Avala Tower to Belgrade Fortress - Belgrade, Serbia
One thing that varies from city to city is the taxi cab system. My preference is always Uber since I know the price will be fair, there is no question about what address they will take you to and there is never a dispute about how you will pay. However, not every city or country allows Uber so you need to figure out the local ride hailing app, if there is one. In Berlin I use MyTaxi since it connects you quickly to a taxi all the time and the payment is done directly on your credit card. Germans still don’t like credit cards, so it can be a hassle in a regular cab since they will tell you the card machine is broken. When I went to Belgrade, Serbia recently, I planned on using a taxi to take me from the airport out of the city to the starting point of my run where I would then run into town to my hotel. I did my research and found that Taxify (now Bolt) was the main app to use and the city does not allow Uber. I made no other plans and just assumed the app would work and I would be on my way quickly. However, for whatever reason, there were no cabs to be found, and, once I was there I realized that in Serbia you couldn’t pay through the app, negating one of the big benefits of using the app, anyway. Alas, there was a taxi stand that would set a fixed price based on your destination to avoid scammers. But, this confusion cost me time since I didn’t plan out the start. I highly recommend if you will start your run straight from an airport to pre-book your ride so there is no wasted time getting to the start.
My trip to Belgrade was a quick two-day adventure arriving early on Saturday morning and then heading out Sunday afternoon. I’d planned on doing two runs over the weekend. Since it was late in the season, I figured I wouldn’t have enough daylight to get in a 50k, but wanted to do at least 60k for the weekend. The first run I planned started at Avala, a mountain southeast of the city that would give a good view and was a point of interest. I enjoyed starting here because it would let me get in some elevation, looked to have forest trails, and was also home to recent historical events. There is a tower on Avala you can go up, the Avala Tower. The previous tower at this location, the Avala TV Tower was bombed and destroyed in 1999 by NATO. It was but one reminder of this war I saw during my trip. It is now a great location to view the city from and there is also a well done Memorial to the Unknown Hero you can visit. After getting to the top of the mountain, and after taking the elevator to the top of the tower, I turned around and headed to the city.
The run into Belgrade was one of the most urban runs I’ve done on my trips. On Strava Heat Maps it looked like the road was well traveled between Avala and the city, but there was next to no place to run on the road for several stretches. There was also a spot where I thought I could transition over to a park, but that would have required me to go down paths that looked private and were in a housing development. I stuck to the main road and took a few detours to visit parks such as the Memorial Park Jajinci. This park is a memorial to the suffering of many Serbians during World War II and is moving when you stop and think about the horrors the people endured.
The weather this weekend was cooperating so the final miles into the city were very nice and I had good views of the Belgrade Fortress. I looped all the way south to the river and then to my hotel to finish up. That night I then had dinner at Ambar on the waterfront of Sava River, a tributary of the Danube. It was a beautiful night with many people out enjoying the waterfront area with many restaurants.
On day two I got up early as I’d planned a 16 mile (26k) run around the city. While planning the run I found that you can create a very nice run despite the dense urban landscape by going along the rivers, parks, and lakes. In particular, Lake Sava and the island Ada Ciganlija looked to be a cool place to run. One of the most striking things about the run to the lake was the portion along the Ada Bridge. It is an immense bridge with great views of the city and river and was also intense to run across because of its height and the amount of wind. The lake area itself was great for people watching and also had many cafes, one of which I stopped at to take a coffee and enjoy the sun.
I highly recommend Belgrade as an ultrarunning destination. Despite the urban landscape, you can get in some very nice runs both within the city and outside the city. With more time I would have ventured farther out in into the countryside. The city is also home to history I was glad to get to see firsthand since I remember the days of the NATO attacks in 1999. There are even still bombed-out buildings remaining downtown such as the Yugoslav Ministry of Defence Building. I’ve also always been a fan of airplanes, and one of the most interesting airplane museums I’ve been to is located right next to the airport. The Aeronautical Museum Belgrade has one of the most unique collections of aircraft in the world. I’d never seem in person some German and Russian planes they had on display and there were also American planes. One of the unique things here is the wreckage of American fighter planes, including the stealth F-117 bomber, that was shot down during the war in 1999. I remember the story of the pilot being rescued, and this display brought it all to life for me.
My two-day run total in Belgrade was about 36 miles (58k) with over 2500 feet (750m) of elevation because of the climb up the Avala mountain and also the bridges throughout the city. I hope that you can make this into your own ultrarunning destination and enjoy Belgrade, Serbia as much as I did.