Originally we were going to spend a few weeks in Israel. When we were planning our trip Danielle insisted that we needed at least three weeks (though according to her four would have been ideal). But after two weeks of touring the New Jersey sized country, we decided, like we always do, it was time to go somewhere new. I had been obsessed with visiting the Balkans and Danielle really wanted to go to Greece, so after a bottle of wine and a call to my airline we had yet another three-week adventure planned. A ticket to Athens with enough time to visit Albania and Macedonia as well. And the kicker? A 16-hour layover in Belgrade.
We got off to a rocky start. We missed the last train to Tel Aviv by approximately two seconds, and since it was a holiday they told us there would be no more trains and we had to take a taxi. And no refund for our tickets, the office was already closed. $70 dollars later (ouch), we made it to the airport, only to endure the excessive questioning of security officials on our way to the ticket counter. Standard procedure, but our passports are full of visas from Muslim countries, so it took a bit longer.
At the actual security counter Silvia got through with little problem, but as my bag went through the X-ray machine I began to receive some suspicious looks. Phone calls were made and suddenly I was being introduced the very serious (yet strikingly handsome) head of security. The questions started.
“Why are you in Israel? How many times have you been here? Do you speak Hebrew? A little Hebrew? Where did you learn? Who taught you?”
I was starting to doubt myself. Had someone planted a bomb on me? Was I going to be able to board the flight? Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to take a half-eaten container of cottage cheese on the airplane? After about five minutes, the man looked at me and sternly said,
“You have a knife in your bag.”
Whoops. Suddenly my genius idea of always carrying around a butter knife (so useful for cutting tomatoes and spreading hummus!) seemed much less genius. On the other hand, you can be sure that Ben Gurion’s airport security is always on point. Ultimately I had to forfeit my knife but was allowed to pass. Phew.
We arrived in Belgrade’s city center around 11 pm and would have to leave at 11 am the next morning. I know what you must be thinking: sounds great, that’s just enough time to get a good night’s sleep in Belgrade!
We had heard that Belgrade has a great nightlife, so I contacted fellow blogger Megan Starr for advice, and she immediately put us in touch with Nate and Phillipa of Yomadic fame, who generously offered to host us for the night. Not only are they currently based in Belgrade, but they actually run tours of the Balkans, so we could not have asked for better hosts!
Even though it was already late on a Tuesday evening, we set out with Nate and Philippa intent on seeing as much of Belgrade at night as we could.
Our first stop was Bigz, a semi-abandoned, graffiti-adorned former printing press, which houses the Čekaonica jazz bar on its top floor. Unfortunately it was closed by the time we got there but enjoyed the urban art, and definitely plan on returning when we’re next in Belgrade.
Don’t worry, readers, we eventually found a bar that was still open. And met Belgrade’s fattest pup!
We spent the night talking to Nate and Phillipa about Belgrade, life and traveling. Basically they’re living the dream and we’re inspired.
By hour six, it was safe to say we were slightly obsessed with Belgrade. We ended our night with pizza and crepes, unable to make a decision because after Israel, everything just seemed so cheap!
After a morning run to a local bakery to pick up some meat pie, we sadly had to return to the airport. We’ll see you again soon Belgrade!