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> Serbia: Greetings from Belgrade as low-cost flight route opens
> Serbia's capital is now on the low-cost flight route - and its people
> are trying to present a friendlier face to visitors. Adrian Bridge
> reports.
> By Adrian Bridge
> Published: 8:00AM BST 17 Jul 2010
> People walk in the park below the city's citadel
> Within the space of a few minutes wandering around the side streets of
> Belgrade I am shown a mural depicting a beautiful woman; the tomb of
> an ancient Ottoman warrior; a "concept store" selling quirky designer
> goods that wouldn't be out of place in Soho in London; and a cool
> place to stop and have a late-night coffee � the Insomnia caf� in the
> "Silicon Valley" district.
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> My guide to these and many more of the less obvious pleasures of
> Belgrade is Marko, an engaging university student. He is one of a
> volunteer team of "Belgrade greeters" � people who introduce visitors
> to some of their favourite spots and experiences in the city.
> The greeter scheme � new this summer � coincides with the commencement
> of a new low-cost route operated by Wizz Air linking Luton and
> Belgrade. It also forms part of a campaign to alter the primarily
> negative images most foreigners have of a city whose population is so
> heavily identified with (and blamed for) the wars that followed the
> break-up of the old Yugoslavia.
> Marko � just 23 � was not involved in the wars, and we skirt around
> the subject. There are references to "the difficult years", "the
> 1990s" and "the period of isolation". Like many Serbs of his age, he
> accepts that it was not the most glorious period in his country's
> history. But he wants to move on � and to be part of a project that
> aims to present a friendlier, funkier � and more rounded image of its
> capital and its people.
> He makes for a passionate guide. "Look at this fabulous example of
> secessionist [Art Nouveau] architecture," he says, as we pass a series
> of grand-looking buildings on a tram ride that circles the city.
> "There's another of my favourites � St Mark's Church; and another �
> the wonderful faculty of engineering and architecture."
> Belgrade can hardly be termed a beautiful city � its skyline is still
> scarred by communist-era eyesores � not to mention the ruins of
> buildings bombed by Nato in 1999. But in and around its lovely
> pedestrianised Knez Mihailova zone and the cobbled Skadarlija Bohemian
> quarter, there is much on which to feast the eyes. The Kalemegdan
> fortress and park (overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube
> rivers) also has a pleasing vibe.
> For centuries the land around here was where the Ottoman and Hapsburg
> empires battled it out for supremacy. These days tourists from the
> cruise ships plying the Danube jostle for the best vantage points.
> In recent years the city's youth have made a name for themselves for
> partying. Much is made here of the declaration in Lonely Planet's
> guide to "1000 Ultimate Experiences" that "Belgrade rocks" and is now
> one of the best places to party on the planet � and the throngs of
> beautiful young people and the all-night hum from barges on the Sava
> and the Danube testify to it.
> In addition to Serbs themselves, the clubbing scene attracts a younger
> set of foreigners who like their travel to be stag and hen party-free
> and to have something of an edge.
> Marko's personal favourite is the Underground Club. "Mention that to
> any clubber here and the heart still beats to the memories."
> We stop on the terrace of one of the city's grand old cafes for coffee
> with another student greeter, Katerina, and Sladjana (meaning
> sweetie), an official guide. They say Belgrade could again become the
> most important city between Athens and Vienna. Marko even describes it
> as "the New York of the Balkans".
> I wouldn't go that far. But I have been pleasantly surprised; Belgrade
> has been quite an eye-opener.
> Belgrade basics
> Getting there
> JAT ( flies from London Heathrow to Belgrade. Low-cost
> carrier Wizz Air ( flies from Luton.
> Regent Holidays (0845 277 3317; offers 3-
> night breaks to Belgrade staying at 3- and 4-star hotels from �290 per
> person (including flights from Heathrow with JAT).
> Greetings
> To book a free introduction to the city (2-4 hours), go to
> Further information
> Serbia (Bradt Travel Guides, �15.99) by Laurence Mitchell;