I Heart My City: Maja’s Belgrade

18 May

View of old town of Zemun. (Photograph by Patrick Donovan, Flickr)

Maja Simov was born and raised in Belgrade. In addition to being an environmental consultant, she’s a Belgrade spotter for Spotted by Locals — a series of blogs, city guides, and iPhone apps with up-to-date tips for 41 cities in Europe. Maja says she loves her home city because of the contrasts borne from its long, unique history. If you’re traveling to Serbia’s capital city, you should probably read this first (and check out Maja’s photo blog about Belgrade).

Belgrade is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is the Beton Hala waterfront strip.

When I crave pljeskavica (minced pork or beef), I always go to Mara.

A supermoon illuminates the Ada bridge and the Sava River. (Photograph by Milutin Milosevic, My Shot)

To escape crowded and touristy places in the Old Town I head to Moment Cafe, a center of the Vracar world.

If I want to get food for the soul I go to KC Grad, the most active cultural center in the city.

For complete quiet, I can hide away in Hyde Park.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with the statue of the Victor, one of the city’s greatest visual symbols.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from Campo de Fiori it has to be the Prugna pizza (dried plum, bacon, onion, and gorgonzola).

Railroad tracks in Kalemegdan Park, Serbia. (Photograph by Dmitri Kruglikov, Flickr)

Supermarket is my one-stop shop for great gifts and home accessories.

Locals know to skip hyped places in the city center and check out the neighborhood of Vracar instead.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to lunch at the budget Hotel Royal restaurant or head to Kalemegdan Park to watch the sunset.

For a huge splurge I go for a lot of sushi at the IKKI Sushi Bar.

The exterior of the Kalemegdan fortress. (Photograph by Oscar Cuadrado Martinez, Flickr)

Photo ops in my city include Kalemegdan fortress and the best vantage points are views towards the old town from the Branko’s Bridge.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Keith Richards – “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”

The most random thing about my city is that “Belgrade is the ugliest city in the world in the most beautiful place in the world” (at least according to Le Corbusier).

My city has the most generous men.

My city has the most idealistic women.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves inline skating around the Ada lake or riding a bicycle from the Old town to Zemun.

My city’s best museum is the Nikola Tesla Museum, which is dedicated to the art of invention.

Pedestrians stroll along the Sava River. (Photograph by Maja Simov)

My favorite jogging/walking route is the right bank of the river Sava, 6 km long, starting from the sport center MGM and ending just before the Ada lake.

For a night of dancing, go to Club 20/44 (actually, it’s a boat). Or, for live music, check out the Ptica jazz club.

Sarajevo (the restaurant, not the city) is the spot for late-night eats – try their burek (pastry).

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the Yellow Cab website or pick up a free “City Magazine” in a café or bookstore.

You can tell a lot about my city from wandering the narrow streets of Dorcol.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they’re nostalgic for old Belgrade and know at least one story about “what had been here before it was demolished.”

In the summer, be sure to spend some time on a brodic boat. (Photograph by Maja Simov)

In the spring you should go to Zemun in Old town and have lunch at one of the fish restaurants on the Danube.

In the summer you should spend most of your time on the river, preferably on a Brodic boat.

In the fall you should take a stroll around Ada Lake. It’s all yellow then and not crowded like it is in the summer.

In the winter you should ice skate in Pionir, then have a hot chocolate with rum or mulled wine at Kafe Galerija in Zemun.

A hidden gem in my city is Savamala, a neighborhood that has sunk into oblivion, hidden among heavy trucks. If you can endure the noise, you’ll find more than ten hidden bars and clubs here.

The entrance to Kafe Galerija. (Photograph by Maja Simov)

For a great breakfast joint try Monument on Cika Ljubina street.

Don’t miss the October Salon, a visual arts festival, in October, and the Belef festival in July.

Just outside my city, you can visit the Avala mountain. It’s a nice forested area and, for those who like climbing towers – there is one that is 200m (656 ft) high.

The best way to see my city is by walking. Belgrade is not a very bicycle-friendly city.

If my city were a pet it would be an adopted stray dog — a bit rough, but with a big heart.

If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live in the Scottish Highlands.

Brave Savamala’s traffic and noise to find hidden gems. (Photograph by Maja Simov)

The best book about my city is The Claws by Marko Vidojkovic. It depicts Belgrade in the 1990s, with political protests against the totalitarian regime and the lives of people in their 20s.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is ”Ulicni hodac by Partibrejkers. That’s the real Belgrade attitude.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss Ada Ciganlija.

A graffiti on a freshly painted wall writing “Dzaba ste krecili” (“You painted for nothing”) could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it’s quirky and full of contradictions. It’s a mixture of Turkish, Austrian and Communist influences, was open to the West during the Iron Curtain era and heavily isolated after the Berlin Wall fell, and it’s much more than a cheap party city as mediocre guidebooks would have you believe.

I Heart My City: Maja’s Belgrade

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