Day 48: 5 August 2016

So this is Belgrade! The place, where Danube and Sava meet has been inhabitated as far back as the Neolithicits by the Vinče people and made it even into Greek mythology: the rock overlooking the confluence of the two rivers is said to be one of the places in the story of Jason and the Argonauts. The first fortress has been built by the Scythians in the 3rd century BC, under the rule of Emperor Augustus, the Romans conquered the settlement and fortified it with a castrum as part of the Danube Limes. After Attila’s pillaging in the 5th century came the Slavs in the 7th – and stayed. Prospering under the Serbian Despotate until it was once more conquered, this time by the Ottomans in 1521 under Suleiman the Magnificient, who made it the entry portal into Central Europe. It was wrestled from their hands three times by the Habsburgs in 1690, 1717 and 1789 – although never for long. After that, the Ottomans gradually lost control of the city and after several Serbian uprisings, it became the capital of Serbia. So far with some basic historic data.
I left the hotel early to gather information about the City Museum at the tourist office – to no avail! Most museums are closed July and August. Reason: it’s summer and vacation time – never heard such an interesting excuse! So I made my own itinerary connecting the Church of St Mark, a blown-up version of yesterday’s Grgeteg church, due to the size infinitely more pompous, with the Temple of St Sava, a huge, but compared to the original still dwarfed version of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul – completely wrapped into white marble (again: Carrara?) and a major building site, for the interior is still an unfinished béton brut affair. I then went (out of my way) to see the German embassy, something I do in every capital, and from there a long downhill drive to the so-called ‚Hajd Park‘, a small, unkept woodland on the Northern slopes of Topčider hill. Meandereing through residential quarters with once fashionable houses from the 1930s and 1940s, I made it onto the new cable-stayed Ada Bridge spanning the Sava at the Eastern tip of Ada Ciganlije. On the other side I landed in what I would call Betonski Brut, but is better known as Novi Beograd, the Western part a desert of huge apartment blocks from the Tito era, now doomed to the opposite of gentrification, the Eastern part around the huge Palaza Srbije seems to become more and more the new commercial hub of Belgrade with shopping malls and office buildings for multinational companies. Back to the hotel via Brankov Bridge for a quick power-nap before heading off to ‚Casa Nova‘ restaurant for a great Italian dinner crowned by a night cap on the terrace of ‚Hotel Mockba‘. End of story for today.

The interior of St Sava Temple.
Temple of St Sava: detail of a marble bannister (Carrara?).
The German Embassy: not quite the architectural highlight.
The church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
J’ai besoin un peu der France de temps en temps: Café de France in Belgrade.
Italijanski Restoran ‚Casa Nova‘: cucina italiana in perfezione!

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