Belgrade notes

Belgrade

Upon arrival, the taxi driver was a lumbering hulk with a huge back, but his cab radio spewed out Engelbert Humperdinck songs.

Communism as an economic system is gone, and the government is democratic, but still the place seems to have the character types and status markers of a communist society.

Neither Americanization nor Europeanization seems to have progressed very far here; with respect to the latter category, I think of Belgrade as the anti-Barcelona.  Nothing here is very attractive, yet in a quite charming way.  The place conjures up, still, some of the better sides of 1920s Europe and also 1980s communism.  That said, infrastructure and services are quite acceptable.  Prices are reasonable.

The food is good but not so varied or original and it seems like a waste of time to look for true peaks.  There are no noteworthy or signature sights.  Museums still refer to “the former Republic of Yugoslavia” and the Serbs seem to be searching for a new identity.  There is lots of talk about the past.  The country is stuck in the middle income trap.

I recommend this place for all those who feel they are sick of Europe, but actually are not, but who would be, unless they came here.  That includes me.

Comments

There's a fort between the Sava and Danube river, I remember that, along with the girl I was with. Also Serbia has, disproportionately for its size, very strong chess masters.

And war criminals.

A man's war criminal is another's hero.

Good ol' John McCain.

You're frankly repulsive.

It's a joke. Don't be such a bore.

High school freshman reading the art of war detected.

It is just the truth, all warring countries engage in so-called war crimes. It is neither here nor there. Don't like it? Surrender!

UN Kangaroo Court is Kangaroo Court.
Lying propaganda and false accusations where its at.
The west had an agenda to break up Yugoslavia at the expense of Serbs and was covertly supporting separatists throughout the whole war - including smuggling in weapons in violations of the UN arms embargo they enacted. The media put up a front that the non-Serbs were being hurt by the arms embargo when in fact they were flowing in at an enormous amount.
Germany shipping Leopard tanks to Croatia was witnessed by an official arms observer but who was forced by his superiors to not report it and even lie. From his letter to the British online Telegraph:

"When we learnt that the German government was, against the terms of the UN embargo, importing Leopard tanks and aircraft in containers into Croatia, I was ordered by a French diplomat to cease monitoring the port of Ploce, in my area.
When I argued that that was precisely why we were employed as European Community Mission Monitors, I was ordered by a Greek (Greece held the presidency at the time) to continue monitoring but to falsify (his word) my daily reports to Brussels, to indicate that I had not been in the area and thus had seen nothing: but I was to continue to watch Ploce and report, privately, to the Greeks."
Lt-Col Ewen Southby-Tailyour
Ermington, Devon
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/11393697/Letters-Scottish-devolution-is-driving-England-to-want-its-own-parliament.html

Also top tennis players, including #1 Novak Djokovic. There also is a restaurant with his name run by his family in Belgrade. They are also tops in water polo. They also have a disproportional amount of engineers who work abroad.

> I recommend this place for all those who feel they are sick of Europe, but actually are not, but who would be, unless they came here.

It's very rare, especially for a blog, that I find Tyler's prose indecipherable. But this sentence needs re-wording.

I think he essentially means to say "for all those who think they are sick of Europe, come to Belgrade, so that the rest of Europe looks better by comparison".

"Belgrade sucks" could be an alternate title to this post. I don't think I've ever seen Tyler post so negatively about a country or city.

I am very glad I came here.

So you could appreciate the not-Belgrade parts of the world more.

I didn't read it that way at all but rather that Belgrade still has slightly awkward, unpolished charm. Perhaps a little along the lines of 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' in its latter days.

Indecipherable?

No, tourists feeling "sick" of Europe are the ones who stay in the cities where most tourists are, like Paris or Barcelona. Those places are beautiful but you get tired from all the tourists like you and from being pushed in the street by busy locals that don't care about your photo.

@ Tyler, this canicule has been long and exhausting in Europe. Why get fried on mainland cities with all the tourists? I just came back from 3 weeks in Corsica. 28 Celsius Mediterranean clear waters, delicious food, friendly people, great landscapes, lazer boat sailing, 10 room hotels. If you talk to locals, centuries old little towns are as interesting as capitals.

28 Celsius Mediterranean clear waters, delicious food, friendly people, great landscapes, lazer boat sailing, 10 room hotels.

And lots of mafiosi and the highest homicide rate in western Europe.

Americans obviously have much to say about homicide rates.

Small towns and rural zones in New York have very similar homicides rates to their counterparts in England. When you come to America, stay out of the slums (where only 10% of the population lives). What's cute about Corsica is you have elevated homicide rates when you have just two small cities which encompass maybe a third of the population.

""
They sure do-and suffer- a lot of killings. Their diligence more than compensates for their numbers. As a recall, there were not that much Jews in Europe in 1939 either, so what? To deliver a large portion of American people in the hands of cold murderers-as long as it doesn't disturb the peace of the fortunate ones- is still a devasting indictment of the American system. I can't imagine any other developed country living under such barbaric rule: the conscience of the people-almost any people- would never allow it.

Try for coherence the next time.

You are surely coherent: kill them all because of their color (we know pretty well who the 10% whose lives you are glad to lay upon the altar of American jingoism are, don't we?). Again, there is no developed country that would accept such a system. You have lived so much time under this system that you cannot even understand how immoral it is and have to fish for pathetic excuses ("it is only the 10% which bears the brunt of America's ultraviolent way of life-America's murder rates are nearer Senegal than Western Europe or developed Asia or most of underdeveloped Asia or even some African countries"-, "they are only slum people anyway", which is no better then "they are just Jews anyway").

Got news for you, Art: Serbia is not in western Europe.

Apparently, he means Corsica. It is hard to say because he keeps comparing apples with serpents.

Barkley, Corsica is off the coast of France.

What kind of people check for murder rates per 100,000 people to chose places to visit on vacation?

If you care, Corsica murder rate is similar to San Francisco. Avoid this hellhole in California and more dangerous places above it in the list, be safe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_cities_by_crime_rate_%282012%29

I'd assume that the average MR reader would not use the word "worst" in vain ;)

"the taxi driver was a lumbering hulk with a huge back, but his cab radio spewed out Engelbert Humperdinck songs"

Cannot understand the "but". Is there a negative correlation between being a lumbering hulk and listening to Engelbert Humperdinck?

Plus in my experience cab drivers try to match the music with the tastes of the passenger so it might just mean that he tagged Tyler - who is not a lumbering hulk - as a Humperdinck fancier.

Probably the latter - I always get treated to classy jazz music in taxis.

he tagged Tyler – who is not a lumbering hulk – as a Humperdinck fancier.

Humperdinck's constituency would be women born around about 1940. Does not sound like the moderator.

"Nothing here is very attractive, yet in a quite charming way. The place conjures up, still, some of the better sides of 1920s Europe and also 1980s communism." I read this as a comparison not so much to "old Europe" but to new Singapore, a place where most everything is new but also outrageously tacky, the nouveau riche on steriods.

"Upon arrival, the taxi driver was a lumbering hulk with a huge back, but his cab radio spewed out Engelbert Humperdinck songs.
Communism as an economic system is gone, and the government is democratic, but still the place seems to have the character types and status markers of a communist society."

Funny how bad body aesthetics and outdated music are markers of communism. Also funny how this scores points about irony-sensitive coastal professionals with an intellectual bent.

"his cab radio spewed out Engelbert Humperdinck songs." Suitable verb, that.

Humperdinck was quite popular in the former Soviet Union, and his music is a symbol of sorts to many people in eastern Europe...there is nowhere in Europe I would have preferred to spend these five days, to make it clear.

Not in former Yugoslavia, though, which was far more open to Western popular culture than the Soviet block. So Humperdinck on the radio in Belgrade doesn't mean anything different than him on radio in Frankfurt or Milan.

Neither would John Cage, or Katrina and the Waves, or David Bowie - like this gem - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mVEzf0nRXA

Some of the lyrics -

'I saw my baby

She was turning blue

I knew that soon

Her young life was through

And so I got down on my knees

Down by her bed

And these are the words

To her I said

Everything will be alright tonight

Everything will be alright tonight

No one moves

No one talks

No one thinks

No one walks tonight'

Yep, typical Soviet Bloc (or AFN, for that matter) fare, right?

I've heard that Katrina of that music group is an ethnic Serb.

Thou doth protest too much...

"The anti-Barcelona" - That's good.

Belgrade does have the best crowd atmosphere for basketball games in Europe, albeit with a small likelihood of a riot.

The splavs are very fun.

I lived in Belgrade for a number of years & I enjoyed reading this.

The communist status markers persist - vast & clientelist public sector, bureaucrats with stamps, an obsession with academic qualifications of dubious quality - but bling bling status markers are very much on display. Think boob jobs and Porsche Panameras. The aptly named Silicon Valley in Stari Grad is a good place to start.

Serbia isn't stuck in a middle income trap. It would be fortunate if it was. It's stuck with a dysfunctional political elite, feeble public institutions and a rent seeking business elite clique. Every time I visit Belgrade now I'm amazed at how much more expensive than in western Europe imported goods are (think baby pushchairs and HDTVs) and how many high end luxury cars you see. The two aren't unconnected. The rent seekers don't care if a struggling father on €300 a month pays 25% more than the UK cost of a pushchair. As they make enough money to buy Porsches there's no impetus to build a successful export based economy. Serbia is punching well below its potential given its resources, location and talent.

That said, Belgrade is a wonderful place to visit. The sun shines in summer, the beer is good & cheap, people are very friendly (the Belgrade middle classes are generally well educated and multi-lingual), the women are absolutely beautiful and the night life is fantastic. Go visit!

Tyler, If you're still in Belgrade, here are two restaurants that were very good back in the day:

1. Restoran Frans, Bulevar Oslobođenja 18, Beograd, Serbia +381 11 2641944

2. Vuk (near the Knez Mihailova pedestrian street) Vuka Karadzica, 12, Belgrade, Serbia +381 11 2629 761

Usually can't go wrong with grilled meats and the srpska salad. I also have a soft spot for Vranac pro cordem, a Montenegrin red, to wash it all down

enjoy,

dave

I agree with this.

I showed this to some Serbian family. They think you're rude and a stuck up ass hole. Maybe word it differently? (I really don't have a clue, and they seem frustrated when I said I agreed with you.)

Comments for this post are closed