Introduction: Balkans Trip Report
Review: Al-Maha Transit Lounge, Hamad International Airport, Doha (DOH)
Review: Belgrade Nikola Tesla International Airport (BEG) to Belgrade City Center
Review: Old Town Belgrade Airbnb Loft
Review: Belgrade Runaround
Review: Belgrade Walking Tours 1
Review: Belgrade Walking Tours 2
Review: Belgrade to Sarajevo; Door-to-Door Minibus Shuttle
Review: Embassies Row Sarajevo Airbnb Apartment
Review: Sarajevo Runaround
Review: Sarajevo Walking Tours
Review: Sarajevo Walkaround
Review: Sarajevo to Zagreb; EuroLine Bus
Review: Old Town Zagreb Airbnb Room
Review: Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Review: Advent in Zagreb
Review: Zagreb Walking Tours
Review: Zagreb to Budapest; Croatia Tours Bus
Review: Budapest Andrassay Street Airbnb Room
Review: Budapest Walkaround
Review: Budapest Bike Tours
Review: Budapest City Center to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD)
Review: Platinum Lounge, Terminal 2B, Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD)
Review: Doha, Qatar Drivearound
Time and again I found myself booking Airbnb for three particular reason:
where people actually live, not a commercial area which translates toeasy access to market or supermarket
- Ease of doing grocery (see above point)
I can get non sugarcoated stories from my host either verbally or nonverbally by their way of living (it’s harder to fake a living)
For this particular Balkans trip I’m cramming 4 cities in under 8 days. That means approximately 48 hours per city including time on the road. To maximize exploring time I opt to stay in the city center vicinity where walking will take as long as waiting for tram/bus.
I stayed in Savamala area. 5 minute walk to the main square, central station, and 10 minutes walk to Kalamegdan park and the fortress. Unlike the more polished Novi Grad, developed by then socialist administration for both residential and commerce purpose, Savamala’s past time was as industrial area so abandoned warehouses are part of the sights. Gritty, neglected, but full of characters.
Unsurprising as it’s also one of Belgrade’s oldest neighborhood. In the golden days under the Serbian Obrenović dynasty and Habsburg Monarchy (Austria) the area housed many of Belgrade’s most elegant building. For example Princess Ljubica’s resident is just few minutes walk from the loft. In the same area European Art Nouveau buildings are also still present.
Savamala is likened to a much (much) smaller, less glamorous version of Manhattan’s Chelsea district. In recent years the area started undergoing gentrification which resulted in art gallery, co-working space, and high-end hotel popping up.
Getting to the Loft
After getting off the airport shuttle, I dragged my 13kg carrier along the streets of Belgrade.
Serbia and the Balkans region in particular are famed for their fiercely cold winter. At this time of the year, early December, I found the climate to be similar to that of Seoul. It was noon, sun was shining and I can feel sweat dripping before quickly evaporating with each steps I took. I didn’t need to put on my gloves yet.
10 minutes in, it turned out I am at the wrong building. I asked a wireman who was working on a door nearby the directions to my Airbnb address. Not speaking much English, brows pulled together, he pointed me in the right direction and said to walk straight for 150 meter. Second impression of Serbian: accommodating. Stern, but accommodating. Off to a good start.
Having the advantage of being top floor this unit spans two floor, loft-style. My room and three others are located upstairs. Bathroom is just outside to the left of my room.
In addition to carrying my suitcase up five floors the host, Branko, had started burning some logs in my room to make sure the room is warm when I arrive. Both of which I highly appreciated.
The host, Branko, has started burning some logs in my room to make sure the room is warm when I arrive.
Have I mentioned my room has a fireplace*??!!
Plants adorned the loft space. Later I learnt it’s also for practical purpose because Serbians appear to smoke everywhere and house gets no exception.
After some personal time to refresh I quickly joined Branko and his son Jay downstairs. They welcomed me with coffee.
Between the 13th to 15th century Serbia, at the time a Kingdom, was gradually annexed to Ottoman Empire. Starting 16th century following Ottoman conquest coffee began assimilated into Serbia and its people’s life. They drink coffee like how you imagine any caffeine-fueled nation does, around the clock.
How to Drink Turkish Coffee Properly
On the topic of coffee… there is a right way to drink coffee**.
At least for Turkish coffee.
Very rarely people drink Turkish coffee to go
I’ll get to that later. First to understand why it’s imperative to grasp the coffee fundamentals. I divide coffee to three types:
- filtered (pour over, aeropress)
- semi-filtered (french press)
- unfiltered (Turkish, Arab)
To brew coffee both coffee grounds and water are dissolved together to extract oils and other caffeine goodness from coffee grounds. At the end of this process what you want is a clear cup of black liquid. To do that you need to separate the grounds from the liquid. This is when filter comes to usage.
For Turkish coffee because it’s prepared without filter the grounds are separated from liquid through the passage of time. It slowly falls to the bottom of pot/cup.
Which brings us back to the right way of drinking Turkish tea: wait for the ground seeps to the bottom. The point is you have to take your time. For the same reason very rarely people drink Turkish coffee to go. There’s no such thing.
Back to The Loft
The unit is one of 21+ units in an Art Nouveau building. Some of the units are used as incubation office and some are private residence.
The immediate area was quiet and I felt safe walking even at night. On the second day the temperature fell a little bit and I was cold after a day out walking. I warmed myself in front of the living’s room fireplace when Branko walked out. He chuckled and said
I’m hot but you’re cold!
Yup, tropical girl right here..
We chatted further. Then and now Branko and Jay would roll up their own joint and smoke while we chat. “It’s cheaper to roll our own cigarette.”
They profusely apologize for the smoke and noted that they try to improve the air circulation inside.
One of Airbnb’s listings strength is that they’re located in residential area as opposed to major hotel chains who mostly concentrate on highly commercial and touristic area. This could translate to more immersive travel experience without compromise on time management.
I find this extremely appealing to
a) independent traveler
b) time crunched traveler
c) value seeking traveler
With Airbnb you won’t find all-you-can-eat breakfast, wake up service, daily room service, nor concierge service. Depending on your travel need and priorities there would be some inevitable trade-offs.
*let’s be honest.. fireplace is the next best thing after heated floor (ondol)
**with that saying, at the end of the day it’s just coffee. Drink it however you find joy out of it 😉