After a fabulous Hotel breakfast it was on the bus to travel to Belgrade. One of our longer bus trips of the tour. Nearly all day travelling!
Our first stop was at Palic, Serbia. We all wandered down a long walkway towards the lake . Our tour director gave us a little information on the area and then it was free time and lunch. We dined at a lovely cafe in which the host thought we would like to finish with free drinks all round. Very kind but as the bus had strict leaving times, we were very rushed to finish.
Soon we were back on the bus travelling past many unfinished houses and many more very run down homesteads. We got the feeling that we were now in a very poor country. Much different from our tour of Italy last year. We began to wonder about the statement our tour director said when he introduced himself at Budapest. He said that the tour of the Balkans was the tour most people did after they had done all the rest of the Insight Vacations tours. He said it would be very different… but still a great tour. This is definitely very different. We almost felt it was like a third world country.
As we arrived in Belgrade (the capital of Serbia and also the largest city) we began to see the evidence of war from the Kosovo conflict. Many buildings that suffered from bombings still sitting exactly like they had just been hit. Apparently they are historic sites and cannot be pulled down and rebuilt very easily. So they remain as eyesores for all, and a constant reminder of the unrest of the past.
We travelled on to view the fortress of Kalemegdan with our local guide filling us in on the history of Serbia.
We walked through the park and ended up at the outskirts of Belgrade township. Our tour guide explained the horrendous issues with money that Serbia has had over the years. Even now for NZ $1, you would get Serbia Dinar $78. Or for Euro $1, you would get Serbia Dinar $119. Serbian money had no value. In fact the values of the notes became higher and higher! We were shown some of the old currency, and then our tour director David gave us a 500 Billion bank note each. These can be brought for $3 Euro purely as a souvenir as they are no longer part of the local currency…. but they were!
The next couple of hours was free time for us to discover Belgrade on foot. Such a lovely town (apart from the damaged buildings!)
We also visited the white marble Saint Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, which will require at least 15 more years to complete. Even the mosiacs in the church were painted canvas strung up until the real mosiacs are finished. Only one is actually complete, but not really on show yet.
While in Belgrade we went on an extra excursion to Topola. I’m going to do a separate blog post about this place. It deserves it’s own set of photos. Hopefully you have enjoyed looking at our little trip to Belgrade. Serbia is certainly an interesting country!