For those who can read cyrillic or the title for this blog entry, you’ll know that we’ve arrived in Belgrade.
Belgrade began of foray into the worn torn states of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia. The impacts of the war weren’t immediately apparent to us when we arrived in Belgrade, but gradually stories unfolded. As we ventured deeper into the countries we became more and more overwhelmed with the sheer complexity, tragicness, and spirit of the people that met.
While our stay in Serbia and Belgrade was short, it was an experience that remains close to our hearts. When in Timisoara just a day before, we were looking for a couch surfing host in Serbia but having no luck finding one. Our current host told us of a host coming to Romania that evening and said we could meet up him. Arrangements were soon made and later that night we had dinner and drinks with Rade. Rade didn’t know of any open couches, so he graciously offered us his.
Next day we made or way towards Belgrade while Rade had taken the night bus back. We found his place on the outskirts of Belgrade and were greeted by a large German shepherd mix as we came though the gate. We nervously approached the door with the dog close on our heels. After a few rings, raps on the window, Rade’s familiar face appeared in the door’s window.
Rade surprised us with his wonderful stories, altruism, and super friendly dog Bobby. He had gone from 0 to 60 surfers in the course of only a couple of months, deciding to bring the world to him if he couldn’t travel. He reminisced about Yugoslavia, the war, and finding new purpose in life with couch surfing. Inspiring stuff. At Rade’s we feasted on all kinds of locally prepared dishes. When we asked if he had any requests for a meal, his only response was “not pasta”. One of the side affects of being a heavy couch surfing host. Lots and lots of surfers like to cook pasta.
Downtown Belgrade was a one day event for us. Serbia itself was only a 2.5 day visit before we traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The weather wasn’t playing so nice, which muted the vistas throughout the city and was a drastic change after the beautiful autumn weather in Romania.
Nevertheless we made it to some of the highlights of the town, including the Kalemegdan fortress which is perched on about 100 meters above the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. The fall colors were falling like wet paint to canvas below our feet as we walked through the fortress’ innards. Half park and half museum, I was surprised when we came over a bridge into the main complex and saw tanks and heavy guns lined up in the dry moat below. Here was a our first real introduction to the war.
I was to learn throughout my time in the Balkin states that what I knew of the war growing up was extremely limited. The events that I saw on tv, however, were memories from my childhood. And now I was here, standing above a moat filled with weapons of that very war. World war one or two seems less relevant, easier to put into a historical context, like the walls of the castle around me. But faced with something that made me grimace 20 years ago there right before me was eye opening.
Throughout the fortress grounds, we saw more weapons on display juxtaposed with what-would-be beautiful views over the city. The rain and clouds kept us from taking in one of the most heralded vantage points, but we still managed to snap a few pictures.
The rest of our time in Belgrade was pretty much spent chatting with Rade, eating food, or sipping coffees at one of the cafes downtown. Unfortunately, were weren’t there for the CS meetup that Rade goes to religiously and we missed out on a number of other touristy sites.
As we boarded the bus bound for Bosnia-Herzegovina, however, we thought back on our experience in Belgrade as one filled with heavy past, but a promising future. If you are ever in the region, maybe you too will experience the hospitality and magic of the Serbian people.