Hvar is a long and slim island that lies almost perpendicular ti the Dalmatian coast. Hvar Town is the capital and sits on the southwest corner of the island. It was ruled for centuries by Venice, and it was one of the first safe ports of call for ships traveling to and from the Orient.
The town square opens onto the waterfront. It is home to the Renaissance Katedrala Sv Stjepena (Cathedral of St. Stephen). Also on the square is the Palace Hektorovic, dating from the 15th century. Stari Grad in the north part of the island was founded in the 4th century. You know I am not much for these historic buildings.
Hvar is famous for its lavender, best seen in later May and June. Lavender, honey, and agave are plentiful here.
Makarska is wedged between the Adriatic and the Biokovo Mountain. Its major draw is a long beach, now backed by large hotels. The Shell Museum here is said to be the largest collection in the world.
I am told this is the PARTY island of Dalmatia. I shall find out!!!
My cycling cruise, originally scheduled for October, was pushed to May of this year. And I am hoping Putin’s senseless war does not interefere with my plans. If you have not heard of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, it is about time you learn more about it.
From Fodor’s: If Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast isn’t already on your travel radar, you’re going to want to add it immediately. Nearby countries like Italy and Greece have long reveled in the spotlight as established European beach destinations; however, Croatia only began attracting tourists after it claimed independence in 1991 following decades of quasi-communist rule. Now, Croatia’s stunning coastline is quickly becoming a European hotspot. Picturesque Islands like Vis and Hvar offer charming harbor towns, fascinating historical sites, amazing seafood cuisine, and beaches defined by the brilliant blue water of the Adriatic Sea. To best experience Central Dalmatia, spend a day or two on the mainland in Split, then set sail for a couple of days exploring the islands. Here are some photos that will have you packing your swimsuit and boat shoes right away.
For good reason, Diocletian’s Palace stands out as the main tourist draw in Split. Emperor Diocletian built the palace in the 3rd century A.D. as his grand, seaside retirement escape. Made from local marble and limestone, the imposing structure features numerous artifacts, including three sphinxes from Egypt which are over 3,500 years old. The palace, octagonal mausoleum, and astounding cathedral remain some of the best-preserved ruins from the Roman Empire.
Šolta is the closest island to Split and, therefore, often the first or last stop for sailing adventures in Central Dalmatia. Palm trees, tavern-like restaurants, and medieval stone buildings line the island’s cozy main harbor, Maslinica Bay. On either end of the harbor entrance, you’ll find a swimming area filled with a few locals and sailors enjoying a morning dip. For lunch, head up the nearby hill to Restaurant Šampjer for fresh fish, traditional shrimp buzara, local wines, and lovely Adriatic views. Sneak around to the other side of the island for dinner at the beloved waterfront restaurant in Rogač Bay, Pasarela.
Of all the islands in Central Dalmatia, Hvar may garner the most name-recognition for its swanky summertime scene, but Vis is where the charm lies. Located further out into the shimmering cerulean waters of the Adriatic, Vis attracts fewer day-trip tourists and more of the leisurely sailing crowd. Catamarans line the bustling harbor of Viska Luka Bay, while Vespas zip past the open-air shops and cafés along up the promenade.
Roki’s, a family-owned tavern & winery, is the best place to experience Peka, an authentic Croatian dish. With Peka, usually lamb, veal, fish, or octopus, is cooked for hours in a metal dome over glowing coals.
Hvar is one of the most enticing beach destinations in Europe, and Hvar Town is the island’s main hub. Begin your experience at the 13th-century hilltop fortress overlooking Hvar Town. The relatively easy 15-minute stroll down into town affords magnificent views of the terracotta rooftops, Venetian bell towers, and glitzy multi-million dollar yachts in the harbor below. Most tourists visiting the island of Hvar stick to the main towns, Stari Grad and Hvar Town. To get off the beaten path, venture away from the crowds on an excursion exploring Hvar’s jaw-dropping coastline. The north shore, in particular, near Stari Grad, boasts electric blue water and plenty of protected inlets perfect for a swim.
Brač is home to one of the most curious and photographed beaches in Croatia, Zlatni Rat. Jutting out perpendicular to the shore like a tiny peninsula, the pebbly beach beckons sun-seekers with its unique shape and piercing blue water. Don’t set your towel out for a seemingly ideal spot at the very tip of the beach, though. The very end of Zlatni Rat is constantly changing shape with fluctuations in the tide and current. More relaxed than neighboring Hvar, Brač is must-visit on any Dalmatian Coast itinerary. Its beautiful coastline is comprised of numerous inlets, which make it the perfect island to explore by boat. Known for dramatic, rocky terrain, Brač is particularly famous for its white stone that was used to build the White House in Washington D.C.
Bol is a relaxed and charming harbor town on the island of Brač. Local fishing boats bob playfully in the marina, brilliant magenta geraniums climb across stone facades, and casual waterfront cafés offer an idyllic spot for a cappuccino. A visit to Brač should include a morning swim at Zlatni Beach followed by an afternoon wandering the peaceful waterfront in Bol. When sunset approaches in Bol, get situated on one of the café cushions atop the wall in front the harbor. Watch the sailboats come and go while the sky turns pink and the island of Hvar begins to glow in the distance. Cheers, or as they say in Croatia: Živjeli!
Most of you know Croatia is located in the Balkan Peninsula. Zagreb, the capital, sits inland in the north east portion of the country. Dalmatia, the coastal area, is where I plan to spend most of my time. Istria, on the northern Adriatic coast is the primary wine region. Croatia was part of Yugoslavia for most the 20th century, suffering from the disintegration of the Federation, until 2013 when it joined the European Union.
A native is called a Croat, rhymes with goat? They make up 90% of the population, with Serbs as the largest minority group. Sadly, most experts speculate there are as many Croats living outside the country as reside inside! (It has the greatest emigration rate after Ireland) Croats are mostly Roman Catholic, and more westernized than Serbs. And the Croats speak Croatian, a South Slavic language. The country has about 4.5 million people.
Most of the population resides in urban areas, mostly the upper arm, and along with Dalmatian coast. The new government transitioned from socialist self-management to market-oriented capitalism in the 1990s. Zagreb is the capital with about a million residents.
I intend to spend most of my time in Dubrovnik, on the Dalmatian coast, Istria, and perhaps some of the islands. Southern Dalmatia has the sirocco winds, which brings moderate temperatures from Africa.
What is Croatia famous for?
Croatia is home to the famous dog breed, Dalmatians.
English poet Lord Byron first described Croatia as the “Pearl of the Adriatic.”
Croatians use Glagolitic script, which is the oldest Slavic script.
Croatia is home to the largest truffle in the world.
A Croatian invented the mechanical pencil, called the Penkala in 1906.
Croatia has lots of islands (1185), and is full of natural wonders.
The most beautiful national park in Europe is Plitvice Lakes.
Croatian money is called the Kuna because trappers used to trade their furs.
Game of Thrones Kings Landing is the town of Dubrovnik.
Croatia invented the necktie.
The world’s first pipe organ is played by the sea’s rythmic waves in Zadar.
Croatia is the 127th largest country in the world.
Nikola Tesla was born in the Croatian village of Smiljan.
Probably the most famous Croat for wine lovers is Miljenko (Mike) Grgich, who was born in Dalmatia. He learned wine making from his father. He fled what was then Yugoslavia in the 50s, and settled in California in 1958. He founded Grgich Hills Estate winery in Napa Valley. “Grgich first gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. Then, in a now-historic blind tasting, a panel of eminent French judges swirled, sniffed, and sipped an array of the fabled white Burgundies of France and a small sampling of upstart Chardonnays from the Napa Valley. When their scores were tallied, the French judges were shocked: they had chosen the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich, as the finest white wine in the world. Mon Dieu! The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world.” I always point this out when I go wine tasting in foreign countries, particularly france (small f).
The recently shuttered Tadich Grill in San Francisco, perhaps the oldest (1849) restaurant in California, was purchased (1887) by John Tadich. He was from Stari Grad on the island of Hvar. I have probably dined there a dozen times, and often saw Willie Brown and Herb Caen eating lunch in their Wilkes Bashford suits.
So, a relatively small country has produced a rather substantial world footprint. Sounds like a great place to spend a few days?
This cycling trip has changed more times than an untrained baby in diapers. We started planning this trip in 2019, and (so far), the trip has been postponed at least 3 times!!! But it will be worth it, as my dear friends, Paul and Christina are great friends, dedicated cyclists, and great story tellers. The Dalmatian Coast is one of the best for cycling, beaches, historical sites, wine, and just hanging out. We start and end in Split, though I would love to visit Dubrovnik as well.
Split is known for its beaches and fortress like complex at its center, Diocletian Palace, erected by the Roman emperor Diocletian in the 4th century. Once home to thousands, its sprawling remains now include more than 200 buildings. Within its white stone walls and under its courtyards and galleries are shops, bars, cafes, cathedrals, hotels and several houses. Check in starts at 10:30, and the ship leaves the harbor at 1pm sharp. Here is the itinerary, in their words.
Day 1, Milna.
We depart from Split harbor at 1pm with lunch served onboard, as you get to know your fellow shipmates. We sail from the mainland and head toward the island of Brac, arriving mid-afternoon. Once we arrive at our destination we will fit and distribute the bikes, becoming familiar with the equipment ahead of our week on two wheels!
Our first ride begins as we cycle to Bobovišça, a small hamlet set on the western side of Brac just under the mountain top, overlooking the sea. You will be able to dive into the turquoise water here or enjoy a coffee. Upon return to Milna, we suggest you take a ride along the stunning coastline. We spend the night in the harbor of Milna, whose picturesque natural stone houses border the deep bay. (18 Km)
Day 2, Bol.
Today we will set off on a challenging and rewarding cycle as we explore Brac Island. This first stage begins with a climb to the crest of a hill, past stunning local flora. The white stone visible here was used to build the White House in Washington and the Reichstag in Berlin. At the 35km mark, you have the opportunity to try traditional food and wine in a local village (please note lunch is optional). The panoramic views of the neighboring island of Hvar are well worth the ascent!
In Bol itself, you can visit the Golden Horn beach (about 2.5km from the port), take a swim, or stroll through the local streets. The ship anchors for the night in Bol, with dinner served onboard. (50Km)
Day 3, Hvar.
This morning we’ll sail across to the island of Hvar, that is famous for its multi-colored fields of rosemary and lavender. On the first cycling stage you’ll make your way through the many villages on the island via paved and gravel roads.
From Jelsa, we cycle towards Vrboska and then down to Stari Grad, one of Croatia’s oldest towns (dating back to 385BC), where we will stop for a break. We continue on towards Hvar Town, passing through the villages of Grablje (known for its wine and olive oil) and Brusje. The day ends at the historical town of Hvar for an opportunity to visit the cathedral and Gothic palaces. We spend the night in Hvar Town harbor, with dinner served onboard. (23 Km)
Day 4, Korcula.
Today we will ride from Racisce – Lumbarda. The peaceful and secluded gardens of cypress trees here make Korcula one of the most beautiful of the Adriatic islands. Korcula claims to be the birthplace of Marco Polo and the name can be seen all over the island.
Our final destination is the medieval town of Korcula with its attractive narrow streets. This is where we will spend the night, with dinner being served onboard. (20 Km)
Day 5, Miljet.
While breakfast is served onboard, the boat will sail across to the island of Mjlet, also known as Honey-Island. Mljet is a beautiful island, featuring two lakes (Great Lake and Small Lake). In the 12th century, Benedictine built a monastery here in a secluded spot, surrounded by pine and oak forests. Today this area is a National Park and the high point of any tour of Dalmatia. You can cycle around the National Park’s salt-water lake, in which there is actually another island.
After lunch you are free to explore more of the island by bike or perhaps swim or kayak in the Small Lake. The ship will overnight in the port of Pomena on Mljet. (12 Km)
Day 6, Makarska.
This morning we sail toward the Peljesac peninsula where we’ll start our ride from either Kuciste or Viganj. We cycle through this famous wine growing region toward Orebic where we will have a short break and take in the beautiful countryside. On the ride back the climb is not easy, but rewards you with magnificent views of the neighbouring island of Korcula. We’ll meet the boat in Loviste where a delicious lunch will be served onboard. This afternoon, take in the Adriatic Sea as your ship cruises into Makarska for the evening, a popular town at the base of the impressive Biokovo mountain range. (27 Km)
Day 7, Split.
After breakfast onboard, we will take our last bike ride of the week. The route takes us to Radmanove Mlinice, where the “Winnetou” movies were filmed, along the valley of the Cetina river, right underneath the mountains. In Omis, you can visit the Mirabella Fortress, which offers views over the channel towards Brac island.
After lunch onboard, the ship will sail back to the city of Split, where you can take a tour of the fascinating Roman Diocletian’s Palace. After a relaxed city walk in this unique historic town, you return to your ship in the nearby harbour. (27 Km)
Day 8, Split
This morning it’s time for an early onboard breakfast, before saying goodbye to the crew and all of your new friends. Please note, it is possible for you to leave the ship as early as needed on Saturday morning to catch flights, as all ships will be in port by Friday night.
As you can see, we do not go as far south as Dubrovnik. And the maximum ride on any day is 50 Km, or about 32 miles. Many are using e-bikes, but I am undecided on a hybrid or a road bike.
So, why go on a boat-bike tour?
New perspectives, of course.
Relaxing cycle paths and roads, maybe.
Live in a fairy tale, like Snow White?
Spacious and comfortable. (No packing and repacking each day)
Discover some good wines and places to eat.
Enjoy a small group setting each night over dinner and tell war stories.
At the end of this week, my friends go on a guided tour through some of eastern Europe. I am taking a bus down to Dubrovnik and spending a few nights. I have always wanted to visit the famous walled city. This is as close as I will get, so why not go? After Dubrovnik, you might be surprised to find out where I will go. Stay tuned!
After that, a BIG surprise. Somewhere you would never expect me!
Although some tourist destinations have us saying, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there,” you’ll never say, “let’s split,” in Split, Croatia. It’s one of those few destinations you won’t want to leave. Mountains and sea meet, making for breathtaking scenery, and when you cross the Old City Wall Gate, you’re stepping back in time. The lively city on the Dalmatian Coast offers coastal boardwalks stretching into the sparkling Adriatic waters; enough bars, shops, and restaurants to satisfy even the most snobbish of gourmands; and of course Diocletian’s Palace, a 4th-century Roman monument that forms half of Split’s Old Town.
I arrive here the day before I embark on my cycling and cruise of the Dalmatian coast. I think I need to explore this city a bit, don’t you? Some of my cycling pals will be here as well, same hotel too!
I think the first stop is Old Town, filled with cafes and restaurants. Perhaps a cold beer would be the perfect introduction to Split. In fact, I also see the Zinfandel Wine Bar, another good place to stop. I love the “old towns” in most all of the cities I have visited around the world.
Split is located on a peninsula in central Dalmatia, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. The Marjan Hill rises on the western side of the peninsula, while Mounts Kozjak and Mosar stand tall on the north and northwest sides of the city. But with the maze of small streets and passages, it is easy to get lost. May to October is the best time to be here, and it is May! The strong northwest wind is called the Bura.
Split has a rich history dating back to Roman times, but it is also a vibrant town with a lot to do. Bustling cafes, Riva – a seafront promenade perfect for strolling or people-watching, charming restaurants serving fresh mouth-watering dishes, breezy beaches, historic boutique hotels, and cozy wine bars, are just some of the attractions that draw thousands of visitors to Split every year. I plan to concentrate on seafood and wine!
The Riva Promenade is where I most likely catch my cruise tomorrow. It looks like a cute little walk. And since I am on the Dalmatian coast for a week, seafood and more seafood will be available. I have my eye on the Villa Spiza for a typical Croatian seafood dinner.
The 1700-year-old Diocletian Palace, the heart of the old town, is full of cafés, cool bars, and lovely restaurants. I will be staying at a hotel in the heart of this area. Hopefully, I will meet up with my friends from Napa sometime today here in Split. And of course, the seafood and wine will be a big attraction for me. The Emperor, Diocletian (AD 284-305) was basically not a good person, torturing and executing Christians, thugh he spent most of his time in Egypt.. Yet the Peristil square is the centerpiece of the Palace.
Often referred to as the Soul of the City, Split’s Green Market, or Pazar, is located to the east of the Old Town and boasts any local fruit or vegetable your heart may desire! Row upon row of fresh produce is laid out daily for tourists and locals alike to purchase their groceries. Think dried figs, homemade olive oil, grappa, fresh berries, potatoes covered in dirt and the loveliest locals around!
Tomorrow, the cycling cruise begins. I can hardly wait, even though I am not a real cruiser. But tonight, I will meet up with my fellow cyclists and head out to Riva promenade. Don’t you just love words used in Europe like this?
I sent my cycling gear ahead, it should be waiting at my hotel. Maybe I can sneak a little “fun” stuff back to the US?
Belgrade has survived a millenia of both Attila the Hun and Slobodan Milosevic. But Belgrade knows how to party! Cafes and bars are full of young Belgradians (is that a word), maybe Serbians would be a better term? Basically, it has the Mediterranean lifestyle and vibe without the coastline. Likewise, coffee is serious business here too!
Coffee was brought here by the Ottomans in the 16th century. Obviously, it bears a strong resemblance to Turkish coffee. The first coffee house in Belgrade opened in 1522. And much like the rest of the world, at least the coffee drinking world, local roasters, like Przionica are the rage. They say the viscosity of the kafa bears a strong resemblance to Turkish coffee.
The green markets are held daily. Again, like the other Mediterranean countries, they eat fresh food here, nothing preserved or frozen. Zeleni Square, where I am residing in the Hotel Moskva, hosts the most interesting market. Homemade rakija, their “moonshine’ is sold in recycled glass jars. It is described as dangerous but delicious! Basically, it is a fruit brandy, and can be made from quince, peach, pear, or apricot. The Serbian national version, called sljivovica, is made from Damson plums, and is the most intense. Honey can be added to “soften” the blow.
For breakfast, burek is the new breakfast burrito. Believe it or not, it is sold by weight. Available in both sweet (fruit and cheese) and savory (meat, spinach, cheese, mushroom) versions, it is covered with crunchy layers of flaky pastry. And it is washed down with a liquid yogurt drink, a rather intense combination that seems to work.
Balkan cuisine is pork, and more pork, not a place for vegetarians. Mostly, the meals consist of hearty stews, grilled meats, along with salad, bread, and condiments. Many of the dishes are both Turkish and Greek influences, torten and schnitzel. The breaded pork escalope, Vienna style, is popular. Turkish baklava is also part of most menus. So, the food is rather old fashioned, but fresh and high quality.
A most curious dish is the hamburger’s illegitimate brother, pljeskavica, a Belgrade staple. The biggest are the size of dinner plates. The “burger” is garnished with pickled cabbage, onions, chili, mustard, mayo, tomato sauce, and spicy cream cheese. In other words, it is a big, wet mess.
Partying here is a water sport, meaning the bars and clubs are located on or near the rivers, the Sava, and the Danube. The permanently moored boats provide year around parting, despite what is garishly known as turbo-folk music (loud and obnoxious). Unfortunately, smoking is still tolerated almost everywhere.
Noted residents, past and present include Nikola Tesla, Atilla the Hun, Novak Djokovic, Josip Tito, Slobodan Milosevic, Jelena Dokic, and Jelena Jankovic. I guess if you cannot be a tennis player, you must end us a despot?? BTW, guess who is pictured on their 100 RSD note? Yes, Tesla, not Djokovic.
As a legacy to the Ottoman occupancy, the kafana is a traditional café, now achieving cult status among the younger people. They tend to be smoke filled dens with coffee, beer, and rakija. They also dish up Serbian classics, like pork sausage with white beans and grilled, skinless sausage.
I was told never to mention war here, since the Yugoslav wars lasted for a decade until 2001. “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” in the words of Elaine Benes and Jerry Seinfeld.
A visit to Marshall Tito’s mausoleum is obligatory. The big man rests in an aptly gigantic tomb in peaceful surrounds. Also on display are thousands of elaborate relay batons presented to him by young ‘Pioneers’, plus gifts from political leaders and the voguish set of the era. The mausoleum is attached to the fascinating Museum of Yugoslavia.
Another must do is dining at Three Hats or Tres Sesira. It is over 150 years old, and people like President George Bush and Mayor Willy Brandt have dined here. Located in the Bohemian Quarter of Skadarlija, It opened in 1864. And a live orchestra program of “starogradska” music at night. By the way, it got its name because a craft workshop by the same name was previously located here.
Belgrade, or Beograd means white fortress. As I recall, Saint Petersburg, Russia is also called “white city” for its summer lights displays. Belgrade is known as the city of gritty exuberance.
Not for the faint of heart, the Skull Tower is a giant structure in the city of Nis with over 950 skulls embedded in the walls. The skulls come from Serbian soldiers who were blown up by their own commander after being outnumbered by the Ottomans during the First Serbian Uprising in 1809. Perhaps this is where King Leopold of Belgium learned his ruthless behavior?
While the entire Serbian force was killed, the blast did manage to destroy many Ottoman soldiers while they were approaching the city. As a result, the Ottoman Empire built the tower from the skulls of the fallen rebels as a way to warn future rebel forces. It is now seen as a symbol of independence by the Serbs. Less than 60 skulls remain.
If you told me that someday I would visit Serbia, I would never believe you. And of course, now, during the war in Ukraine, Serbia is a Putin-friendly country. They have not instituted a “no fly” zone, much like Belarus.
While visiting Belgrade, why not visit the museum of their most famous citizen? Yes. Nikola Tesla (Никола Тесла) made huge contributions to electric engineering, pioneering alternative current (making long-distance high-energy transfers possible), radio (making base work for today’s mobile communications) and AC motors (widely used today, e.g. blenders, vacuum cleaners and elevators), among other numerous inventions. Half of this small museum is dedicated to Tesla’s personal effects, while the other half contains models of his inventions. There are English-speaking guides who are students from the Engineering Department of the University of Belgrade who can help you understand the sometimes-complicated science.
It holds more than 160,000 original documents, over 2,000 books and journals, over 1,200 historical technical exhibits, over 1,500 photographs and photo plates of original, technical objects, instruments and apparatus, and over 1,000 plans and drawings.
The material for the Museum arrived in Belgrade according to the decision of the American court, which declared Mr. Sava Kosanovic, Tesla’s nephew, for the only rightful heir. In 1951, in accordance with Tesla’s last wish, Mr. Kosanovic transferred all the documents and Tesla’s personal things in Belgrade.
The Nikola Tesla Museum is housed in a residential villa built in 1927 according to the designs of Dragiša Brašovan, a distinguished Serbian architect. The building was used for various purposes until December 5, 1952, when the Nikola Tesla Museum was founded in accordance with the decision of the Government of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Certain items for the museum were shipped from New York City to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, on September 7, 1951, as a result of efforts by Sava Kosanović, Tesla’s nephew and closest relative and his attorney Philip Wittenberg. Reconstruction of the Nikola Tesla Museum started on November 3, 2006. The first phase of the project was scheduled to have been complete by the end of 2006. The garden on the roof of the museum was designed to be enclosed by glass windows, which would turn the roof into a computer room. This reconstruction is now complete, and the museum is available to visit.
With gas prices currently quite high, the Tesla Auto is in high demand, at least back home. Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest inventors of the nineteenth and twentieth century. He was an Orthodox Christian Serb born in a town that is now part of Croatia, but he spent most of his life in the United States. Nevertheless, he is considered a Serbian hero by the country, and the airport in Belgrade is named after him. His inventions included the induction engine, which made using alternating current practical. Nearly every machine in your home was influenced greatly by his work.
As the institution which preserves the most abundant in the world collection of documents on life and work of Nikola Tesla, the Museum plays a significant role in providing abundant information to the researchers of history of science, inventions and patent rights as well as for environmental protection projects and studies of pollution-free energy sources.
A particular role of the Museum is the organization, support and promotion of the investigations from the history of science, which could possibly afford a better recognition of Tesla’s contribution to the development of science and engineering at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
I have thought about buying a Tesla auto, but just don’t trust its rather strange headman, Musk. He is as unrealiable as a Tonga yard worker in Maui on a hot summer day!
For a hotel in Belgrade, check out the historic Hotel Moskva. Opened in 1906, anyone who is anyone who has visited Belgrade has stayed here, from British author Graham Green to Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. It was used as Gestapo Headquarters in 1941-44. It was ideally located right in the center of Belgrade at the end of the pedestrianized main street that leads to Belgrade fortress. Immaculate rooms, friendly staff and a good, cooked breakfast.
Moskva is a 4 star hotel, and one of the oldest operating hotels in Serbia. Originally a 36 room inn within the Palace Rossiya, Moskva opened in 1908, with investment from the Russian Empire. The hotel eventually expanded its facilities to take up the entire palace. It was personally opened by King Peter I of Serbia.
Moskva is located directly on Terazije Square in the downtown core, and part of the Stari Grad municipality. It provides a wonderful skyline view of Novi Beograd, across the Sava River. Three streets intersect here, Terazije, Prizrenska, and Balkanska. There are eleven active water springs underneath the Hotel. But it is the only hotel in Belgrade without a Room 13. Most charmingly, the restaurant is named after Tchaikovsky.
This is from the hotel’s website: Welcome to Moskva Hotel, a landmark of Belgrade, one of the most important architectural gems of the Serbian capital, built in the style of the Russian secession which has been under state protection since the second half of the previous century. It was inaugurated by King Petar I Karadjordjević himself in 1908. During its over a century long history, this historic hotel has hosted over 45 million people including some famous names such as: Albert Einstein, Ana Pavlova, Leonid Brezhnev, Indira Gandhi, Ray Charles, Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt, Bernardo Bertolucci, Orson Welles, Louis Armstrong, Samuel Beckett, Jee-yack Nicholson, Tiger Woods, Nikola Tesla, Sinatra, Albert Camus, Maksim Gorky, Graham Greene, Audrey Hepburn, Thom Hanks, Jean-Paul Sartre, Kirk Douglas, Leon Trotsky, Michael Douglas, Milla Jovovich and many others. And most importantly, my buddy Dirty Pat McDermott (and Renae) from Annapolis, by way of Bucharest.
Regarding the architecture: The building was designed by Belgrade architect Jovan Ilkić and supported by architects Andra Stevanović and Nikola Nestorović. Ilkić’s design employed a Secessionist style that skillfully incorporated Neoclassical elements. The surface of the outer walls from the second floor to the roof were lined with yellowish tiles decorated with green-colored ornaments. The ceramic lining was brought in from the Zsolnay factory in Pécs that supposedly still keeps the casts it originally used to mold it. The upper part of the hotel’s façade was laid with a maiolica decorative relief titled Glorification of Russia, which depicts the Roman god Neptune. Neptune often symbolized Imperial Russia’s yearning for maritime dominance.
So, rumor has it that the hotel is haunted. This is not the first time I have stayed in a hotel rumored to be haunted. Anyone else been to the famous Mission Inn in Riverside?
Well, with this history and architecture, and my first visit to Serbia, I look forward. Maybe the ghost of Albert Einstein will instill some life changing wisdom into my meager brain? Or maybe I will end up a trumpet virtuoso like King Louis Armstrong? The previous guest list is truly amazing.
I will be here for two interesting nights. Their website makes it clear that with Russia removed from the SWIFT system, hotel business with carry on without regard to Russia.
Note: Belgrade may be postponed due to the Ukraine war. As you probably know, Putin supplies Serbia with their defense and military supplies. You know, weaponry, fighter jets, training. I would hate to miss Belgrade, but sometimes a bit of caution is required. But Dirty Pat says I must go!
Some of you out there in readership land have strongly suggested that I visit Belgrade on my way to my cycling rendezvous in Split, Croatia. So, I am flying to Belgrade from Athens. Originally, I planned to take the train from Munich and the fabulous Oktoberfest to Belgrade, Serbia. It is an overnight, with a decent layover in Zagreb, Croatia for breakfast and a little wandering. But plans change, sometime not of my own doing.
The web site, seat61.com is quite helpful when planning rail trips, particularly when going off the beaten path. Just an FYI, for any future travels, here is what seat61 suggested for me:
Step 1, take the excellent overnight Croatian sleeper train Lisinski leaving Munich Hbf at 23:20 and arriving Zagreb at 08:35.It has a smart air-conditioned Croatian sleeping-car with 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments, and an air-conditioned Croatian couchette car with 4 & 6 berth compartments.Fares start at €49 with couchette, €89 with a bed in a 2-bed sleeper or €129 in a single-bed sleeper all to yourself.You can book this sleeper at the German Railways website www.bahn.de and print your own ticket. Or you can try www.trainline.eu, which links to the Austrian Railways system and also offers print your own tickets.
Step 2, take the comfortable air-conditioned train leaving Zagreb at 11:03 and arriving Belgrade Centar station at 17:42. Fare around €30 if bought at the station. It cannot be booked online from the operators, so just buy when you reach Zagreb, it’s not a problem.
So, my bonus layover in Zagreb is no more. Zagreb is known for its cafe culture. I am certain I could have acculturated fairly quickly and easily. Instead, I will change planes in Vienna (only an hour).
But my goal here is Belgrade? Why? For one, the famous Hotel Moscow (Moskva), which appears to be about the most picturesque art deco hotel I have ever seen. And two, have the famous Moscow Mule? Hotel Moskva is one of Belgrade’s most recognizable landmarks. Opened in 1908, one of Belgrade’s oldest hotels, located on the main square, Terazije in the main downtown core.
Belgrade is old, even attacked by Attila the Hun. It is the largest city in Serbia. It is split by the Sava River into the new and old parts, though the new was built during Soviet days, with that distinct cell block vibe. The Yugoslav wars lasted until 2001, ending the pan-Slavic experiment. You may remember the repressive days of Milosevic. The enormous destruction from NATO attacks in 1999 still dominates Nemanjina Street.
The post war years have not been kind to Belgrade. Even with the promise of joining the EU, unemployment is high, and wages remain low. Political tension is ongoing, due to distrust of government, as well as the US and the EU.
On the PLUS side, Belgrade knows how to party! Despite jolly guys like Attila and Milosevic, cafes and bars remind people of nearby Greece and Italy. Or, it has been said Belgrade has the Mediterranean lifestyle without the coastline. Coffee is serious business until sundown, when beer takes over. My kind of place! Spritzes are the city’s de facto cocktail.
Back to coffee for an instant, thank the Ottomans for bringing it. It has a strong resemblance to Turkish coffee (aka kafa). The first coffee house opened in 1522! And naturally, specialty roasters have sprouted, or perked, like Przionica.
Green markets, like Kalenic are held daily. All have a flea market, and fresh produce section. Zeleni Venac has the craziest architecture, spectacular view, and central location. the only downside is not many tourists, so my sign language and big smiles will be vital.
The local fruit brandy, rakija, is at best, an acquired taste throughout the Balkans. It can be made from quince, pear, apricot or peaches. The Serbian version is sljivovica, made from Damson plums that grow here in Serbia. No sugar added, and double distilled, so it is quite strong. Many Serbs have it for breakfast along with coffee and sweetened fruits. But honey can be added to make it softer.
Belgrade burek is their version of the breakfast burrito. It is served very hot, in both sweet (fruit, ricotta cheese) and savory (cheese, spinach, mushroom, meat). The best bakery is Pekara Carli, while Europan is open 24 hours should the urge become too great.
Forget about being a vegetarian here. Pork and more pork is the name of all meals. With many Turkish influences, schnitzel, torten, and breaded pork are mainstays of Serbian meals. I would also expect hearty stews, grilled meat, and tons of bread. But I am most looking forward to their version of the hamburger, called pljeskavika. It has lots of garnishes, and ends up a big, wet mess. Sound familiar? And they have the ubiquitous thin crust pizza, Serbian style.
Serbian currency is the dinar is a bargain compared to the Euro, making Serbia quite affordable. While I do not plan to buy anything expensive, I do plan of having a great time.
On my list of things to do: The Nikola Tesla Museum, the Hooligan’s Tour and the Zeleni Venac Market. You know how much I love the local markets!
I was also told about Three Hats, or Tri Sesira. The menu seems to feature great seafood and meat. They even have a Serbian hamburger! The title apparently comes from the Three Hats dessert pancakes, with jam, walnuts and cream.
If Dirty Pat says Belgrade is a must see and do, far be it me to argue. Next to Katy (the world traveler, 365 days a year), Dirty would be next on my top 5!!!!
Wish me luck, safety, good weather, and no escalation of this tragic war.
This is my third trip to Greece in less than one year. I first visited on May 14, 2021, the very day Greece opened to tourists. Here are a few highlights worth noting for your trip to Greece.
The powerful and mythical images of Zeus and Hercules fired up the imaginations of the ancient Greeks when this stadium was built. Commissioned by the Athenian statesman Lykourgos in about 330 BC, it hosted what was called the Panathenaic Games. The facility was abandoned, however, by the 4th century AD, only to be dug up in 1869. By 1896, the place was given a total marble makeover and hosted the first modern Olympic Games, in the tradition of the games held in the time of Lykourgos. In more recent times, the venue has served as a facility for other minor sporting events. Famous musicians like Depeche Mode, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan and Black Sabbath also performed their masterpieces in this cultural site. Very inspiring to know this is where the Olympics started.
The Acropolis (of course)
This flat-topped rock near Athens is like a time capsule taking you back to the 500s B.C. The main entrance to this site takes you to the Propylaea, an impressive colonnaded entryway flanked by marble buildings. The nearby Temple of Athena Nike was once dedicated to the Greek goddess of war, wisdom and handicrafts. It was given a facelift back in 2000 and is now in a condition that would have made the goddess smile had she really existed. After passing by this place, go to the complex where the temple called Erechtheion is and you will get to see the caryatids. These sculptures of beautifully dressed women serve as columns that support a big porch. It is a great walk from Plaka up to the Acropolis, slightly uphill, passing by some interesting places.
If Athena were real, she would be smiling down from the multiple column ruins of the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to her. Many people flock to see this religious site dedicated to Athens’ goddess of war and handicrafts. Many businesses offer half-day tours of this magnificent structure along with nearby landmarks like the Dionysos theatre, Sanctuary of Asclepios (god of healing), a temple called Erechtheion and the Acropolis Museum. The museum features Greek-made statues, decrees of the Public Assembly of Athens and other artifacts dating back from the Hellenistic and ancient Roman times. You can do the “Cliff Notes” version like me, or spend the entire day here.
Monastiraki Flea Market
This market in Athens is a treasure trove of items that will make you remember this ancient Greek capital. Majority of the shops in this area caters to tourists so you can be sure you’ll find some interesting and notable souvenirs. Handbags, gadgets, musical instruments, artwork depicting Santorini, antiques, furniture and books are only some of the wonderful things you can find in this merchants’ paradise. Located at the heart of the city, you can almost see the thinkers Plato and Aristotle walking by to feed their curiosity for things more material than metaphysical. Mostly junk but interesting if you go just once!
Nestled in the shadow of the Acropolis, Pláka is one of the oldest and most scenic parts of Athens. The Pláka and Anafiotika neighborhoods are also home to historic structures such as the Tower of the Winds and the 18th-century Doorway of the Medrese. Even a stroll down the streets in the lovely Anafiotika neighborhood will give you a glimpse of unique Cycladic houses, which are painted a brilliant white and covered with bougainvillea. Needless to say, Plaka is my favorite neighborhood, and I spend most of my time here.
Changing of the Guard at Syntagma Square
Changing of the guards ceremony at Syntagma Square is a must to watch for the travelers to Athens. Behind the Greek parliament building, Presidential guards march to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every Sunday at 11 am for the official changing of guards. It is a treat to watch the Presidential Guards who are known as Evzones marching in their special white uniforms every Sunday. The unofficial changing of guards takes place every hour daily. I have seen the changing of the guard in many places, East Berlin, Buckingham, Kremlin, but this is the strangest and perhaps most entertaining of all. I won’t tell you why, you just need to see it for yourself!!!
Come early to watch the produce and fish being unloaded. There are a ton of Greek specialties, like olives, halloumi, and feta for sale here. It’s one of my favorite places to wander, people watch, and sample the local delicacies. It’s open every day of the week except Sunday, from early morning until late afternoon (it gets very crowded around lunchtime so arrive early). If you have an appetite, stop at Diporto to eat. The restaurant has no menu so they serve whatever they cook for the day. The owners barely speak English but the food is excellent! I always visit the fresh markets in every city I visit! And this one is the most fun. I bought a fish and some locals grilled it for me in their apartment!
But it is the people here who make Athens and Greece special. Apart from being adopted by my three Greek brothers, the friendliness of Greeks is most welcoming and memorable. I told you how some locals grilled my fish for me and invited me to dine in their apartment. And my friend Kostas in Santorini who arranged a special wine tasting excursion for me. Don’t forget my bottomless carafe of wine at Liondi each evening. I have yet to mention the food!
Leaning the Metro system is easy, and can be used for the airport, as well as tourist sites and the port in Piraeus. Mastering a Greek menu is relatively easy compared to Russia, Poland, or Japan. And in May and October, the weather is great and fewer tourists abound.