A Hitch-hiking Adventure to the Balkan Gate (Belgrade)

adonisabril
Always Wanderlust @adonisabrila year ago | 9 min read

Belgrade, a capital city I've visited three years ago when I was gallivanting around Europe in a car. Admittedly, the city didn’t impress me much so I just passed through without giving it a second thought and proper exploration. This time around, I would, with the company of my then girlfriend (wife now), Kristina. She has never hitch-hiked before and insisted on having a little adventure on the way to Belgrade from Timisoara, Romania.


Creating a hitchhiking sign to Serbia

It turned out to be more difficult to catch willing drivers than originally anticipated. It was easy enough to get a ride from outskirts of Timisoara but near the border, we couldn’t find any cars crossing to over to Serbia. We decided to walk to the closest town, Deta, we can find and catch a bus to the border. As most small town goes in Eastern Europe, getting information is a bit tricky as rarely anyone could speak English.

There was a congregation of people in a section at the edge of town who appeared to be waiting for a bus. We stood and waited amongst them looking like a bunch of lost tourist. As with the rest of my experience in Romania, somebody was asking if they could help. Help did come in the form of a social media happy Romanian English speaking dude.

Yo, I'm From Cali

After learning I’m from California an air of excitement overcame him.

The expression on his face looked reminded me of a school girl groupie.

It's as if he met the second coming of Kanye West or something.

I can rap like Pdiddy but I'm no Kanye West.

Kristina was giggling at the whole thing transpiring and my face was turning beet red from the sudden fifteen minutes of fame. Inside the bus, he insisted on getting a selfie with him for his Instagram account. I guess meeting somebody from California made his day! I didn't even get the Romanian guy's name before getting off the bus for his stop.


Belgrade street art

Got On A Random Car with Two Serbian Guys

We got off our stop a few kilometers away from the Serbian border. From there we got picked up by a couple of Serbian guys playing loud and happy music in the car. They were a jovial bunch. But we had problems at the border during passport inspection. It took a very long time for things to get going. Our passports were given the third degree. I guess seeing an American and Russian passport gave them a reason to pause. In fact, we turned a few heads in a few countries in Europe. I apologized profusely for the hold-up but they didn't seem to mind and happily dropped us off at the closest bus station in Vrasc.


Architecture in the City Center. Belgrade, Serbia.

We didn’t have any cash for the bus. The closest exchange was at a gas station nearby and they only exchanged in Euros (weird). Luckily it the ticket counter accepted credit cards. The bus ride to Belgrade would take 2 hours and upon arrival, we found a cheap hotel where the guy at the counter barely spoke English but spoke Russian.

As we were talking he interjected a political jab about the current election: We don’t like Clinton and Americans very much. They bombed us. He then pointed out on the map where the bombings occurred and it's now part of a tourist attraction and memorial monument. Kristina learned all about all the major attractions and it looks like everything can be done in a day.

I don’t usually want to get involved in the politics of the places I visit but part of the reason why I travel is to experience the culture as much as I can. To soak it all in. The good and the bad. I’ve heard from an American traveler I met in Romania that he was flat out refused a room at a hostel in Serbia after the host found out he was American.

The Kosovo war wasn't that long ago and during which NATO bomb Yugoslavia. I may never know the extent of the rights and wrong or the politics of that war. But I feel like I have to apologize for these transgressions to whoever mentions it.


Yugoslav building damaged by NATO bombing.

A Large Gathering of Syrian Refugees

We walked around looking for a place to get coffee and walked past a park with a large concentration of Syrian refugees. You can really feel the gravity of the whole migrant crisis as you meander past the make-shift shelters and overcrowded benches. There’s a sense of escalating chaos as we go past the park full of all these hopeless people.

Most of these refugees are trapped here after Hungary and Slovenia closed its borders. I don’t really know what can be done and who’s doing what. But I can only guess with politicians at the helm lost in the quagmire of their bureaucracy, rhetoric, and xenophobia will not solve the current state it’s in. I don't know what grim fate awaits and I feel powerless to do anything about it. It was still disturbing to see it all happening here.


Belgrade park with Syrian Refugees.

Beowulf?

Belgrade got its moniker from Beograd which sounds suspiciously like Beowulf. And sure enough, it’s got its traces from the Celts who conquered the city from the Dacians. Conquered by the Romans, it changed hands several times from Byzantines to the Hungarian empire until it was eventually settled in by the Slavic-speaking population.

But before I continue about Belgrade. I’ll be forthright, Belgrade is one of the ugliest capital cities I’ve been to in the Balkans. Maybe I just didn’t have the luck getting good light when I was there but I didn’t find it particularly photogenic.


Belgrade Architecture near the river Sava

Communist Buildings

Old decaying communist buildings mixed with quasi-modern ones drown the old classical architecture that must have been at one point, marvelous. The Kalemegdan fortress is undoubtedly its main attraction and in this regards it’s not too bad.

We crossed the river Sava to get a better view but that too is not very photogenic. Most of the time my goal when visiting a place is to take pictures. The last time I was in Belgrade three years ago, I didn’t take any. So I thought this time, I’d make up for it. I scoured the place as much as I can but I just didn’t find it enjoyable to shoot.


Kalemegdan fortress across the river Sava

Even if I didn’t get any decent pictures out of the visit, I did properly enjoy the city this time around. I loved the vibe. Just walking from the fortress to the Church of Saint Sava and then meandering our way through the gritty banks of the Sava river made my day. Kristina and I would stop for a beer at a random restaurant.


Try the Jelen beer, draft. It's good.

Debated about the bombed buildings and the politics behind it (Russia supported Serbia in the war. We'd spot up for coffee for a quick pick up after the long walks. I’d say Belgrade was one of the better places for experiences during my Balkan trip. Your mileage may vary, but I recommend Belgrade for a day.

Here's what I recommend

Stay somewhere near the Train Station which is very centrally located between the fortress and the Sava temple (check the map). This is one big giant walking tour you can do yourself. Start your day at the fortress and from there explore the various ruins and statues.

From there make your way towards Krajina Milena street. Restaurants and bars line the alleyway. But, for lunch I recommend you head on over to Skadarska street. It’s one the famous street for food and drinks in Belgrade.


Temple of Saint Sava, Belgrade, Serbia

The Bomb Building

You can do a small detour to see the NATO bombed station in Aberdareva street and Miloša and Nemanjina Street. I've included it on the map below for your reference.

I learned that there’s a Nikola Tesla museum nearby but as much as I like the history and intrigue behind Nikola Tesla, I’m just not into museums. If that’s your thing you definitely add a few of museums in your itinerary if you had a day in Belgrade. It’s not a big city by any means.


A Roman passageway in Kalemegdan fortress. Belgrade, Serbia.

After the Church of Sava and the NATO bombed buildings walk your way across the bridge for a better view of the city. There’s a bunch of floating bars and restaurants in the banks of the river Sava. We watched a rather dull and uneventful sunset here of the “not so attractive skylines of Belgrade.” However, the day spent Belgrade was anything but dull and uneventful.

Hitchhike from Timisoara to Belgrade:

  • You have to be on the outskirts of Timisoara to have a decent chance of getting a ride.
  • Take the bus A33 towards the edge of town as far as it can go to motorway E1. Be careful it will loop around and go back to the city.
  • You can catch the A33 bus in the big Orthodox Church in Town (Catedrala Mitropolitana).
  • You may have to catch multiple rides as people might only go partially in your direction.
  • Your goal is to get to Vrsac, Serbia so you can continue hitchhiking or catch the bus to Belgrade.
  • Bring a sign, a cardboard piece of paper will do. Write "BLGRD" or "Belgrade" then smile with a thumbs up.
  • Have fun!

THE BREAKDOWN:

  • Hitchhike From Timisoara to Belgrade – $3 ($1.50 each for bus to the edge of town)
  • Bus from Vrsac to Belgrade - $4 ($2 each)
  • Hotel – $42 (a night)
  • Breakfast at Hotel – Free (included)
  • A la carte lunch – $8 ($4 each)
  • Dinner restaurant – $14 ($7 each)
  • Drinks at Pub – $6 ($1.50 a beer)
  • Coffee at Costa Coffee – $5 ($2.50 each)
  • TOTAL: $85 for two people

HAVE YOU BEEN TO BELGRADE, SERBIA?

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." - Mark Twain

All photos are taken and articles are written by Adonis Villanueva of Always Wanderlust unless otherwise stated.

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Written by:
adonisabril

Beer Drinker, Internationally Published Photographer, Award Winning Travel Blogger, and Proud Corgi Dad.

The photos are amazing and heart warming but one. The Syrian refugee one is dirty with garbage littering everywhere. I presume that the standard of refugee is everywhere same.

21

It was very disturbing and I would imagine those conditions to be worse in some parts of the world.

0

Hahha, that' s was quite adventurous. I am planning to attend summer school this year at England and one of my friends was advicing me to explore Europe too and you know what we were discussing about the travel and all that cost and I was like what if I hitch hike but after reading your story I think I will have to consider the whole scenario again :p

11

Hitchhiking in Europe is very easy.

0

Ok, Thank you for that. I will keep this in the mind.
I guess the biggest expense would be accomodation?

0

I really enjoy the way you wrote this--it felt like we were along for the ride! :) I can picture your girlfriend giggling as you turned red during your paparazzi moment...to me that was the funniest part of the story!

11

Fifteen minutes of fame :)

0

You made a great trip.
I am very inspired to be an adventurer like you.
I will look forward to your next posting.
Thanks @adonisabril

10

hola que tal saludos
adonisabril lei esta publicación de tu pequeña aventura a Belgrado desde timisoara, y apesar de la situacion que aveces algunos paises estan pasado tienen lugar muy bonitos a los cuales tu como turista a lo igual como tu esposa pudieron disfrutar en ese recorrido es bueno compartir este tipo de experiencias, saludos desde venezuela disfruta al maximo cada viaje y mi consejo disfruta el ocaso del sol en los lugares visitados

10

That's awesome. My wife is from Macedonia, and I really hope we can make it out there sometime and explore other parts of Yugoslavia. Of course, getting from Michigan to there is the real cost--not sure we could hitchhike across the ocean.

3

Macedonia was awesome :)

0

That's what my wife says. She was born in the States, but has been back to visit a couple of times. All before her and I were together. Any "must-see" spots in the balkan area?

2

Wow this has to be one of the most genuine well-written post I seen that clearly was not done by a hired writer or Ghost Writer if you will. Your vacation looked like a somber one...hitchhiking in serbia!!?? Wow as americans?! Savage bro! This has to be the best most well written blog post ive ever read here!

1

Thanks...Luckily, I was accompanied by a Russian and the Serbs love Russians!

12

I think you might enjoy steemit school... it's ran by a guy from Serbia I believe kind of a cool channel in the sense they have lots of people and the people that run it are from that area of the world...@dobartim and @flysky run it...

0

you look like normal guy, don't know where you went from there and did you hitchhike from Belgrade, but there is low chance to have some serious problems in Serbia. They are emotional and unfortunately deeply envolved in politics but usually very hospitable, especially in smaller towns and willages. And now you got me to make a challenge to make some great photos of Belgrade :)

0

Awesome adventure you've got there! Hitchhiking is an adventure in itself plus the awe-inspiring stories behind makes me want to go and try doing it myself. Your pointers are a lot of help too.

1

Awesome blog!

Reminds me of my younger years, hitch hiking from amsterdam to rome!
Always been curious about the balkan and Serbia, one thing ive noticed in your blog is that beer is cheaper then coffee...a very positive conclusion haha!
thank you for your work...will follow you, if you like to read travel blogs also, please consider to follow me or have a look at my blogs! @luckyme03200
Have a great day!

1

It was cheaper than bottled water :)

10

Looking for some cardbord and a marker right now....;-)

10

That Looks like an awesome trip my friend , I’m also going this year from
GERMany with a car to all balkans countries and a Belgrade is for sure on the list :)
Thanks for sharing (Y)

1