I am in Belgrade at present. In my previous post I wrote about my travel plans and I mentioned that I was going to spend 2 weeks in the Serbian capital. I have already written about Belgrade extensively and I also mentioned that I would only write about many changes that are currently happening there. The city authorities have undertaken an immense task to restore and improve the city, especially after many decades of complete neglect. Right now, Belgrade is work in progress!
For someone like me, who comes from this city, it is very refreshing to see all these positive changes. The city has a tremendous potential, but that potential needs to be properly presented. Improving the city’s infrastructure and the way it looks will certainly benefit its residents and also the visitors.
Interestingly, there is a lot of opposition to these works. The argument is that Serbia is a poor country and that the money should be invested to improve the state of hospitals and general medical care. Perhaps, this is indeed a valid argument. But, an opposing argument can be made that a more attractive and interesting city will attract more tourists, which will on a regular basis generate more income. That income can be used to address other numerous problems, such as public transport, education, medical care and hospitals… In my opinion, the point is to ensure a regular source of income and tourism can become a very important source, much more than it is at the moment.
Anyway, the time will tell. I can only say that I have seen many foreign tourists in the past several days. That is very good for the city’s economy and for many small business all over the city.
1. REPUBLIC SQUARE
In my original Belgrade post, I mentioned the renovation of the city’s main Republic Square. I was in Belgrade exactly 6 months ago. At that time, the works on the square had only just started. So, I went to see what they have done since then. The progress is clearly visible.
The part of the square near the National Theatre and the National Museum seems to be nearly completed. But, the opposite part of the square is still a very big construction site. It will take more work and time to complete everything.
In any case, the square already looks much better than before. I actually look forward to seeing it once everything has been completed.
2. VOJVODA VUK PARK
Not far from the Republic Square, there is another square, in the pedestrian zone of Belgrade. This particular area was totally neglected for many decades, to the point that you would not even notice it when you pass by. But, this is changing now. The building in a photo below was covered in scaffolding 6 months ago. It is beautiful now and it stands at the edge of the square.
This whole area is becoming a pedestrian zone, which is really what it has to be, considering that it is the oldest and the most central part of the city. There are now more bars, restaurants and coffee shops than ever before. It is really becoming a stunning part of the city.
Once the work is done and all surrounding buildings restored, it will become another focal area in that whole area.
At the same time, they are further enlarging the pedestrian area.
It is also refreshing to see many restored buildings, with beautiful facades. For example, I have only ever known the building in a below photo as a horrible black, crumbling construction.
3. KARADJORDJEVA STREET
The same goes for many building in nearby Karadjordjeva Street. That is potentially the most beautiful part of the city. But, it was also totally neglected for many decades.
I have also ever known buildings in this street as grey or black. It is actually quite amazing to see, for the first time in my life, how beautiful they are.
Another part of this street, close to the right bank of the Sava river is also under complete renovation. It will become a big promenade and Belgrade will finally get a proper access to the river.
4. BELGRADE WATERFRONT
All this is done as a part of currently the biggest construction project in Belgrade – Belgrade Waterfront.
I have written about this project in my original article on Belgrade. The works are ongoing and compared with the last time when I was in Belgrade, two more buildings have been nearly completed.
Parts of the area are already getting an attractive shape.
But, the whole project is huge and it will take several more years for everything to be done. This was a totally derelict part of the city, with absolutely nothing. It is now becoming its most attractive area, right by the river.
5. BIG STAIRCASE – KALEMEGDAN PARK
There is more work in progress in other parts of the city. The 1928 big marble staircase in the Kalemegdan Park is also under complete renovation.
The staircase was designed in the Romanticist style, incorporating elements of the Serbo-Byzantine revival. It was damaged in the Second World War.
It was only partially repaired after the war and neglected until 1989, when the full reconstruction of the staircase was completed. But the material used, the limestone from an island of Brač, was not good. Because of bad frost resilience, the steps started to crack. Further renovation in 2006 was bad again. The cracks were filled with cement and artificial stone, which accelerated the cracking.
The renovation finally started in March 2019. It will last until July 2019, as written (in Serbian) in work details below. However, when the work started in March 2019, instead of restoring and repairing it, the staircase was actually smashed. Architects and art historians protested, but the city administration said “this is the best way”?!
Well, perhaps sometimes the damage is beyond actual repair and the stairs need to be replaced with completely new marble. As a matter of fact, I passed there 6 months ago, it was actually dangerous to walk on those stairs.
I don’t know how long it will be before I return to Belgrade after this visit. But, considering all these and future scheduled works, it will certainly be very interesting to come back. In a way, it will be almost like coming back to a different city. I look forward to that.
But, in the meantime I will enjoy my current stay!