SEPTEMBER 21 - SEPTEMBER 23
The last time I was in Serbia was right before I came to Canada for the first time. It was exactly 21 years ago. I don't remember Belgrade at all and I was really looking forward to spending some time in the city, but things didn't go as originally planned. Do they ever?
Since both Mike and I got sick in Bosnia, we had to push our plans for Serbia further but we couldn't change our ticket to Istanbul. In the end, we were left with only 2.5 days in Serbia. Pretty pathetic, I know. This was obviously not enough time especially because I had a lot of family to see. After all, it's been 21 years. Thanks to social media, I don't feel like it's been decades since we've all seen each other because I get constant updates on what everyone is doing. Still, we were all looking forward to catching up properly in person.
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We got dropped off right in front of my aunt and uncle's place in Belgrade. They greeted us with open arms and prepared a nice meal. We caught up a little bit, but since we were on such a schedule, Dragan suggested that he takes us on an express tour of Belgrade before we come back for dinner and see the rest of the family.
One place you can't miss is Kalemegdan. It's basically a huge cultural and historical complex of Belgrade. It's got everything - a park, a fortress and a beautiful panaroma which overlooks the confluence of two rivers: Sava and Danube. If you're strolling down the popular pedestrian street, Knez Mihajlova, you will eventually reach the park and the fortress.
Kalemegdan has a very long history dating back to the 3rd century B.C. It's been home to Celtic tribes, Romans and Turks. It wasn't until the 19th century that Serbia got full independence from the Ottoman Empire. There's obviously much more to it, but I don't want this to turn into a history lesson.
We strolled around the park for a bit and then walked along Knez Mihajlova, which is filled with cafes, restaurants and all kinds of shopping. The three of us sat down for a bit, had a coffee and drove around the city a bit more before we headed back. That was the quickest and most thorough city tour ever! Both me and Mike were kind of sad that we couldn't stay longer.
**On another note...I spent hours looking for the rest of the photos from Serbia and I have no idea where they went. I'm not surprised considering how many photos I have on my computer at the moment. I'm hoping that I will eventually stumble upon them, but as one now they are nowhere to be found. :( **
When we got back to Dragan and Zivana's place, everyone was waiting for us. Luckily, everyone spoke Engish so Mike didn't feel left out in conversations. We caught up, ate dinner and shared some of our travel plans. It wasn't long before I started to feel really hot and dehydrated. I didn't think much of it and it wasn't until we went to bed that night that I started to feel really ill. I had a fever again. Ugh! I took some drugs, passed out and hoped for the best. I felt a little better the next morning, but the fever wasn't gone. The worst part is that we had to get on a bus and visit other family in Velika Plana, a town one hour away from Belgrade. I felt like I wanted to die. I just wanted to sleep but there was no way I could cancel on everyone so last minute.
It was another terrible bus ride to Velika Plana, but only because I had a fever and there was no AC. As we pulled into the bus station, memories from the past started trickling in. I had some really fun times in this town as a child. My cousin Vlado was waiting for us with his wife and two kids who we'd be meeting for the first time. The six of us squeezed into the car and drove to my aunt and uncle's house. We had a delicious meal prepared by my aunt Slavica. She always knew how to make amazing food! One of her specialties is Ajvar, which she makes from scratch and actually sells it all over Serbia.
Both Mike and I stuffed our faces. The food was so good. I'm surprised I could eat considering how I was feeling. Sitting there and talking, all I could think about how much I wanted to lie down and sleep. To make things even more difficult I had to be the translator. Mike spoke no Serbian and they spoke no English. I had no choice but to suck it up especially because I probably wasn't going to see them for sometime.
My cousin Vlado and his wife Ana took us out for coffee and after hanging out with them for a while, we said our goodbyes and headed bak to Belgrade. I was so happy Vlado was driving us. I don't know if I would have survived another bus ride.
I woke up the next morning feeling a little bit better, but I took some more meds just in case. We had to catch an early flight to Istanbul and I wanted to function properly. It was going to be another long day after all. Before we headed to the airport, by aunt Zivana took us out to Novak Djokovic' restaurant, Novak. Unfortunately, I don't have those pictures either. :(
The last few days were bitter sweet. On the one had I was excited to see family that I haven't seen in a while and on the other hand I just wanted to rest up and get better. I didn't really have a choice, so I just had to suck it up. In the end, I was glad that I got to see everyone and that Mike had a little taste of Serbia. Next time will have to be a much longer visit.
In the short time that we were there, we came to the conclusion that Serbia is quite cheap and perfect for budget travellers.
Here's the breakdown of how much we spent for 3 days:
Domestic Transportation: $20
Tourist Visa: $0
Daily Average (per person): $7
*Excludes one-way minibus transfer from Sarajevo to Belgrade ($35 each)
**Currency exchange 09/21/2015: $1 (CAD) = 80 Dinar