Belgrade is a real eastern-European capital city. I’m guessing you’re thinking of skipping Serbia and this part of Europe entirely? Don’t. I had the misconception of it being a rough place where I’d be in danger – it was actually pretty bloody cool. I’m gonna try and keep this positive as I really want more people to give Belgrade a chance:
- Stray dogs want love, too! Although there’s advice from our government to avoid stray dogs as they may have rabies, as well as the locals saying they’re dangerous, the stray dogs were wonderful! I was drunk and a small one approached, trying to take nibbles out of me as it jumped up and growled. I was assertive with it and after a minute or so it had started to follow me in a “this is my pack leader” sort of way. A slightly larger dog approached shortly after and the same thing happened. Ten minutes later I was leading a pack of six stray dogs of varying sizes and breed that all fell in line when I shouted “Buddy” (I tried to name them, but I think they took it as a command). By the end of the night I had removed my top as it was hot and was sprinting miles through the city with my pack following me and laying beside the river beside me when I needed a break. They’re not aggressive or ferocious, just curious and defensive.
- Don’t judge a city by its architecture. In every other city, I can feel what the city is like and whether I’m going to enjoy it purely by the buildings. In Belgrade I was met with crumbling tower blocks and the occasional glimpse of a shiny new tower for some hotshot Asian company, so the immediate thoughts were that of a war-torn city turning into a business hub. It’s nothing like that! Belgrade was a friendly and creative city full of students, with a professional business hub over the river. The first impression of tough times and tougher people was never met – it was lovely.
- Fuck the zoo. I’m not one to support most zoos anyway, but this one was shit. However, usually I’ll hate on a zoo because they cage animals that require loads of space… here it’s because their star animals were goats and guinea pigs. It’s a walk, an expenditure and an experience you just don’t need in your life.
- See the fort. It’s actually only impressive or five minutes, but it’s near the zoo and if you were thinking of going there, go here instead! It’s so destroyed that there’s nothing to marvel at, but it’s nice and high so you get a wonderful view of the city… which isn’t interesting to look at because the city doesn’t look nice, but don’t we all love looking over a vast distance from a great height? It’s free, of course.
- Everything is cheap. The most expensive thing was accommodation, which was still under a fiver for a really nice hostel. Food, drinks, sights and more can all be done on a shoestring. I wont go into specifics, but the prices are what you’d expect from your first impressions of Belgrade.
- Beware of thieves and pickpockets. Never happened to me, but apparently they’re everywhere. You wont need overly secure money belts or a safe in your hostel, just don’t go being an idiot and flashing cash around when you’re drunk down a dark alleyway. All the stories I heard were from drunken idiots pretty much begging to get their stuff taken, so don’t be that idiot. They were also all Australian – take that however you choose.
- Martin Skrtel is everywhere. The 6’4 Serbian centre backtruly sports the look of Serbia. Tall bald men with hard faces roamed the streets (the women also looked tough), but they’re all friendly if you do ever converse with them.
- Parties are on boats. That big river that divides where you’re probably staying from the business side of Belgrade contains all the best bars and club – on boats. We passed plenty of spots that looked fun down the streets (and in rocks???), but after speaking to locals and students, we were taken to the boat-clubs on the river and had a really fun/affordable time.
- Don’t buy the front bottle. If you’re in a shop buying vodka or whatever else, take the second or third bottle back on the shelf. Also ask the cashier if you’re buying a genuine bottle. A bizarre method to trick thieves and homeless people in Belgrade is to fill the front bottle or two with water and place it back on the shelf. Fino bought a bottle of vodka that turned out to be water placed there by the high-end supermarket and it took a long time for him to venture back and sort out the issue,
Belgrade is a really cool, cheap and fun place with wonderful people. I’m glad I visited, but feel like four days there was the exact right amount of time. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it if I were too old to stay in hostels and play drinking games. I would advise anyone to visit, but have a plan on where you’re going next because it would get boring and depressing if you stay too long. I also stood on a cockroach in the street and ate it with a guy called Fino whilst drunk. Not worth a post or a bullet point, but that’s a memorable experience for me.