Further Explorations of Former Yugoslavia: Zagreb and Beograde

Sunset over the Danube River in Belgrade, Serbia

As with many Westerners, the only images or preconceptions that I associated with the former Yugoslavian countries — before visiting, that is — were of the confilicts and NATO bombings in the mid-1990’s that ultimately led to the Croatians, Serbians, and Bosnians splitting apart and forming their own independent countries.  And although scars are still visible in the respective cities and the memories haven’t yet faded from the minds of those who had to live through these days, each of these countries and their people have done their best to move on and embrace their respective futures.  More than any other place that I’ve visited so far, the true feeling or mood one experiences in either of the respective captials of Croatia and Serbia is not one that can be captured easily by a camera — and it isn’t just because they don’t boast as many gaudy monuments or glitzy museums as many cities in Western Europe.  The heart of these very human cities shines the strongest when mearly chatting away with a few new friends in a caffe, listening to stories of years past told by the locals, and generally interacting with those who have lived their lives here, despite the many changes of the last few decades.

As a final side note before diving into Zagreb and Belgrade, I apologize for the unusual delay in preparing this post.  Normally, I’ve been updated this blog every 3-4 days as I move to new cities, but unfortunately, in Croatia, I committed one of the cardinal sins of commuting on the road: that of not “minding” my laptop’s power cord that happened to be strechted across the room (for some reason, hostels like to place their power outlets in the most random, non-logical places they can find).  And of course, I tripped over the cord and sent my laptop flying across the room, where my hard drive subsequently mounted a protest to its owner’s stupidity by vowing never to function again.  It took me a while to find a repair shop, but after spending a few hours in a computer store in Serbia, I’ve now got a new hard drive, a new operating system, and I’m back in business.

Zagreb, Croatia:

But enough about the formalities: it’s time to move on to Croatia.  Whereas the first images that the Croatian tourist board likes to show potential visitors are that of the walled old town of Dubrovnik, the glitening beaches along the Western coastline, and the magnificence of the lakes in the Plitvice National Parks, I decided to start my tour in the capital city of Zagreb (though I’ll be back to visit a few of those others soon enough). Whereas the city center is relatively compact and devoid of any internationally recognizable sights, it is a perfect place to merely sit back and relax, letting time unfold around you while you indulge in a few afternoon espressos or glasses of mulled wine before strolling around the quaint streets — meaning it was a prime spot for me to lay low again, as after 3 months of blitzing through Europe, I’ve needed the occasional rest stop in an attempt to stave off the symptoms of travel burn-out.

Cafes and Restaurants dotting a street in the captial city

The Arts Center just opposite the train station

The skyline of Zagreb

Scaffolding: still spoinling great pictures

The entryway to the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Dalmatian cuisine is relatively similar to that of other Eastern European countries, in that it is comprismed mainly of meat-heavy dishes meant to keeps you warm from the cold.  And as with many other countries in this region, a strong Turkish influence still shines through.

I was recommended a particular local eatery and told to simply order the daily special. The day I visited, this happened to be a mildly-spicy bean stew with a smoked pork knuckle

Chevapi is another specialty of this region: several lightly spiced minced meat “patties” stuffed into a spongy bread. Eventhough this dish is popular all over the former Yugoslovian region, it supposedly hits its climax in Bosnia — so I’ll have to report back in the future to confirm or deny this

Fritule: a street food snack that is essentially fried dough balls covered in either powder sugar or cinnamom (as seen here)

An much to my continuing delight, good beer can still be found even here

Belgrade, Serbia:

After my first pass through Croatia, it was on to the captial city of Serbia: Belgrade.  This is a city where the influences of the Ottaman empire still sit side by side with those of the Hapsburgs, creating in interesting eclectic feel to the city.  There are a few nice museums and galleries to check out, but Belgrade has recently become known for the vibrant and exciting nightlife, with the party-goers dancing away into the wee hours of the morning.  It is well past the main tourist season when I had the chance to visit, but the bars and clubs were still packed every night as the younger generation is keen to let off steam and enjoy their lives as much as possible, certainly a change in attitude from generations past.

View of Belgrade from across the Sava River

The Parliament Building lit up at night

The Victory Monument near the Kalemegdan Citadel

Leftovers from conflicts in the years past

Sveti Sava, the world’s largest Orthodox church

And Belgrade is not without its scars

A common sight in any of the city’s public parks

One noticable change when crossing over from Croatia into Serbia is that the Serbs eschew the Roman alphabet in favor of Cyrillic — which, given my feeble understanding of Cyrillic, rendered my English map all but worthless

And on to the food:

Burek is still the late-night nosh of choice (or breakfast of champions), but unlike the round servings I received in Slovenia, the Serbs serve it up as individual “fingers”

Baked Lamb Offal served with Sour Milk and a bottle of the local brew

An Omlette served with bread and Kaymak (the three white lumps at the top), which is a Serbian specialty cheese that is something akin to a sour cream cheese

That’s all I’ve got from Croatia and Serbia for the time being, but I’m going to try to get back on track of putting together a post every 3-4 days now that I’ve got a working computer again.  My next stop continues my tour of the former Yugoslovian territories as I move into Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzigovina.  Until then, Zivjeli from Zagreb and Beograd!

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About andrewamiet

I'm a 29 (now 31) year-old former desk jockey who is now making my way around the world, experiencing all of the sights, sounds, tastes, people, and culture that the world has to offer.

11 Responses to “Further Explorations of Former Yugoslavia: Zagreb and Beograde”

  1. The pictures are fantastic and the descriptions of the areas wonderful. Granted, I have only just brushed over this post so early for me – but I will return later in the day to truly savor your writing. Excellent job; I could not wait to post a comment – this piece really spoke to me – grabbed me if you will. Thanks so much!

  2. Thanks for broaching the subject of the war. My friend who lives in Dubrovnik says no one is willing to talk about those years. Recently there was a tv show about the war and she said her cousin sat there silently with tears running down his face. I’ve urged her to write something about the war in her blog (http://essenceofdubrovnik.com/ ) but she hesitates since she was not there then and the friends she has approached to interview refuse to share their experience. I’m glad you posted the photo of the building with bombing damage. We are so protected here…yes, we had 9-11 but we do not know what a war is like, thank goodness.

    • I was a bit surprised myself to find that most folks living in this area only spoke about the war in hushed tones. It’s basically the 400-lb Gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about, as if they don’t mention it, it’s almost as is it didn’t happen. Thanks for the responses, and if you’re friend does decide to write about it, let me know, as I’d love to read it.

  3. Beautiful pictures yet again – and I’m so glad you’re a travel/architecture/photography & foodie blogger!

    • I’m glad that you’re enjoying them! Given that I’m traveling alone, I often find that I’m not lonely per se, but that I sometime long for someone to be with me to whom I can share my experiences. In that regard, this blog has basically been functioning as my way of bringing others along with me. Thanks for reading!

    • I’m glad that you’re enjoying them! Given that I’m traveling alone, I often find that I’m not lonely per se, but that I sometimes long for someone with whom I can share my experiences. In that regard, this blog has basically been functioning as my way of bringing others along with me. Thanks for reading!

  4. I don’t read many blog posts about Serbia and Croatia. So, I found this particular post of yours to be a very nice reading. Plus, I like the fact that you take pictures of local delicacies. Makes me even more curious about those countries (and want to visit them one day!) and, of course, drool!

  5. Andrew, I worry that when your hard drive got busted, you lost all of your photos along the way as well as your journal I’m sure you had saved. I sure hope you were able to save everything.

  6. Oh man…that is some great news! I was hoping you were backing it online.

  7. I really like this. Just wanted to say that Belgrade has for decades had a vibrant night life. ever since the 70’s. Yugoslavia was very different from other eastern Europe states since they broke with The Soviet Union almost immediately after WWII.

    Peace

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