chrysalism. n. the amniotic tranquility of being indoors during a thunderstorm, listening to waves of rain pattering against the roof like an argument upstairs, whose muffled words are unintelligible but whose crackling release of built-up tension you understand perfectly.
After 6 hours in Zagreb, I arrived at 11pm in Belgrade to an arrivals hall packed with everyone and (literally) their mothers.
Getting into the city you have to make sure you won’t get fleeced so you either can take Bus 72 into the city or grab a taxi voucher at the stand before you step outside. It should be 1800 dinars for the city center.
After checking into Hedonist Hostel, I headed around the corner and up Wine Art Rooftop to meet up with Ted and Belinda who were already there waiting for me.
After kicking back with some chilled wine and delicious finger food (duck polenta! risotto!), we headed out up north to explore the city at night and doing like the local do by trespassing closed public parks:
The pedestrian-only malls of Kneza Mihaila can be magical at night.
In case you needed confirmation, you’ll know you’re at the right place when you see the Beograd Milestone.
Need an impromptu face wash? Public fountains are everywhere.
But the best part, in my opinion, was heading up north to Belgrade Fortress, which functions as a city park open 24/7 to the public and overlooks the confluence between the Sava and Danube Rivers that define Belgrade. So many people were out chilling, partying, dancing, making out, drinking, etc. that safety definitely wasn’t an issue here.
Whereas Zagreb felt platonic, Belgrade at night felt like a completely different story.
After 2 hours of wandering, we then headed back from here and crashed at around 2am.
The next morning we had a perfunctory breakfast by Republic Square — where all the city’s free walking tours meet — while waiting for the rest of the monsooners to arrive, as they were all flying on their own flights that were each staggered 1 hour apart.
By 2pm the group was fully assembled and we started back from the top, beginning with the northernpost of the Fortress by day, where the Sava and Danube rivers meet:
You can pay 50 dinars for an elevated look from one of the lookout towers:
Go around the fortress from the northeastern entrances and you can find charming little Ruzica Church:
Head out from the north and you’ll come across some ruins you can play with.
Keep walking around the north until you’re walking sound along the fortress’ western wall and you’ll reach Cathedral of the Holy Archangel Michael. It was closed for a wedding when we arrived.
Undeterred, we walked east along Francuska with Republic Square behind us, eventually reaching the Church of Saint Alexander Nevsky, which is arguably much more pretty.
Then we walked one block south to walk back east along Skadarska Street, a vintage street and the main bohemian quarter of Belgrade (similar to Paris’ Montmartre) lined with rows and rows of charming little restaurants straddling a cobblestone path.
We then ended back on Republic Square, from where we turned south and walked down Decanska, hitting the National Assembly Of Serbia on our left. A group was setting up for a big protest when we walked by.
To our right was The New Palace, the former royal residence of the Karađorđević dynasty of Serbia and later Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Today it is where the President of Serbia resides.
A block south is Church of Saint Mark, a Serbian Orthodox church:
But we would save the best for last: Temple of Saint Sava, one of the largest Orthodox churches and church structures in the world. You can see it a mile away walking down Svetog Save from Trj Slavija. It was at this point where it began to thunderstorm: what felt like a trickle soon became a pour. But that didn’t stop me…
The interior still remains under construction ever since its foundations were first laid in 1935, as progress has been continuously halted because of multiple wars and NATO bombings. However, can head downstairs to check out the gorgeous crypt.
After celebrating over a job well done of seeing the entirety of Belgrade’s city center in a single day (despite the storm), we elected to take taxis back up to our hostel from where we dropped off our bags and walked over 4 minutes away for dinner at Little Bay Restaurant.
This place is listed as one of Belgrade’s top 10 places to eat and designed to look like the interior of an opera house. They out of their way to accommodate you, even if you’re a group of 10 underdressed, soaking wet tourists who all just met a few hours ago. And yes, the food was equally as impressive.
After a satisfying meal, Sidian took Ted and Belinda see a nearby basketball game between Montenegro and Greece (he grew up in Greece) featuring NBA All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ujas headed out on the hostel’s pub crawl, while the rest of the group headed out on our own to Pera Palaces for some outdoor drinking and shisha while taking in some chrysalism by watching the world go by in the storm.
Tomorrow we head further south to see Tito’s Mausoleum at the House of Flowers.
– At time of posting in Belgrade, Serbia, it was 78.8 °F – Humidity: 54% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: Sunny