Belgrade, Serbia

I had learned (in a walking tour) that during the inter-World War period (under the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), Serbia received disproportionately more funding than the rest of the region due to the kingdom ruled by Serbs. So I expected something like Sarajevo but a little nicer, which I found partially true; more importantly, however, it has four times the population so it feels much more like a city.

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A river divides the city, and there are tons of restaurants and clubs on boats on the river. But not many are open in the off-season.

Belgrade was either less damaged during the war or more able to make repairs. However, they did leave a few buildings untouched that were destroyed by NATO, as a reminder of what the west had done.

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It’s an unfortunate coincidence that NATO written in Cyrillic is actually HATO.

This is not to say Serbian infrastructure is up to Western European standards either.

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The “Balkan-style” rusted tram cars.
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The trains are more “colorful” though! A more modern one is in the background. In case you were curious the train is called a FLIRT.

Regional trains and those running to Romania depart from a different station. It was a bit more difficult to figure out which building it was.

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But if you got lost then you could have a disco party instead.

At the station were some derelict-looking cars, although they did have excellent insulation installed around the windows.

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Wasn’t sure if they were being used for controlled nuclear experiments or office space.

I couldn’t blame the train cars for giving up since the tracks literally had gaps in them.

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It’s ok trains should learn to jump anyway.

It was also exciting because it was the first time I’d been given a handwritten ticket for an international journey.

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Now that the train portion is off my chest I can highlight some things that everyone else might care about.

First, popcorn. For whatever reason there are a million popcorn stands all over the streets.

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Second, safety. Again, while infrastructure isn’t always functioning…

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Mind the gap (in the sidewalk).

…at least there are US-style warning signs to tell you when you’re about to fall off a cliff.

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I risked my life and survived.

Also on the topic of safety, the air quality suffers in the winter from thermal inversion since it is part of the Balkan mountain range (see the cover photo here to get a sense of the smog). But it also suffers from pollution, including from people burning trash in the countryside.

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Third, I had two exciting language-first. It was the first time I used my Cyrillic learning to interpret a sign:

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That says non-stop, and the numbers are their way of saying 24/7.

And also the first time that my learning a new language (Dutch) helped me with a different language (Serbo-Croatian):

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Very similar to the Dutch word bioscoop meaning movie theater.

Neither were terribly important translations but both felt exciting.

Part of the castle/downtown area had a cool exhibition featuring images from other Eastern European countries. I definitely recognized a few, but even for countries and cities I had been to they managed to find sights or seasons that I had not seen.

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Entertainingly, there’s a street called Strahinjića Bana which is referred to silicon street–but not for the same type of silicon that Santa Clara might be known for.

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Let’s just say this type of silicon is more visible externally.

In other words, all the restaurants are overpriced on this street.

I’ll end with a picture completely unrelated to Belgrade itself, except that it was taken in Belgrade.

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Waiting for Godot



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