THE VIEWPOINNT WHERE THE RIVERS CONVERGE
How about a beautiful visit to the place where two rivers and an island meet at sunset? In Belgrade, the Sava and Danube rivers converge by the Great War Island forming a view worth of the adjective “poetic”, specially during sunset. This is exactly what we propose doing from the Kalemegdan Park. The park is splendidly situated in a position with views of the convergence of the two rivers and dominated by the fortress with the same name. On top of being the largest park in Belgrade, Kalemegdan is at the same time the most important cultural and historic complex of the city.
The name of Kalemegdan refers to the plateau that surrounds the fortress, and transformed into a public park in the 1980s. If the fortress was the main military bastion of Belgrade, the plateau served as a perfect look-out point to watch over enemies and wait for battle. Its name originates from the Turkish words kale (“fortress”) and mejdan(“battlefield”). The Turks also called Kalemegdan “Ficir-bajir”, meaning “hill for thinking”. The park has free access day and night. The complex hosts the Military Museum, the Cvijeta Zuzoric Art Pavilion, the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Serbia-Belgrade, the zoo, the Roman well, an amusement park for children, the Tomb of People´s Heroes, some sport fields, restaurants and the Natural History Museum.
The viewpoint can be found next to the Pobednik (Victors) Monument. The grounds around this beautiful symbol is the best place to have a great panoramic view of the city and the convergence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Only surpassed by the Volga in terms of length between the European rivers, the Danube might surpass the Volga in terms of fame. No other river in the planet passes through more countries, a total of ten. Just this fact makes the river an extraordinary element in European geography. If the Danube is the great river of Europe, then the Sava could be considered its Yugoslavian counterpart. The river connects the three capitals of the former federation: Ljubljana, Zagreb, and Belgrade.
Same as the Danube, it always played an important part in the life of the Serbian capital. If you happen to visit Belgrade during Summer and decide to stroll to the Kalemegdan Park´s viewpoint at sunset, you may need to share space with a crowd of locals and tourists. However, you would be so astonished with the views in front of you that you will not even notice.
Kalemegdan Terasa, Kalemegdan 11000, Belgrade, Serbia
FORGET ABOUT BURGERS, TRY A “PLJESKAVICA”!
If during the visit you fancy experimenting the local cuisine, the Serbian capital is without a doubt an ideal place to discover the flavours that the Balkans have to offer. Among the great variety of dishes, some more intricate than others, we suggest a popular and at the same time delicious specialty: “PLJESKAVICA”. You cannot leave Belgrade without tasting this Serbian version, much larger and much more delicious, of the well-known burger. A fresh out of the grill´s embers“pljeskavica”beats any American fast-food chain.You will commit a “gastronomical sin” if you don´t taste a “pljeskavica” in Belgrade.
If you don´t commit it, you will ask yourself how is it possible that such a carnivorous delicacy is so unknown in the world. “Pljeskavica” is also a traditional dish in Serbian cuisine. In general, it consists of a mix of different proportions of pork, beef, and lamb meat, or only two of them in some versions. The name originates from the Serbian word “pljesak”, meaning “to clap” due to the hand movement used in order to give shape to this big thin burger. The mince meat is mixed with chopped onions, garlic, paprika, black pepper, and other spices.
They can be roasted, grilled, or fried, however, the most traditional way of cooking them is grilling them. In the villages, where people engage in cattle breeding, the “pljeskavicas” are elaborated during festivities, popular celebrations, or any family gathering. When the “pljeskavicas” are ready, they are served as the main dish. It is traditionally served with aboundant diced onion, cabbage,kajmak (heavy cream), ajvar(condiment elaborated with red peppers, aubergine, garlic, and black pepper), and urnebes (cheese mixed with a spicy sauce). Nowadays, fried potatoes are also served as a side, however this isn´t a very popular opinion between purists.
There is no need for you to search for elegant restaurants in Belgrade to find a goodpljeskavica. It is also in the menus of traditional taverns called “kafana", as well as being a typical fast food served in street stalls. If you are thinking of buying your pljeskavica(colloquially called "pljeska”) in a fast-food stall, there are two main options: the “normal”, that does not contain cheese unless you later add it as a condiment once it is ready to be eaten, or the “gourmet” (colloquially called "gurmanska"), closer to the original recipe, which does contain bacon and/or ham.
They are served inside a flat bread called “lepinja”, or also inside pita bread. Once you have ordered the kind of pljeskavica you like, you will have to wait a couple of minutes and choose what garnish and sauces you want: tomato, onion, pickles, sour cream,urnebes, beetroot, lettuce, cabbage, ketchup, mayo, mustard…, in between the many options. The possibilities are endless. Waiting in the queue for your pljeskavicain a fast-food stall is really a great way of getting to know and share an experience with the Belgraders, for many it is the best burger in the world.
If you are in Belgrade, go taste a pljeskavica, you will not regret it. It will captivate your palate with its unique flavours, whether you prefer fast food, traditional food, or gourmet cuisine.
BERMET, THE SWEET WINE FROM TITANIC
If you want to bring back a typical Serbian liqueur which is also considered a local “delicatessen”, we recommend that you save a couple of bottles of Bermet in your luggage. Bermet is a type of aromatic wine popular in the region of Sirmia. It is made exclusively with grapes from vineyards that have been cultivated since ancient times on the slopes of the Fruška Gora Mountain, known for its orthodox monasteries. The monastic wineries could be the origin of this exquisite wine which elaboration was later passed down to the families in the region.
It typically contains in between 16-18% of alcohol and it is more frequently a red wine than a white wine. In the 18thcentury, bermet was unreplaceable in elegant tables and it became very popular within the European royal courts. Especially appreciated in the Vienna´s court, it is said that to promote it the vine growers paid students of the area to go well dressed to the most elegant restaurants in Vienna and ordered a glass of bermet with their lunch or dinner. After some visits, the owners, were convinced of the importance of that wine and they started to order it to the wineries of Sremski Karlovci.
The wine gained the attention of the Empress Maria Theresa, when she tasted it, she was so delighted that she ordered a large quantity of the wine for the court. Legend has it that when she asked where that delicious beverage came from and upon knowing that it came from a small region where men were continuously recruited as soldiers for her army, she ordered the natives of Fruška Gora to be released of their military duties so that they would be able to dedicate themselves uniquely to the production of the delicious wine.
After some bottles of bermet registered with the labels of Sremski Karlovci were recovered from the shipwreck from the Titanic 73 after the accident, many asked themselves if the bermet was the reason why the captain of the unfortunate ship was distracted that night of the year 1912.There are suppositions that the extraordinary wine was in the menu of the great transatlantic. However, it is also possible that a cunning merchantm from Sremski Karlovci was trying to send the wine to the United States.
Nowadays, bermet is produced by some family businesses from Sremski Karlovci and some monasteries from theFruška Gora. Each family or monastery has their own secret recipe kept under lock and key. Some speak of up to 27 ingredients that macerate in the fermentation, including some herbs from the mountains such as wormwood, spices such as vanilla, cloves and cinnamon, flowers that provide aroma, and fruits such as grapefruit, quince or cherries that give the wine a sweet and refreshing flavour. Bermet is served as an aperitif to "whet" the appetite.
However, Serbians say that it goes very well with "vanilice" (typical biscuits filled with jam and covered with powdered sugar) or with ice cream. You can find bermet in the best wine shops in Belgrade, in 0.375 and 0.5 litre glass bottles or in the classic 0.75 litre bottle. Ask for it to be wrapped for travel if you choose it as a souvenir from Serbia.
SAINT SAVA, AN ICONIC IMAGE OF BELGRADE
From whichever direction you arrive, you will immediately notice that there is one building in Belgrade that does not go unnoticed. With a prominent position over the urban landscape of the Serbian capital, the Church of Saint Sava is perhaps the most monumental building in the city. Visible from any approach to the city. Not only is it the largest Orthodox church in Serbia and the largest Orthodox place of worship in the Balkans, but it is also one of the largest churches in the world and a sight to behold at any time of day.
Located on the Vracar plateau and dedicated to Saint Sava, the first archbishop and founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church, it is built on the site where the saint´s relics are believed to have been burned. In 1594, Sinan Pashá, grand vizier of the Ottoman occupiers, ordered the public burning of the sarcophagus in an attempt to suppress the Serbs´ thirst for freedom. Therefore, the Saint Sava Church represents an extraordinary place of worship for the Serbian people not only because of its magnitude but also because of its enormous importance in the history of Serbia and because it is a symbol of faith and freedom.
Every day its magnificent bell towers with almost 50 bells announce midday. Its walls can hold tens of thousands of believers in an area of 3,500 m2 on the ground floor and 1,720 m2in the galleries on the first and first floors. The central dome weighs 4,000 tonnes and its erection was the greatest achievement in the construction process. Its actual mechanical lifting took 40 days.Once completed, the interior will be decorated with spectacular mosaics and frescoes, the dome adorned with a monumental mosaic of Christ Pantocrator.
More than 18 golden crosses rise above its domes. If we were to add the 12m of the main cross, the temple reaches a total height of 82m. Vogue magazine called it the “Sagrada Familia of Eastern Europe”, and rightly so. With only one look to the exterior of this imposing temple and you will understand why it´s on Belgrade´s list of most photographed places. The surface is covered in granite and white marble, which adds to its appearance as a magnificent beacon that seems to radiate faith and protection to the city.
The front view of St. Sava is iconic, especially beautiful during the evening´s golden hour, that last hour before sunset when photos take on a magic of their own. Look for reflections on the pavement after a rainy afternoon, the colourful umbrellas at the worshippers´ exit can help you getting creative. You can also take pictures of the sides; the trees will help your framing interesting pictures that reveal the architecture of the church. If you are going to be taking pictures at night, use a tripod and the long exposure setting of your camera.
At night, you will find some colourful fountains that you can also include in your photos. Send us your photos and selfies with the memories of this emblematic church!
Saint Sava Temple, Krušedolska 2a, Belgrade, Serbia
THE UNEXPECTED BEAUTY OF SAINT PETKA
Within the Kalemegdan complex there are many interesting things to see, such as the Ružica Church dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, which, although reconstructed, is considered the oldest church in Belgrade.This church, in addition to valuable objects of sacred art, houses the relics of a saint highly venerated by the Serbs, Saint Petka, a lady from a wealthy family in the 11th century, who after the death of her parents distributed all her wealth to the poor and went to Constantinople to live an ascetic life until her death.
Right in front of Ružica there is another small church, more like a chapel, which sometimes goes unnoticed and which we advise you not to miss. It is dedicated to St. Petka herself and was built in 1937 directly over a spring of miraculous water near the original church in Ružica. In the past, it was nothing but a small temple dug out of the ground to which you could access by descending a set of stairs, with a small corridor leading to the spring.Due to its poor condition, it was decided to build the present church dedicated to St. Petka.
During the excavation of the site, the remains of an earlier temple and numerous bones of soldiers who fell during the defence of Belgrade in World War I were found. The remains were transferred to an ossuary specially built for the occasion at the foot of the nearby Jaksic Tower. Once inside the church you will be surprised by the exquisite mosaics that decorate its walls, created by the artist Djuro Radulovic in the 1980´s. They are, therefore, not very old, but they follow the traditional canon and will transport you to a different era.
The spring of miraculous water is on the altar of the chapel. Believers from all over Serbia come to Belgrade to drink the water from this spring, which is said to refresh the spirit and cure ailments.Bottles with holy water from Kalemegdan travel around the world in the hope of healing all who drink with faith in St. Petka.The water is believed to be especially beneficial for women (as St. Petka is the patron saint of all women) and that washing the eyes with water from the spring is believed to relieve eye-related ailments. According to tradition, this holy water fountain has only dried up once in history.
It happened at the beginning of the World War I, when it suddenly stopped flowing. People interpreted this as the announcement of a great evil, and so it happened,because Belgrade succumbed to the enemy that year. In the last months of the war, the water flowed again on 28thFebruary 1918. It was then that the people regained hope that freedom would once again come to the capital, as it did.
The two neighbouring churches are very popular, especially on Fridays. Expect crowds if your visit falls on 27thOctober, the feast day of St. Petka.
St. Petka, Kalemegdan 11000, Belgrade, Serbia
DRINK RAKIA LIKE A SERB
You will find it everywhere, on restaurant´s drink menus, on supermarket shelves, and in almost every home. It is so important in Balkan culture and cuisine that no trip to Serbia is complete without tasting a glass of RAKIAat least once or twice. Considered the national drink of Serbia, rakiais a variety of brandy made from the distillation of fermented fruits, with an alcohol percentage that can range from 40% to 70%. Rakijacan be made from almost any fruit, although the most popular is "sljivovica",rakiamade from plums, it is usually the strongest and cheapest. Rakia is present in times of celebration and pain, it is always considered a cure no matter what the ailment, drinking rakia in the morning is considered by many a ritual for longevity.
Rakia has its own tradition and rituals, follow these rakia rules and you will survive any trip to the Balkans looking like a local:
1. Choose well. If you ask a Serb what the best type of rakiais, you will get only one word for the answer: "domaca" ("homemade"). The more homemade, the better. Homemade rakiacan be found in almost every home in Serbia and also in open-air markets.
2. Don’t refuse an invitation. Being invited to a Serbian house means that you will immediately be offered a glass of rakija, no matter what time of day it is. So, try not to refuse even if you don´t feel like drinking, they will expect you to at least try it.
If you don´t want to drink any more, leave some in the bottom of the glass, if you finish it all, they will fill your glass again.
3. Toast. When you get a chance, say "živeli" ("cheers" in Serbian) while clinking your glass with others.
4. Make eye contact. Serbs have a superstition of making eye contact when toasting and take it very seriously. It is considered bad luck to break eye contact while taking the first drink. This is probably the most important rule, if you forget it, you risk appearing disrespectful. You will be forgiven the first time on the assumption that you don´t know the customs, but they will expect you to do it once you learn it.
5.Do not drink in one gulp. Although rakiais served in small glasses, it is not customary to drink in one gulp. Before taking the initial gulp, exhale deeply, then take a sip down your throat straight to your stomach, waiting a short while before breathing in through your nose. You should feel burning in your chest, not in your throat. Try to distinguish the fruity taste that gradually appears. A glass of rakija should be enjoyed in several sips. The liquor goes down quite easily, so be sure to keep a moderate pace between sips.
6. Eat something. If you choose to tryrakiain a restaurant, do so with a salad or some "meze" (Slavic tapas) as a starter; continuing to drink during the meal is not common. If you choose to drink rakiain a bar, make sure you do not drink it when you´re hungry - rakiagoes down quite easily, so it´s best to drink it with something in your stomach.
7. Repeat! You can make your own list, start the day with "medovaca", honey rakia, and then follow with cherry, quince, apricot, plum, pear.... Just make sure to leave some time between one and another so that they all leave an independent impression.
“POBEDNIK”, THE IMPUDENT VICTOR
Undoubtedly, one of the most recognisable symbols of Belgrade is the so-called "Pobednik" or "Victor", and you will most definitely have the opportunity to admire this monument during your visit to the Serbian capital,more specifically on your walk through Kalemegdan Park.What they probably won´t tell you is that the sculpture´s actual location accounts for to the fact that it was once considered an impudent artwork, thus inappropriate for the place where it was initially assigned for. It portraies a nude man with all the strength of his musculature well emphasised, with a downward pointing sword in his right hand and in his left, what appears to be an eagle or a falcon. "Pobednik"symbolises a warrior ready to defend his homeland.
Perched on a tall Doric pillar, designed in monumental form, it iconographically represents the triumph of a victorious nation. His gaze is directed towards the intersection of the Sava and Danube rivers, as well as the vast plains of Pannonia and the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.The statue was commissioned to the famous sculptor Ivan Mestrovic to commemorate Serbia´s victory over the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires during the Balkan Wars and the World War I. The "Pobednik" was originally supposed to adorn Terazije Square, then known as Crown Prince Alexander Square.
Mestrovic´s original concept was for a monument fountain with various symbolic elements, at the centre of which would stand a marble column topped by a statue of the Victor. But once the preparatory work for the casting and installation of the monument began in 1927, the Belgrade public questioned the construction on moral grounds. The renowned writer and jurist, Petar Odavic, began the campaign with the publication of an article against the sculpture, claiming that the nudity was an attack on the morals of the Belgrade ladies, as well as the memory of the Serbian soldiers that it was meant to represent, because it did not have "Serbian symbols" such as the šajkacahat or opanakshoes, and therefore did not symbolise a Serbian hero but one from ancient times.
Several women´s organisations were particularly opposed, as they considered that placing a figure of a naked man in the centre of the city was "rude" and harmful to the morals of young girls. The division among the public instigated the controversy, which soon took on political overtones. There were humorous suggestions, such as a proposal for a towering pedestal so high that his nudity would not be visible from the ground, or that, since he was naked, he should be placed in a swimming pool.After much controversy, debate and criticism, the city council decided not to install the monument in Terazije Square and to look for a more secluded location while the figure awaited, packed in a pipe warehouse.
Finally in 1928, it was decided to relocate the monument and place it "on the ridge of the city of Belgrade", facing the mouth of the Sava and the Danube. The location, together with the simplicity of the pedestal and the well-proportioned height, thus allowed to evaluate the monument as a whole rather than the "anatomical details", and in the process achieving the desired monumentality and perception of the "Pobednik" as a symbol. What do you think?
Bulevar vojvode Bojovica, Begrade, Serbia
SKADARLIJA, AN UNEXPECTED BELGRADE
It is said that whoever has not strolled through Skadarlija, has not truly experienced Belgrade.Skadarlija is a “vintage” area in the old town of the Serbian capital, with romantic Ottoman-style cobbled streets, generally regarded as Belgrade´s bohemian quarter, similar to Montmartre in Paris. Skadarlija stretches around the winding Skadarska Street, which with its scattered trees on both sides is perfect for strolling up and down or sitting on one of its many benches and enjoying a different atmosphere to the rest of Belgrade.
The history of this picturesque neighborhood began in the 1830s with the settlement of gypsies in abandoned trenches outside the city walls. By 1854, the gypsy huts had been replaced by brick houses into which artisans, modest employees and small shopkeepers moved into. The whole locality was known as the "gypsy quarter" until 1872, when it was renamed Skadarlija after Skadar, one of the ancient capitals of Serbia, now the Albanian town of Skhoderr.
Its heyday as a bohemian neighbourhood came at the beginning of the 20thcentury when, due to its proximity to the National Theatre, it became a popular meeting place for artists from all fields.The actors who already lived in the neighbourhood at the end of the 19thcentury were joined by poets, musicians, writers, painters, singers, journalists, and other bohemian souls.In the traditional taverns, or "kafana", people enjoyed rakiaas much as music and lively philosophical talks. As in other similar places around Europe at the time, there was a spirit of freedom and Skaradlija became the cultural heart of Belgrade.
There is an old superstition that it is easy to "break your neck" in Skadarlija. But fear not, it´s just an old joke from the past, when many actors stumbled on the cobblestones after a night of partying due to the effects of alcohol.Many poems and stories, written on napkins and on the taverns´ tablecloths, served in the past as currency for struggling writers. Skadarlija was renovated in 1966 and protected by law. It has its own flag, with the symbols of a cane, carnation, and hat.
The most important cultural-historical monument in Skadarlija is the house of the painter and poet Djura Jaksic, the stage of numerous cultural activities, followed by two very famous old taverns: "Tri šešira" ("Three Hats") and "Dva jelena" ("Two Deer"). Nowadays, Skadarlija attracts mainly tourists and onlookers from all over the world, although not in large crowds either.Along Skadarska Street there are restaurants, art galleries, antique shops and souvenir shops.Musicians play Serbian folk songs, people wander casually and the bohemian atmosphere is still present.At night, the street is bustling, there is a fun and positive energy that is immediately captivating.
In the "kavana", filled with locals and visitors from all over, you can enjoy typical Serbian food, drink local wine and listen to traditional live music until the early hours of the morning. Take a walk through Skadarlija! You will immediately understand why it is one of Belgrade´s main attractions!
Skadarska, Belgrade, Serbia
Half hidden among the most transited streets of Belgrade´s town centre, Jevremovac, the city´s botanical garden, will seem like an oasis of serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of the modern capital.Jevremovac can be a great place to spend a couple of hours relaxing on a hot sunny day. The Jevremovac Botanical Garden was founded on the then outskirts of Belgrade in 1889 at the insistence of the famous Serbian botanist Josef Pancic. It represents the greatness of his work and has an important historical and cultural value for the Serbs, as it is the first and so far, the only botanical garden in the country. Some say it is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world.
There are three different levels in the garden, two of which were artificially erected. The land was donated by King Milos Obrenovic on the condition that it be named after his grandfather Jevrem, a great supporter of public education in Serbia, hence the name Jevremovac, "Jevrem´s Garden". After World War II, the communist authorities suppressed the name due to being too reminiscent of the old regime.
The garden was restored to its original name in the 1990s. Jevremovac is bounded by Stefan Boulevard and Takovska, Dalmatinska, Palmoticeva and Vojvode Dobrnjca streets.It covers an area of 4.81 hectares, contains about 1,000 plant species and includes a greenhouse, Japanese garden, herbarium, library and an administrative building with an auditorium and laboratories.
The greenhouse has an area of 500 m², consists of two wings connected by a central dome, houses tropical plants and exotic trees, and was once considered the most beautiful in the Balkans. The herbarium contains valuable botanical material from the 19th and 20th centuries from the Balkans, Europe, and the whole world. In 1995, the Serbian Institute for Nature Protection made a proposal and Jevremovac was declared a Natural Monument by the government. Access to the gardens requires an entrance fee of about two euros. There are plenty of benches along each route, the paths are well signposted, and it will be difficult to get lost as the entrance and exit are through the same gate.
The best place to relax is undoubtedly the Japanese Garden, which features an extensive collection of species from the Far East and is absolutely beautiful, with plenty of running water, wooden bridges, cute little treesand turtles wandering between the neat vegetation.There is a good resting area with tables and benches, and a small cafe offering refreshments.
The gardens are definitely worth a visit, Jevremovac is an ideal place for a picnic, a stroll, or simply relaxing under the shade of the trees,all labelled with their names.If you want to take a break in a natural environment without leaving the centre of Belgrade, Jevremovac is the place for you.
Jevremovac, Takovska 43, Belgrade, Serbia.
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