Our plane to Belgrade was small, and half-full at that. We landed at Nikola Tesla airport, whose namesake I had been receiving lectures about since Moldova. My dad emphasized that, in our time in Belgrade we HAD to go to the Nikola Tesla museum. I never objected, but regardless he kept making sure I knew how important it was we went to the Nikola Tesla museum. Physics was never my area of expertise and while I know Tesla was important to modern technology, I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe we’d find out on the tour the following day.
With a small flight, our immigration process took record time, and we were catching a bus downtown in no time. When the bus left us near the train station, however, we still had a 10-15 minute walk to our hostel, which proved difficult in the steady snow but we persevered.
The hostel was nice, and upon checking us into our room receptionist poured us each a cup of honey-sweetened rakija from a label-less Sprite bottle to celebrate our arrival at the hostel. We drank happily and were ushered to our room. The hostel had a pub crawl scheduled for that night, but since I am a boring person I chose to do my homework and sleep, being hours away from finishing my first online class of the winter term.
In the morning, we trekked through the snow to the city’s central park, which is almost entirely enclosed by fortified walls, originally constructed in the 6th century and rebuilt in the 15th. Deep in the the fortress, hidden by walls and snow, sits the Ruzica church, another small Balkan congregation of the many we have come across, seemingly only inhabited by sole caretakers in the visiting hours. A lady with a mop follows us around as we get warm and observe what we can in the religious darkness, our eyes falling upon the centerpiece of the church: two chandeliers crafted from leftover ammunition shells from the first World War.
After, we go on what amounts to a tour of churches in the city. Further downtown, we find another Orthodox church, this with beautiful paintings depicting scenes from the bible on every wall and section of the ceiling, and we actually get to witness a couple of artists working. Finally, we check out another church before arriving at the Tesla museum. The museum’s exhibits are almost entirely guide-operated, and we perform electricity tricks like striking our hands with lightning and turning on light bulbs with charged hands. I still do not “understand” physics or why we are not getting electricuted, but we have a pleasant time and the film before the tour gives decent enough insight in Tesla’s life.
We ultimately decide to catch an early bus to Sarajevo, fearing that we may be stuck in Belgrade if we go later due to cold weather and slippery roads. En route to the bus station we see the Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building which was bombed by NATO in 1999 to end Milosevic’s abuses against the Albanian Kosovars. The building has still not been repaired, though the government wants to do so once they get the funds. Before our bus, we get lunches of pastries filled with cheese, meat, and mushrooms, and buy some snacks for the road. When we depart the bus station I am happy to see that there are only half a dozen riders, and I get the entire back row to myself as we drive through picturesque, snow-covered mountains to Sarajevo.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.