FolkestoneJack's Tracks

First impressions of Belgrade

Posted in Beograd, Serbia by folkestonejack on October 13, 2011

A morning flight from London City to Frankfurt followed by an onward connection to Belgrade delivered me to Nikola Tesla airport in the early afternoon. Once I fought my way through the inevitable crowd of taxi drivers touting for business I headed to the A1 minibus stop and soon found myself heading into the heart of one of the most fascinating cities that I’ve been to in a long while.

The first recognisable landmark that I caught sight of was the Western City Gate, a rather striking (if brutal) skyscraper built in the 1970s which comprises two tower blocks connected by a bridge at the top, along with a revolving restaurant.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Belgrade, but once I got myself checked in to my hotel and wandered out I soon found an incredibly diverse mix of old and new buildings jumbled together. My base for the next few days is the Hotel Prag which is a short walk away from the main sights and shopping streets. It isn’t the quietest of places but for me that is part of the attraction. It is not a sterile tourist zone – down the street there is a residential block, a technical school running lessons well into the night and a mixture of small stores. It feels really alive.

As I didn’t have much daylight to check out the city I headed south to the Vračar district to see the unfinished cathedral of St Sava. The cathedral stands on the site where the Ottoman ruler Sinan Pasha burned the holy relics of St Sava in 1594. In 1894, on the three hundredth anniversary of the burning, a decision was taken to erase this act by constructing a huge church. The work is still going on.

Interior of St Sava (under construction)

I hadn’t really been aware of the story until I visited – in many ways it is a Serbian equivalent of the Sagrada Familia. The interior is still a work in progress but enough artistry is on display that you can see how splendid the finished cathedral will be. Once finished St Sava will be able to hold 10,000 worshipers.

I stepped outside to a late burst of sun that illuminated the cathedral wonderfully, which was reflected back in the puddles on the pathway. I tried to capture the effect but only half succeeded in getting the shot I wanted.

St Sava, Belgrade

The old church of St Sava stands to one side of the new church but is rather delightful in its own right. Although it has to be said that it isn’t really that old – it was completed in 1935. The interior is entirely decorated with frescoes including a depiction of the relics being burned.

The old and new churches of St Sava

Frescoes in the old church of St Sava

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