First impressions are everything aren’t they? I’m not sure how many times I’ve arrived in a town or city and had an impression that struck me immediately and gave me an idea of what to expect for the whole time there. The difference between Serbia and Romania was very dramatic. Arriving in Belgrade you immediately feel a vibe, and a very strong energy and it’s not that Romania didn’t have it but we first saw the sun here after 10 days of cloudiness and the pace seemed much slower in the region we traveled in Transylvania.
I know that most big cities have energy or a life force but it was really exciting to see it here. Now I won’t go into detail about the storied past of this region, first of all I still know very little about it, and in no way would I use my knowledge gained from the CNN as a reliable source.haha Seriously, who trusts Anderson Cooper really? It’s like having an older Astun Kutcher cover battles in Libya. When this is all over he’ll probably go to Al-Gaddafi and tells him he’s been punked!
Someone mentioned to Colleen and I a really great statement though. “It’s exciting to see a generation grow up that didn’t live through the wars”. An optimistic generation.
The Serbians were so amazing to us. Again, traveling with children really opens doors and you start to see people let down a guard. Young men who may normally keep to themselves when they walk by you will smile as your two year old does spins in the square well singing a hybrid song about the ABC’s and Frere’ Jacque. Listen to every kid song by the way, the all have the same tune and pace. Wynter tends to sing and dance a lot, like everywhere and anywhere. I love it!
We only spent a total of 6 days in Serbia, visited three towns, and had a short stay in another while we waited for a bus but it was a trip that will always leave a great impression. One that will more than likely bring us back.
I’d like to start out and mention that our budget seems off for the Balkans. When we started making out plans and considering what we’d spend on a nights stay, food and transport we were bang on, if, if we stayed in the rooms we thought we were going to stay in. After two weeks of trial and error we’ve come to realize that it’s in our best interest to get larger rooms and spend more than we planned for the comfort of a good nights sleep. So what started out at about $50-$60 a night turned into $80-100 sometimes. Just remember though, If our kids are rested and happy, we’re rested and happy. So although we could survive on basic rooms and just get small rooms we really want our little ones to enjoy this trip as well, and have some of the comfort they enjoy at home.
With that being said we found this great Bed and Breakfast in Belgrade called Vila Marija. The owner Igor and his family and staff were truly wonderful! Igor also had a three year old daughter Ana who would play with Wynter and was it ever fun to see them play together. We’ve also found that boutique hotels and B&B’s are a better fit for a family. We can put Wynter to bed and go relax in a common room, mess around on the computer and read. At a large hotel it’s not very cozy and at places like the Vila Marija we felt like we were at a friends home, I really enjoyed that. Sorry about Wynter running around so much!haha
One thing I loved most about Belgrade was the two distinct style of Architecture. It was so neat to see the former communist buildings alongside these incredibly old and wonderful buildings. My personal favorite was the Hotel Yugoslavia. I noticed it as we were driving on the bus to Novi Sad. It was so very ugly and so very ugly (yea, I said that right). I just can’t help think what it was like to commission such buildings and say, “yes, that’s a nice looking grey box, it looks great beside the other grey box’s”.
We really just bumped around Belgrade though. We had no particular agenda but just found ourselves walking the busy Knez Mihailova pedestrian street near the republic square and other random parts of town and even let Wynter destroy the zoo. We tried our best to enjoy some restaurants as well, like Frans, one of the best places to eat in the city and only a ten minute walk from our hotel, but Wynter and Keir didn’t want to stay long, they let us know by losing their minds.haha. The food was amazing but it’s such a shame to shovel fine food in our mouth.
It was such a great city and a part of me wishes we had more time there. Of course we could have but the draw of moving on to other new cities is always so overwhelming and I really was excited to see Sarajevo for the first time.
The two other cities we visited were Novi Sad and the ski town Zlatibor. I’ll get to Novi Sad in a second, but on to Zlatibor first. Has anyone seen “Hot Tub Time Machine”? I can’t explain it exactly, but the village reminded me a of a tiny Jasper town site in the 60′s. It was a very average hill, amazing scenery mind you, but people wore their ski outfits around town like they just got off the Matterhorn. The whole time Colleen and I kept wondering where they were skiing. The small hill across from the hotels was like training hill and yet it was full of skiers. We figured that must be “the hill” but we still couldn’t believe it, not too mention the one piece snowsuits they opted to wear. I love one piece snowsuits as much as the next stand up comedian but I think we’re all past that stage aren’t we?
Zaltibor is in one of the nicest regions in Serbia. Rolling hills and lush green forests make this a very popular destination for the Serbs. I jest of course about the hill being so tiny too. Being raised so close to the Rockies has made me numb to other hills aside from the Himalayas and Alps. What I can say without hesitation is that being in a mountain area is always really refreshing and we rented this great apartment called Vila Pina for 50eu that overlooked the hills.
What made it more refreshing was that we were no longer on a bus.haha Poor Wynter, who’s been a dream on the 5+ hour bus rides, has really been put to the test on this trip. She’s already put more miles on then most 2 year olds and it really doesn’t get fun for her. We do our best to keep her busy, fed and happy but I think it’s getting to her and we’d better rent a car soon and give her some fun time again.
The other place we visited was Novi Sad. About an hour and half north of Belgrade and just the coolest city. It was very much like Belgrade but much smaller. We made a day trip up there, let Wynter chase some birdies and again just enjoyed a new city.
Everything about Serbia was fantastic and although we feel internally that we rushed through it we have to remind ourselves that these countries were once a part of one large country, Yugoslavia. So really we covered one eighth the size of Texas in 6 days. I have to remind myself that because it’s hard to leave any place before I feel like I’ve really experienced it. I guess just a taste for now.
A two month trip with two children as we backpacked through Eastern and Western Europe.