Had a short visit in Belgrade at the front and departure ends of our trip to Serbia with our intent to attend the Guca Trumpet Festival. Let me just say up front that I read through TA Belgrade forum postings back as far as they made sense. Kudos to the TA Belgrade forum experts, and especially Stoofer who has a great love and knowledge of this city. We read as many posts from him as we could find prior to our visit.
As mentioned above, our main goal for the Serbia trip was our desire to visit the Guca trumpet festival. This event has been on my "bucket-list" for a number of years.
We flew round trip Chicago-Amsterdam-Belgrade, with all flights on time, and packed full of passengers. A 4-hour layover in Amsterdam on the way to Belgrade was not appreciated, but I can understand why.
Upon arrival in BEG we hooked up with minibus A1 for the trip into town. The first coach was packed, and as we chose to not stand up, we waited the 20 minutes for the next bus.
Departed the bus at its first stop (central railway station,) and our hotel was right across the street.
We enjoyed a total of 3 nights (one upon arriving in Belgrade, and two nights before departing) at the Belgrade City Hotel. Friendly, helpful and knowledgable staff. You can read my hotel review elsewhere in the Belgrade hotels section.
After unpacking and clean up, we hit the streets. Always like to attempt to stabilize our inner clocks after an overnight flight. Our first stop was a kiosk in order to buy transit cards. We loaded each card with the equivalent of 6 rides to start.
Took tram #2 to the Skadarlija area, and walked the cobblestone streets before having dinner. Wear good shoes for this visit as the walking is difficult. I apologize for not having the name of the restaurant handy, but blame it on the jet lag. Enjoyed the mixed grill and beer. Only distraction was gypsy beggars. This is the only area of Belgrade where they seemed to be totally annoying.
Walked to Knez Milhajlova and spent some time on this fine pedestrian street just enjoying the people, and ambiance.
Got on another #2 tram and rode the rest of this circular tram route back to our hotel. I personally think this ride is a must do when visiting Belgrade, as well as a whole lot cheaper than the red bus. You could probably ride it all day, and ticket inspectors don't seem to be present on this route as they are on all the other trams.
Slept in the next morning before taking in the fine breakfast buffet in our hotel. We then checked out, stored our bags and did more sightseeing that included St Sava's temple and the Belgrade Fortress. Sat awhile in Kalemegdan enjoying a cold beer and the fine view of the junction of Sava and Danube rivers. Didn't get to Stoofers favorite bar with the same river view, but will upon our next visit.
After picking up our luggage at the hotel we took a tram to St Marks where we hooked up with the Guca.rs people for our trip to Guca for the Trumpet Festival.
Brass, beer and barbecue pretty much sums up the Guca Trumpet Festival. We stayed in a private home and our hosts were very nice. If you've not partaken of this festival, it's basically a good time and you get to hear a myriad of Serbian brass bands. As I am a trumpet player, this venue is a must see. Cramming over a hundred thousand people into a town of under 3,000 does not come without problems. I recall the town water supply went dry a couple of times during our visit.
We also ended up with an old Yugoslav 100 dinar bank note (era of 2000-2001)given to us in change while in Guca. Pretty sure the lady in the bakery passed it along ……..looks the same as the current Serbian note of the same denomination / They're blue color with a picture of Tesla on one side. A souvenir to take home, no less!
With brass bands continually playing and parading through the streets I'm wondering why the stands selling cd's had to have their volume levels pumped up to maximum. Ditto some of the bars.
We had a respite from the festival as we opted for a day trip to ride the Sargan 8 railway. This reconstructed section of the old Yugoslav narrow gauge right-of-way is a marvel of railway engineering, and well worth the time spent on a visit.
Originally we had opted for a 4-night stay in Guca, but left our remaining bottle of Rakija with our hosts and returned to Belgrade a day earlier than planned so we could enjoy the city for a full day before flying home. Walked Knez Mihajlova twice and caught the Belgrade city vibe. Also visited St Michaels Cathedral. We had our final dinner at Restoran Zavicaj located just around the corner and up the block from our hotel. We sort of stumbled upon this Serbian gem. You'll find my review in the restaurants section.
Our Belgrade visit was short, and we only scratched the surface, but saw enough that we'd like to return some day. Never had a bad meal, and the beer was always good. Prices excellent. One of my goals was to return with a T-shirt imprinted with a likeness of a Yugo, but alas, no luck finding it! Uneventful taxi ride to the airport with a totally honest driver. Very refreshing.
Again, thanks to Stoofer and the other BEG experts for the information in their forum posts. Also many thanks to the Guca.rs crew for all of their dedication, planning, and hard work that ultimately made our Trumpet Festival visit a success.