Category Archives: Serbia

Nis

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up at 10:40 am on July 23, 2012.  We packed our backpacks up and left the apartment.

We got a taxi to the bus station. Thankfully, the taxis are very very cheap here in Belgrade with even a 10 minute journey only costing a few dollars. Ivan bought our tickets and then food for the trip. We were lucky and had timed it perfectly so only had a few minutes wait for the bus.

The bus left at noon headed to Nis, Serbia.  Ivan and I watched the movie Exit Through the Gift Shop on the bus.  It’s a Banksy film about a guy who starts making a documentary about street artists and eventually becomes a street artist himself.  It’s quite good.

We arrived in Nis at 3:30 pm.  We walked 5 minutes away to Good Night Hotel and checked in.  It was a modern hotel right among the shops and worn down buildings.

We used the internet for a bit then headed out to explore.  Our first aim was to get a ‘crème brulee’ ice cream which we had seen advertised everywhere in Belgrade, but nowhere had in stock! So the fact that it was an ‘elusive treat’ combined with the fact that a crème brulee ice cream just sounds very tasty, we made it our mission to find one! And we did!

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It was actually only average – I guess it sounds a lot better than it really is.

We walked to the fortress and checked out the restaurants for dinner later. We walked around the small city of Nis. There wasn’t too much to see really.  We did see the saddest collection of things for sale like one shoe without its matching pair, VHS tapes, some curtain rail and (probably stolen) purses.

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We stopped for a drink in the park and ordered a couple of ciders.

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Came upon a cool statue with men drinking rakia.

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After walking around a little bit, we headed back to the hotel.  Ivan and I used the internet and I worked on the blog.

Later, we went to eat at Pleasure restaurant.  Ivan and I started off with a great honey rakia.  We had to use the free internet to get a translation for the word honey since the waitress didn’t speak much English.  Lil Dave got a banana and chicken salad.  Ivan had a tomato soup.  Ivan and I shared a white fish that was covered in a great tumeric sauce and a calamari dish that had rice, greens, nuts and cheese.  It was a tasty meal.  I really like the honey rakia since it tastes the best out of all the rakias we have sampled thus far.

We walked back to the hotel and used the internet before going to bed.

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Biking Madness

On July 22, 2012, Ivan and I said good-bye to Nemed since he had to go to work.  We packed everything up and then said good-bye to Tanya.  There’s such sweet people.  I think the world would be a better place if there were more people like them.

For some reason, I had the song ‘Bicycle’ by Queen stuck in my head.

Ivan and I found a taxi straight away and headed to the city centre.  Ivan came upon a flyer in town and we decided to do the bike tour.

So, we rushed to the meeting place for the iBikeBelgrade tour.  The Serbian guy walked us to bike rental place where we stored our luggage. 

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The four hour tour took us to Belgrade Fortress, New Belgrade, Federal Palace, Hotel Yugoslavia, Genex Tower and the beach of Ada Ciganlija (which is the same place we went to yesterday with the Serbian couchsurfers). 

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The song ‘Bicycle’ kept playing through my head and it was appropriate since we were biking around Belgrade.  Belgrade is a city with not much to see and some of the buildings look like they were bombed yesterday. 

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It’s not exactly a pretty city, but the food is good and the locals are very friendly.

We stopped for an hour at the beach of Ada Ciganlija.  The tour included a drink.   Lil Dave got a banana juice while Ivan and I shared a rakia (this time a flavor that was similar to a pear) and a sparkling water. 

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The water was a lot clearer than it was yesterday. 

My butt was hurting really bad from the bike seat.  They really should make more comfortable seats.  Ivan and I were ahead of the pack during the first half.. but now we were at the end.  My butt was so sore that I couldn’t cycle very fast.  

I was so knackered (tired) and ready to rest. We decided to stay another night in Belgrade as it was too late now to get to Nis.

We checked in to the Hostel Madness.  Well, I say check-in…our actual room was no way near the actual hostel itself but just ‘down the street’…at least that’s what the woman checking us in said! It was more like a 10 minute walk away which feels like 10 hours when you are carrying lots of heavy bags like we stupidly are! However at least we got our own nice apartment with a kitchen and balcony and no other smelly backpackers to get in our way ha ha!

Ivan and I relaxed and used the internet.

Later on, we walked to the Bohemian Quarter for dinner.  Ivan and I checked out the menus of the restaurants.  Ivan thought Travelling Actor looked good.  There’s a wooden statue of a man who looks Asian.  There was a band playing lovely Serbian folk music.  Lil Dave got a banana lasagna.  Ivan and I shared a smoked paprika for a starter.  We got a lovely Temet rose wine. 

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For the main courses, we got smoked trout and mushroom tagliatelle.  The food was really good.  I thought we should wake up a bit, so we ordered an espresso. 

We walked to Rakia bar, but it was closed.  Lonely Planet voted Belgrade as the Best Party City in Europe.  How can it be a party city when it’s only open during the weekend?!  I think the voting board included Serbians.  I think London or Ibiza would be a better Party City. 

We walked to Silicone Valley to check out another bar, but everything was closed.  So, we went back to the apartment and called it an early night.

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Lake Clubbing

On July 21, 2012, I woke up at 9:30 am.   I still had so much mucus still and I’m coughing because of the mucus.  At least my throat feels so much better now.  Ivan was still sleeping.  I finished the book Now You See Her book by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.

Ivan woke up around 11:30 am.  Its unusual for him to wake up later than me.  Everybody started getting ready since we were headed to the lake today. 

We’re doing a project and we got Tanja to take a picture of us with Nenad so he can be in the project. 

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It won’t be done til next year.. so you’ll have to see the finished project then!

Ivan, Lil Dave, Nenad, Tanja, the Polish couchsurfers and I headed to the lake at 1 pm. It was a really hot day.  We took two buses to get there.

We arrived at the lake and beach of Ada Ciganlija and headed towards where Nenad thought it would be a quieter place to hang out.  Nenad pointed out a seafood restaurant for us.  We stopped at the next restaurant and put our bags down.  Nenad thought we should eat here.  We waited to get the menu.  I asked the Polish couchsurfer girl (no idea what her name was) if she brought her swim suit.  She said she didn’t have one.  How can you go traveling without a swim suit?  It’s not heavy at all.

There wasn’t any fish on the menu.  Ivan said we’d go to the seafood restaurant and come back when we were done.  Nenad said they’d be here or swimming in the lake.

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Ivan, Lil Dave and I had lunch at Stentor.  Lil Dave got a banana salad.  Ivan and I shared a trout and carp.  Ivan had a Staropramen beer.  The food was pretty good.

We went back to the table and Nenad and Tanja just got out of the water.  The Polish couchsurfers were headed to the city centre soon.  We wanted to stay awhile and go swimming.  Nenad said they were leaving in 20 minutes, so they could get ready for their friends party and then head to his house. 

There are small stones everywhere and no sand.  I walked into the lake with my sandals on.  The lake water was murky and there was lots of lakeweed floating around.

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The water felt great especially since it was so hot out.  When it’s this hot out, you HAVE to get in the water to cool off!  Ivan gathered bunches of the lakeweed and tried to scare me saying it was a monster.  He’s so silly and funny.

We left shortly after 7 pm.  We walked to the bus stop and we saw Belgrade’s version of Stonehenge.

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The traffic was really bad since there was construction going on.   Ivan thought it would be better if we started walking to the next bus stop.  Good thing we did.. the traffic was moving slowly.  Thank Goodness for the CoPilot GPS app on the phone.  It’s free and gives you maps for cities around the world.  Every time you want a new city, you do have to re-install it so you can get the map for the new city.  We got to the other bus and waited a few minutes and got on the next bus. 

We arrived back at the apartment at 8:15 pm.  Nenad and Tanja were still there getting ready.  They also ran into traffic. 

Nenad left us keys which we would have to give to the Polish couchsurfers later in the city. 

Ivan and I took showers and we all left at 9:30 pm.  Luckily, we found a taxi cab right away and hopped in.  We met up with the Polish couchsurfers at 10 pm at Republic Square.  Ivan gave them the keys and we said bye.  The couple were nice, but very boring.

Ivan, Lil Dave and I walked to Little Bay for dinner.  It’s a great restaurant that has theatre type booths with classical music playing in the background. 

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It was really cool!!  Lil Dave got a chicken stuffed with bananas dish and a banana soup.  Ivan and I shared salmon tartar, little shrimps salad and salmon.  The salmon was delicious – I love when the skin is crunchy!  We also enjoyed a lovely Riesling.  For dessert, we got a yummy chestnut cake with cherries and chocolate.  It was a great meal in a great setting.

We then headed to a kafana that Ivan had remembered being pointed out from the walking tour that we did. It was just off the main cobblestone old street but hidden enough so that tourists wouldn’t really find it. The moment we walked down the stairs we were met by this very very friendly girl called Ivana who found us a place to stand and immediately recommended that we get some of the local Rakia (brandy). So, we got two and then stood and watch as all kinds of drunken revelry took place around us. It was a small place with only a few tables and there were a band at one who were playing some local upbeat folk music, and all the men at the table were singing their hearts out as if they were performing in font of an audience of thousands!! We would have loved to have joined in – if only we knew what on earth they were singing!

We chatted to Ivana who was really friendly and nice to chat to. We told her about our weddings and our travels. She tried to translate the songs the band were playing – they seemed to involve love which would explain the passion the men at the table seemed to have for the songs. After a bit one of men was carried out by his friends – looks like he had overdone the rakia a bit…that or he had just passed out from all the exhaustion of the singing!!!

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We also tried some honey rakia. The rakia are served in these cute glasses which remind me of the volumetric flasks that are used in laboratories.  The honey rakia was really sweet and much tastier than the first one. Ivana said it was the same alcoholic strength as the first one which was surprising as it didn’t taste as strong.

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After a while we left and went to find a taxi to get to the river to go clubbing. Unfortunately the taxi driver ripped us off. It DID have a meter – but the meter was jumping like it was in a race to get to a million dinaras (the currency here). In other words instead of going up 4 dinaras at a time, it was going up about 40 at a time! The journey should have cost about 350 max (about 4 dollars) but cost 1600 (about 20 dollars). So although we were totally ripped off, its not as if it broke us!

Once we arrived at the river we took a walk along the riverbank. There were barges parked all the way along with clubs onboard. You could hear the music pumping out from all the places. We walked to the end and went on one barge that was playing 60’s/70’s/80’s music. We danced for a bit and it was really fun. After a while we left and walked along the river again and tried to enter a few more places. However they all said to us ‘do you have a reservation’ , to which naturally the answer was ‘no’, and they said ‘then you can’t come in’. Ivan actually did read about this – apparently all the clubs are just full of tables – tables at the bar, tables on the dance floor, tables EVERYWHERE – hence the only way you can come in is to have a reservation at a table. I think they just do this so that they can insure that everyone is drinking.

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Couchsurfing Walking Tour

Ivan and I didn’t get much sleep last night.  I kept coughing and couldn’t sleep.  I woke up Ivan since I was tapping away on the laptop.  We woke up at 9:45 am on July 20, 2012.  

Ivan and I left our backpacks with the hostel while we went on a tour.

We went to the Republic Square for the meeting point for the free Belgrade Walking Tour.  Our tour guide was a Serbian named Mari. 

The tour stopped at Skadanilja which is the Bohemian Quarter.  Here, Serbians will drink one drink normally, the second on the table and then the third under the table.  Mari said the waiters will still serve you under the table.  I bet the sixth drink you take while you’re on the floor about to pass out.  The guide talked about the local brandy rakija.  She got four volunteers and they got to take shots.  I didn’t think it was fair since there wasn’t enough to go around.  But, the guide said it’s because they are non-profit and don’t have much money.  I think the shot would have helped me wake up.

There’s writing in Belgrade that’s written in Cyrillic or Latin.  People get to choose if they write in Cyrillic or Latin, so this is why the street signs are in both languages.

We stopped at Silicone Valley – a street where people go to show off.  You’ll see girls with fake boobs, guys in expensive cars and people spending foreign currency.  Back in the 1990’s, Serbia had really bad inflation.  You had to spend your money right away, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth much.  Money would be valued high at the start of the day and keep decreasing as the day went along.  It was hard times with many bombings happening.

We walked near the zoo.  There was a famous monkey named Sammie who lived there.  He escaped the zoo six times.  Mari reckons the last time he was trying to get to a party.  I think he just wanted some fresh air and to find more bananas.  Lil Dave thinks he shouldn’t have been confined in a zoo and he just wanted to explore the city AND find better quality bananas.  Another famous animal is Moya the alligator.  This alligator is the oldest in the world – even surviving from being bombed in the war.

Our guide has a monotone voice that could have put me to sleep.  Plus, most of the places weren’t that exciting really.

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We stopped at the Belgrade Fortress for a short break. 

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We headed to the Upper City.  Our guide told us about the blue bridge which was called the Party Bridge.  In the 90’s, NATO wanted to bomb the bridges in Belgrade.  Serbians went to the bridge to have a party with drinking and music.  Serbians didn’t get depressed, they just took things how they came and went with it. The bombings were just another excuse for a party for them!

The group stopped at ? which is the oldest cafona in Belgrade.  It had a few names before like Serbia.  The church didn’t like the last name of Es Condidos (probably spelling it wrong)… so, the restaurant put up ? as a temporary solution that has lasted 1000 years.  I guess it’s stuck with the name.  Everybody calls it Question Mark.

Our guide told us about a great freebie at the bank museum.

Freebie Tip!  – Stop by the Bank Museum to get a free copy of your face on a Serbian bill!! You even get a free chocolate.  One of the best freebies ever!!

Ivan, Lil Dave and I really wanted a bank note with our faces on it.  So, we went straight there.  We thought more people from the tour would take advantage of this freebie.  But, we only saw 3 German guys from the tour in the museum.  We each got our pictures taken and got a free chocolate after.  So cool!

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The tour was good.  I prefer English speaking guides because they’re usually more informative and funny.  Mari was trying to be funny, but it wasn’t really funny.  She wasn’t natural – it seemed like she was reading from a script.

We were all starving.  Ivan found a place along the main tourist street.  We sat down at Via Del Gusto.  This place has free internet – just look for Hot Spot and there’s no password.  Ivan started off with a tomato soup.  Lil Dave got a banana penne and a banana shake.  I got a Spaghetti di Mare (seafood, basil and tomato sauce) while Ivan got trout.  Ivan’s plate of trout was huge!!  This place has good food and the prices are very reasonable.

Ivan called the couchsurfer we were staying with for the next 2 days.  Nenad said he’d meet us at Republic Square.

Ivan popped back to the hostel to grab all of our backpacks, while I continued my meal. Luckily he is big and strong so is able to carry all of our luggage himself. (editors note: He is VERY big and strong and let that never be forgotten!!!)

We walked to Republic Square and waited a few minutes.  The Serbian couchsurfer Nenad said hello to us.  He took my small backpack and we were off to the bus stop.

We had to take two buses to get to his apartment which is 25 minutes from the square. 

We met his lovely girlfriend Tanja.  We chatted awhile about traveling, Las Vegas, our honeymoon and our couchsurfing experiences.  They’re sooo friendly and laid-back.  They’re a cool couple and we knew we were going to have a great time with them.

Tanja made a delicious satarnsk dish for dinner which consists of paprika, eggs, tomatoes and onions.  It’s quite simple and very tasty.

Nenad left for work while Tanja went to the city centre to pick up two Polish couchsurfers who also would be staying. This is an example of how kind they are – instead of just telling couchsurfers what buses to get or to get a taxi (which would only cost about 6 US dollars), they always get the two buses to the centre to meet the couchsurfers and then bring them back to their house. Very kind of them!

Ivan I washed up the dishes and used the internet while Tanya was out. We also looked through their possessions and helped ourselves to any alcohol we could find (joke!!).

Tanja came back with the two Polish couchsurfers.  It was a guy and a girl who weren’t dating (yeah right) who recently met…which we thought was strange.  I took a shower.

We talked about traveling.  Later, Ivan started talking about hypnosis.  Ivan is a trained hypnotist.  Tanja has done hypnosis for therapy before, so Ivan thought she should try hypnosis.  The Polish weren’t interested – I think the guy was too scared to try it.  It’s nothing scary at all! 

Ivan hypnotized Tanja.  She didn’t remember her name thinking it was EIEIO.  Ivan told her that she would laugh at anything he said.  He talked about the shooting in Colorado and she was laughing.  At one point, she didn’t remember anybody in the room.  Ivan said it’s alright we’re friends of your boyfriend.  Ivan gave her a glass of water and told her it was apple juice, then strawberry juice.  He then said he made her a great gin and tonic.  The first time she tried it, she said no.  Ivan thought she was going to say it was water, but she said this is still strawberry juice.  He made ‘another’ gin and tonic.  This time she said it tasted good.  Ivan brought her out of hypnosis.  She said she could still taste the gin and tonic in her mouth.. saying it was bitter….which just goes to show really how strong hypnosis can be!

Everyone was very tired by this point, so we all headed off to bed. Nenad and Tanja were kind enough to let us have the bed in the bedroom while they slept on the sofa bed and the Polish couple slept on the floor.

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Headed to Belgrade

Ivan, Lil Dave and I woke up at 10 am on July 19, 2012.  We packed everything up and left at 11 am.

We caught the Metro to the centre.  Ivan popped to an internet café to print out our tickets, and then we found the airport bus and it left at 12:05 pm.

I worked on the blog during the bus ride. 

Ivan and I stood in line for check-in.  Ivan noticed that our Wizz Air flight was delayed 3 hours and 50 minutes.  Ugh, I hate waiting.  I don’t mind flying – I just hate the waiting… waiting for check-in, security, the boarding of the flight, Immigration and pick-up of baggage.  I could certainly do without the waiting.  We got a light snack voucher worth 4 Euros each. That certainly went a long way to making us feel better (joke – 4 euros is barely going to buy a bottle of water at airport prices!)

Ivan used the internet while I worked on the blog.  Ivan and I got a courgette soup with bread with our vouchers.

There’s no free internet at the small airport S. Charleroi Airport in Brussels.  I think all airports should have free internet.

Our plane left at 6:05 pm going to Belgrade.  I was sat in the same row as the ugliest baby in the world.  I looked at the parents and I could see where she got her looks from.  There was probably 6 babies on the plane and it seemed like half of them were crying at one point.  I watched an episode of Weeds and Hotel Impossible on the plane. 

Immigration took forever like 30 minutes.  Some people tried to cut the line with a special pass they had.  One lady tried to cut into our line and I put my arm out to make sure she knew I wasn’t having that. 

We grabbed our bags and Ivan looked around for a guy holding a Wizz Air sign.  He found him and we followed him to the van.  Ivan set up this airport transfer which only costs 7 Euros per person to a place within the city centre.

The van drove us right to the hostel. 

Ivan checked us in to Indigo Hostel.  We put our backpacks in the room.  Ivan asked the guy at the reception about a good restaurant to eat at.  He said ? – Question Mark was a good Serbian place nearby. 

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We walked to ? which is right across from a church.  Ivan wasn’t sure since most of the Serbian dishes are meat.  Ivan got a strong local brandy, which helped with the fact that there was almost nothing on the menu that he could eat!

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I thought we should try a few different side dishes.  We shared a Serbian salad with cheese, cream cheese, polenta with honey, grilled mushrooms and beans with onions.  The cheese in the Serbian salad was very tasty.  The cream cheese looked and tasted like butter.  The polenta and mushrooms were rather plain.  The beans were like refried beans – it was unhealthy and didn’t have much flavor.  Ivan was disappointed and wished that we went somewhere else.  We got a delicious dessert called tufahiya which is a boiled apple stuffed with walnuts. 

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We walked around the city before going back to get some rest.

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