Today we are docked at Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, at the intersection of the Danube and Sava Rivers. Serbia was part of the former Slavic nation of Yugoslavia and the dominate region in Yugoslavia. Belgrade was the capital for each country. Serbia is the country in the Balkans which retains the closest ties to Russia.
The six regions that made up Yugoslavia split in the 1990s in the difficult period after the fall of communism. The Yugoslav Wars erupted when ethnic Serbs in the departing regions opposed the withdrawal from Yugoslavia. Today the disputed region of Kosovo is still considered part of their nation by the Serbians. The United States, along with a majority of the countries of the United Nations, consider Kosovo an independent country. In 1999, during the Kosovo War, NATO bombed several strategic sites in the city. Many of these buildings have been left in their bombed state as a memorial. It felt like our guide’s favorite line was “that was bombed by NATO”.
After a drive through the city, we reached the Royal Palace, home to the Karadordevic royal family who have no real standing in the country. They do not own the residence, but are allowed to live there. Visitors are very limited and we are fortunate our cruise line was able to secure us entry. If the Prince is in residence, you are not allowed to take photographs of him, but he often greets the guests. He is not on the property today.
The palace has a beautiful wooded setting. If a building could be photogenic, this palace would be it. I do have a love for photographing windows and doorways and I had a field day at this residence.
One of the most beautiful parts of the Palace was the basement with its arched ceilings and uniquely decorated rooms for private conversation, billiards, and movie screenings.
Next to the palace is the American Embassy which is behind a wall and heavily guarded. After leaving the Palace we drove by and saw the new controversial waterfront development near the railroad station. Many families were displaced by force to clear the area. We also passed the National Museum, closed for renovation through 2018. We saw some beautiful architecture; I took photos of buildings I found unique. In several cases I found out that these were some of the landmarks of the city. Our guide told us that there is not a single street in the city in which the architecture is all the same style.
Last we visited the Kalemegdan Fortress, built on Roman ruins. We passed through the Stambol gate by the converted walls of the fort that now houses tennis and basketball courts. The fort has the unique setting overlooking the intersection of the Danube and Sava Rivers and is the most visited attraction in the city.
Our guide pointed out the steps which lead from the park entrance and the major pedestrian street to the dock where our ship is docked below. We went back to the ship for lunch. Our fellow passengers have a free afternoon to enjoy the park and the city. We have chosen to take an optional tour and see Belgrade as it was as the capital of Yugoslavia.