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Month: July 2018

Castle 27

Monte Carlo, Monaco ūüŹį

Monaco, officially the Principality of Monaco, is a micro-state in Western Europe.  Actually, this is the second smallest independent state in the world (after the Vatican) and is entirely urban.

Monaco is surrounded by France on three sides and the remaining part of the country is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea.

I arrived from the train station which I noticed was entirely in marble.

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Train station in Monte Carlo

Monaco is a principality governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state.

The official language is French, but Monégasque, Italian, and English are widely spoken and understood.

The state’s sovereignty was officially recognized by the¬†Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861, with Monaco becoming a full¬†United Nations¬†voting member in 1993. Despite Monaco’s independence and separate foreign policy, its defense is the responsibility of France. Yap, that’s true.¬†Monaco does not have its own major¬†defense¬†force. The country‚Äôs defense¬†is France‚Äô responsibility.

In more recent years, Monaco has become a major banking centre and due to no income tax, low business taxes became a tax haven

It is also the host of the annual street circuit motor race Monaco Grand Prix, one of the original Grands Prix of Formula One.

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Start of Formula 1 Grand Prix 

Monaco Grand Prix is one of the main events that the country hosts every year. If you are curious about the winner of the event, note that Ayrton Senna has won the Grand Prix 6 times, more than any other race car driver.

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In 15th century, the Grimaldi family purchased Monaco from the Crown of Aragon and became the official and undisputed rulers of “the Rock of Monaco”. The story tells that Grimaldi was good in cheating with cards and gambling so he got the Rock of Monaco by scam and founded the country.

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 Rainier I of Grimaldi, victor of the naval battle at Zierikzee and first sovereign Grimaldi ruler of Monaco

 

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Monaco was founded on the Rock of Monaco

Unfortunately since then, the entire royal family has been cursed. The latest curse occurred in 1982 when beautiful Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly died in a car crash after marrying Prince Rainier III.

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Entire Monaco filled with photos of Princess of Monaco

She is buried in Saint Nicholas Cathedral which is also known as Monaco Cathedral which was built in 19th century.

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Cathédrale de Monaco
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Cathedral of Monaco – view from the west

Three of James Bond Films have been shot here in Monte-Carlo Casino. Why not? The casino is so classy that even the best of the James Bond films need to shoot a scene or two here. Unfortunately I was not allowed to enter, but the casino and the buildings around are stunning:

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Casino

Casino de Monte-Carlo was opened in Monaco in 1863. Inside are the gambling tables since 19th century.

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Do not be surprised to learn that the native of Monaco are not allowed to gamble here and visit the casino. The rule is imposed by the country’s government, which does not want its citizens to gamble away their money. The casino is a source of income for the country and provides employment to its residents.

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Although the current Princess Caroline is accredited with establishing gambling casinos in Monaco to support the House of Grimaldi (the ruling family of Monaco) from bankruptcy.

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For the rich and famous people from across the world, Monaco is a premier tourist destination and recreation center. So the view on the seaside is actually the view on rich and expensive yachts and streets are filled with luxurious cars.

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While wandering around I was bumping into many parks and gardens but the most popular one is the Rose garden of Princess Grace Kelly created in 1984 as a memorial to princess. The garden features more than 4,000 roses.

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Princess Grace Rose Garden

Climbing up the hill you will actually get to the Old Town of Monaco. This is also known as Monaco Ville or Le Rocher (eng. the Rock) and is the government and historical centre of the Principality, as well as being one of the two main tourist sites.

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Typical medieval alleyways of Monaco’s old town

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The Prince’s Palace, official residence of the Prince and Princess of Monaco, location of the Royal court, almost a city within the city is there as well, located at the Palace square.

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Prince’s Palace

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Since the end of the 13th century, it has been the stronghold and home of the mentioned Grimaldi family.

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During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the palace and its owners became symbols of the slightly risqué glamour and decadence that were associated with Monte Carlo and the French Riviera. Glamour and theatricality became reality when the American film star Grace Kelly became chatelaine of the palace in 1956. In the 21st century, the palace remains the residence of the current Prince of Monaco.

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Portrait of Princess Grace & Prince Rainier of Monaco with Family, 1981. The son Albert ll is current monarch
cathedrals 22

C√īte d’Azur: Cannes, Nice and St Tropez

After Marseille, the next stop was St Tropez.

Saint Tropez

I was sitting in the train and watching the beautiful landscape of the French Riviera: the blue sea below me and red rocks above the other side.

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The first arrival was actually the city of Hyeres where we changed to bus connection towards Saint Tropez.

I found Saint Tropez amazing cute medieval city on the hill.  Except that is now overcrowded with rich peeps and their yachts. So, soon you found yourself sitting in the riviera, having your drink with the view on the seaside, except there is no sea as it is blocked by the huge yachts.

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This small town on the French Riviera was a military stronghold and fishing village until the beginning of the 20th century. It was the first town on this coast to be liberated during World War II as part of Operation Dragoon. After the war, it became an internationally known seaside resort for the European and American jet set and tourists.

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The town owes its current name to the early, semi-legendary¬†martyr¬†Saint Torpes. The legend tells of his¬†decapitation¬†at¬†Pisa during¬†Nero’s reign (Roman Empire), with his body placed in a rotten boat along with a¬†rooster¬†and a¬†dog. The body landed at the present-day location of the town.

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Muslim influence to the city architecture

In the 10th century it became¬†¬†an Arab Muslim colony dominated by the Saracens but the conra fire¬†started soon by¬†William I,¬†Count of Provence, lord of¬†Grimaud. So the city was deliberated but poor. The Count had connections with Geneva and contacted wealthy Genoese gentlemen who sent a fleet of¬†caravels¬†carrying sixty Genoese families to the area. In return, Count Ren√© promised to exempt the citizens from taxation. ūüôā

Cool trick, isn’t it?

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The city became a small republic with its own fleet and army. Did you know that gendarmerie comes from there?

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Gendarmerie show in Saint Tropez

 

Cannes

From Saint Tropez to Saint¬†Raphael towards the city of Cannes! ūüôā

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Some 100 km away from Saint Tropez  this city is the host of the annual Cannes Film Festival. So I needed to take the photo of myself in front of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.

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Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.

The city is known for its association with the rich and famous, its luxury hotels and restaurants.

We firsty made a walk through the Promenade de la Croisette.

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Palms at Promenade de la Croisette

La Croisette is known for picturesque beaches, restaurants, cafés and boutiques.

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Established by the Greeks in 2nd century BCE to be a fishing village used as a port of call between the Lérins Islands, and later captured by the Saracens until 16th century when it was etached from the monks who had controlled the city for hundreds of years and became independent.

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Clock tower at La Suquet – the old village of Cannes
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Corners of old Cannes

One of the most impressive things in Cannes was wandering through Le Suquet, the old town, climbing up the clock tower where it provides a good view of La Croisette. 34

This area is the original fishermans’ residential area of Cannes. The houses are all very old. The streets were laid out at least 400 years ago…

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And again: plenty of restaurants! ūüôā

IMG_20180721_200011Since my blog is named after the fairytale character, my dedication to the red colour and blond hair, I needed to take this picture on the left: La Chaperon Rouge!

The entire are is probably best known to tourists as the climbing, winding cobbled lane lined with local restaurants so the day was continued in this way until the perfect spot for having a dinner was found. IMG_20180721_211609IMG_20180721_211621IMG_20180721_192258

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Then evening came and I saw the best firework in my life pre-empting the French anthem: La Marseillaise. 

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Nice

The very last day was reserved for Nice. This time no trains, no buses, no planes, but this:

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The ride above Cote d’Azur

From the moment we landed to the Nice Heliport, I noticed couple of items like the one below. What to say but that I am glad Frenchies know against who they played in the finals. ūüôā

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Nice is the fifth most populous city in France and kinda reminds on Cannes as well.

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Espace Jacques Cotta

First wander around were the 19th century buildings with typical mediterranean balconies. I guess this is the reason the city is nicknamed Nice la Belle. 

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Gin & tonic moment
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Place Masséna

The sun was up in the sky with the temperature more than 36 degrees so the obvious refreshment was in the park Jardin de Albert 1er.

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The area of today’s Nice whitnesses¬†of a very early use of fire. Around 350 BC, Greeks of Marseille founded a permanent settlement and called it Nikaia, after¬†Nike, the goddess of victory.¬†Through the ages, the town has changed hands many times. Its strategic location and port significantly contributed to its maritime strength. For centuries it was a dominion of¬†Savoy (I will make a hyperlink once I visit Switzerland, soon to be! ūüôā )

The natural beauty of the Nice area and its mild Mediterranean climate came to the attention of the English upper classes in the second half of the 18th century, when an increasing number of aristocratic families took to spending their winters there.

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The city’s main seaside promenade, the¬†Promenade des Anglais¬†(“Walkway of the English”) owes its name to visitors to the resort.

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After the Treaty of Turin was signed in 1860 between the Sardinian king and Napoleon III, the County was again and definitively ceded from Savoy to France as a territorial reward for French assistance in the Second Italian War of Independence against Austria.

So the visit to Vieux Nice started:

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And somehow I found myself in the middle of the flea market with many interesting items РThe Cours Saleya Рthe one of the central elements of daily life in Nice. The market place that features a vast array of products. In the market you’ll be able to find from collectible, handcrafted carvings to a wide variety of well-kept quality fruit and vegetables:

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Getting lost among the dark, narrow, winding alleyways of Nice’s old town is a highlight. The layout has barely changed since the 1700s as the Baroque aficionados will adore architectural gems , just take a look:

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The place is one of the city’s main attractions and a must-see for any visitor… Not particularly because of a huge amount of unmissable historical sites, but because it is a hive of activity, buzzing both day and night, which is ideal to wander around, to get lost in and to get a drink or a good traditional meal whilst enjoying the unmistakable baroque Mediterranean vibe4

The  more I was climbing upstairs, the the more I was involved in Medieval Nice ans the better view I had.

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Climbing upstairs towards Parc de la Colline du Chateau¬†was harsh under the heavy sun, but worth of the view on entire Nice and it’s beaches…

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Somehow there was the Jewish cementary with many interesting monuments:

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Just by Climbing up there you will pass through this beautiful Parc de la Colline de Chateau with the view on the ports of Nice:

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The view was fabulous and made it clear why the place is called Coat d’Azzure:

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The upper place was founded by the Greeks so you can find many mosaics with greeks motives:

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Nice’s Old Town allows you to travel into the 1700s as you get lost in its narrow lanes and its architectural gems, such as the Cathédral Sainte-Réparate.

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Somehow, I stumbled upon this palace as well, so I need to make a quick look ūüôā :
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But I have to say that Old Nice is medieval, beautiful with the perfect moments to sit and relax, and have a drink or a meal in one of the bars or restaurants in the area whilst absorbing the Mediterranean vibes.

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The last moments were used to enjoy the sun, Mediterranean vibes and the sea at the beach. The entrance costs 30 EUR and you just spread yourself all over the easy-chair. ūüôā

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And that was it!

The flight was ready for the evening!

Bye Cote d’Azur!

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cathedrals 25

Marseille, France

Why?

Because I was daydreaming about this city in the south. Plus I have never been to south of France, furthermore, it is the second largest French city and the capital of the¬†Bouches-du-Rh√īne¬†department¬†and¬†Provence-Alpes-C√īte d’Azur.

You know Provence, no? The lavanda fields etc. Only I haven’t to the countryside. Just saw few lavanda magnets in the market in Marseille at the Old Port.

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Vieux-Port de Marseille or the Old Port in english, is the major street of Marseille. It has been the natural harbour of the city since antiquity and is now the main popular place in Marseille. Firstly Greeks established their commercial sport in 6th century BE.

In the Middle Ages the land at the far end of the port was used to cultivate hemp for the local manufacture of rope for mariners, which is the origin of the name of the main thoroughfare of Marseille, the Canebière.

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Of course, there is a market which is a pedestrian zone with lots of shops and bars so you can enjoy a nice view to the port fuzz.

1Provence is proud of its thriving market gardening industry. The local markets also overflow with specialities such as peaches and nectarines from La Crau, olives from the Alpilles, aubergines from Barbentane and Brousse cheese from Rove‚Ķ Many of Provence’s numerous markets have maintained a genuine local identity.¬†And despite its folkloric aspect, the market in Marseille, held every day at the bottom of La Canebi√®re, the city’s main thoroughfare, stands witness to the area’s thriving fishing trade. Sea bass, gurnard, red mullet, denti, bream and even lobsters are sold here right ‘where the boats come in’ by the local fishermen. Prices vary in the twinkling of a tail according to the season and who’s buying‚Ķ
Every morning until 1 p.m. Marseille Vieux-Port

As it was pretty hot in that moment (July!!), there was a need to sit down and take the refreshment ant try some local food and beverages.

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Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, quays were constructed under Louis XII and Louis XIII and an important shipyard for galleons put in place. Following a revolt against their governor by the citizens of Marseille, Louis XIV ordered the erection of the forts of St Jean and St Nicolas at the entrance to the harbour and established an arsenal and fleet in the Old Port itself.

Those condemned to be galley slaves in the royal war fleet were branded with the letters GAL.

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Fort St Jean
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Fort St Jean – the entrance
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Passage at Fort St Jean
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Fort St Jean

Marseille Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral built in the 12th century in a simple romanesque style and later in 19th century rebuilt due to earthquake damages.

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The Cathedral of Marseille
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The front of the cathedral
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The portal
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and the interior…

 

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Wall frescoes in the cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the Roman Catholic Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde (literally: Our Lady of the Guard) which is above the city placed on the hill overlooking the city and the port and protecting the sailors and fishermen.

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On the hill: Basilique de Notre Dame de la Garde

The site of a popular Assumption Day pilgrimage is the most visited site in Marseille. The construction began in 19th century  in the Romanesque style, carved from the rock, and Neo-Byzantine style decorated with mosaics.

Although I have to say it was a disappointment for me because the main altar was closed for visiting. After all these stairs, climbing up the hill while sunburned …

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Climbing upstairs towards the Basilique
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Belfry, bell tower and statue of the Virgin with child

But at least there is a nice view on the Mediterranean sea and the¬†islands of the¬†Frioul archipelago¬†in the Bay of Marseille, accessible by ferry from the Old Port. The prison of¬†Ch√Ęteau d’If¬†was one of the settings for¬†The Count of Monte Cristo, the novel by¬†Alexandre Dumas.

The neighbouring islands of Ratonneau and Pomègues are joined by a man-made breakwater. The site of a former garrison and quarantine hospital, these islands are also of interest for their marine wildlife.

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Archipelago in the Bay of Marseille with the island of Monte Cristo

Time for some food!

Bouillabaisse¬†is the most famous seafood dish of Marseille. It is a fish stew containing at least three varieties of very fresh local fish: typically red rascasse,¬†sea robin¬†and¬†European conger plus potatoes and vegetables. The meal¬†is rarely made for fewer than ten people; the more people who share the meal, and the more different fish that are included, the better the bouillabaisse. ūüôā

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Bouillabaisse ūüôā

The afternoon chill was reserved for a walk through the old city center. Made of typical tall mediterranean houses with small and narrow streets and passages in order to make the shadow and cool breeze during the hot summer time.

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The already mentioned popular La Canebiere:

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And the buildings from the 19th century when the appearance of the civil layer started to build lofts like this:

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19th century buildings – ancien regime
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The stairs at Gare de Marseille-Saint-Charles (train station)

Historically, the economy of Marseille was dominated by its role as a port of the French Empire, linking the North African colonies of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia with¬†Metropolitan France. As of the end of World War ll, the huge immigration from these countries into Marseille has started changing the demographic landscape of the city. There is the term¬†pieds-noirs¬†pointing the people from former¬†French Algeria. I was surprised by some facts seen in the streets, but that’s France as well. I guess…

 

 

 

 

Castle 19

Belgrade, Serbia

The best parties in my life happened here! In this city. The bars on rafts, the music, the people, the warmth:

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The disco’s at the rafts in Belgrade
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The rafts

I always had a good welcome from the people living there and was taken to very best places: rafts, bier bars, festivals, house parties…

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As we used to live in one same country of Yugoslavia, and the war divided us, there are still love and hate that connects us. For example, the love towards the Yugoslavian leader at that time: Tito.

Every year, people from entire ex-yugoslavian country are visiting the grave and the museum as this leader used to be the diplomatic scale between USSR and USA during the Cold war.

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I did my visit too. On 25th of May (ex-yugoslavian Youth Day – the birthday of Tito), I did the tour with my friends. There were people from all over the world. As Tito was born in the region where I am coming from (Krapina – Zagorje, Croatia), I was especially proud to be able to visit his rests and the museum with many gifts he gained during his governance (he was a lifetime marshall). Of course, there were no gold, sillver, pearls, porculain or any other valuable goods as many of them were stolen during the fall of Yugoslavia.

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As it was organized the festival later, I was especially touched when a Croatian regional song was played in the middle of Belgrade.

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They say, Belgrade is the ugliest city appearing at the most beautiful place.

True, sometimes it can be shady like this:

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Shady streets of Belgrade

But when you see a place like this one below, you become speechless:

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The  mouth of river Sava to river Danube

 

This is the place where river Sava confluences to the River of Danube. You can see on the photo Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegdan Park. 

For centuries the city population was concentrated only within the walls of the fortress since 4th century BE. In the middle ages the fortress remained a Byzantine stronghold until the 12th century when it fell in the hands of the newly emerging Serbian state. It became a border city of the Serbian Kingdom, later Empire with Hungary. The Hungarian king Béla I gave the fortress to Serbia in the 11th century as a wedding gift (his son married the Serbian princess Jelena).

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Entrance to the Kalemegdan fortress

From late 19th century onwards, the city was filled with enlightenment and civic class. The center of the happenings was Skadarlija.

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Skadarlija –¬†ambiental nook of Belgrade

A 400 meters long street managed to keep the spirit of old times, authenticity, old look with cobblestone asphalt, identical facade and bars that stand in the same place for more than 150 years.

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Skadarlija street – the 19th century spirit still living
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Boemic Skadarlija

It revives the spirit of friendship and cheerful night life, the way it once was. The street is named after the Albanian city of Skadar and became popular at the end of XIX century as it has accepted everyone ‚Äď from rich people and artists to craftsmen and ministers.

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When in a foreign city, I always visit three things: the museum (to get the political and historical view on the people), the restaurant/ bar (to see the people as they are) and the sacramental institution (the church, mosque, temple or so).

Belgrade has a beautiful Church of Saint Sava.¬†Serbian Orthodox¬†church located on the¬†Vrańćar¬†plateau.

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Saint Sava church

The inner side is apparently decorated with beautiful paintings but in the time when I was visiting Belgrade, it looked like this:

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Hopefully I will visit soon this city again and make more up to date photos. ūüôā

Then if you are tired of partying in Belgrade, you can just go to the nearby city of Zemun famous for their own mafia and local cute bars with rustic cubic tablecloths. We took a boat and made a small party over there in some local bar with live music. Actually the players are going around your tables and playing your wish songs. Of course, it is expected you give some tip.

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And there is so much more!