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BELGRADE: A view through the rear-view mirror

Whatever Belgrade presents to you, coming from a western globalised society is a mosaic of mirrors designed to shield from you the core of its true identity. It is a city-soul, forgotten in self-imposed isolation, unique in experience and full of wonder, characters and raw life.

On arrival you may be forgiven for thinking: “what on earth possessed me to come here???” But something else begins to permeate through the mist which revitalises your interest and offers a hint at one of the apparent delights in store for you in this humming metropolis – “wait a minute” I hear you say, “is it me, or is there a considerably higher-than-average proportion of babes in this city?”

Belgrade is one of the most natural cafe societies in the world. During the Spring/Summer months half of this city decamps to the great outdoors to idly pass the time and watch life drift by, for life does drift here in Belgrade. It doesn't steam, hurtle, blaze or otherwise exhibit signs of unnecessary pace above and beyond that which is absolutely necessary. Perhaps there is a lesson for us to learn here, something long forgotten, calming and natural about taking life as it comes.

Ada Ciganlia (or Ada for short) is a lake on the outskirts of Belgrade centre that was formed by sealing off part of the Sava river to form a pebble shored expanse of water which hosts the jewels of Belgrade disrobed to the vaguest levels of human decency on a hot summer weekend afternoon.

Clubbing in Belgrade concentrated mostly around Belgrade's West End between Knez and Strachanjica Bana which is otherwise known as Silicone Valley ;o) If drinking hard is your thing check out Bar Absinthe where you'll also discover the best Mojito available in Belgrade! With definite undertones of New York style and just a touch of dusky-lit 18th century green fairy drinking holes, this gem is without doubt one of Belgrade's finest. For more relaxed, although by no means less entertaining or drunken affair, track down Bizarre, Tapas, KGB, Kandahar, Dorian Gray or Ben Akibar. You should never be timid in approaching people in Belgrade, they are amongst the most social, talkative and inviting people I've come across.

Partying in Belgrade goes on all night till dawn for most and can involve three or four clubs/splavs/venues/converted warehouses/student centers - you name it, if its got space, can be wired for sound and beer then there will be a party there at some point!

As your weekend trip to the best-kept Balkan secret draws to a end, you will be left with a impression of having spent one of the best weekends of your life in a way that has both surprised you and wetted your appetite. On one hand it is Europe, in the old sense of the word and on the other, its something different, wilder, freer and strangely compelling.

For more of this tale, please visit my blog at: http://blog.myspace.com/shurford

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