Belgrade is the place where absolutely any event, even the most conservative one, can end with merry festivities and parties. Despite the fact that the city was defeated dozens of times, local residents do not even think to despair and indulge in despondency. And when they see tourists from Russia, they immediately rush to their necks with declarations of love. Traveler Stanislav Ivanov , who visited the capital of Serbia, told why every domestic tourist would like a trip to the former Yugoslav Republic.
Heart of Serbia
I first came to Serbia in May 2017. As now, then there was no need to issue any visas – a plane ticket was enough. When we were traveling with my companion on a regular bus number 72 from the Nikola Tesla airport (the ticket cost 150 dinars, a little more than a dollar), she shared the feeling that we didn’t seem to have left Moscow. The view from the window was somehow very familiar. Roads, houses on the outskirts, people’s faces, the manner of dressing; and even the passengers’ speech is full of familiar words. It was very interesting to listen to the conversations and try to figure out the meaning of whole phrases.
After about an hour of looping by not the shortest route, bus arrives at final destination – in the city center. The outskirts of Belgrade look very Soviet. And its center loses in terms of architectural monuments to both Moscow and Peter at the same time. But where else on this planet will you be so sincerely adored just because you are Russian ?! In Serbia, Russians are loved more than we ourselves are in Russia itself!
Among the toponym in honor of the princes Karadjordjevic or some despots in Belgrade, there are boulevards of Washington and Roosevelt. Despite the dastardly desecration of the Serbian capital by the descendants of the legendary presidents, no one is going to rename them. However, the Serbs deliberately left several destroyed buildings in the center of the city so that people would not forget who did it to them, despite the money offered by the Americans for restoration.
Walking through the heart of Belgrade, you can definitely doubt which of the countries is the most read in the world. Even in Moscow or St. Petersburg, the number of good brick and mortar bookstores can be counted on one hand. In Belgrade, “booksellers” come across more often than McDonald’s.
And among the biographies of local heroes and prose of the Yugoslav classics. You will surely come across the Russian classics under the names such as “Zlochin and the Treasury. ” Surely someone immediately recognized “Crime and Punishment. “, but I didn’t immediately realize that this was Fyodor Mikhailovich’s creation, because the title on the cover was written in Latin letters. It should be noted that the Latin alphabet is becoming more widespread in Serbia. This is a sad fact for our common cultural space. You will be surprised how even the Polish language will become closer and more understandable if you write down its words in a not heavy conglomerate of Latin letters.
However, Cyrillic inscriptions and posters are not so uncommon. For example, in “Shame Bosko Buha” they gave a play by a playwright named Milorad Manda. What to do, sometimes our common Slavic roots make strange jokes with our ears. But of course, there is nothing indecent or funny for real polyglots in this announcement of a theatrical event.
And here on every corner, they sell T-shirts not with Che Guevara, but with Gavrilo Princip. He is the same young man who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Obviously, they treat Gavrilo positively here, if they named an entire street after him.
Belgrade is a city where you can feel complete freedom. Here you can buy beer at the airport. Additionally, the cashier in the duty-free shop will ask if you want to open it right now. Probably, nowhere else in Europe it is legal to smoke cigarettes and pipes in any places where you like. Although I don’t smoke, for some reason I was glad that people can freely blow smoke wherever they please.
And what could be better than taking a cool cider and going to the Kalemegdan fortress. There benches are present so that tourists can enjoy the confluence of the Sava with the Danube, resting their feet on the remains of the old walls. At night, loud and stupid sounds from discos on moored barges will sound from the opposite bank. However during the day and in the evening this is a beautiful and quiet place where locals like to come to also play basketball right next to the fortress.
It is not for nothing that the Yugoslav basketball school has been one of the best in the world for several decades. In fact, 30 years ago there were only three great basketball powers – the USA, the USSR and Yugoslavia. Basketball courts are not empty here, as in many Moscow courtyards. On the contrary, here and there you constantly hear the sound of the ball on the asphalt. This is the future Predrag Stojakovic or Milos Teodosic , who is still only four years old. And he is already showing the wonders of dribbling.
Buying olives, wine and sheep’s cheese at the Aroma store, we again encountered unquestioning Serbian love for Russians. The woman who heard the Russian language smiled and offered to help us. Her name was Maria – tall, like many Serb women, 40 years old and stocky. She recommended the best cheese and gave a simple and sincere admonition. “You have to live listening to your heart and do as it tells you. ” It is difficult to convey in words all her spiritual and wise simplicity. Mary was in secular clothes, but for some reason she reminded us of genuine Christian ascetics.
It is possible that religiosity, unclouded by official dogmas, is still inherent in the Serbian people. For example, in the hostel “Parliament”, where we settled, there was an icon. The front desk employee said that when we are about to leave. We can easily leave the keys in a flower pot near the door. We liked this place near the parliament, which looked like Budapest so much that we decided to stay another day. Not at all regretting that we would spend a day less on the Adriatic later.
Not ayvar alone!
After traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then we went in the north of Montenegro. We flew to Belgrade in the evening, as to our hometown, where even the conductors on the bus welcomed us. Not to mention the waiter Mladena from the Malaya Gostionica restaurant on Dobracina street. He recognized us when we came to dine at this magnificent establishment, ten days later. When I say great, I put everything in there. Quiet Serbian folk music, a cozy room and, of course, the breathtaking Balkan dish “lamb under the sach. ”, which costs only eight euros per serving for two people.
Sach is such a large lid, covered with charcoal, and under it this culinary masterpiece matures for several hours. I thought that the tastiest meat is from Argentina, but I was wrong. But for the first there was also soup chorba, as well as half a liter of homemade wine and quince raki. Which they brought here in containers of 30 grams, similar to beakers from a school chemistry classroom. And, of course, sincere conversations with Mladen, who was born near Banja Luka in Bosnia. For our sake, they closed the institution half an hour later. We had to walk through Belgrade at night until three in the morning, and then go to the airport.
After dinner we managed to reach to the monument Cyril and Methodius on Slavia Square. It turns out that the day before was the day of Slavic writing, and we forgot about it. Flowers with the flags of Serbia, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus lay near the monument. An excellent reminder of the unity of the Slavic peoples, which has recently begun to be questioned. In the same park, we came across a monument to Pushkin, as well as people who probably love poetry and wine, drinking nearby in shaded alleys on benches.
Of course, one cannot be in Belgrade and pass by Nikola Tesla, who was credited with truly magical abilities: even the incident on the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in 1908 was tried to be associated with his experiments with the transmission of electricity at a distance
It seems to me that this is one of the first scientists whom the media turned almost into an icon of show business. At least I’m sure that in our time he would have had a high-rating TV show and an equally popular Twitter account with some kind of jokes.
We drink to friendship between peoples
Well, where is May 25 without the last call from schoolgirls – everything is like we have in Russia! When we passed a very imposing building that looked like a concert hall, I thought that I had got into some kind of beauty contest, the participants of which suddenly decided to breathe fresh air in their luxurious dresses at once. When one of my friends and fellow traveler on many wanderings claimed that he met the most beautiful women in Serbia, and put Argentine in second place, I did not really believe him, remembering the heroines of Milorad Pavic . But here it was impossible not to recognize the beauty of Serbian girls.
Until midnight in the center of Belgrade there are still many working establishments, but then on a weekday it is a big problem to immediately find a place not only for a good night out, if you are not a fan of discos on barges, but also for ordinary quiet get together. “We need some kind of basement, from which rock sounds, where they will pour normal beer. And not all these typical plastic establishments, which, moreover, were all closed,” so I told my friend to look more attentively.
We already went to Kalemegdan, and wandered through the empty streets. And still found only a 24-hour supermarket where I bought cider. Approaching a closed cafe and sitting at a table, I opened the bottle right on it. It was getting chilly, especially for the end of May in the Balkans, and in despair we wandered on. Suddenly, an interesting door appeared in front of us without any identifying inscriptions. A young man with a beard, who met in the corridor, led us into a room where they played hard rock, and poured the local dark beer behind the counter.
Hearing Russian, the bartender immediately served us vignac (a strong drink like cognac), and the neighbor on the left began to talk about his family’s ties with Russia. “We drink to friendship between nations,” says our new acquaintance, and the bartender immediately refreshes his glasses at the house’s expense. After another two shots of vignac and a glass of beer, I have to apologize for getting on the plane. And if not for him, then I would have stayed in Belgrade until the morning – the next day, and maybe next year. However, I still cannot remember and find the name of that beautiful institution.
When Emir Kusturica says that he lived in the beautiful country of Yugoslavia. And his heart and soul hurt from what happened to her, I cannot help but believe him. And, having visited its capital, you become even more imbued with its nostalgia, because we also had our own big country. Although we have never lived with the Serbs in the same state, they have a proverb: “We are with the Russians – 150 million.” The numbers can change depending on the demographic situation, but the essence has not changed for centuries.
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