Sunday, May 27, 2012

Belgrade Day 1!

ACCOMPANYING PICTURES can be found on facebook. (

We decided to take the night train to Belgrade for a few reason. Even though the locals tell you it is horrible and one should never take the night train (they are wrong). It was cheaper than renting a car (even though we could have explored the countryside which (spoilers) would have been nice on Sunday) and it involved sleep rather than the bus. So after dinner with the Pout Family, we went back to the apartment to grab our stuff and headed to the train station. We had a bit of fear when we get there and the train to Belgrade isn’t on the list of departing trains! But it was actually leaving that night at 8:10, so who knows. We purchased our tickets and headed up to the platform. We had to pick the compartment (pictures are wonderful helpful hints, by the way) and we walked up to the train car. Then the train compartment manager (is there a word for this in English) came in and told us to go forward because those ones were better. We kept telling him for the three of us, but he kept trying to put us in one with other people. So we kept walking until there was a totally empty compartment that had three beds pulled out. What was interesting was that this was a different compartment than the other one I had taken. This one had 6 beds and they weren’t as nice. But both were considered 2nd class. I have no idea why! We were able to just sit and talk for a bit as we waited for the train to start (and the hour and a half it took for the train to get to the border, actually).  After the border, we just made our beds and fell asleep!

The next morning we arrived about an hour before we were supposed to. But we were able to find the hostel pretty easy. The directions were “walk out of the side entrance, cross the street and you are there.” While it was a little more complicated than that (there were no cross walks), but it was pretty simple.  We brushed our teeth and just got ready for a bit as we looked up stuff to do. (spoilers) Supposedly Tito’s grave opened at 9am, we decided to grab a bite to eat and walk towards Tito’s grave. We skipped the breakfast at the bottom of the stairs because we thought there would be tons of food on the way and I don’t really know why else. We started walking and found no food and no directions and the map was a bit wrong. But 45 minutes later, we arrived there after asking directions from people who had no idea where the “park with Tito” was. Like really? No one knows where Tito is buried? Seriously people? It’s like a major tourist attraction. I mean I didn’t know what to call “grave,” we tried in English and Polish and a possible Macedonian word. But no luck. We did enjoy our nap. There was a dog that didn’t like Lizzie sitting on His Grass, but just barked until she moved. The security guy didn’t really understand what we were doing—he kept walking and looking at us and standing there and looking. The grave/mausoleum was very well done. Very relaxing and pretty. They had a history of the non-aligned movement (can Cuba be a part of this? Isn’t Cuba communist, and thus not allowed to be non-aligned? Apparently they were a part of it.) along one side and a display of the relay batons that kids had given to Tito. As well as some of the letters that people had wrote to Tito (or embroidered). After this we went to this little museum that was specially designed to house some artifacts from around the world that were given to Tito.  At one point there was this group of older Serbian guys there who wanted to take a picture with me. I thought they wanted me to take a picture of them, but nope, I was to be in it. That was a little odd- I mean I’ve been around the black guy, the Korean guy, and the red head, but never the white brown haired girl getting the picture taken. Made me laugh. 

After this, we decided to go to the 25th of May Museum but it wasn’t open until 12pm. So off to the Sv. Save church which is supposedly the largest Orthodox church in the world. But we were looking for food along the way. After going down this really steep hill, we found a restaurant that had vegetarian food (this is odd in the area)! And made it to the church. There was an exhibit in the National Library near the church that has a “Ours or Alien?” exhibit I think it was about fairy tales or something. This church was totally unfinished- I looked it up a bit and it was apparently bombed during something (either WW2 or NATO bombing) and is being rebuilt after this. We decide to walk to the center and the fortress and passed by this gaming card trading gathering. We went up to Kalmagean (which always made me think of fortress-mageaden). There is a military museum up there that I wanted to see- it showed the history of Serbia through the military. It is decently quick to go through if you don’t understand Serbian. However, there were a lot of maps and a lot of things to see! So many ages of history and conquests and being conquered. The most interesting part, to me, was how they covered the NATO bombing of Serbia. Serbia had shot down a fighter pilot that was a US citizen. They had pieces of his plane and his uniform there just hanging around. They were very proud of this fact. Then there was a giant map showing the NATO aggression against Serbia.

Since we were already up this hill and at the fortress, we decided to go to the edge and look over the river. For some reason the walking was killing Jen. So we all just laid down on the grass and rested for about 45 minutes. Sometimes talking sometimes sleeping, until we needed to go see what time we were meeting for dinner with the other Fulbright researchers. So we go back to the hostel to shower (did I mention it was hot all day and we were icky nasty sweaty?). We knew there were reservations at 8pm but not where, so we started walking towards the center, figuring that is where they were. Luckily we were right, and they were down at the river at some Spanish restaurant. The prices were outrageous! And there was only salads as the options for vegetarians. And wine! Wine is so expensive compared to Macedonia! But we sat and ate dinner and enjoyed talking about research, adjusting to life abroad, and what they like to read, etc. I was so tired and there was really loud music so I mostly just watched the interactions that were going on. We were so tired and our feet were so sore that we decided to just go back and go to sleep rather than go out dancing or to another bar.

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