The countries of the former Yugoslavia offer a wealth of opportunities and with wide open roads and fascinating cities and landscapes is the ideal destination to get away from it all. With such cheap car rental now available online it’s the perfect opportunity to fill up the tank and take off for a great holiday break. Driving in Belgrade may seem somewhat chaotic at first, especially during the rush hours of 6:00 am-10:00 am and 5:00 pm-7:00 pm, and this is mainly because of the few bridges in the city. Conveniently for visitors arriving by car, a motorway runs through the central part of Belgrade. The city was for centuries a bulwark of western Christendom against the ever-present threat of a Turkish invasion of Western Europe, and has had a particularly turbulent history. Nowadays, however, things have settled down following the Balkan Wars of recent memory, and Belgrade offers many attractions for the modern tourist interested in exploring culture and natural beauty, which harmonise perfectly here.
The city is split up into three separate zones (Red, Yellow and Green) for parking between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm. On Saturdays after 2:00 pm and all Sunday parking throughout the city is free, so these are the best times to see the many interesting attractions here and learn something of Belgrade’s turbulent history. Belgradeis dominated by the magnificent Belgrade Fortress, towering above the Saba and Danube Rivers. The spacious Kalemegdan Park is also located here, a central locale in the city and home to several sports leagues and various sporting events. The fortress goes back to the 1st century AD, when the Romans built an important camp here at the confluence of the Danube and Sava, and it has been improved down the centuries by successive rulers. It has even been flattened on more than one occasion and rebuilt from scratch again afterwards.
The old bohemian (Skadarlije) part of the city is perfect for an evening stroll and a few drinks at the colourful bars and cafes that line its streets. It dates to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and quickly became a meeting place for the cultural stars of the day. As such, it has often been favourably compared with Paris’s Montmartre district, for its artistic and dynamic atmosphere as well as for the local characters who make a point of parading in its streets, to the delight of tourists. The main pedestrian area of Belgradei sKnez Mihailova Street, which is home to so many architecturally and historically important buildings that it is protected by law from alteration. The houses here date back to the late 1880s, and there are many good restaurants and boutique outlets for whiling away an afternoon in. Belgrade is a great destination for lovers of fine dining, and the cuisine here reflects the turbulent politic of the region over the centuries, with contributions from the Mediterranean, especially Greece, along with Turkish, Austrian and Hungarian cuisines. There’s also a wide range of alcoholic beverages on offer to go with the diversity of food, and many restaurants serving traditional Serbian delicacies washed down with the ubiquitous plum brandy (sljivovica-rakija).
After an indulgent night, head out the next day in the car to enjoy a drive through the surrounding area and see the sleepier, and calmer, side to the country’s lifestyle.
By: David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.
Photo: pegase1972 on vacation in SouthWest USA