The second leg of our journey was to Belgrade, Serbia.
Day 4 : Thursday 28/05/2015 continued…..
So it was around 5pm, we were in Bulgaria at Sofia airport with no car. One company, Choice Rent said they could drive us to Belgrade. It would cost €260. For the ease of it, the extra expense over the train seemed well worth it. (I think the train would have been about €35 each+ taxis and lots of extra time!) So we agreed and within the hour we were off.
The driver seemed like a nice guy and a good driver. He had been driving all day and now with this trip he wouldn’t get home until the next morning! Hope he had a nice holiday in Greece the week after!
The car pulled into a petrol station near to the border, there was queue of lorries spanning over a mile waiting to cross from Bulgaria to Serbia. Our driver told us that they have to wait 3 days before they can cross! No idea why it’s such a slow process.
For us the border was fairly straight forward, not much of a queue. Our passports were checked, then they wanted to see in our cases to prove we weren’t smuggling anything we shouldn’t be. The man checking asked where we were from, we said “England”, he asked where? We said “Norwich”, he congratulated us on getting into the premier league!
Lorries were queuing the Serbian side too.
We approached the Serbian border, showed our passports again and we were in.
We arrived at our hotel in the early hours of the morning.
Day 5 : Friday 29/05/2015
Keen to explore, we got up, had breakfast, got ready and were out at a reasonable time.
The first site we came across was the Church of Saint Sava, a Serbian Orthodox church. It was pretty impressive. To our surprise the inside is bare and very much unfinished. Doing some research later on I found that building of the church started in 1935 but work ceased during and after the second world war and wasn’t started again until 1985. Now it relies on private donations.
The next mission was to try to find the Ada Bridge; a pretty new suspension bridge Keith thought might be quite cool.
Keith lead us towards it but we hit some dead ends! We walked into a metro station and wanted to get to the other side of it but there was no way through, the only stairs lead to nowhere!
On the way we met a helpful Serbian girl, she said she was studying in London, she pointed us in the right direction.
Wikipedia info “The Ada Bridge (Serbian: Мост на Ади / Most na Adi) or alternatively Sava Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge over the Sava river in Belgrade, Serbia. The bridge crosses the tip of Ada Ciganlija island, connecting the municipalities of Čukarica and New Belgrade. The bridge pylon is located on the tip of the island, which has been reinforced with large amounts of concrete and has been slightly enlarged to provide stronger foundations. Construction began in 2008, and the bridge opened on 1 January 2012. Adjoining roads were completed in 2013.’
The main attraction was the Genex tower or Western City Gate located in the new town, a brutalist tower block with a revolving restaurant at the top; supposedly. We could see it from the bridge, it was tall and imposing dwarfing the other buildings around it. There are lots of concrete tower blocks located within the new town but this was the most impressive. Keith was in heaven!
Wikipedia info “… designed in 1977 by Mihajlo Mitrović in the brutalist style. It is formed by two towers connected with a two-storey bridge and revolving restaurant at the top. It is 115 metres tall (with restaurant 135–140 metres) and is the second-tallest high-rise in Belgrade after Ušće Tower. The building is designed to resemble a high-rise gate greeting people arriving in the city from the West ”.
Although we could see the tower in the distance it was still pretty far away. We spotted a taxi rank so decided to get a taxi. Once a price was agreed, we got in and started trying to clip our seat belts in but the driver laughed at us and told us we were in Serbia there was no need!
The door was open to the accommodation side so we thought we’d try our luck. We got in the lift and went up to the 30th floor. Unfortunately the doors we all looked so who who’s when the restaurant was last open. There was a really dirty window in the stairwell, the view wasn’t that good but we could see how it would have been amazing from the top.
Jon had a telephone interview for a potential new job so we left him in a cafe while Keith and I explored more of the concrete jungle.
We got a taxi back as we’d had enough of walking! Taxis were pretty cheap.
For tea we decided on Italian so went to Vapiano located on the high street. This was my first time at a Vapiano, so the concept was all new to me. You get given a card then you go up to the food preparation area, order what you want, they scan the card, if the food needs to be cooked you are given a device that vibrates when your food is ready then you collect it. They scan your card at the end and you pay for what ever you’ve had. I thought it was great. Food was good too. After two mains and a dessert Jon was feeling pretty full.
We asked the girls at the check out where the bars or pubs were, they said places don’t really open until after 11 and pointed us in the direction of some cafes. We wanted some wifi to research the next leg of the trip so found a cafe/bar and had a cocktail or two.
Having been told about a club called Freestyler which was on a boat so we decided to try and end up there. Looking on the map it looked like we needed to walk back past Vapiano to a street behind it, to our surprise the street was full of bars/cafes. The Vapiano girls said they didn’t know of any which seemed rather strange!
We got approached by an attractive blonde girl who ushered us into the first bar on the road. There were a couple of girls on the table behind us who asked me to take a photo of them. I turned back to our table, then I thought, screw it I’m gonna talk to them so I did. They seemed nice, they were easy on the eye too. They offered to show take us to some other places.
Following them, Jon decided wasn’t feeling that good so went back to the hotel. We passed a bar playing fairly loud music, they stopped and asked if we liked Serbian music, we said yeah why not! So we went in. Now although table service is all well and good I much prefer being able to go to the bar, order a drink, get it and pay for it, its just easier and quicker but not really the European way. Some syringe shots of some sort of watermelon drink were brought to our table, the girls asked if we liked it, I said yes (even though I cant really stand watermelon) and after a while the bar maid brought over a glass of watermelon cocktail for each of us.
The girls were loving the music and dancing around the table, we were kind of sitting there a little awkwardly! A song they didn’t like came on so they asked the DJ for something else, when it came on Ornela started dancing, I shazamed the song. Watching the video for it later on showed she knew all the moves perfectly! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHsi81SjMbo
The girls eventually left so we decided to check out Freestyler. Walking in the music was loud and the club was busy. We walked to the bar, there was a French guy standing at the bar, I spoke to him, he said “I could think of worse places to be” then he looked up. I looked up and had to look twice, there was a glass walkway with half naked dancers above us (He had his phone pointed up and was filming them!).
Keith in Freestyler
We spent a while in the club and decided to call it a night and made our way back to the hotel.
Day 6 : Saturday 30/05/2015
The lady on the reception was very helpful and helped us organise transport to the next country. Car hire cross border again seemed out of the question. We opted for a mini bus €35 each. It would pick us up at our hotel in Belgrade and dropped at our hotel in Budapest.
Breakfast was included in the hotel price, below is what I had, very nice.
The Manjez Villa was probably the best hotel we stayed at throughout the trip, would definitely recommend it!
Today we decided to explore more of old Belgrade. We headed for Belgrade fortress at Kalemegdan Park. There we paid to go see an old Roman well. It was fairly interesting, the next attraction was the clock tower, to be honest it wasn’t really worth going up as there was nothing to see in it and the views from the windows weren’t great.
We walked through the pedestrianised main street where most of the shops are. I was just in search of a little Serbian flag sticker or magnet so checked out most of the souvenir stalls until I found something suitable.
We wandered around the city and found the tourist information centre, there we asked if there were any markets or flea markets around, they pointed us in the direction of a couple. The first one which was supposedly better was mainly for food. Not really what we were after.
So we took a bus to new Belgrade in search of other one but it didn’t seem to exist! We did find a shopping mall so with the long bus journey looming, we decided it may be an idea to get travel pillows, so searched the shops and eventually found some in a home ware shop.
Went to C&A! I bought a shirt!
Funnily enough when back in the city centre we found there was a bit of a flea market/ craft fair next door to the tourist information centre!!!
Over the past few days, in Bulgaria and Serbia one thing we were sick of apart from walking was seeing giant posters of Robbie Williams everywhere, he seems to be doing a tour of Eastern Europe!
For the bus we needed Euros so hand to find somewhere to withdraw some euros to pay for the bus. This ended up being an bureau de change in a hotel fairly close to our hotel.
We grabbed some food from a Chinese cafe before going to a supermarket to try and spend our remaining Serbian currency as in Hungary it would be useless. Serbia is pretty cheap so it proved quite difficult to spend all our money, ended up buying loads of chocolate and snacks!
I enjoyed Belgrade and would definitely revisit Serbia and check out more of the country.
For some reason I love Cyrillic writing so Bulgaria and Serbia were cool, in Serbia it was quite strange to see half the signs, posters etc in Cyrillic and half in Latin/Roman alphabet, they seem to use both.
Feeling pretty tired after all the walking we headed back for a short chill-out before the bus came.
The mini bus arrived just after 9pm. We were the only ones on it and hoped it would stay that way making it a fairly quick journey with minimal stops. We were wrong.
We stopped numerous times to pick people up from other towns, cities and random fields! Finally we were on the move or so we thought. The bus pulled into a petrol station not far from the boarder. The driver got out without saying anything and went off to have a meal. The other passengers went in for food, drink or a smoke. As we had made it our mission to spend all our remaining currency before we left Belgrade it meant we had to stand around bored for what felt like an eternity (probably about 45 minutes), finally the driver got back in and we were on the move again!
Next stop Budapest!!!…….