Three weeks into my visit I am beginning to understand Belgrade a bit more. I think if you come to Belgrade and only stay in the old city you will not fully comprehend Belgrade. You will need to cross the river where the Sava and the Danube meet and see how this is a city of two parts.
I took a very cheap local bus and headed across the river from the old town. I had already crossed this bridge before when I visited New Belgrade and its fascinating communist buildings. The bus made its way through New Belgrade. I am getting to have a small bit of affection for soviet type buildings but by god, they loved the colour grey. After about a 20 minute journey the greyness ends and we are in the Belgrade suburb Zemun.
When you tell local people you have been in Zemun sometimes they will say ah you have been in Austria. It was here both the Austrian Hungarian and Ottoman empires faced each other until world war 1. Zemun was an Austrian border town. Today it is a suburb of Belgrade. Although a part of Belgrade it still feels like a separate town but the scars of communism have come within millimetres of the old town. The imposing soviet apartment blocks look over the town and a few have made their way inside. It still remains a nice looking market town.
I decided to walk back to New Belgrade where I could catch a tram Old Belgrade. The 4 km walk along the Danube towards the tram is one of the nicest walks I have ever taken.
As you walk down the river you come across Boat Resturants. Boat Bars. Boat Hotels. Boat nightclubs. Boat Houses and even Boat boats.
As I was finishing my walk I came across the Club boats. These are where Belgrade nightlife explodes at the weekend. Especially during the hot summer months. You can find a club boat for all types of music. From the most up to date to Serbian turbo-folk if you are drunk enough.
Click here to get an idea of the clubs on a video from the Belgrade at night website.
Red Star Belgrade
On Saturday night I took in a local football game. I walked up to the Rajko Mitić Stadium. It took about an hour from the centre. For anyone that is going to get a game in when here there are plenty of buses and trams that go here as well. I took tram 10 back to the centre.
Red Star is the most supported club in Serbia. Almost 50% of the Serbian population say they support Red Star. Not surprising as they have won the most championships. Partizan Belgrade are Red Stars main rivals are both grounds are really close.
Red Star are the only Serbian team to have won the European Cup. They won it against the French side Marseille in 1991 after a penalty shootout. The final was held in Bari Italy.
In 1991 it was still a Yugoslavian league. Not long after broke up into separate countries. Red Star since has struggled financially. I am not surprised as I paid just 2.50 euro to get into the game. You are never going to attract big names to a club based on that. They need to balance the ticket price with what their fans can afford.
When you approach the ground you will not get that wow factor. The outside looks like a lower English league ground. Thankfully the inside is a lot better and all seats have a good view. I would think the ground was less than 20% full which surprised me given the opposition Rad are also from Belgrade.
For such a small crowd the local Red Star fans are very vocal. A lot of noise. Flares and bangers made for a good atmosphere. There was a lot of police including riot police around. If trouble did happen I think the police would be ok as they may be outnumbered the fans.
Check out the video of my visit to the Red Star for a Serbian league game. Click here.
On Saturday morning I bumped into a ceremony in memory of the liberation of Belgrade from the Germans in 1944. Serbia had been occupied by Germany in world war 2.
The liberation came after a strategic combination of Yugoslav Partisans. The Soviet army and the Bulgarian army. Bulgaria had changed sides in the war.
On October the 20th 1944 Belgrade was liberated from the Nazis following the offensive. Over 3000 Yugoslavian fighters and 1000 Soviet soldiers died in the battle for Belgrade.
In recent years the liberation ceremony has had a Russian flavour. Recent politics aside the Soviets did play a big part in Belgrade’s liberation. The ceremony only attracted a few hundred people. I think most people went around their normal Saturday morning business. I love history and I hope we never forget events such as this but I also understand some people today try to exploit history for their own gains.
Belgrade new Central Train Station
If this excuse for a train station is in central Belgrade then Mars bars must really come from Mars. Whoever made the decision to close the classic train station this July which was actually in the centre has a lot to answer for. It is a long time since I have seen anything so depressing looking.
I have grown to like Belgrade a lot of the last 3 weeks but the area where this station would not be on my list of places to see. The station and the area are a perfect fit. I don’t think it is a great place or station to welcome visitors to a very interesting city. Maybe I am overreacting but the old station had history and was in a great location. The new station does not even have a place to get a coffee.
Why move? As far as I know, they want the old station space to build riverside developments. From experience that usually means the rich want to live there. I first have seen this in London’s Docklands in the 1980s and I have seen it many times since. To accommodate this everyone else needs to lump it. They say the change will benefit all. They always say that. It won’t.
For anyone unlucky to arrive in Belgrade into via this station bus 36 takes you into the centre. See below for times. I did not even see a taxi there. That is a first for me at a train station.
From BEER to eternity
This week I have had a dose of the flu so I had a lot less beer than normal. As beer here in Belgrade is 1.50 for 500ml I actually feel like I have lost money. Whatever money I would have spent on beer I might spend in an HBPZ. Higher Beer Price Zone. I will have to try and make it up this week.
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