The plan this morning was to wake up in time for the 11:00 City of Belgrade walking tour. I managed to wake up at 10:48, just in time to see the French-Canadian woman leave the dormitory room and rush off to the walking tour. I didn’t feel like hurrying myself, so I decided to skip this tour and instead join the four Londoners (the one from Athens and the three from University) for the Underground Belgrade walking tour at 15:00 – I am glad I did, because we had a lot of fun. Anyway, I showered, dressed, and got ready for the day. I went down to the common area in the hostel and made myself a cup of tea, but then the two London women decided to head out and see the Belgrade Fortress before the tour; so I took several sips and then dumped the tea out to join them, the Romanian Londoner, and the Londoner now living in Athens. We then walked toward the fortress. We reached Kalmegdan Park and then entered the fortress through the Outer Istanbul Gate; we then walked to the Inner Istanbul Gate (next to the clock tower) and looked at the military artillery and armor pieces (from Serbia’s past) on display. We entered through the gate and then walked to the outer wall of Belgrade Fortress, where we were given a nice view of the Great War Island, New Belgrade, and Zemun, off in the distance. The Romanian, olive skinned Londoner, and I hung out on the wall for a while before meeting up with the two other Londoners. We then walked to St. Petka’s Chapel, near Ružica Church, which has a spring whose water is supposedly beneficial to women. We entered inside the chapel, looked around, and then walked on to Zindan Gate and the Belgrade Zoo. We had no plans on actually visiting the zoo, but we became entranced with a male peacock strutting his stuff; we then saw a woman press a buzzer and enter in to the gate; we did the same and were granted access in to the zoo (never mind that this was not the visitors entrance and that we never paid for an entrance ticket); after watching the peacock for a short while, we moved on and saw a family of otters, many birds, a giraffe, gazelles, ostriches, zebras, a leopard (with only a chain-link fence between us and him – yes, I stuck my fingers through the fence for fun), lions, elephants, kangaroos, wallabies, etc. The zoo had an impressive amount of animals, but some were given such a small area, it was a bit depressing. At this time, it was 14:30, and it was time to rush to Republic Square for our 15:00 Underground tour. We hurried to the square, but did buy some drinks and snacks along the way.
We made it to the square just after 15:00 and found the tour guide, a beautiful young Serbian woman. We introduced ourselves, waited to see if anyone else showed up (an American guy and a Portuguese guy said they would join us, but they never showed up), but no one did – it was just the five of us with our tour guide. We then walked down the pedestrian street, back toward the Belgrade Fortress. We stopped at a bakery on the way to fill up our stomachs and I had two hot dogs wrapped in dough. Continuing on, we reached Kalmegdan Park, passed by the Monument of Gratitude to France, and then entered through Karadjordje’s Gate and the Inner Istanbul Gate. We then walked to a door to an underground bunker that was built there in 1948 AD for two antiaircraft guns designed to help defend Yugoslavia against a possible USSR attack (Stalin and Tito were not the best of friends despite both being communist dictators; in fact, we were told that Stalin had sent many assassins to kill Tito (all of which were caught) and finally Tito sent a letter to Stalin telling him to stop and, if he needed to, he would only have to send one man to ensure Stalin was killed). We entered inside the bunker and walked through its corridors, visiting both rooms that once had led to the antiaircraft guns, now since removed. After visiting the bunker, we walked to the “Roman Well,” which was actually built in the eighteenth-century AD as a cistern by the Austrian Empire and is modeled after St. Patrick’s Well in Orvieto, Umbria. We looked down the well and tested the distance with a coin (it’s pretty deep, I guess). After visiting the well, we walked to our next stop. We exited the Belgrade Fortress and walked down to an old Austrian Gunpowder Storehouse that was built in the eighteenth-century AD; this storehouse is now useless to store munitions, thanks to the humidity, and at one point, just after the fall of communism, was used as an underground night club; it ceased functioning as a night club after several ravers seriously injured themselves and after part if the second room (which we did not tour) collapsed after one of the supporting columns failed (luckily no one was inside when this happened); now, the one open room of the old storehouse is used to display Roman funeral stelae, votive altars, and sarcophagi. Also, the corridor leading to the storehouse had many creatures from Serbian (or Balkan) mythology on display; these were all demonic creatures and boogeymen and some were very creepy and interesting (it reminded me of the disturbing monsters in the Brothers Grimm fairy tales). After touring the old gunpowder storehouse, we walked south, to an underground wine bar off of Karadordeva Street. Here our tour ended and, sadly, our guide had to leave us to make an orthodontist appointment. The five of us drank a bottle of Serbian red wine (not sure what grapes were used to create it) that was very sweet and tasted of plums; then the Londoner who looks like a blonde Jessica Biel had to leave us. After we finished the bottle of wine, the remaining four of us walked out to Branko’s Bridge to see the view of the fortress and the city (it was very windy up there and I was glad when we walked back to the city, especially since I didn’t have my jacket with me today). We then walked back toward the pedestrian street, passing by Princess Ljubica’s Residence and the “?” restaurant (the owners couldn’t decide on a name and so left it as a question mark). Once at the pedestrian street, we decided to eat at the same restaurant where I had my first dinner in Belgrade. This time I had black tea with milk, bruschetta pesto, a mojito steak (seasoned with mint leaves) on a bed of salad with garlic bread, water, and some artisanal bread. After dinner, we walked back to the hostel, although the Romanian guy and I stopped at a convenience store to buy a bottle of wine each (I also bought some Gouda cheese and chocolate).
We then returned to the hostel and the Romanian opened his bottle of Chianti, which tasted of green peppers and blackberries. I opened the cheese and had some with the wine. Later on, as the Londoner from Athens was leaving, we all said our goodbyes and wished him well. Then, just as we were finishing the Chianti and I had opened the bottle of wine I had bought, everyone in the common area were leaving to follow a group of Serbians (two guys and a couple) to a Serbian restaurant for drinks. Not wanting to be left out, I shoved the cork back in to the wine bottle, grabbed my jacket, and went out with the four Serbians, a man from Oklahoma, a Canadian woman, the French-Canadian woman, an Englishman, the Romanian guy, a German man, and an Aussie man. We followed the Serbians to an underground restaurant and were seated at a large table. We then ordered beers and proceeded to drink and converse while a Serbian band (with an accordion, guitar, and a bass) played on. I talked mostly with one of the Serbian guys for a while, before we then decided to move on to a night club. We walked to a nearby club first, but it was closed; so we walked toward Republic Square and took two taxis to the Mr. Stefan Braun Club (located near the Main Railway Station); at this point the Serbian couple and one of the Serbian guys left our party. We reached the club and tried to find an obvious entrance, but there were no signs, finally, the remaining Serbian guy arrived on his motorbike and escorted us inside, through security (which had about five guys, mostly jaw-jacking, a metal detector, and a pat-down – this is strange, since Belgrade really doesn’t have much violent crime), an then up to the fourth floor, where the club is located. Inside, there was loud pulsating music (I think my heart skipped some beats due to the shockwaves of the music), girls dancing on the bar (there was no actual dance floor, so I guess they had to make do with what they had), and a man making balloon animals, flowers, and penises while also performing bar tricks. We found a spot in the crowded bar and drank some beers while dancing in one spot. The Aussie man was really getting in to it and having fun; I, on the other hand, tried my best to really enjoy it (which to some extent I did), but I realized a while back that the only way for me to really enjoy places like this was if I took a hammer to my head and pounded away at my skull until I heard a “crack” – or if I drank myself stupid like most of the young patrons here. Anyway, I stayed with the majority, even after the Serbian man and the Oklahoma man had left, until after 04:00, when we decided it was late enough. We then left the club and – each of us being very hungry – bought many slices of pizza at the pizza shop at the bottom floor of the building (I had three enormous slices ham, cheese, mushroom, and cheese (there was a lot of cheese) pizza). Once we all ate our food, we took two taxis back to the hostel. I ended up in the taxi with the Aussie man, the Canadian woman (not the French-Canadian), and the German man. Well, this taxi driver was like most in the world and had set his meter to an accelerated rate; the price, back at the hostel, ended up being nearly four times the amount we had paid to get to the club and we had covered almost the same distance. We called the taxi driver out on this and told him he was cheating us; he finally got angry and told us to get out of the cab; the Aussie man tried to give him something for his service, but the taxi driver wished to be something he was not (a gentlemen) and refused our money, trying to make us feel bad for not going along with his scam. After that asshole drove off, we talked with the group from the other cab and they ended up paying the entire cost of the meter, which also turned out to be nearly four times the actual price (probably another reason why our taxi driver had left – he could split the money from the other driver); the next day, we found out the Oklahoma man had paid a fair fare – the same that it cost us to reach the club – when he made it back to the hostel. Anyway, it was now 06:00, the sun was coming out, and I still had a lot of energy. I stayed up listening to music with the German guy (who had a train to catch in a couple of hours) and I drank the bottle of wine I had purchased earlier; it was a bottle of Serbian Cabernet Sauvignon that tasted of blackberries and cherries. I ended up staying awake until just after 08:00, when I became very sleepy. I then went to bed after a long day/night/morning.