An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery: Zeleni Beograd I

Posted on June 25, 2013

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How many times do I have to say that Belgrade is a superbly beautiful city before it will sink into the brains of people? Belgrade is a superbly beautiful city. Belgrade is a superbly beautiful city. Belgrade is a superbly beautiful city. Belgrade is a superbly beautiful city. Belgrade is a superbly beautiful city. Got it?

In my opinion (probably), the crowning jewel in Belgrade’s crown of aesthetic glory are its parks. They almost blow away the awfully xenophobic and misguided stereotype that Eastern Europe is grey and cold and grumpy on their own. This town is full of green areas where old folk sit on the benches and contemplate what has and could have been, where young parents stroll with their fresh-to-the-world little ones running wild, and young people sit drinking late into the night. Because if you’re asking where the best place to drink in Belgrade (or any Balkan city worth its salt that is) is, the answer is always the park. Any of them.

The most famous park, and also the most famous tourist attraction and area of Belgrade, is Kalemegdan. Sure, most people know it as the fortress, but it is a freakin’ stunning park in its own right. Rebecca West referred to it as the ‘prettiest and most courageous piece of optimisn’ that she knew, and she isn’t wrong. For a city that has seen the devastation over the centuries that Beograd has, possessing a jewel park of this magnitude and beauty is impossible to the point of unbelievable. But possess it it does, and days can be spent wandering around the green expanse, lazily sitting on the benches or taking in the grand and memorable view out onto the Danube and Sava rivers. The Turks also call it ‘Fichir-Bair’, which means ‘contemplation hill’. Apt.

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Kalemegdan is the cultural apex of the town. The vast majority of its history was played out over its green expanse. Without Kalemegdan, there is no Belgrade, and this isn’t to belittle the town at all. It is full of monuments dedicated to vital moments in the history of the nation, whether it is the big nudey statue commemorating Serbia’s victories in the Balkan wars and World War 1, the monument of gratitude to France or the various bearded busts throughout, walking through Kalemegdan is walking through the last couple of hundred years of Serbian history. Sure, the stories might range from sad to grizzly, but the views are wonderful. Pretty and courageous doesn’t quite cover.

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Complimenting this on the upper side of the city is lovely Tasmajdan Park, situated next to Ol’ Marky Mark’s Church. This delightful park was the place where ol’ Karadjordje set up his camp during the uprisings in the early 19th century that led to the birth of modern Serbia. It has recently been renovated though, thanks to the oil rich Caucasian state of Azerbaijan, which goes a long way to explain why there stands a statue of their former president Heydar Aliyev there. That always confused me, but I suppose its quite obvious really. Tasmajdan is probably my favourite park in the city centre, as its much quieter and has way better benches. Yes, that is important. It also has some pretty nifty fountains throughout, which are always nice. Either way, this is a lovely place to come and lie down and read, and another beautiful emerald in the Robotnik-held crown of Belgrade.

That’ll do for now. Next time round we’ll look closer at the joy of late night park drinking in Belgrade. The past time of kings and queens.

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