Eastern Europe Trip – Day 6 – Belgrade, Serbia

Today is my third day in Serbia, and my second day exploring Belgrade. For breakfast I went back to Red Bread and had a smoked salmon omelette, and some French press coffee. After breakfast it was time to start my adventures.

First stop was the now abandoned Sava Center. The Sava Center is a multi-use cultural and business center. Designed by Stojan Maksimović, it was built between 1976 and 1979 in a brutalism style architecture. It was recognized globally for the speed that it was built. The style of the building also led to some interesting nicknames such as “spaceship”, “glass garden”, and “concrete ship of peace”. The conference center has a theatre hall with over 4000 seats, 15 conference halls, and an exhibition area. The center has completely fallen into ruin since COVID-19 hit, and many people have stolen things from the interior. Despite all this, the facility is still used today for events. I managed to get inside for a few minutes, but was quickly kicked out by a security guard. To be fair one of the sliding glass doors still worked, and I can’t understand Cyrillic.

Across the street is Blok 21 and Blok 22, some of the longest apartment buildings in the entire world.

Next up was Genex Tower. The Genex Tower, also known as Western City Gate, is a 36 storey skyscraper that spans 154 metres (505 feet) tall. It was designed by architect Mihajlo Mitrović in the brutalist architecture style, which is one of my favourites. It is formed by two towers connected with a two storey bridge, and has a revolving restaurant at the top. It is the second tallest building in Belgrade after Ušće Tower. The building is designed to resemble a high-rise gate greeting people arriving in the city from the West. The tower received its name because one of the initial tenants was the Genex Group, a state-owned company. The office building, the shorter of the two buildings continues to remain unoccupied to this day, but the residential tower is still occupied. The revolving restaurant no longer operates either. Again I tried to get into this building; the revolving door to the office side still worked, but I was quickly escorted out again. The residential side was locked and I didn’t want to sneak in after people. Here’s a link to someone’s blog who showcases what the interior of the building looks like.

A short walk away was SIV 3. The SIV 3 (Belgrade Stock Exchange) building was built in 1975. It was built in a brutalism architecture style and designed by architect Ljupko Ćurčić.

Right next door is Opština Novi Beograd, however I couldn’t find much information on this mid-century modern building. I thought it was neat non the less.

I then caught a 15 minute bus ride to The Air Force Command Building. The Air Force Command Building (Komanda Vazduhoplovstva), designed by architect Dragiša Brašovan, was constructed in 1935, on the site of the former Military Command. The brutalism style building is four stories tall and is overlooked by a seven-storey tower that is centrally located within the building. It was completed in 1935. Sadly, it was bombed in the April 5th 1999 NATO attack, and hasn’t been used since.

It was time to get some lunch so I stopped by at The Old Customs House restaurant, and had some Serbian Salad, and a Serbian hamburger called Gurmanska Pljeskavica.

After lunch it was a steep walk up a cobblestone road to Gardos Tower, also known as the Millennium Tower. It was built in 1896 to celebrate 1000 years of Hungarian settlement in the Pannonian plain. I went to the top of the tower for $2.45 CDN, and was presented with spectacular view of New Belgrade.

I then started the long walk back to my hotel, with a few stops along the way. First stop was the Amusement Park overlooking the Danube river. It was fairly old, but some parts were still operational.

Close by was Hotel Jugoslavija. Hotel Jugoslavija is one of the oldest luxurious Serbian hotels in existence. The brutalism style hotel was opened in 1969 but has been closed to visitors since 2006 when it was purchased by “Danube Riverside” for €31.3 million in hopes of revitalizing the building. The plan was to make the area that the building sits on a mixed use residential and commercial area with new twin towers, dubbed as “Project Riverside” but as of October 2019 nothing has changed. It’s still stuck in the late 1960’s.

Next up was The Palace of Serbia, which was built between 1947 and 1959 in Block 13 of “New Belgrade” as a purpose-built government building. It was designed by Mihailo Janković. The soviet style building resembles an “H” when viewed from above.

While I thought I was done for the day, I decided I had a bit more energy left in my body so I took a 45 minute bus ride to Eastern City Gate. Eastern City Gate is a complex of three large residential buildings that is very prominent along the Belgrade skyline. The complex, which was officially named Rudo, was finished in 1976 was considered one of the symbols of the city, and of Yugoslav Socialism in general. Eastern Gate was constructed from 1973 to 1976. The brutalism style buildings were designed by architect Vera Ćirković and civil engineer Milutin Jerotijević. Each building is 28 stories (85 metres; 279 feet) tall and contains 190 apartments. Sadly, today, the buildings are in very rough shape. In 2013 concrete chunks up to 60 kg (130 pounds) started to fall off the buildings. Engineers estimated that the building needed about €4 million to repair the building. The tenants and city started to collect money for the repairs, but fell extremely short at only €110000. While I was taking photos of the building I met a wonderful lady named Aneta, and her cute dog Peggy. We chatted for a bit about what life was like in Yugoslavia, a bit about the building, and I got to pet her cute puppy.

I took the bus back towards the city center and got off outside of the BIGZ building. The building was built between 1936 and 1941 in Modernish architectural style, although I feel it has some Art-Deco vibes to it. It was designed by Dragiša Brašovan. It was originally used as a printing press, and at its peak employed over 3000 workers. After the social and economic crisis of the early 1990’s, there was a lack of funding and the building became unused and neglected. By 2000 a few small businesses began to occupy the building. In 1992 it was declared a cultural monument, and placed under the state protection in 1992. In 2018 it housed printing offices, warehouses, music and art studios, night clubs, radio-stations, a cultural center, and even a circus. Numerous promises were made to repair the building, and was even involved with some scandals. In February 2021 Marera Properties and Aleksander Gradnja took over the building, started to clean the building and kicked out the existing tenants. It’s estimated the building will be fully restored by the end of 2023, but many have their doubts.

The last and final stop of the day was the Museum of Yugoslavia, which is a history museum dedicated to the period of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the life of Josip Broz Tito. Josip Tito’s grave is even located in the House of Flowers, one of the three buildings on site. The museum was opened in 1962, and was a present from the City of Belgrade to Josip Broz Tito, the President of Yugoslavia at the time, for his 70th birthday. When you walk up to the museum complex you see the May 25 Museum, the one built in 1962. It’s a beautiful example of mid-century modern. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside the museum, however I highly recommend going, as there’s a ton of things to learn.

After visiting the museum I took the bus to Angry Monk to have some ramen and a Sapporo beer, before heading back to my hotel for the evening.

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Belgium – Bruges

Today I travelled to the wonderful cute city of Bruges. Before we dive into that lets recap my evening from the night before… The power went out at around 11pm last night and I wasn’t sure if it was just my room, or the entire building. I was on the 5th floor, which oddly didn’t have elevator service so I had to walk down a narrow and winding staircase to the 4th floor. Unfortunately there was no emergency light and my phone wasn’t bright enough so I fell down an entire flight of stairs and messed up my shoulder. I made my way down to reception to conclude that the entire block was without power. The power eventually came back on a few hours later.

I woke up at 4:30am in immense pain and ended up talking with some friends until it was time to check out and take the train to Bruges. I ended up checking out at roughly 7:00am and walked about 1km to the nearby Brussels North train station. I purchased a ticket for roughly $20 CDN to Bruges. The train ride took about 1.25 hours and I got to enjoy the beautiful view of the countryside.

Upon arrival in Bruges it was slightly raining, but a very fine misty rain. I started to walk towards the old town center where I was greeted with a ton of amazing architecture. My first stop was St. Salvator’s Cathedral; a beautiful church originally built in the 10th century, but destroyed by a fire in 1116 and rebuilt in 1127. It has undergone numerous renovations since.

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The next stop was Church of Our Lady Bruges, a gothic style church built in 1280 with various additions made since.

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After that I decided it was time for some breakfast so I stopped in at The Old Chocolate House and had a butter and sugar waffle adjourned by a decadent white chocolate mocha with lemongrass, ginger, and various other spices. It tasted like a garden in a cup.

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After fuelling up it was time to continue exploring the city. I visited “Markt” the town square, which houses Bruges City Hall, Basicilia of the Holy Blood, and the famous Belfry Medieval Bell Tower. I ended up coming back to that later on to climb to the top, but more on that later on.

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It was roughly noon at this point in time and I was starting to get sleepy, so I made my way to my hotel; Hotel NH Brugge, which is a superb 5 star hotel which I received for free on an Agoda.com voucher for stays in previous Agoda properties. The cost of this hotel is roughly $300 CDN/night. I decided to nap for a few hours before continuing on my adventures.

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I decided to venture back to the Belfry Medieval Bell Tower to climb the nearly 400 stairs to the top. The cost was €12 ($17.50 CDN). The views at the top were absolutely stunning!

After climbing Belfry I walked across the street and picked up some chocolate bars and some boxed chocolates from Godiva to bring home to my friends.

I then walked across town to look at the old windmills along the banks of the river, with a quick stop at a grocery store to get some food.

On the way back I took a few beautiful pictures of the autumn colours along the banks of the canals.

2018-03-16 – Lyon

Today I woke up at 7:00am with the use of an alarm, because I knew I had a busy day ahead of me. The day started off by taking the metro to City Hall Lyon station where I saw City Hall Lyon, Bartholdi Fountain, Place des Terreaux and picked up some delicious baked goods from Antoinette Pain & Brioche. The City Hall Lyon was built in 1651, but has survive a fire, and received some modifications and restorations since.
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My next stop was Amphitheater of the Three Gauls. The amphitheater dates back to 19AD and has ties back to the Roman’s! It’s estimated that the theatre had four levels of seats, and was about 80×60 metres in size. I then stopped at a local coffee shop and had a delicious coffee with a cranberry and chocolate chip cookie.
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After the coffee shop I walked the streets in the beautiful community of La Croix-Rousse, coming across a very beautiful stairwell called Cour des Voraces. I rode Metro Line C back down, which is a pretty unique Metro line, holding the current record for the worlds steepest metro line.
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After some walking and a quick ride up a funicular line 1 the next stop was the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière and the adjoining museum. The museum showcased the history of how Lyon came to be and why there was so much Roman influence in the city. The theatre was built around 15BC, has a 90 metre radius and could hold an estimated 10000 people!
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The next stop was the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere and the underwhelming Metallic Tower of Fourvière next to it. The basilica is actually rather new compared to the rest of the Lyon, being built between 1872 and 1884. It overlooks the entire city and is decorated with some of the most beautiful art that I’ve ever seen!

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I took the funicular back town to the community of Vieux Lyon. I had pizza and a beer for lunch at La Trattoria before walking through the remainder of Vieux Lyon, visiting the also rather underwhelming Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptist). I was quite tired at this point having walked over 20km, so I went back to my hotel for what was supposed to be a 1 hour nap, that ended up turning into a 3 hour nap.
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When I woke up I took the tram to Musée des Confluences and took a picture from the nearly bridge overlooking the museum. I then went back to the base of Fourvière and took the funicular back up so that I could get some night time photos of the basiclica and a view of the city. On the way home I stopped by Brasserie George, which was literally next door to my hotel. I picked up a Princess Pale Ale, which was a delicious India pale ale with mild citrus notes.
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While drinking my beer I booked some exhibits that I wanted to see in Barcelona as they were quickly selling out. The exhibits I booked were Sagrada de Familia, Casa Mila, and park Güell. I went to bed at around midnight.

 

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