Holiday in the Balkans (1): arrival

What we knew as Yugoslavia from 1918 to 1992 broke up into what are now seven separate nations.  I have previously visited two of them – Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia – and on this holiday I will be visiting two more – Serbia and Montenegro – with a quick look inside next-door Albania. This will bring the total number of countries that I have visited to 77.

This holiday is organised by Voyages Jules Verne and is called Secret Balkans and I am travelling with my friend Kathleen. We flew from London Heathrow airport to Belgrade Nikola Tesla airport on the airline Air Serbia which was a flight of two hours, and since Serbia is one hour ahead of UK time, effectively this occupied the first day of our trip. 

Serbia has a population of 7 million (almost all of Serbian ethnicity) and its capital is Belgrade (1.2 million) located at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. We are staying for the first two nights at the Belgrade Art Hotel.

The travel company itself admitted in its briefing: “As capitals go, Belgrade wouldn’t rank among the beauties but it isn’t all soulless Soviet-era severity”. Let’s put it this way: it beats Bucharest but does not compare with Prague or Budapest. 

On our first evening (Saturday) in Belgrade, there were loud demonstrations against the government of President Aleksandar Vucic. These demos – called “one in five million” – have been taking place every Saturday for six months. 

We wandered down the long, cobbled street of Skadarlija which is very popular for all the restaurants and cafes which line both sides and side streets and where Kathleen and I had dinner outside.


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