Belgrade was both the beginning and the end of my time in the Balkans. I just after Matt, whose bus had brought him in earlier that afternoon. I struggled up from the bus station with my ‘carry on’ bag through an underpass, up stairs and down a street so very much longer than it appeared on the map. That map being very important to follow to a T. Serbians use both the Cyrillic and the Latin alphabet, and both will be found all over Belgrade. But in some cruel twist, street signs are often only written in Cyrillic, which of course does not match your Latin lettered map.
Our one night, before we left and then later came back, coincided with the final night of the Belgrade Beer Fest. So after a nap to recover from my 5am wake up call (have I mentioned our distance from airports before?), we set out. Poor Matt immediately associates ‘beer festival’ with ‘craft’ beer festival but, ladies and gentlemen, there is an important distinction. With a massive music stage and Marlborough cigarettes as an apparent major sponsor, beer wasn’t even the real focus there. We did manage to try some nice German beers, steering clear of the Heineken, Budweiser and Sol.
Interesting fact: the Beer Festival used to be held in Belgrade’s Kalemegdan Fortress. Following the festival, a man’s body was found in the bear cage in Belgrade zoo, which is also located in the Fortress. For some reason their is a restaurant overlooking this open air (roofless) cage and the man fell in. The following year the festival was moved to Ušće park where we attended.
More exciting than the music stage (less exciting than bears) was the funfair next door that either was or wasn’t part of the beer festival. We each had a go at target shooting, where I was undermined by the booth host who suggested my first slug had gone 5 cards high, when really it was only one to the right. I knew I was a better shot than that. We both came away with prizes, the fuzzy little animals pictured just above that are the ‘friends’ of the title. Had I not had too-moisturised hands I would have also tried the pole hanging ‘game’ where you hold on a pole with both hands and just hang.. For two minutes hoping to win the 20 euro prize. Plenty of beefy Serbians were trying their luck there, or taking turns at punching a small boxing bag that measured the strength of your punch.
And that, plus our later return to Belgrade (after visiting Sarajevo and Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina) where Matt attended a conference and where I spent my days taking walking tours, attempting to find as good pita as was eaten on our first morning (revisiting the actual same shop didn’t help as I arrived too late and it had all gone), getting hair cuts, visiting Zenum and eating pastry, was the rest of our Balkan adventure. Another few photos below..