DISCOVERING BELGRADE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
The task of arranging for the participants in the 27th Annual Conference to discover Belgrade and its main attractions was entrusted by the organisers to the BTA (Belgrade Travel Agency) which organised the visits to the various destinations during the conference.
So it was that on Tuesday November 18th, after the morning spent at the opening ceremony, a sightseeing tour of Belgrade had been planned. The eight coaches, carrying around 400 people, set off to explore the city, each coach with a professional guide on board. We saw the embassy quarter, known as ‘Belgrade Beverley Hills’, the city centre including some pedestrian streets, the magnificent orthodox church dedicated to St Sava, still under construction. And, as night was falling, we had a view over the Kalamegdan fortress, the destination for the following day’s visit.
The Kalamegdan Fortress and the Military Museum
The fortress towers above the Sava which runs into the Danube, and is the strategic point around which Belgrade has developed over the centuries. This fortress, an emblem for Serbia, has seen a number of invaders march past, from the Romans to the Ottomans, and this explains the diversity of styles, right down to the Second World War bunkers! Moreover the military museum sets out in an educational fashion everything that man has invented to slaughter their contemporaries. This is all located in a magnificent park which the burghers of Belgrade understandably visit very often. Standing above the site is the statue of Victory on its column, commemorating the Serb victory over the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War.
Belgrade Mixer House and Eagle Hill
On Thursday November 20th there was an excursion to Belgrade’s ‘Mixer House’. It seems that this is one of Belgrade’s hot-spots for entertainments. You can find a heterogeneous collection of craft objects, opportunities to taste all kinds of food and drinks, and, the day we visited, a deafening brass band putting its heart into a performance.
Just beside it stood Eagle Hill, a very prestigious twentieth century block built in 1905 which has accommodated many official bodies including the Institute of Geophysics, until it was recently bought by the Emirates. On show there is a large model of the future shape of the city, and even a show-flat which will be installed in ten years time in the designated buildings.
The model is entitled ‘Beograd Waterfront’ and includes ‘developments on the banks of the Danube and the Sava’. According to the inhabitants of the Serb capital, this waterfront has the advantage of a microclimate, cooler in summer and more clement in winter than the upper part of the city.
The Belgrade Royal Palace
The icing on the cake was a visit to the Serbian Royal Palace; this took place on Friday November 21st on the Belgrade heights in an enormous park, and was a fine discovery for the visitors. Not only did we admire the sumptuous decoration of the rooms we visited, where no doubt political conversations and meetings of great importance took place; but also His Excellency the Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia and his wife came to greet the visitors without any pomp! Other visits took place at the same time, namely to the Museum of Yugoslavia, the House of Flowers and also the Mausoleum of Marshal Tito.
In a country where culture is so important it was a good idea to offer an outing to the theatre or to the opera. Moreover the person in charge of the programme was surprised at the success of the proposal when they placed the order for the tickets which they had estimated at 50: after the second day of estimating the demand they had to order 50 extra tickets! The words were sung in Serbo-Croat but the participants were delighted after seeing a performance of Wiener Blut (Viennese Blood). Some of them had even taken the trouble to obtain Wikipedia documents in advance giving the text of the libretto so that they could understand the plot better … and follow what was going on!