I am back in Belgrade. I mentioned in my previous post that I was planning to go there. The main reason why I decided to leave London for a period of time is because I think that the situation in the UK is much worse than in Serbia. I also think that the situation in the UK will not improve any time soon. Profound mistakes made by an incompetent UK government at the start of the epidemic are not easy to rectify. However, it’s not only the epidemic, it’s also Brexit and the forthcoming chaos that will engulf the country once the transitional period ends at the end of this year. I don’t think that anyone in the UK is prepared for what’s coming once the UK is fully out of the EU.
But, I don’t want to talk about Brexit in this post. Rather, I would like this post to be an introduction to future posts about my stay in Belgrade.
Over the past 30 years, I’ve been to Belgrade many times. However, this will be the first time in 30 years that I’ll stay there for more than 2 weeks. In fact, I will be in Belgrade for three months. Perhaps, I’ll stay a bit longer, I will see. Right now, it’s almost impossible to make any long term plans, it all depends on what’s going to happen with the coronavirus epidemic.
TRAVEL IN THE TIME OF CORONA
A lot of people may think that it’s not wise to travel at the moment, while the coronavirus epidemic rages across the world. I agree, to an extent. But, I also think that the life can’t stop simply because this can last for a long time, while we all have things that we need to attend to. Or, we may simply need a change.
In my case, as I am both British and Serbian, I can be in either of these two countries. When I decided to come to Serbia, it seemed that they had almost conquered the epidemic. The Serbian government re-opened everything and the life went back to some relative normality. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and there is an increase in new coronavirus cases in Serbia now, hospitals are full again and a lot of people are dying.
Nevertheless, I still think that the situation in Serbia is much better than in the UK. As I mentioned in my previous posts, there is no end to the epidemic in the UK. Additionally, the negative economic impact will fully show in the coming months, when a lot of currently furloughed people lose their jobs.
TRAVEL TO HEATHROW AIRPORT
While I looked forward to my travel to Belgrade, at the same time I was a bit apprehensive. Of course, it’s normal for everyone to feel apprehensive at the moment. I didn’t know what to expect and how my journey would go. As you will see, it was almost flawless. In fact, it was one of the easiest trips that I’ve ever made in my life because there were very few people around.
I live in West Kensington in London and the best way for me to go to Heathrow is by tube. I normally take Piccadilly Line from Barons Court, the journey takes approximately half an hour.
It was my first travel on the tube since December last year. Despite the fact that I am fully aware of an ongoing epidemic in the UK, I wasn’t really prepared to see the eerily empty Barons Court tube station. That station serves two tube lines and it’s normally busy, there is always someone on its platforms.
But, as you can see in the photo below, there was no one this time. I was the only one there.
The Piccadilly Line train that I caught was nearly empty too. When you see all this, in a big city like London, it makes you think and you become fully aware of an impact that the coronavirus has made on all aspects of people’s lives.
AT THE AIRPORT
Heathrow Airport has 5 terminals, but only Terminal 2 and 5 are currently open. The air traffic dropped so much that there was no need to keep all terminal buildings operational. My flight was from Terminal 2. I’ve travelled from Heathrow many times in the past and I’m used to a very busy airport, with many people everywhere.
This time, the airport was almost empty. For example, there was no one in front of me for the security check. That has never happened in the past. I passed security within several minutes.
MY FLIGHT TO BELGRADE
The Air Serbia flight was approximately 80% full. There were a lot of foreigners on the flight, I assume that they were going to Belgrade and then taking connecting flights to whatever destination they wanted to reach. Right now, Air Serbia is one of the very few European companies that has nearly fully restored their flight schedule.
In other words, if for example you want to travel from London to Germany, you can’t travel directly at the moment. So, you go to Belgrade and then you take a flight to any German city to which Air Serbia flies.
Right now, there aren’t any restrictions in place for people arriving to Serbia. Everyone can go there, there aren’t any special requirements related to the coronavirus epidemic. Thus, it really makes sense for people to use this route.
The flight itself was like every other flight, however the only difference this time was that we all had to wear a face mask for the duration of the flight. In my opinion, it makes sense and it’s perfectly fine. You can’t know if there is someone infected on the same flight, so some basic precaution is a minimum that we should all do.
There is, however, something interesting that I’d like to mention. Normally, Heathrow is a very busy airport, with many flights departing at the same time. Usually, there are many air planes in the queue, waiting to take off. I remember sitting there for half an hour, even longer, in the past. There are simply that many air planes at that airport.
This time, we arrived to the runway and took off immediately. There wasn’t a single air plane in front of us and there wasn’t any behind us. That cut my travel time by nearly an hour. At the same time, it was one more incidental reminder of the coronavirus epidemic and its effect on travel. Basically, there is very little travel at the moment.
BACK IN BELGRADE
I’m going to stay in Belgrade for three months initially. The city looks pretty, in fact this is perhaps the best time of the year to be in Belgrade. Photos of Belgrade in this post are the new ones, that I took after my arrival.
What I especially like is that it’s a proper summer here. I like hot weather and am very happy to spend several months in the sun. Earlier this year, we had fantastic weather in London too, but there, it’s a hit and miss normally. In Belgrade, a proper summer is guaranteed.
It means that I will spend a lot of time outside. I’ll either go for a walk or sit in one of many fabulous Belgrade’s coffee shops and bars. There is also a beach in Belgrade, on the Sava river. It’s an artificial lake and frankly speaking it’s a feature that not many capital cities have (of course, I’m not including coastal cities when I say this).
I’ll spend time with my family and friends, people that I haven’t seen for a while. It’s so precious to reconnect with dear people, every moment together means so much and it makes life that much special.
I’ll also explore the city and discover places that I either haven’t seen before or haven’t seen for a long time. I believe that I will write many new interesting posts.
I’m also planning to travel across Serbia, as much as the current situation permits. There are some very interesting places, not far from Belgrade. But, this part of my plan depends on the coronavirus situation in Serbia and whether or not it’ll be easy to move between different places.
Well, one step at the time. I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to be in a different place and to have some different experiences. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m also happy in London, it’s just that I needed a change in my life.
My coronavirus illness back in March this year and the subsequent surreal existence were too much. I need to regain my life, so let’s see if my stay in Belgrade will help me do that.