I’ll never forget my first memory of Serbia and the very first thing that caught my eye as the taxi barreled down the highway from the airport into Belgrade: Towering over the city was this massive, gray building, consisting of two towers and a huge circular disk on top that looked like a giant flying saucer. It was tall, massive, ugly and daunting. And I loved every inch of it. It was both futuristic and old school all at once. Once I’d checked in to my hotel, I Googled “Belgrade buildings” and immediately identified the cement monster as the Genex Tower or “Western City Gate.” Looks like I wasn’t the only weirdo who had a love affair with this bizarre behemoth of a building: Several bloggers had articles on the structure, including their explorations of it. Now I wanted to see it. So I did.
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I ended up deleting the 1,000-word essay I wrote on the Genex Tower and its accompanying 75 photos, because well, honestly, not everyone geeks out over old, weird buildings like I do. But if you do want to see my complete exploration of this beautiful Brutalist building (and all 1,000 words about it), just GO HERE. I made a separate page, cataloging my hour-long visit to the property, including video of me trying to bribe my way into the tower. For now, and for here, enjoy my five favorite photos of the Genex Tower:
Double Dutch Bus
So yeah, I took a cab to the Genex Tower since the sun was already setting; I didn’t want to gamble with public transportation on the way there, for fear I’d lose the light. But my way back to the hotel was a different story.
I had no bus schedule or route map, but I did have a general sense of where I was, and working GPS on my phone, so I hopped on the first bus that was headed in the general direction of my hotel. Sure enough, I picked right: the crowded bus full of end-of-day commuters headed straight back over the Danube River in the direction of my hotel. When I noticed it started to veer away from the general area of my hotel, I hopped off, getting lucky once again, as I was now near a transportation hub of some sort, with buses and trams stops for trips in every direction.
I asked a man at the bus stop to help guide me back to my hotel and he sent me to the tram stop across the street. Soon, I was riding the rails directly back to my room. The sun was setting over Belgrade and I enjoyed the views from my window. The people, the traffic, the old buildings, the fountains…I was so digging Belgrade and all of the little things. Most importantly, I was relieved (and a little proud of myself) that I was able to get back to my hotel using public transportation. My first impressions were that this is one fabulous city!
I’d flown today, descended 30 storeys down a high-rise, walked a bunch, and traveled in taxis, buses and trams. What a day! I needed food and a bed, in that order. This little corner joint was right across from my hotel and would be my best friend for the 36 hours I was in Belgrade. I don’t know what it was called, but I had the bread-egg-thingy, which was Serbia’s version of Georgian khachapuri. It was good fuel. I’d choose the pizza tomorrow night.
My only full day in Belgrade would turn out to be one of the most productive days of my travel career. I walked and walked and walked and walked. And then walked some more. All in all, over 23,000 steps on the ol’ Fit Bit. Ready? Okay, let’s get started!
I used my iPhone’s GPS map, with about a dozen sights and locations pinned. They weren’t all in a straight line, but rather zig-zagged all around town, so I knew I’d be getting some good exercise today. First stop was Zeleni Venac, Belgrade’s most famous farmers market. It was clean, orderly and quiet–pretty much the opposite of the chaotic markets I’m used to in Africa, the Middle East and South America. I took a quick stroll the stalls of Zeleni Venac, checking out all the fruits, veggies, nuts and candy. I should’ve tried something, but I was in a hurry…lots to see!
Places to Go, People to See
On with my Serbian adventure, my walking tour took me next to an old cobblestone area of Belgrade called Skadarlija, then headed over to Knez Mihailova Street, the main pedestrian and shopping zone.
It wasn’t even noon yet, and I’d already walked miles, without having breakfast. It was time for fuel. First, a stop into a coffee shop on Knez Mihailova for a wonderful cappuccino, then just down the street, I had to try a Serbian hot dog. What’s a Serbian hot dog? I’m not sure if that’s what they even call it, but it was a dog wrapped tight inside a pretzel sleeve. Brilliant! Why didn’t America think of this? I liked it because not only was it tasty, but it was super easy to eat on the go. I had places to go…people to see! Well, maybe just places to see. But yeah, what a great meal on the run.
A visit to the Belgrade Fortress is a must. Located at the end of Knez Mihailova Street, the fort is the most visited tourist attraction in Belgrade. And there was no admission price, which is always a nice surprise.
I Go, Yugo
I still had lots more to see, and although there was a bunch of cool stuff all grouped together in Stari Grad (Old City), the other stuff was a little farther away. I jumped on a bus headed in the general direction and a few minutes later hopped off in a new neighborhood. I loved the public transportation here! Imagine if I actually knew what I was doing, and knew the routes! I would be unstoppable!
Rollin’ on the River
I really enjoyed the walk to Gardoš Tower; such a pleasant stroll along the beautiful Danube. This area of Belgrade was a whole other tourist spot, but a much less crowded than the Stari Grad area and even more beautiful, with a long walkway and little restaurants along the water. I stopped at a waterside café for a Coke and to rest my feet before proceeding on.
Tower of Power
Last stop, Gardoš Tower aka Millennium Tower. The tower was opened back in 1896 to celebrate a thousand years of Hungarian settlement in the Pannonian plain. It was a couple bucks admission and then a very dizzying spiral-staircase climb to the top. Once I was at the top, some spectacular views of the Danube and Belgrade. What a nice end to a full day!
Belgrade Gets a Grade A
There was no way I was walking back to the hotel. My feet felt like there were ready to fall off. I’d walked so much in such a short amount of time, I was absolutely beat. Once again, I tried my luck at public transportation and was able to make it back on a bus with no issues. Hooray! I saved so much money by not taking taxis. I stopped at my favorite corner restaurant for some nourishing pizza and rested for a few hours before heading to the airport for a 12:30AM flight to Bucharest. I loved Belgrade: a big city, with so much to do and see! It was definitely one of the highlights of this week-long, six-country trip.
And Now…the REST of the Insta(Story)
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