Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CE Euro Vacay - Belgrade

A couple of weeks before our daughter's second birthday we took off across Central and Eastern Europe for a wild and crazy touristic adventure en famille.  My lovely wife graciously accepted my minimalist packing challenge and we fit all of our essentials for 10 days into 3 small day-packs.  Prague - Vienna - Budapest - Belgrade - Sofia.  5 countries/cities in 10 days.  Planes, trains, automobiles.  Couches, air mattresses, hotels, sleeper trains.

Today I'll share some memories from Belgrade.
You can also read about Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.

Belgrade is the capitol and largest city of Serbia.  Serbia is an Eastern European country that's fresh out of communism, doesn't get along with its neighbor of Kosovo, and likes sports.  A lot.  Think NBA and olympic basketball, competitive soccer, tennis (Djokovic), and other stuff where tall, athletic people thrive.  Nikola Tessla and alternating current, that too.

Being in Belgrade was the most shocking visit to our system in many ways.  The whole experience felt weird.  Our hosts were gracious and wonderful and we had soooo much fun hanging out with Trey and Randi and Kyle and Brooke (these friends were, in fact, the primary reason for our visit).  The city and even the people of Belgrade were difficult for me to wrap my head around.  Modern and yet broken-down.  One side of the city was old and historic (on a hillside), a river separated the 'new' city built under communism with perfect block streets, insipid block housing, planned neighborhoods, and addresses like "blok 23" and "blok 54".  The new side was built when added sand reclaimed swamp land and the city was planned and built under communist rule in the 40's.  From a distance things looked nice and modern, slick glass skyscrapers and wide new roads.  Up close, windows were broken and buildings abandoned, grass waist-high and graffiti everywhere.  People were generally nice, helpful, and inside apartments and offices were well-kept.  Food was meaty and enjoyable and cheap, so that was nice.  At times I looked around at trashed and cracked streets, a run-down train station and snack stalls and felt like I was back in East Africa.  But then I saw a sports field with practices being run with efficiency and skill I'd not seen in France.  Contrasts, everywhere.  Impossible to rectify.  So post-modern :).

I don't like ferris wheels anyhow, there was no way I'd consider getting on this rickety thing.

Eastern European water, mmmm.
Exploring the old fortress.

My new favorite basketball court anywhere: built in the middle of a fortress.  So cool!

Also built within the fortress: clay tennis courts.

Big guns.

For a generally tall/large people group, these tanks seem to be rather clown-car-ish.

Looking down on the new city.  From a distance: modern, sparkling, clean.

Old city to the left, new to the right.

Communist playgrounds...

Within the new city, block housing and wide streets.

The largest orthodox church building in the world.  It was massive.

We had a lot of fun with our friends!

What's for dinner?  Meat.

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