In the city's main square, we had an Italian opera recital. I'm pretty sure it was an Italian Tourism promotion. But it was very near the Belgrade Opera House, so I expect they thought they could drum up some business among the Serbian opera fans.
The short visit to Belgrade, Serbia, as part of our Viking River Cruise, was a bit unsatisfying. To get to the bottom of Belgrade, one would need a lot more time.
For on the surface, it's gray. Even on a sunny day, the city doesn't offer itself up easily. We ate in a recommended restaurant, we toured the Opera House, we heard Italian opera on the street, and we saw the huge new Saint Sava (the patron of Serbia) church under construction.
We also saw the ruins of the Serbian defense ministry building, which was bombed by NATO in 1999 as part of an air campaign to dissuade the former Yugoslavian government from pursuing its policies of crushing opposition in Kosovo.
But as the Opera tour guide said, Belgrade has been extensively bombed multiple times since the early 20th Century. That leaves a mark not only on the physical ambiance of a city, but also on its more subliminal aspect.
Yes, Belgrade will require more investigation. The question is: what are we looking for?
The outside of the enormous Saint Sava cathedral. Looks better from this angle.
The inside of the Saint Sava cathedral is about 99 percent gray formed concrete. According to the guide, it will eventually all be covered with mosaics. He said it will take a long time, “like the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.” Take my word for it, this will never be the Sagrada Familia.
The confluence of the Danube and the Sava rivers in Belgrade. The crossroads nature of the location of Belgrade has made it a location worth fighting over for centuries. Unfortunately for the Serbians.
Guns left from about two centuries of wars line the walls of the Belgrade citadel. There are lots more of these all around and above the walls. A grim reminder of what's gone on here throughout history, and even recently.
The Saborna Church wasn't on the tour. We blundered into it ourselves on our walk back to the boat. It was small, but beautiful. More so certainly that Saint Sava, which, if you ask me, is being built to glorify Belgrade rather than its patron.
Get all our travel tips delivered to your inbox
Subscribe to our email newsletter
Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription.