Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Orienteering Belgrade

In which I find my way around by wandering in circles, despite my map and a good sense of direction.

  • Finding the Jewish community center (“Jewish Commune”).
  • Finding the Synagogue.
  • Finding the central bus & and train station, and buying a round-trip (open-ended) bus trip to Kosovo, leaving Sunday.
  • Successfully reading Cyrillic signs and matching with (Latin-alphabet map).
  • Ordering the correct breakfast food without an English menu.
Today I walked around a good part of central Belgrade. Its really not that large of a city, and quite walkable. (With lots of pedestrian walkways where streets are closed to cars, and busy streets having lit crosswalks - no need to press button - or underpasses). But walkable doesn't always make for tourist friendly. Take a city that was not built on a grid. Add in a large number of messy multi-street intersections that are not organized into Rotaries. Add to that a dearth of street signs. The signs that exist are sometimes written in Cyrillic, sometimes in Croatian-Latin, and sometimes both. This makes for a hard to navigate city.

Aside: Seriously, I originally thought there weren't any street signs since I noticed right away that the sign posts with arrow shaped signs attached were pointing in the direction of various points of interest. They are not street signs. Street signs are posted on the side of buildings near street corners. In theory. In practice there are more corners without such signs than with. In Mexico when there were missing street signs it was generally because someone had stolen them and they hadn't been replaced. The number of missing seems rather large-scale for that kind of excuse here. Anyhow, thankfully, it's safe to walk around, I was not in a rush, and between my map and sense of direction I managed not to walk in the same circle twice. And I did eventually find every place I was looking for (and probably got a better sense of how the various places connected and a better city tour than if I had succeeded at the more direct route).

Low points:
  • Figuring out the shower mechanism (the faucet is waist-high and then there is a shower head attached to a hose, so you have to hold that up to shower, with limited water pressure -- not so good for thick hair, but at least the water is warm).

Highlights (all culinary):
  • Delicious “moka orange” (local spelling) at a lovely little cafe that has indoor and sidewalk seating (as they all seem to). Although Turkish Coffee (often called Serbian Coffee so as not to give the Turks credit for anything) is the drink of choice in this country, this popular cafe is known for its mochas. It was a really lovely place except for all the second-hand smoke. But that’s par for the course. They also had amazing-looking desserts, but I was looking for something less sweet.
  • I got a burek sa sirom (giant slice of cheese-filled filo dough) from a to-go bakery. Bureks are a local specialty (throughout the region, not just Serbia) and come in several flavors (cheese, spinach, and meat being the primary three).
  • For dinner, a lovely eggplant gratin, and an amazing chocolate-y dessert which I couldn’t finish.

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