01 June 2012


We really feel that we've settled in as "Belgraders"!   Of course, this is due to Rada's great generosity in allowing us to stay with her in her home.   We come and go as we feel like it but we (well, Sue) do our washing, make a mess in the kitchen (and clean up) ...... just like home, really (except that there's even  less for me to do!).   And it's so convenient, just off Bulevar Kralja Aleksandar.

Bd Kalja Alexsandar

Perhaps after being here for a few days I may be permitted to make a few observations.

The city functions well!   We feel very comfortable walking the streets - perhaps even more so than in some parts of Melbourne (not that I let that worry me when I'm walking down William Street past the Magistrates Court).  We've used the trams a lot, and the traffic seems slightly more organised than last time I was here.    However, driving still involves knowing by instinct what the other guy is going to do, and judging to the last millimetre how much room you have to get past him.
Pedestrians seem better respected.   In the past, you didn't dare cross in the path of a turning car, even if you had the green (on one occasion, I was shouted at, "You're not in New York now"!);   now, more often than not (but not always!) the pedestrian is given the right of way.   And, by the way, I like the "count down" timers on a few of the traffic lights (even if the message is that you've got 61 seconds to wait!)

There's certainly a relaxed confidence about the place, somewhat  more so than I recall from previous visits.   New infrastructure is noticeable, such as the new bridge over the River Sava (forming part of the expressway by-pass of Belgrade) and some new trams and trolley buses (although some of  the older equipment seems a bit dubious - we were on one tram that broke down, and I've seen another).  Likewise, the new trams can't run on certain routes because the track needs to be upgraded.   The first stage of a subway system is, I understand, operational (but I haven't checked it out yet).   There are a number of building sites around.

The ticketing system on public transport is easy to use.   You buy a pre-paid card (which can be topped up) and touch on as you board.   Sure, it doesn't have the complexities of the Myki system, since the system is "one fare, one ride", but from what I gather, the change over took place without hassle last February.

There's a lot of smoking, even inside coffee shops on occasion (which I understand isn't supposed to occur).  And likewise with talking on mobile phones while driving.

I haven't been following exchange rates since I've been here (nothing you can do about them!), but I have noticed that every couple of days or so we get an extra dinar for our euro at our local exchange office.   Good for us, but perhaps not so good for the prices of products that Serbia needs to import. Exchange offices are everywhere, and are happy to take Australian currency.    ATMs, pharmacies, shoe shops and of course cafes are also all over the place.

Perhaps a little off-topic, one day we noticed a line of trucks parked close to the parliament complete with slogans of protest.   The slogans were apparently fairly generic (anti-corruption etc), so I'm not sure what the specific complaint was.

We're off to Bosnia tomorrow, so I suppose we'll revert to feeling like tourists!

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