The Christian Orthodox World welcomes the new year according to the Julian calendar which fell on 14 January 2015 this year. At that time, I just arrived to Belgrade, Serbia for the first time and I was lucky to find celebrations all over the city. Obviously, I joined the celebrations with friendly locals who were more than happy to have me among them…
On the New Year Eve, I checked in at Hotel Argo located on a central street of Belgrade it was in between the Pedestrian Street and St Sava Temple from where the fireworks were displayed at midnight. Practical location to return to bed after party. The room was very nice and warm with some vibrant colours to stay zen and relaxed. Breakfast was fine and the WiFi works perfectly inside the room.
After check-in, I discover the city centre. It was the New Year Eve but it seemed like a normal day. Some people were not even aware that there is a new year because they have already celebrated the new year according to the Georgian Calendar on 1st January. However, those who were actually aware of it were really ready to party hard and pretended that it was a good reason to celebrate and go out once again!
I met Jelena from Belgrade Tourist Board who took me to lunch at a traditional Serbian restaurant, called locally, Kaffana. The restaurant name is Šešir Moj, named best national cuisine restaurant in Serbia. The food was absolutely amazing. It was literally my new year feast! I ate so much that I was full the whole day. The Kaffana was all decorated and ready to welcome guests throughout the night. The staff at the restaurant was very friendly and invited me to drop by later at night.
After a walk around town, I head back to my hotel to charge energy for the night. Around 10pm, I start making my way to St Sava Temple. From far away, as I approach this huge church, crowds of people head towards it. And the Christmas lights are still shining on the big streets of the city. I felt some excitement to be celebrating two new years, a new chance to make new resolutions!
Once I arrive to St Sava, small fireworks are displayed by individuals mostly teenagers. It was quite annoying but it did not last long until the real show began. Inside the church, I was surprised to see that there are no seats like in the Catholic churches but instead everyone is standing silently and queue to get in there. The church is not so special in my opinion perhaps because it is still under construction but from the outside it looks amazing with its imposing location and presence. It is the largest Orthodox Church in the world!
Midnight… People from all ages get excited for the fireworks. The bells ring and boom! A show of almost 20 minutes with spectacular displays. The sky of Belgrade was shining with explosion of colours and joy. Locals were quite happy, some were drinking or simply cheering for the new year.
Following the fireworks, I head towards the city centre around Dorsol to see what’s going on! Well, bars were crowded as expected and I dropped by a Kaffana to hear some traditional music. People were dancing and drinking their favourite… Rakjia! A local alcohol that everyone mentions there. It is made from plums and is famous all over the Balkans from Ljubljana to Istanbul but especially in Serbia that ranks as the world largest producer of Rakjia!
The next day it is time for the people of Belgrade to go back to work. As it is only a traditional but not an official holiday, there is no day off. Life takes its usual course and this may be the reason why some people even forget that there is an Orthodox New Year. But certainly not me. As I was free as a bird, I experienced a night I will always remember.
Thanks to Visit Belgrade for hosting my trip but all views are my own.