We sleep well and long and eat our breakfast on our own terrace. After the first 2 travel days and a long day of walking yesterday, I still have a lot of trouble with my ribs and we want to take it easy today so we are not going to hang around all day in the city of Belgrade. But fate decides otherwise. When we drive to the center, it is clearly a lot busier than yesterday. Then it was Sunday, now it is Monday and everyone is back to work. We drive around looking for a parking space but in the end it will take 2 hours!
First we drive a number of laps along the walls of the old fort and there is a parking lot but that also means that we have to climb 125 meters up and I do not feel able to do that. Not even when I feel good, honestly. So we drive the next round to the old center and put the navigation on parking garages. But they are all full and so we make another round along the banks of the Sava and the Danube, under the old fortress.
This is not really the beginning of our visit to Belgrade today as we had hoped for. We want to park somewhere near the old center but now drive under the fortress for the fifth time in a circle around the old center. We see several gates that give access to the fort and towers that stand alongside. The fort has almost 2000 years of history and has expanded considerably over time. But we are getting a bit bored with the fact that we only see the fort from the car.
While Teije drives around the center and starts to know the road layout of the city center quite well, I occasionally take some photos from the car. The roads that were fairly quiet yesterday are now full of cars and we cross a large roundabout a few times. Teije says that he has never experienced anything like this, not even in Cairo. It is the Slavija square and there are 4 streets crossing it but because some lanes are separated they look like 8. There are no traffic lights and about 10 lanes and you have to decide early in which lane you want to be. How glad I am that I do not have to drive, with all that traffic it's really madness.
In this way we also pass the cathedral of St. Sava, the largest church building of the Eastern Orthodox churches, a few times. Sava was the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the 13th century. In this place the saint was buried but during the Ottoman occupation his body was excavated and burned. The current church was only built in the 20th century. We can not stop somewhere, the traffic is really chaos, so I try to take some pictures from the car the few times we drive around the cathedral.Finally there are places available in a parking garage where we passed earlier, but now there is a long line ahead and after fifteen minutes it appears that everything is blocked by an ambulance. So we drive another round, we know the center of Belgrade pretty well by now and recognize the roads. Eventually we have driven around for 2 hours before we finally find a place. Our motivation to walk around a lot has already dropped considerably.
We walk around a bit through the historic center and occasionally look for a terrace because it is quite warm. We would like to visit the Tesla museum, dedicated to the inventor Nicola Tesla who has done a lot for the development of our electricity network and Teije is particularly impressed by his idea about wireless power. But all museums are closed on Mondays in Belgrade. Unfortunately, because the historical museum was also on our list, as was the Tito museum, the leader who was a dictator but also kept all population groups in Yugoslavia together during his lifetime.
I do not know why, but we make very few pictures today while we are in a city which is new for us. Maybe because we are a bit disappointed about today: first we had to drive around for a long while and then we found out that everything we want to see is closed. At the end of the afternoon we drive back to our apartment and pay with the remaining Serbian dinars we have and some additional euros for the 2 nights we have spent here. In total we have to pay € 40, so very cheap.
Tuesday 13 June 2017, from Serbia to Greece
The next morning we take off in time because we do not want to arrive too late in Greece. And we are looking forward to the border with Macedonia but it doesn't come in sight. Apparently we did not look well at the map because we thought it was right after Niš but after that city Serbia becomes quite narrows and it is still almost 200 kilometers to the border. The highway also stops and we have to travel a lot on a two-lane road through the mountains. From this road we see the work on the new highway, which is going to be very beautiful. Thanks to the EU that invests a lot of money in the European road network, also in (still) non-EU countries. At the border of Macedonia I feel fortunately a lot better than 3 days ago at the Serbian border. We are going through the customs pretty quickly, although the customs officer is being very difficult about our car papers. If we are allowed to continue, we do not have our papers back yet and we have to point out that they are still on his desk. Grumbling, he passes them through the window.
It is the first time for us to visit the country Macedonia and maybe the country will soon be called differently because Greece has vetoed the EU membership of Macedonia as long as the country does not change its name because it is afraid that it also might claim the Greek province of Macedonia. Freece is also not pleased by the fact that the country tries to incorporate the legacy of Alexander the Great. Everywhere along the highway we see large signs with 'Alexander the Great' highway and also the airport at Skopje is named after him. In the UN, Macedonia was only allowed to get a membership under the name of the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom)'.
In the distance we see the capital, Skopje, we want to go there some time but not today. Along the super-modern highway we see mainly agricultural areas and villages with more mosques than churches, although most of the inhabitants are Macedonian-ortodox. Even the Orthodox Church distinguishes itself with different names after the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The houses in the villages look well cared for but the land is mostly hand-worked, we see many people in the fields and actually no machines at all.And finally, after almost 5 days, we are at the Greek border. When the customs officer asks us in English where we are going, Teije answers him in Greek, which he has practiced beforehand, I bet. During our last holiday in Greece, almost a year ago, he decided to learn the language and this is the very first time that he can use his knowledge in real life. According to him, it is a difficult language, but of course there is nothing like practice in Greece itself and he clearly likes practising it. I am happy to know words like yes, no, thank you and please.
In Greece the road gets immediately a lot worse than we experienced in the previous countries and on the ring road of Thessaloniki it is very busy. The way to Chalkidiki is always busy, we know from experience, but we arrive safe in Paralia Dionisiou, literally 'the beach of Dionisios'. We are welcomed in Dionisos Palms by Michael and Vasiliki, the owners of the apartment where we stayed a few times last year and it is like visiting old friends. First I go to bed to give my ribs some rest, but after that we sit together for a long time.