris de veau in French) – calf’s pancreas gland. Amazingly tender, it simply melts in your mouth. The Serbian salade is next to it – the difference with Shopska salade is that there is no cheese here.

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