Back to the Balkans (Belgrade, Serbia)

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Going home can be bitter sweet. As much as I love my home town, somehow life always gets in the way, and my wanderlust keeps taking me to new, unexplored destinations. I was bitten by the travel bug when I was just a kid, and this compulsion to see the entire world, and have an amazing time in every destination, often keeps me from revisiting places I have already seen.

Also, and this is something many expats can identify with, after we embrace the American lifestyle, and start to appreciate all it has to offer, our old friends back home start to view us more critically. Now that we have made it in America, our old pals no longer feel comfortable with us, and after a while, I got tired of snide comments about how my life in America is lazy, rich and spoiled rotten. I got tired of defending my lifestyle, my choices, and my opportunities, and purposely started to cut my cords with my home country.

There are things that I absolutely adore about Serbia, its mixed culture, the food, the ancient architecture and its sounds. I love Belgrade’s nightlife, traditions, and summer concerts, but rarely do I inform my friends when I am actually in town. The guilt trip and criticism are illogical and mostly based on jealousy, but for someone who usually doesn’t care what people think, childhood friends have a way of pushing my buttons. And the people are hard. Hardened by decades of communism and socialism, a constantly failing economy, and political injustice, they have a way of seeing the world through murky glasses. that I refuse to put on. So, in the last 10 years, I have been postponing going home in favor of exploring sunnier parts of the world.

This year, a unique opportunity presented itself to host a reception for an organization of which I am a board member. The Royal Palace of Serbia had invited the Tesla Science Foundation to be its guests (photos in a separate post), and so we invited our supporters and donors from around the world to be a part of the festivities. I saw this as a great opportunity to add a few good friends into the trip, so I organized a 9 day tour of the Balkans (Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia) for guests to enjoy.

Someone once said, “it is not where you go, but who you travel with”, and that saying certainly proved to be true. Armed with good friends from USA and western Europe, I toured Belgrade and the entire region, with a fresh new perspective on Serbia. Those aspects of my country that I never appreciated, looked endearing to my friends who were charmed by Serbia’s vineyards, monasteries, castles and countryside.

Our tour began in my home town Belgrade, a city known for its bloody history and rarely appreciated for its ancient architecture, vibrant nightlife, beautiful people, and welcoming attitude. Here, we toured Kalemegdan, a 2000 year old fortress which was originally the city walls. It stands atop the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers, and consists of moats, draw bridges, a Roman well, and watch towers. Today, it is a city park which houses Belgrade Zoo, Beogradska Terasa (cafe), tanks, cannons and artillery dating back from the Roman times to the preset, a war museum and two beautiful churches Sveta Petka, and the tiny Ruzica (The Little Rose).

We also toured Serbia’s wine country, Sumadija, got drunk on some very funky grapes in private cellars, toured the beautiful monastery of Kovilj, and the castle of Ecka.  Personally, I was surprised by how much my friends liked the unexplored simplicity and charm of Serbia. I have to admit I was a bit nervous, as the country’s lack of tourism and underdeveloped infrastructure turn off many tourists. But overall, the group had a great time, and enjoyed their stay.

Contact me if you would like to join us in July 2017, for yet another tour of ex-Yugoslavia which will include the countries of Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro as well as a cocktail reception at Serbia’s Royal Palace.








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