Monday was a very quiet day here in Belgrade. Because Lina’s flight arrived so late that evening/morning, we did not get back to the hotel until after 4 in the morning. So instead of a day of touring and sightseeing, we slept.
By the time the early evening rolled around, we walked up to Knez Mihailova to grab dinner. Sitting at one of the many outdoor restaurants, we took in the sights and enjoyed a very tasty trout dinner. The Lonely Planet guide for Belgrade says that visitors here should expect meat, meat, and more meat but no decent fish. Either they were wrong, or the cuisine has changed here substantially since the guide was published in 2005.
On Tuesday, we walked down to Jevrejska Street, the old Jewish Quarter, to take in the sights, then we walked over to an open air market at the end of Skadarska Street to pick up some fresh fruits: apples and plums oh my. We then stopped in at a local liquor store selling homemade Rakiya for a mere 250 dinar. Unfortunately when we stopped back on Skadarska to grab a drink in the shade at one of the many cafanas, I accidentally tipped the bottle over and it smashed on the cobblestones. At least only four dollars or so were wasted. A friend told me later that rakiya that cheap cannot be that good anyhow
Next we went to the Jewish History Museum. The visit this time was much better than last time, largely because we were given a guided tour by a local Jewish Serbian woman who has worked at the museum for some time. Unfortunately the entire tour was in Russian, but Lina translated for me the parts I could not follow on hand gestures alone. Afterward she insisted we buy a copy of their book, We Survived, a thick volume of testimonials from Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in (former) Yugoslavia.
Our next stop was Kalemegdan fortress in the northwest of old Belgrade. There we wandered around the the gates and ruins, took in a local tennis match at one of the courts situated between the ancient walls, and got caught in a rainstorm. While hiding from the downpour in one of the gates to the fortress, we met a number of nice locals and tourists. I also spotted a wild plum tree on the side of the hill, and of course ran out to grab a few of the ripe fruit. Belgrade is really surprisingly great for this. I cannot remember the last time I saw so many fruit trees in the middle of a city.
When the rain finally stopped, we walked back to Knez Mihailova to shop and mix with the locals and many many many tourists. We also stopped to buy some roasted corn, a very popular street snack here. At the end of the street, we stopped in at the American Corner to check our emails and to see if my discussion on Serbia and Kosovo had been put on the schedule yet. While there, we also ran into one of the staff from the Manga Hostel.
On our way back through Knez Mihailova, we ran into some of the people I met previously raising money for the rebuilding of monasteries in Kosovo. Today, they were rallying for Kosovo and had an enormous banner up in front of the monument decrying NATO as a fascist organization. Stopping to talk to some of the attendant, one of the men who spoke excellent English hurled one angry insult after another at the United States all the while apologizing that I should not take it personally. He also proudly declared that soon the US would cease to be a superpower like the great empires before it, and we would see the rise of China as the next superpower in 20 years’ time. How this would help their cause is not really clear to me. But it is clear that there is a lot of deep seated bitterness here toward the US particularly among the 30, 40, and 50-somethings crowd.
Our final stop before the hotel was at an Italian place for dinner. The ambience was nice and the food was reasonably priced. In Serbia, for the most part restaurants have presentation down to a fine art. Flavor will hopefully come next. We then dropped things off at the hotel and stopped in briefly at local bar to catch some local nightlife. This morning (Wednesday), we will take a bus to Zemun, the far northwestern suburb of the city across the Danube to take in some fresh sights.