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Belgrade: We’ll be back!

One more trip titled Promotion of Epirus as Tourist Destination as well as Agricultural Producer. This time our goal was to be acquainted with the Serbian visitors.

Since Belgrade is just up the road from Thessaloniki, we decided to go via… Munich! We started the trip with a really good weather and we arrived with 1 Celcius. The locals demonstrated their Germanness by offering free hot Nespresso coffee for all transit passengers. It wasn’t half bad and along with a cigarette at the designated area it was exactly what we needed until we board again. Snow started falling while we were inside the shuttle bus and a good feeling warmed us raising our positive energy. It was really nice it was snowing while we travelled.

Arrival in Belgrade. The non-licensed taxi drivers swarmed like flies. Taxi, madam… We knew what to do thanks to the instructions of Ivan, our Serbian partner and friend. We got inside a licensed taxi and headed towards some central hotel which would allow us to follow our usual routine of exploring the city on foot.  Throughout the ride, the taxi driver mumbled what were seemingly the only words he knew in English: no problem, no problem. When we arrived at the hotel, we became aware of what he meant. We had 5 enormous suitcases and the hotel was situated on a pedestrian walk. And that wasn’t the only problem. The hotel was a B&B of a somewhat “exotic” décor. Business trip and B&B not a good combination.

We camped at Republic Square, ordered coffee and before we had time to take the last sip, the capable Pandora back in the office found us the solution. Things move quickly when you are organized and have a strong back office. With 15 degrees and with a 5 Beaufort North wind we finally arrived at the Belgrade Art Hotel (BAH). Vindication at last.

We left our suitcases and went to the IFT (International Fair of Tourism). After we checked our booth and made sure everything was under control, we met out local partners in the centre of the city, at the Lagano Lounge & Restaurant, where we would be hosting the event for Epirus to a Serbian audience. Everything seemed fine. Good job, Ivan!

We drove through the Belgrade night air, did some essential night seeing and returned to the hotel.

The following morning was the big day at the fair. It was an important launch with lots of people. It felt like a grand fiesta. In fairs such as this, there is always a feeling of joy. You feel wanted and appreciated, especially by old friends and partners with whom you reunite. Everybody knows everybody and meetings are arranged for dinners and drinks. Unfortunately, we can’t say yes. We are already reserved for our evening venture.

At 7 pm, we welcomed our new Serbian friends, journalists and tour operators at the Lagano Lounge & Restaurant. There was a great turnout and people showed genuinely interested. The menu, made by chef Goran, included authentic Epirus delicacies and was top notch. Wine flowed as well as conversation.  It was quiet late when we said goodbye to our Serbian guests, but not before taking our usual photo with all the members of the team as a memento of our fruitful cooperation. What a tiring and yet rewarding day it was. It ended with a deep peaceful sleep back at the hospitable BAH.

The next morning we went to the fair again. There was a buzz around the Epirus booth. Interviews from Serbian TV, dozens of photographs by professional photographers and a lot of commotion. Everybody turning around us. What joy!  We celebrated that same evening at a local traditional tavern called Tresnjin Hlad along with a big group of Serbs, music by an orchestra of clarinets, singing and dancing. Partying wild, Serb style!

We needed to rest but on the other hand was it wise to stay in during our last evening in Belgrade? Don’t think so!

The weather was windy and rainy during our second to last day, but we paid no attention and went for a small sightseeing on foot. We saw the famous St Sava Church, the Nikola Tesla Museum, the Kalemegdan Castle and had coffee in one of the most beautiful little café in Knez Mihailova pedestrian road.

In the evening, we took our Serbian friends and visited the oldest tavern in the city, called Kafana? (question mark included), where we tried the famous Karageorgevich Kontosouvli and kaimak. But the night was still young. As we were walking back to the hotel, we discovered the Muha Bar with a live jazz orchestra.  Amazing band, drinks and good company. Some of us stayed until closing time!  

Last day of the fair. After we said our goodbyes and renewed our appointment for the next fair with all our friends and partners, Greek and other, we went for a stroll, some window shopping, coffee and a bit of gossip. We needed to rest but on the other hand was it wise to stay in during our last evening in Belgrade? Don’t think so!  A hot and nutritious soup at the wonderful hotel restaurant gave us the extra strength for that last night out. We ended up at Sugar and Spice, next to the famous for its pancakes Hotel Jugoslavija.

This time we flew back via Vienna. We were so tired we didn’t notice we had to take the shuttle bus and kept waiting at the airport gate. Fortunately we snapped out of it in time!  What stayed with us about this trip was the proximity of communication we had with our local partners. It was like we knew each other and worked side by side for years. We’re sure we’ll be back. Not with Air Serbia the next time, but in some other way, we’ll find our way to beautiful Belgrade again.