Belgrade is a city in progress. Serbia’s past is a troubled one and many things have been left unfinished. Its capital is no exception with monuments and sights being only hollow gems. That doesn’t mean its a place worth skipping, the things undone have their own charm. Instead of pretension, Belgrade’s heart is exposed as the work in progress it is. To think anywhere else is different is an illusion.
The Church of Saint Sava‘s exterior is easily the most iconic view in the city. The black and white arches offset with verdigris are stunning. The church is dedicated to Serbia’s most famous saint and is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world, a massive and impressive beauty.
But it is all quite literally a facade. Step inside and discover the cathedral’s secret: it is unfinished. Only the exterior and a small crypt are completed. The inside is a hollow and hallow monstrosity. There is a small area where worshippers can kiss the icons and light prayer candles. But aside from that, the main hall of the church only has concrete and scaffolds to offer.
Among other unfinished things are the National Museum which has been closed for renovations for years and further construction on the eye-catching Ada Bridge. But growth looks good on the city and only adds to Belgrade’s youthful vibrance.
As for things fully constructed, Belgrade Fortress dominates much of the old town. Walking around in the sweltering summer heat is ill-advised as the shade in the park is sparse. It is a great place to get beautiful views of the rivers and buy (or at least admire) trinkets sold along the promenade.
For further street views, Skadarlija Street offers cute views. It is often touted as one of the most Bohemian streets in the world, despite being nowhere near Bohemia. It’s a great place to chill: in the morning with a Turkish coffee and later plum flavored šljivovica. Enjoy all with an absurd amount of grilled meat.
Serbia is a bit of an off-the-radar destination, but if you can get yourself there, it has a lot of interesting things to offer. For me it was a short stop along my path from Budapest to Macedonia, but I’m very glad to have stopped and experienced it for a while.