Belgrade, Serbia is an attractive city. It reminded us a bit of Italy, especially when coming from Bucharest which was more along the lines of post apocalypse. Belgrade trolleys were newer, streets were cleaner and people seemed to pick up after their dogs more. You could get just about anything you wanted on the Belgrade restaurant menus, as long as it was a variety of sausage meat with potatoes. Getting to and from Belgrade is what presented us with issues…
Flying from Bucharest to Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade was not on our list of places to visit. The beautiful coastline of Croatia was our main goal. However, the Zagreb, Croatia flights from Bucharest took us to out of the way places as layover stops along the way. Since we had already used our maximum allowed 90 days in the popular Schengen countries, stopping in Vienna or Budapest would do us no good. Using up all our 90 Schengen Days was a clear itinerary planning mistake on our part. Also, fifteen hour flights are not for us. We found we could stop in Belgrade for a few days then catch a train to Zagreb. Better yet, the train station was within walking distance of our downtown Zagreb rental.
When traveling in foreign lands we really strive to get to the airport early. We always seem to run into some unexpected situation. Getting there early relieves much of the stress. I have plenty of time to go to the terminal windows to check if our plane is at the gate. No plane in sight. I keep checking, no plane at the gate. All around us are flights leaving with what seems to be hundreds of people in line. They call for us to board, in Romanian, still no plane. All twenty of us walk down the stairs and board a bus, eventually taking us to the outer perimeter of the airport where there is a row of old propeller planes. Some have obviously not flown in many, many years. We walk up outdoor stairs and board through the back. The overhead compartments are obviously much smaller than expected. My camera backpack would not fit above. It has never been checked as baggage and I do not wish to start with Serbian Airlines. Fortunately, it fit under our seats, right next to the propeller.
When we booked the flight we had no idea it was on a WW2 vintage plane that smelled like it had once transported goats, possibly sheep. I’ve not seen goat on the restaurant menus yet. I’m studying the propeller, then it begins to thunder and rain. Even if they served drinks, I efficiently got rid of most my Romanian money. This might be a long flight.
It is interesting to me that the stewardess does the same routine about how to buckle and unbuckle a seat belt. Seat belts have been required in the States for 48 years. Seat belts are the law in Europe as well. Don’t we all know how to operate them by now? Personally I’d like her to spend a bit more time on those oxygen masks that may drop from the ceiling, things which we have never used.
We began recalling parts of the Ron White’s comedy routine about flying. He claims if one engine on a propeller plane goes out, the plane will still be able to fly all the way to the scene of the crash.
Just as happened on our previous flight from Barcelona to Bucharest, the airplane cabin passengers applaud when the wheels touch down. Another smooth landing on a bumpy runway.
Train from Belgrade to Zagreb, Croatia
After three nights in Belgrade we boarded the above train to Zagreb, Croatia for what the guidebook described as a “leisurely journey across the former Yugoslavia.” The trip took 7 hours, averaged 20mph and made 16 stops, including two at the border where we had the opportunity to show our passports to policemen toting machine guns. I really wanted to take a photo, but the iPhone wisely stayed in my pocket.
Per the guidebook suggestion we brought along snacks and beer to consume on this lengthy but scenic journey. Early in the trip, my wife’s one visit to the non-functioning toilet quelled our thirst for beer. It was reportedly worse than the toilet on the 19 hour train ride we took in China. At least that train employed a bucket lady to periodically flush the toilet. No such luxury on this train.
Upon arrival at Zagreb, the end of the line, finding the restroom was my first priority. No can do! It cost 5 kuna for entry into the restroom, guarded by some very large ex-communist enforcer woman in no mood to hear my problems. Romania uses different currency than Croatia. I just got here, I have no kuna… As best I could tell, there was no ATM in the train station. So off we
strolled briskly walked the half mile, pulling our luggage, to our Zagreb rental.
Using Google maps, I knew not only exactly the path to our apartment, but also the quality of the sidewalks. If the sidewalks were constructed of cobblestone, we would not have walked dragging our suitcases. But Google had shown me it was a wide, smooth asphalt walkway, surrounded by a beautiful park and lots of flowers.
I think we will like this beautiful city, as soon as I find a restroom. Hey look, a fountain and nobody seems to be around!