It’s barely 6 am when the train slowed down as it approaches Belgrade Glavna station (Beograd Glavna Železnička Stanica). With that meant I have survived the infamous overnight train from Budapest to Belgrade with a tired body and nothing more. Yeah!
In return, I get to spend 14 hours in Belgrade before hopping on another overnight train. The next ride will take me to Podgorica in Montenegro. Probably more passport checks and uncomfortable bed in the freezing night await me? The temperature was 6-degree Celsius but it felt better here than Budapest as there wasn’t much wind.
I’m eager to check out the white city which was once the capital of Yugoslavia. The larger country of Yugoslavia has since parted way and become countries that we know today. Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia were once a country. It’s a rather complicated past if you read about their war-torn history but everyone seems good now except for Serbia and Kosovo. For me, I just can’t wait to find out more about the present Belgrade.
Yet, I waited almost an hour for the station’s money changer to open. While I try to shake off the image of the train’s horrible toilet.
Bus and tram stop near the railway station seem to be rather busy, with Serbians going through their typical workday.
After loading up with Serbian dinar, breakfast was at an old-school-looking Restoran Romanija near to the station. The waiter, an elderly gentleman who speaks some English recommended ham omelette. He mentioned that’s the common local’s breakfast.
I tipped the elderly waiter and moving on to St Sava. It is one of the world’s largest Eastern Orthodox churches and the main highlight among Belgrade attractions.
Scars of war in the former capital of Yugoslavia
What I didn’t expect was a dramatic sight of two particular building ruins while walking towards St Sava. It’s something which I have not seen anywhere else in Europe. Both buildings are definitely not War memorial or museum. Or else they would have been mentioned in the official Belgrade Tourist Map (which I have gotten at the railway station).
What’s more puzzling is they are centrally located along Nemanjina street in downtown Belgrade. And there are government buildings right next to them!
A quick check with Google later on explained those were former government buildings for Defence Ministry of Yugoslavia. The damages were inflicted during the bombing of Belgrade by NATO forces back in 1999 and have been left standing since.
Unmistakably, there were a few soldiers patrolling around the building ruins. One of them saw me taking the photo and tried crossing the busy street towards my direction. Thank goodness for the peak hour traffic, I quickly walked away and the soldier didn’t pursue. I heaved a sigh of relief.
But I sneaked back later to take a couple more pictures – behind the trees. I guess discreet is the word since the soldiers don’t seem to like people taking the photo of the bombed buildings. Whatever the reason.
I’m more curious about why the ruined buildings are left standing at such prominent location and not demolished. Do leave me a comment if you know the reason, thanks in advance!
Is it due to the lack of funds? A reminder of NATO aggression? I have no clue… One thing for sure, it makes me wanna find out more about Belgrade and kinda regret that I am only here for a stopover. I also hope there are plans to turn them into a proper war museum. So people can get to learn about the past.
Building, buildings of Belgrade
Just down the street is a modern building where the National Bank of Serbia is located. And the modern structure looks totally out of place with the rest of its surrounding.
Perhaps the urban planning wasn’t really well thought-through back then. The architecture mix of a European city with Communist’s flair is quite a mess. But despite the dull fading colours and poor maintenance, I found the mess to be rather appealing. The crumbling condition shows plenty of character which a fresh coat of paint won’t. And that alone is already one plus point.
To me, the interesting architecture mix really makes Belgrade stands out among other European cities. That’s one of the reasons I give when people asked why I even think of visiting Belgrade. The Serbian Capital city may be under the radar now but I am sure it will not remain in status quo for long.