It took an entire day and three flights to get from Long Beach, CA, to Belgrade, Serbia. Fortunately, everything went smoothly. The Super Shuttle van picked us up at 5:30 a.m. We were the last stop before the airport, and with very little traffic and almost no lines at LAX, we ended up at our gate whopping 3 hours before our flight. (We like to leave extra time, in case of bad traffic, which can happen any time on the 405). Soon we were joined by our niece and nephew, Zack (18) and Annie (14). This was Annie’s first cycling trip with us, and all of the adults were anxious as to how she would fare. She had very little cycling experience, especially on busy roads and up mountains.
Max (18), Rob’s cousin, made it to the gate at the last minute. I think he likes the adrenaline rush of almost missing a plane, but not me.
It was a quiet flight to Chicago O’Hare, where we changed planes to Polish LOT Airlines and flew to Warsaw. We walked along the concourse behind a guy in leg shackles, surrounded by five guards. (I confess, I never noticed him–I was too busy trying to find the International terminal.) We had to go through security again, what a drag. I tried to sleep on this 9-hour flight, with some success.
In Warsaw, we had to go through security yet again. Annie and I had our bike water bottle full of water by now. Max gallantly chugged them down so the security people wouldn’t confiscate our bottles.
It was a short flight to Belgrade, where we met up with the rest of our group–Rob’s sisters, Marion and Amelia. Amelia is the one who made all the arrangements. It must be like herding cats; I can only imagine.
A representative from Ace Travel picked us up in a van and took us to the Old City, where our hotel awaited. I found Belgrade to be quite a charming city. There are almost no signs of the most recent war. The city is busy and vibrant, with lots of construction going on. Our hotel, Hotel Kasina, was next door to a very small casino. Rather than having huge, destination casinos like we have, Belgrade features small gambling clubs. (They didn’t seem particularly inviting, so I resisted temptation.) Our room is quite adequate, with a private bath, nice pillows, A/C and even a TV (though the remote doesn’t work.) Here is the view from our window.
Marion, Amelia and Annie had an unfortunate, non-flushing toilet, so they moved to another room. Our toilet worked fine, though it ran constantly.
Anyway, the architecture in Belgrade is interesting. We saw plenty of the old, blocky communist construction, but also much from the 19th Century that was highly decorative.
Our first destination was the Roda Supermarket (underground; Belgrade has lots of underground tunnels for crossing busy streets; these are lined with shops). We had a picnic in a small park–bread, cheese, fruit, cookies. Here, we had our first encounter with the white rabbit. There’s an old man who is something of a celebrity in the old city. He walks around with his pet white rabbit. The rabbit runs loose, no leash or anything, and it just follows the man (or maybe he follows it.) It kept trying to escape under a construction barricade to get to some fresh green grass on the other side. I wish I’d taken a better picture of it but I was in the middle of eating dinner. It was a definite Alice-in-Wonderland moment.
We tried to stay up late so we could sleep a normal night but it was a losing battle. We fell asleep shortly after dark and woke at 5 a.m. Ah, well.