Another lateish morning and a hurried breakfast downstairs before the short walk to meet this morning's guide Tamara, to do a 20th Century tour of Belgrade.
First stop was at the Hotel Moscow which was built in 1908 and is still today a 4 star hotel. To get the 5th star would mean changing the hotel too substantially which would compromise the building. Many notable guests have stayed there including Albert Enistein and his wife, Alfred Hitchcock, and of course Hollywood stars including Brad Pitt. Beautiful old building that stands out amongst the grey and dreary buildings around it.
The weather today is amazing and predicted to be an eye searing 0C after yesterday's -7C and and there is not a lot of ice on the footpaths so far.
As we walked further along the main street of the city, Tamara showed us inside another old building from around the 20's. As Tamara is an architect by profession she is interested in pointing out such features. The decorations adorning the building are specifically those most often found on Serbian monastery buildings and, once again, quite bright and out of place amongst the other dull buildings around it.
As we walked further we came across two Royal buildings built for the royal family in the 20s, then the following dynasty, then reverted back to the previous family. Would love to be able to give names but too complicated to remember and so confusing.
Our next stop was outside the Parliament building. There are 250 members today in the Serbian parliament representing 7 parties. Let's hope it is a little more representative of the people these days than it has been in the last century.
Apparently, the Royal family still exist in Serbia with Crown Prince Alexander, Crown Princess Katherine, their 3 sons and one grandson living in the Royal compound. Not very relevant or popular with the people as they don't speak Serbian very well, or so Tamara explained to us.
We reached St. Mark's Orthodox Church just at 11am Mass was finishing and were able to go in to have a look. This was built towards the end of the 30's just prior to WW2. Because of the outbreak of that war, then the Soviet era, then the regional unrest which continued through to the late 90's, this church has never really been finished by being richly decorated inside. It still has white interior walls around inside.
Around the backa of St. Mark's is a small Russian Orthodox Church built after the Russian Revolution when many Russians fled their homeland and were given refuge by the then state of Yugoslavia. Just behind this area are the remains of a building which was part of Serbian TV and Radio Network. This was suspected of broadcasting propoganda and therefore targeted for bombing by NATO in April, 1999. A number of station workers were killed. The station was rebuilt around the bombed building which was left as a reminder. There is also a plaque just near the Russian church naming those killed in the bombing.
After the weather yesterday, we walked through a park where people were exercising on outdoor equipment (including one macho topless guy), children had their toboggans and dogs were happily sniffing around in the remaining snow. Got a feeling that a couple of cold days and cabin fever hits big time in Europe.
Our last stop was a little distance on past a modern day fountain at a large intersection. We made our way up small hill to St. Sava's Temple. This church is the second largest Orthodox Church in the world. The church is dedicated to Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an important figure in medieval Serbia. His father was the King but he did not want to be king and became a monk instead, leaving his brother to assume the crown. His remains or relics were burned in 1595 by the Ottoman Grand Vizier of the time at what was one of the highest points in Belgrade so all could see the fire. This is the site of his modern day church.
In 1895 plans began to build a church on the site but then the Balkan wars, the First World War it never quite got off the ground. Finally began building it in 1935 and of course was halted by WWII. It was used by Germans and the Soviets as a car park and then for storage by several companies. After continual petitioning to the powers controlling Belgrade from 1958, permission was finally granted in 1984 to continue building the church and work began in 1985 and progressed slowly until the NATO bombings in 1999. The Prime Minister in 2002 convinced the leaders of the Orthodox church to resume building and the exterior of the building was actually finished last year.
They are now working on the interior decorations of the church which are being funded Russia and are well under way to being finished. The part we were able to look through is wall to wall gold leaf and paintings of heaps of saints, apostles and Jesus himself. Amazing decorations.
It was a 3.5 km walk back to our hotel for a rest. We were going to visit the Museum of Jugoslavia but it was a unanimous vote that we were all pooped and were enjoying our Balkan Brass musicians positioned in the pedestrian mall below our hotel window. Bit like a Mexican Mariachi band only LOUDER and relentless. Every now and then they moved on to another spot but always returned. They played from around 3pm and finally gave up at 10ish.
Decided to get a traditional Serbian meal for dinner down in Skadarska Street where the girls had seen many restaurants on the first walking tour. Made our way down there but, despite no one or maybe one or two people in the restaurants we tried, they were only available for bookings. It was the same in Krakow actually. Seems like a loss of business during the slow season if you ask me.
Finally found ourselves a small family restaurant called Red Rose in Serbian and proceeded to order up big for the local delicacies. Vanessa ordered the vegetable soup and we all ordered the fried cheese and also some cream cheese with bread which was very strong tasting. For mains Eloise ordered a mixed grill of chicken, cevapi sausages, other sweet sausages and the same little meatball mixture of beef, bacon, cheese and onion. Had some roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables on the side while poor Vanessa had to make do with yet another caprese salad of cheese and tomato and basil. It was an extremely heavy meal to say the least and we definitely needed the 500 m walk back to the hotel area tohelp it all go down.
H & M store just about next door to our hotel so girls went in to look at some work clothing and Eloise managed to pick up a few blouses while Vanessa couldn't get her size in the two things she wanted.
Went back to a little quilling stall where I bought myself a little framed picture of Serbian men and women in traditional costumes. Very quaint.
Meanwhile, our Balkans Brass were still playing up a storm and continued to serenade us back in our hotel room when we returned there. As we have our window open to counteract the oppressive and stifling heat, it was like having our own personal concert going on below. Thankfully they gave up around 10ish and we could all get some sleep.
Travel day tomorrow to our last destination on this holiday, to Bosnia and Herzigovina.