The word diversity is something that really strikes us every time we go back to Europe. A seemingly “smaller” continent is just full of history, culture, traditions and many divergent viewpoints all in one landscape. When we started to explore the Balkan region of Southeastern Europe what drew us there was its untapped potential and potentially cheap trips. We were not disappointed on either account.
What is even better was that these countries and cities were not dumpy or second class destinations, but we found them full of iconic civilization and charming appeal. The first major city on our itinerary was Belgrade and that’s probably why it has been hard to forget. The city itself occupies a majestic piece of land. A promontory hill overlooking the confluence of two rivers, an ancient fortress which is a city park and sprawling cobble stone streets which look like the setting of a romantic movie or a thrilling drama.
The people in Belgrade we found quite friendly. They did not go out of their way to engage us but when we were lost looking for street names which were mostly in the Cyrillic alphabet, they came to our rescue. We got into town on an overnight train and found the bus system of the city affordable and easy to navigate. There are some good hotels, but we found an apartment rental to be more suited to our needs. It was a little outside the historic district but the rapid bus system made this negligible.
The thrill of feeling like the only tourist comes from the fact that the society seems very tight knit. People like to go out, frequent their clubs, restaurants, brand new shopping centers and historic squares. There are always cultural displays of music and art going on in the streets even in the dead of winter. The churches are abundant and restaurants are very homey. It is a big city that very much feels like a small town with a storied past.
So why should you even consider going to this part of Europe? Well it is just so authentic, Paris, Rome and London are of course too in their own way, but they often feel like staged scenes with loads of tourists always in tow. Belgrade has all the charms of a classical European city, with scenic nature and your presence is being in the midst of a very enjoyable and cultural gem.