Sunday, May 18, 2014

That's So Serbia

Sometimes the best destinations are the ones you reach after a couple of hours driving in the car.  This is particularly true when you have small children.  We drove over to Belgrade, Serbia for the weekend (several, several, several weekends ago) and were charmed out of our socks.  It's a great European city, without any fuss, and it's pocket-book and kid friendly.   See for yourself... 

I'll start with a little Serbian/former-Yugoslavian geography / history lesson.  I know what excites you!  

Our neighbors to the south share a somewhat tense relationship with Hungary.  Google "official cause of World War I" or "the shot heard round the world" for some historical details. To this day, Hungary is still a bit hostile, as evidenced by the three hour wait time to get back into Hungary at the Serbian border.  It took longer to cross the border into Hungary then it took to drive from Budapest to Belgrade. 



Serbia itself was part of the former country/republic/former-kingdom of Yugoslavia, along with several other countries (including Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Vojvovina).  After WWII,  Yugoslavia became a communist state led by Josip Broz Tito (I'm still very much fascinated by Tito), whose pan-Slavic influence worked like glue to hold these diverse countries together for several decades until his death in 1980.   After his death, great conflict, bloody wars and widespread ethnic cleansings resulted in the countries splintering apart.  Serbia is now a stand alone country, not yet a part of the EU, but full of charm and beauty, just waiting to be explored!

Now, if you are still reading, on to the pictures... 
We started by exploring the Kalemegdan Fortress and gardens, located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers.  It's a perfect spot to let kids run wild and a good spot to take in some nice views of the river.
There were countless tanks, canons and missile launchers on display.  A not-so-subtle reminder that Serbia's path to independence was hard fought.
Paddy was delighted with the weaponry!  


The fortress is positioned where the Danube and Sava Rivers converge.  The Ottoman and Habsburg empires fought over Belgrade, for it's strategically advantageous location, countless times, resulting in the city being completely razed countless times.  

Now, enough of the history.  Let me tell you about the zoo.  Ever been to a Eastern European zoo?  Let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart.  Keep a close eye on your kids because the wild beasts of the zoo are doing the same.  

And there is nothing separating you from the pack of the starved lions but a rusty chain link fence and a suspect padlock.  No electrical wire, no moats.  If you so please, you can literally stick your hand through the fence and pet a lion, cheetah or tiger.  We saw several brave folks thrusting their camera phones through the chain links up into faces of the animals for some close up shots!  
We chose to stick to the more fluffy and friendly fauna.  Albino peacock?   Yes, please!
The fortress grounds also had a great playground.  We spent a good part of an afternoon playing there and visiting with several friendly locals.



Fellow Louisianans, you'll like this.  There is a an ice cream shop, Moritz Eis, that was selling Tabasco flavoured ice cream.  Russell tried it. Said it was nice n spicay.


We even managed to get in some museum time at the Josep Tito Museum.  
Tito's star power still impresses me. His grave site, also at museum, still draws large crowds.  When he wasn't vacationing with Liz Taylor and Sophia Loren, he was literally blazing a trail all over the world, meeting with every culturally significant diplomat of his time, all the while holding a considerably large and diverse country together.

We have been very pleased to have seen several pockets of the former Yugoslavian state, Serbia included.   
Smooches from Belgrade!

4 comments:

  1. Belgrade looks like an interesting place to visit, Meryl! And you look like you have had lots of fun. You are lucky you to be able to drive there, I bet that was a big help! I love Claudia's coat and the last picture of her cracks me up! She is so funny. The Albino peacock looks amazing too! Have a great week! :)

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  2. I loved reading the history or this country- thanks for including it! That albino peacock is stunning- unreal almost!

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  3. Fantastic photos! Hope to get there one of these days.

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