After a whirlwind weekend with new friends in vintage Sarajevo, we were off with them on a train to a beer festival in Belgrade, Serbia. Our mission was the “biggest European beer festival”. I’m still not sure I believe those stats, hello Oktoberfest?? The train to Belgrade cost 17 Euro and takes about 8 hours to arrive. We were eager to start tasting beer at Belgrade’s Beer festival.
Intro to the White City, “Beograd”
Belgrade, the “white city” is the capital of Serbia (and used to be the capital of Yugoslavia) and has the Sava and Danube Rivers rippling through it, with many side rivers and beaches to lounge on. No stranger to war, the city has been battled for over 115 times, was bombed terribly during the Kosovo war by NATO (where they say U.S. was the villain, and after the 2000 elections had millions of people in the street rioting. Many refugees live in Belgrade now from Bosnia and Croatia due to the “Great Serbia war” I have taught you all about before! This was when Serbia was the villain. I think because I had just spent so much time in Gorgeous seaside Dubrovnik and Bosnia, who were all but destroyed by Serbia, it was hard to happily explore. PS: Good luck reading the Cyrillic street signs!
where are we?
but really though… where is this bus going?
What to See/Do
Although most people come to Serbia seeking underground parties and inexpensive booze, the city does have attractions worth seeing. It has an alternative Berlin feel both because of the reminder of war, but also the graffiti and just overall seriousness of the city.
you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing an art exhibition
The most popular tourist attractions include: the National Museum, the Old Palace, Saint Petka’s Chapel, beach Ada Ciganlija (it’s rated high from guides, but I didn’t find it to be all that), Skardarlija (the bohemian quarter), Knez Mihailova Street (I bought an awesome spray painted world here… which I then had to carry forever!), and Kalemegdan Fortress with a walkway by the river where you’ll see women selling trinkets. There are loads more you can check your guidebook for. Nightlife is cheap and booming on the floating river bars. Because we were there during a large influx of backpackers, there were many street food stalls set up (hamburgers and corn on the cob); that was all we ate. You can also get some fruit and veg (and culture!) at the Zeleni Venac market.
Like most European cities there are free walking tours- just ask your hostel for the best one. You should take one; we didn’t and obviously we spend a lot of the time lost. Travel is easiest by either walking or bus. To be honest, I have seen so many European buildings at this point it wasn’t all that. I found Serbia to be fun because of the festival, but without it, it definitely wasn’t my favorite city, nor was it breathtakingly beautiful. But now on to the important information…
The Beer Festival
The annual festival started in 2003, lasts 4-5 days, and has concerts, roller coasters and bumper cars too! There were 900,000 people there, and it’s FREE. A band called “Van Gogh” was the headliner. The concert was very hardcore heavy rock with insane mosh pits and guys ripping their shirts off. Everyone was so alternative, it really does remind me of Berlin.
I tried to tell this guy the Browns were my hometown team, what are the chances??!
We had been a little over-budget so we looked up hostels online and chose the least expensive one, which had absolutely zero reviews. How exciting! Going cheapo on a hostel when I’m over budget is my easy way to get back on track. We figured 1. How bad can it be and 2. We’re spending the evening at a beer festival so we aren’t going to care what it looks like.
Pleasantly surprised by an awesome little guesthouse, Hostel 12, with a nice owner, and a shower with water pressure to die for we got ready for our big night of guzzling booze. Cost: 8 euro including coffee on arrival, cab, generous hospitality, and breakfast. Oh yeah, the owner sent a free cab to get us from the train station and walked us to the festival- like 2 little kids on the first day of school, except it was 2 slightly sleazily dressed girls off to have drinking contests. Keep in mind: Everyone and their mother is opening a hostel in Belgrade because of the new influx of tourists (the war wasn’t that long ago), so they are all struggling a little making money due to the flooded market. Be happy you got a good deal, but don’t try to haggle them too much to lower it!
The festival was pretty cool. I pretty much hate all beer except Budweiser, so it was a shame when I would lose our contest and have to chug a mug of something dark. Gag! I did find a favorite at the festival called Bip. I’m sure that’s a crap beer I’ll get made fun of for naming, but I liked it! I’ve only been to two festivals so I’m not the best judge; the other one was India so my “good festival” radar might be off. Best part about staying at a hostel with no other guests… no one kicking me out at noon the next day! Plently of time to recover from the beer chugging before another train ride to Budapest.
Did you like Belgrade? Was there something I must have been missing to be so “mehh” about it?
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