I’m at Birmingham International airport tonight and have a flight early tomorrow morning. I was hoping to get a few hours sleep on the comfortable bench across from the entrance to departures, unfortunately someone else has already taken it and they’re already dozing happily. Most of the other good sleeping benches have disappeared since I was last here overnight.

I can hear the escalators trundling round, a screen at the entrance occasionally pops up a welcome message. The racing game in the arcade is on a loop which plays the intro theme tune whenever you feel too comfortable in the relative silence. Signs of life, but no people to be seen, lots of liminal spaces.

empty terminal

I was able to crawl up in one of the chairs of the 24 hour Costa Coffee, didn’t get much sleep.

The flight took off at sunrise, I got to watch it through the window once we were through the thick layer of low cloud.

flight sunrise

Changed flights in Frankfurt. Everything in the airport seems way more expensive than what I’d usually expect. One of the shops is doing a sandwich and drink combo deal for €9.70 - is this just expensive airport food or are exchange rates really that bad? I didn’t bring food in my cabin bag. I will just remain hungry until Belgrade.

Otherwise, Frankfurt is chilly, a light flurry of snowflakes began blowing across the runway.

frankfurt airport

The first sign of snow I’ve seen this winter. ❄


Arrived in Belgrade, changed money, got a SIM card. I was hoping to see the remains of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet shot down in 1999; it’s held in the aeronautical museum near the airport, but unfortunately the building was closed. The airport is undergoing renovation and the arrivals area is in various stages of construction.

I jumped on the №65 bus into the city. It’s not a smooth journey, I’m feeling dizzy and nauseous, haven’t had enough sleep or food. The bus station at Zeleni Venac was a welcome sight, even in the rain and dark I remember how to get to the centre.

republic square

The nationalist group camped outside the National Assembly were staging a rally. I watched at a distance from the other side of the road.


I slept for a solid 11 hours.
Belgrade is foggy this morning.

foggy national assembly

Nothing is open on Sunday morning, so I’m wandering around the city for a few hours. There’s this anti-NATO graffiti on the shutters of of the building which houses the Social-Democratic Party of Serbia.

anti nato graffiti#

Here is a statue of the painter Nadežda Petrović in the Pioneer Park, I hope to get round the big art galleries later.

nadezda petrovic

A day out in New Belgrade

I crossed the river on a packed bus and got off way too early, so going on a long walk past the government building and through the vast housing complexes, hoping to reach the Genex Tower.

genex tower wide

As typical for these developments, each block is arranged around social needs. The middle of each block is usually occupied by a school or playground, with small shops on the ground floor. On some buildings the roof of the ground floor is paved over, creating a layer of walkable public space, and leading to my favourite feature - the bridges and walkways which connect the upper layer to the street.

The shops at the base of the Genex Tower are closed, the area seems derelict.

genex tower base

There are the ruins of a fountain on the western side, cracked tiles and plants growing over it.

genex tower fountain

No chance of getting to the top, the south-western tower is closed off entirely.1 The first elevator on the other tower doesn’t go all the way up, and the second elevator only leads to apartments. The only consolation is that it’s so cloudy I probably wouldn’t have got a decent view of the city anyway.

selfie

At 115 metres high, this tower is not the tallest in the country, and it’s being overtaken by the nearby ‘West 65’ Tower (155 metres).

west 35 tower

Otherwise there’s not much else to see here, and I only have a few hours left until it gets dark, time to head back into the old city to go look at some art.

Here is a painting in the National Museum called Testing the Terrain in New Belgrade (1948) by Ilić Boža.

building new belgrade painting

On the way back the only other thing missing about New Belgrade is the fact the tramway doesn’t extend to the northern blocks, and (at least on a Sunday afternoon) the buses aren’t regular. After waiting a long while, a marshrutka turned up and dropped me off at a better bus stop with more connections, the driver just waved me on when I tried to pay the fare.
At least the bus conductors are friendly here.

  1. There was a restaurant at the top, which was open until quite recently, but looking online it seems the company which ran it has gone bankrupt.