In Europe, many cities deserve the obvious attention that Rome, Paris and London have always enjoyed. But aside from the typical already too-beaten capitals and fancy sparkling towns, let’s discover one Europe’s true untapped jewels: the laid-back and stoic and prud city of Belgrade.
I decided to join my friend Riccio and visit this vibrant city as it is also the home town of my mother’s family and I ended up discovering a true artsy and unpredictable beauty.
In spite of its setbacks and destruction derived from recent conflict, Belgrade brazenly holds a classical and artistic look worthy of any European capital without being too glossy and chic.
It is one of those places that I dearly love visiting as it fights to prove any misconception people may have towards Serbians.
Even though post-war lingers on, Belgrade has an underlying confidence and artistic cloak to it.
Belgrade’s history is long and and with many layers. Destroyed and tarnished many many times, Belgrade holds a strategic position in trade roads and it is the joining point of two rivers: the Sava and the Danube.
Former capital of Yugoslavia from its inception as a kingdom in 1918, throughout the post World War II socialist era, right up until Serbia was the last man standing in 2006. Serbs are known for being warriors and proud of their heritage. However, many Belgraders still express a Yugo-nostalgic longing for the multiculturalism and porous borders of the socialist era due to their shared origins and languages. Together with its neighbours, Serbia shares the same spoken language while only the writing is different as Serbia is the only one that keeps using the Cyrillic alphabet.
Belgrade: socialist blocks, art nouveau masterpieces, vestiges of the Habsburg legacy and Ottoman relics
Yugoslavia was first a kingdom and then, after World War II, a socialist regime headed by the still much-loved Marshal Josip Broz Tito who attempted to reinstate a pan-Slavic identity and bring the religious disparities under one roof.
Belgrade, with its rich culture, is the city the breaks the Balkans backwardness and veiled progress. In spite of being a European capital, Belgrade has a harder time to prove its attractiveness and worth. While still recovering from war and bombing, Belgrade’s modern side twists into an interesting artistic side.
Belgrade have lived through many traumatic Yugoslav wars until 2001, which ended in a sort of pan-Slavic experiment. The violence perpetrated by Serbian forces led the socialist republic into a whirlpool of international banishment while internally struggling under repression for many years.
Just take a walk down Nemanjina St. to realise how Belgrade’s recent past lingers on people’s minds. Here you will see the Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building harshly bombed during the NATO attack in 1999 and such view dominates the entire landscape.
However, Belgrade prevails. Its gastronomy is simply delightful and night life make it one of the most hip-happening cities in the eastern side.
Despite the long-lasting tumult, people in Belgrade know how to have a good time. Cafés and bars are heaving day and night, and their terraces are a simple reminder of European elegance. In few words, Belgrade enjoys the Mediterranean lifestyle of Greece, Croatia, Italy without really having a coastline. Bars are fancy and beautiful, filled with people from all over the region.