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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Day 22, April 12, Belgrade, Serbia

Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel
completed in 1840
Overnight we arrived in Belgrade, Serbia.  The war will no longer be called The War for Croatian Independence cause this is the country that invaded Croatia...  One of our crew members is native to Belgrade.  He enthusiastically told us and the Michigan couple his life story.  His parents grew up under Communist rule.  They miss the 'good old days' of full employment, no homeless people and a guaranteed life.  Predrag now monetarily supports his parents 'cause the guaranteed life collapsed in the 1980's.   The death of Josip BrozTito caused the destabilization and eventual breakup the Yugoslavia.  One person from the old communist era notes, "it will take the death of the folks that lived under communism before we can fully embrace freedom."

With the dynamics of the tension between the old and new in the air we sat out on the 4 hour bus tour of Belgrade. The bus climbs from the banks of the Sava River onto one of the major streets.  Beautiful churches are spread throughout the old city. Though never outlawed under communism and Tito, one could be demoted to the lowest job just for being reported to attend worship.

Soviet block buil
It is interesting as we moved along how one could see buildings from various eras sandwiched together like some sort of insane Dagwood concoction.  Hapsburg and Ottoman buildings in various states of repair or disrepair can be next to a Soviet block building.  The area's cultures date back to the 6th millennium BC/BCE.  The area has experienced 115 recorded wars and razed to the ground 44 times.  No wonder there is no rush to rebuild or repair the damage from the most recent conflicts!
Kalemegdan (Belgrade) Fortress
Using the Brankov Moct (bridge) the bus crossed the Sava River into New Belgrade. Over our right shoulder in the distance sat the medieval Kalemegdan Fortress at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers.  To our left is the Memorial to Victims of the Sajmi┼íte Concentration Camp.  Closer to our right the common things of a park, a dog and its human.  Nearer was a skate board area.
Memorial to victims of Sajmiste

One leg of the H shaped Palace of Serbia
A look forward had probably the largest number of the bloc or block buildings we had seen so far on the trip.  We pass by the Palace of Serbia, formerly the Palace of the Federation (of Yugoslavia).  The guide stated the building is mostly empty.  Other sources say it houses some cabinet level ministries and agencies.

The tour continued through block after block of the Soviet bloc buildings.  These were mass produced using prefab structural insulated panels.  It is interesting to note the need for housing was great after WWII due to all the bombing damage.  To my regret, we did not tour any of the communist era buildings.  It would have been interesting to see inside one of the bloc apartments.  And as for the 'Soviet Bloc' apartments, they sort of reminded us of the place where we live. Well, except the window air conditioners and clothes hanging out windows to dry : /

The mid century design of the Telex building was quite fun, too.  I have seen a blog covering bus terminals built in the middle of nowhere during the Communist power years.  Seems not everything had to use the bloc method!  A new build was reminiscent of 'Close Encounters'.

That was enough of New Belgrade and the bus heads back across the recently (2012) finished Adi (Ada) Bridge into Old Belgrade.  The folks are really proud of this new bridge as it uses an uneven balancing of the bridge.  With a total cost of 450 euros including interchanges, this bridge is an accomplishment in any rebounding city.

As the bus left the bridge interchanges heading southeast,  I caught a glimpse of a couple of harness racers practicing.  Confirmation that life is similar through out the world.  The next destination was the former Tito Memorial Center that is now the Museum of Yugoslav History.  We pass the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, refurbished in 2015. No time to stop a we move on to Tito's Memorial.

Once we arrive at the Museum the three bus entourage comes to a complete stop.  The guide speaks of how Tito was a great leader of Yugoslavia.  It is obvious from her comments and those of others, that Tito is worshiped by many in this area.  He was seen as fair and just and open to both sides of the Iron Curtain.  One could almost hear the echo of the if only's of Tito's continued life in the voices of those who spoke of him.
After about 15 minutes of staring at the building that was closed for the day, the buses began to move again.  We pass the impressive Thai embassy.  Huge because Thailand was the first nation to recognize Yugoslavia. We rolled through the streets passing child care centers with cool decorations on the fences.  Then the famous coffee bar that I do not remember the name.  The bus arrived at our first walk around of the day, the Church of Saint Sava.  

The desire to construct the Church of Saint Sava began in the 1800's.  Construction plans and eventual beginnings were interrupted by The Balkan Wars, WWI and WWII.   Construction resumed in 1985.  The exterior is complete.  The construction is financed by donations but that is not the issue for the unfinished interior.  Materials and workers to install the materials are to be of Balkan lineage.  The decor is not to be painted but be mosaics.  No Balkan artisans of the quality needed have been located..
renderings of some of the hoped for mosaics

Yes, that was a crane sitting in the middle of the church.  The unfinished church was beautiful with just bare bones showing.  Not all windows were installed so birds flew around during the tour.

Time to head outside and for a little loo break and a last look around.   Back on the bus we glided past another bombed out building, this one by NATO.  Repairs are awaiting a consensus, not something Serbia seems likely to do any time soon.

We passed The Ascension Church which was a study in symmetry.  The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia building looked good. The two horse statutes were rather unusual in relationship to the humans.  Somewhere along the way we passed St. Mark's. The street lights were intriguing as was the woman standing in a shaded area.
Ascension Church
St. Marks

 Shopping was next on the list for the morning.  We were dropped across the street from the National Museum of Serbia and National Theater.   We chose just to walk and do a little people watching and window shopping.  One window caught Hubby's eye.  Snap and we later discovered Hubby appeared to be wearing the clothes in the window!  I was needing fresh flowers for the room but no one was there to accept money.

Meandering the pedistrian areas we purchased a couple of magnets. Of course there were photos. Several of the photos we took are similar to some on google maps.  But a couple I took were reflections of the normal tourist take.

Again, I convinced Hubby to take a different route back to the meeting place for the bus. This back route yielded a fun meeting with two ladies.  Hubby thought the lady was older than him and asked!  Karma got him cause she was 20 years younger.

Continuing along the alternate route, I could not resist the door knobs and other features of this city.  A courtyard provided a fun look into a beautiful area complete with murals at the entrance.  We could have hung out there the rest of the day but the clock was ticking.  Old people needed to sit on the bus for a bit, you know.

On down the street we head and come out across from a small park.  Not willing to brave the traffic, photos were taken between passing autos.

A few blocks to our right and we were at the meeting place . . early.  So we people watched while waiting.  And watched as a lady not see the dangerous little step we were warned about before exiting the bus.  She takes a full frontal tumble.  She promised only her pride was hurt.

The bus arrives and we headed to the last tour stop of the day, the Belgrade fortress.  The fortress was only .5 miles away but why walk as it is still only about 10 weeks past my knee replacement. Another 2 or 3 block walk at a pace that was difficult for me and we arrived at the entrance.
pieces parts fused to give an idea of the tanks flanking the entrance
The sizable fortress had tanks from all the wars in one area.  The entry door still had the indention of a cannonball from earlier wars.  Another area has portions of a Roman outpost.  Yes, that place was old.  And then there was the over look of the junction of the Sava and Danube.

There at the overlook we ran into Predrag.  He enthusiastically shares about his love of his city and nation.   The many beautiful parks he recommended from his 20 something body and mind for us to visit were not visited.

We left Predrag as the tour group was reforming to follow the guide to the Victor statue. A few more areas of interest and back to meet the bus.  The day has warmed up and most of the group are seeking shade.

On the ship it is lunch time.  It surely felt good to take a seat and be served delicious food.  While there was free time to return to the city, again, we chose to stay on board.  Old legs, new knee and twenty two days on a trip is beginning to catch up with us.  Tomorrow is a day of sailing almost all day.  No tours, no early rising, just a laid back day.  I shall leave you with this pieced image of the views from the fortress.

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