I made it and geez its cold!

Trip Start Dec 19, 2010
Trip End Dec 19, 2011

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Flag of Serbia  ,
Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm writing this from London Heathrow Airport – I have almost made it to my final destination and thought what better to kill some time than to start my blog; so in order to do that I’ll start at the very beginning.

My departure from Australia took a little longer than expected due to voluntary and involuntary reasons. I extended my stay in Australia after returning home from holidays with Sam by 10 weeks, then spent a week in Melbourne (as planned) was ready to depart and even made it to the airport only to be told my flights had been cancelled due to the crazy weather in London and I was rebooked for the next day. It was ground hog day the next day with flights being cancelled again so I took the initiative and rebooked my flights for a week later, this meant that I sadly missed out on spending time with Tash in her family’s village but I did get to spend Christmas at home with the family and friends and fly out in time to meet Tash in Belgrade for New Year.

So…after many a farewell (even I was getting a little tired of saying farewell) and some very much appreciated extra time with family and friends I finally made it out of the country. I will have travelled for over 40 hours to get from Canberra to Belgrade and have to admit along the way I have been having the occasional thought of OMG! what have I done! But now that I am here I’m excited for all of the new adventures I’m going to have over the coming months. Number one on the list, New Years and Belgrade with Tash and Rob! Watch this space, plenty of stories to come! J

I made it! Some more delays in London held my up slightly but actually worked out for the best as Tash and Vera (Tash’s cousin) were late picking me up from the airport so we actually managed to arrive at the same time. Quick story on Tash’s arrival from the village, the 4 of them (Tash, Rob, Vera & Shaun) were meant to be driving Tash’s car to Belgrade however when they went to leave the car wouldn’t start (flat battery) so the boys attempted to push start it down the hill with no luck so the car is still at the bottom of the hill in the village and they had to jump on the bus to get to Belgrade, which is why they were late!

Back to me J When I arrived in London it was cold but I didn’t think it was too bad. On arrival into Belgrade the announcement made was 'welcome to Belgrade, the local time is 6pm and its currently minus 8 degrees outside’. OMG! That is cold! When you first walk out it actually isn’t too bad you just don’t want to hang around outside for too long. So that’s exactly what we didn’t do, we jumped in a cab asap and headed back our apartment. Rob found us a 2 bedroom apartment almost smack in the middle of the city, it is awesome and I have my own bedroom which is pretty cool too – I thought being the single one I’d be out on the lounge.

My first impressions of Belgrade, despite the fog that had well and truly settled in so you could see no more than about 10 metres in front of you was, stunning. The old architecture and snow covered streets with their old style street lamps, like the ones you see in Harry Potter (any Harry Potter fans out there :) ) and the beautiful lights they have strung up everywhere decorating the streets. Basically I cannot wait to see it tomorrow in the daylight and have a wander around.

We walked out to dinner just around the corner, a great little Italian place as Tash and Rob had been eating Serbian dishes for weeks in the village and were craving pizza and pasta! The food was great and there was so much of it yet it was very inexpensive. Not much to report after dinner I pretty much came home and jumped into bed, gearing up for our big celebrations tomorrow night for New Years Eve!

My first actual day in Belgrade was spent wandering around the city and getting orientated. Belgrade, when I say it is beautiful it is not quite like other cities you will see around Europe. It is still quite behind other cities mainly because they are still trying to rebuild from the numerous wars they have had, however many buildings you see how stunning they would have been had they been maintained and it is still full of cobblestone streets and squares with monuments and parks.
We wandered the streets and checked out Knez Mihailova Street, which is the main promenade and shopping area. We bypassed the shops for the time being and continued to the Belgrade Fortress. The fortress is located on a hilll over lookinng the Sava and Danube River. The view was great (which you would expect it to be from a fortress) and on a non-foggy day it would be spectacular. You can see the Rivers below and the 'town area' of the fort. The fort itself has been rebuilt many times over the years due to wars however it still maintains its magnificence and the gates and ramparts are amazing.
After wandering the fort and the snow covered park between it and the promenade we grabbed some lunch and then hit the shops for some last minute warm gear for our night out. Nale, Vera and I were on a mission to find boots, jacket and glovers and knew what we wanted so we were in and out of shops, zig-zagging across the street. After hitting a few shops Nale noticed that we were being followed, we wandered to the middle of the street and stopped pretending we were decideding where to go, I looked around and sure enough this dodgy looking guy stopped dead in his tracks and started looking around as well (not very inconspicuous), obviously we had to lose him so we decided to hit the next shop and as soon as he wasn't looking duck out. So off we went and as expected he followed us to the next store, we kept and eye out and as soon as he was "looking" at something we took off out of the store and down the street and thankfully as simple as our plan was, it worked! Phew! We shopped for a little longer then met up with the boys and headed home, it was 4.30pm and already almost dark.

We sat around the apartment and had a few drinks, chatted, played a few drinking games to kill tiem and then headed out to the parlimentary square for the New Years Eve celebrations. They had a big stage set up with live entertainment, drink stalls and people letting of fire crackers. It was good fun and super busy. Only complaint we had was that the music could have been a little more upbeat but hey you can't have everything :) An interesting experience for me was going to the porterloos, why you ask well I'll explain to you. Think of the usual time you use a porterloo in Australia - its warm and you have minimal clothes on, usually shorts, a singlet top and thongs and maybe a pair of sunnies. So being in such a small and not so clean space is managable because you are in and out in no time. Not here. You are wearing at least a top, jumper, bulky jacket, jeans with leggings, a beanie, gloves and boots. Trying to fit yourself in the little cubicle is hard enough without trying to get pants down without dropping your gloves and then there is pulling everything back up and trying to tuck yoursel, which despite it being a slow process you try to do as quickly as possible because the cold is a rude shock to your bare behind!

After the street celebrations Rob, Sean and I tried to go out afterwards but all the clubs were either packed or not our style so after a while we called it quits and went home. This was probably not a bad thing as I was so tired when I got home I almost don't remember putting on my pj's and falling into bed and no.... it wasn't from the alcohol! :P

New Years Day was very slow for us - tired, hungover and nothing open, so we had nothing much to do expect hang out at the apartment and watch movies. We only left the apartment to get brunch and dinner and I'm sure it wouldn't surprise you to if I said this didn't bother any of us. 
The following day was a little more productive, actually who am I kidding it was a lot more productive. We caught a taxi across the river to a place called Zemun, its 5km out of Belgrade and sits on the banks of the Danube. It was once its own little town, however is now classified as a suburb or Belgrade. Zemun is a mixture of small town and city liviing. If you head towards the river you will find a cobblestone streets lined with small cafes and restaurants, the banks of the Danube are lined with barges which are restaurants and clubs - Nale says they are pumping in summer time. We wandered the streets and walked along the river, stopped at a cafe for coffee and to warm up, visited the Roman Catholic Church and the Nikolajevska Church an Orthodox church. This one was quite amazing with gold-plated writing on a black background one the tower. It was quite striking against the snow white background. Unfortunately we were unable to go inside as it was closed. We then walked to the mall to check it out, its the first mall in Serbia and is the latest thing to go to. It was quite impressive I must admit but just another shopping centre, we wandered around for a bit checking out some shops and then headed back to our apartment which is feeling very much like home now.         

Today was our last day in Belgrade. We started the day with a walk to the St Sava Temple. The temple has taken over 100 years to build. The interior is currently being decorated. This temple is the largest temple in Serbia, the base is 91 x 81m, its central dome weighs 4,000 tonne and is 70m high, the main cross extends another 12m above this making it the highest peak in Belgrade. The sheer size of this temple is mind blowing but as well as this it is beautiful. The exterior is white white with black borders and gold crosses, the design on the building is very attractive as well but a with three levels cascading down, the first two levels with domes (the top level having the central dome) and triangular arches on the third level), all four sides being the same.
After this we hit a cafe for our daily coffee and then the girls and boys spllit up, the boys hit the military museums and the girls went shopping for souveniers and boots for me. After wandering around for a while we had lunch and then headed home to relax and warm out.
Tonight it will be out to dinner for our last night together and then tommorrow I'm off to Paris to meet Jodee and start our little adventure. I'm looking forward to seeing Jodes and for the temperature to be a warmer even if it is only a few degrees!

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