Wednesday, September 17, 2014
   
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Warm welcome in the capital of cool

Serbian capital Belgrade has a lot in common with Belfast, it’s just emerged from a long and bitter conflict. But it’s also a bit of a party capital, as SHARON HALL discovered recently...

BELGRADE was recently named the new city of Cool. Also, the new New York. Oh Yeah? This is the land associated with communism. Tito – tagged as a dictator. Milosovich - a monster, tried indeed for war crimes. So Belgrade - Cool ? How?

Anyone from a city like Belfast synonymous with “The Troubles" and that ship that sank, will know well how it could be. A city emerging from recent violence certainly can't rely on a pretty face alone. The scars can give texture to a place but - Cool?

It's a three-hour hop from the UK to Belgrade, and once you are there you can leave your euro and sterling woes behind as the Serbian dinar goes a long way, so that's pretty cool for starters.

Belgrade is situated on the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. They say it's as far West you can go in the East and as far East you can go in the West so, as a gateway to everywhere, it inevitably has a violent and turbulent history. It dates back to the 4th century BC, when the area was settled by Celtic tribes, hmm, not a good sign perhaps, of a peaceful future.

The Ottoman's held it until 1878, and when Serbia got its independence, Belgrade became the capital.

PLACES OF INTEREST

(Apart from the bars, clubs and restaurants)

During the daytime, if you actually manage to see any of it, stroll along the medieval Prince Michael Street, (named for the most enlightened ruler of Serbia) and up to the city's Kalemegdan fortress which is as good a position as any to ponder the layers of history that define this place. Perched on rocks above the confluence of the Danube and Sava , Belgrade has been conquered 77 times and destroyed and rebuilt during its 7,000-year history. I began to see why this city would become famous for partying.

After the First World War, Belgrade became the seat of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and in 1929, the country changed name to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia under Tito who, strangely to us perhaps, is revered as something of a hero here, perhaps because he held the whole shooting gallery together.

To read the rest of Sharon Hall's feature on her trip to Belgrade and see all the pictures, pick up a copy of Northern Ireland Travel News...

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