Belgrade, Serbia is where I’m spending my fifth month of Remote Year. This is the month of travel for most remotes, including myself. I went home for ten days this month, spent three in Budapest and two more at Mokrin House in the Serbian countryside. With all the travel I only stayed about fifteen days in Belgrade and it was the same story for many Remotes. I think most of us had the same idea – this was our fifth month, we needed a bit of a break knowing that Spain was coming up next and then off to South America for the second half of our journey. This seemed like a good month to go home, visit those European places you might not get the chance to in the near future and just mentally check out a bit. Plus, we are going to be in Serbia right- it can’t be that great. The last point was where we were all wrong. Serbia is great and I want to tell you why!
The capital city of Serbia, Belgrade, is situated at the crossing of two rivers, the famous Danube and the Sava River. Its unique geographic location have caused it be the center of attention for many events over the years. It has a massive fortress on the intersection of these two rivers with the downtown area just a short walk behind it. It has a long and difficult history, even during my lifetime, and is just now starting to modernize. For instance, there are still dilapidated buildings from the NATO bombings in 1999 but there is also a new strip of new, modern restaurants right along the river. You can walk a few blocks and see only the Serbian alphabet which is almost unrecognizable to our English one but you also see many big global brands and most people speak great English. You can get a gourmet lunch for $5 or spend $20 on a fabulous steak. Its got a little bit of everything which is why I think our Balboa group loved this month so much. All of this was unexpected and it was a pleasant surprise!
The food and bar scene is much better here than I thought and we are always finding new places to hangout and have a drink or grab dinner. I’ve had wonderful Asian, latin tapas, steaks, Italian, seafood, burgers, traditional Serbian fare and sushi here. I’ve also had my fair share of laughably cheap beer, amazing cocktails, innovative craft beers and laughably alcoholic homemade Rakia, the local spirit. The dissection between old and new allows you to explore the city in more than one way which always keeps you on your toes.
The first week I was here, the weather was in the 90’s and it felt scorching hot. I went back to Charleston for a few days with their mid 80s but extremely humid weather and Serbia felt more like a brisk spring day than the summer heat I thought I felt. The city itself isn’t the most beautiful to look at. It seems to have more communist-style government buildings than grand churches. It is a very walkable city which is nice because the public transport system isn’t the greatest. It makes finding the cool spots to go more fun as you can’t just look for the hip looking building while you’re walking down the street. Instead, you have to look beyond the front door to get the vibe of the place and it is truly a don’t judge a book by its cover city.
This has been my favorite thing about Remote Year so far. Getting to explore and uncover these cities that you never hear about back home or even learn about in history class growing up. Knocking down the misconceptions I have about these countries simply because I am ill-informed. Would it be “nice” to live in Paris, London, Barcelona, Rome or Florence for a month. Absolutely, it would be great! But I’m learning more and more each month that that isn’t really what my trip is about. Its more about sharing unique experiences with our community, balancing work and life in an unfamiliar location and really striving to become your best self in a land so far from home. I think now as we end our fifth month, a lot of us are coming to the same conclusion and really trying to appreciate the wonderful places we would never otherwise visit. I will be in Europe for six months and not step foot in Italy and I am totally ok with that. Do I want to spend a few months there in the next few years – I absolutely do but I can do that on my own time. This time through, this year is about the exploring some of the rougher patches of this wonderful world! See you in Spain!
Some amazing graffiti from some really talented Balboans