24. 3. 2018

A Photographer’s Guide Through the History of Belgrade

Although Budapest, Prague, Krakow, Dubrovnik and other cities of so-called Easter Europe have been known by travelers and vacation photographers for some time, it is still uncommon to find people willing to explore deeper into the region. Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Albania, and Bulgaria have only started to gain popularity as tourist destinations in the last 15 years when they were finally freed from the vestiges of the Soviet Union and regional ethnic conflicts.

The history of Serbia is definitely not an easygoing one. Afer so many disputes, the capital Belgrade has been trying to get back on its feet, with aspirations to become a key player in the Balkan tourist routes. Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in SouthEastern Europe. Its trajectory began more than seven thousand years ago, with marks of ancient civilizations still visible around the city – like the ones found in the archeological site of Vinca.

Visiting Belgrade is like taking a small trip back in time. To walk along its charming streets, filled with picturesque cafes, traditional restaurants, and peculiar trams, may feel as if you were sent back to the Europe of the 70s when traveling wasn’t yet mainstreamed and there were few tourists walking through nooks previously hidden by the Iron Curtain. Nevertheless, Belgrade’s history is so rich that the representations of its traces make it a great opportunity to see the experience the culture through the lens of a camera.

Kalemegdan Park & Belgrade Fortress

As the core of the city, the Belgrade Fortress, its two citadels, and the Kalemegdan Park occupy a huge area in front of the rivers Sava and Danube. The fortress has served as the main defense structure of the region until the 18th century. Nowadays, it features a zoo, museums, restaurants, cafes, and a whole lot of history. Within the walls of the fortress, the Pobednik (Statue of Victory) – built to commemorate the Serbs’ triumph in the Balkan Wars – stands on a plateau from where it is possible to have a panoramic view of the merging rivers below. It is a beautiful spot to snap a few shots, as well as one of Belgrade’s trademarks.

Kneza Mihaila

This is the busiest pedestrian street of Belgrade’s center and one of the oldest. It begins on Kalemegdan Park and extends joyfully and eclectically through shops, cafes, works of art, ancient buildings, ice-cream shops and popcorn vendors, until Republic Square (Trg Republike). It is the perfect place in Belgrade for street photography, as there is always interesting and unexpected moments to capture.

Skadarlija Street: the old bohemian quarter

This street was initially a gypsy settlement in an area outside the fortress’ walls. At the beginning of the 20th century, several taverns settled there. Nowadays, despite boasting delicious and exclusive restaurants, the movement ends after midnight.

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Orthodox Churches

Belgrade’s orthodox churches feature unparalleled architectural beauty, with beautiful, detailed domes that seem to call for a photograph. There are a few conventions to be followed in order to respect local habits, though. Women should cover their shoulders and avoid wearing shorts or skirts; while men should wear pants and take of their hats before coming in. Some of the most renowned churches are the Saint Sava, the St. Mark’s in Tasmajdan Park, and the St. Petka Chapel.

Street Markets

Like any given city in Europe, Belgrade’s street markets and fairs are a big part of the everyday life of the Serbs. They are great places to catch a glimpse of the local customs, understand what people usually consume, and how they go about preparing their meals. Most markets are varied and you can find anything from fruits and vegetables, to candy, shoes, and clothes – usually sold by elderly people who come from rural regions surrounding the city.

Princess Ljubica’s Residence

It is worth taking a stroll along this region, as it is very well conserved and one of the oldest sections of Belgrade, remembering the time when the country lived under a monarchy. The princess’ house was built in 1829, at Prince Milos’ request, and its architectural features an intriguing mix of Balkan and Turkish features.

Zemun

Zemun is the hub for those who seek to experience the nightlife in Serbia’s capital. This neighborhood was initially developed separately from the rest of the city. With the development of New Belgrade, the area was only incorporated as a part of the city in 1934. It is located in the banks of River Sava, where during the day families walk along the open-air boardwalk; but at night the bars, cafes, restaurants, and
casinos liven up with crowds of people gathering around the streets.

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