Has it been your longtime dream to cross the seven seas and explore the world as a Viking? In Belgrade, you can gather some experience for that dream during a cruise down the Danube and Sava..
We followed an invitation of the Tourist Organization of Belgrade and got to enjoy a boat tour on the Danube and Sava.
I was a little surprised when we arrived at the mooring place at the river on the opposite side of the fortress. What I know from other cities are overcrowded piers with plenty of boats and the respective vendors trying to talk you into taking their tour. This was very different.
There were some boats, but not one of them left for a tour. Some of the boats are restaurants, some are houseboats but there is not much going on on the Danube or Sava in terms of tours and cruises. I kept on noticing that later on during our time in Belgrade whenever we were near the river. I rarely ever spotted a boat other than the river cruises that stop in Belgrade. The others were mostly privately owned boats or cargo ships.
Shipping on the Danube and Sava
So we stood at the embankment of the Sava, this is where our boat tour was supposed to begin – but without a boat for now. That’s when we spotted the red sail down the river and it was coming towards us.
The closer it got, the bigger my amazement grew. What was coming there was a Russian Viking ship with two men in Viking clothes on it. I did not see that one coming! We boarded the ship and were handed a Rakjia – this is a tradition – before we departed. They had Viking clothes for us, too, but we passed since on a day with 30° Celsius there was no need for a warming cape. It would have made for some interesting photographs, though.
Some info about the boat
The Viking ship SLAVJANA is a reconstruction of a Russian Viking ship from the early medieval. Vikings used this type of vessel for their raids. The boat is a gift from Russia to Serbia. Transporting it from Russia to Serbia took 6 months. On its way, the ship had to cross 8 countries, 7 mountains and 7 seas before it arrived in Belgrade. Travelling by sea was not always possible so the ship had to be transported on land as well. We were told that this proved to be quite difficult at times.
The wooden ship can be used with sails (no wind on the day of our trip, unfortunately), paddles or a little motor. Our captain, who wouldn’t have needed any Viking attire to optically blend in with the ship, was clearly enjoying himself and even turned the engine off at some point so that we could enjoy a moment of perfect silence on water. I was thankful that there were no other boats nearby that could have spoilt the moment with loud music. It was an absolute dream.
Relaxing, sightseeing and the Viking experience
I enjoyed the 1.5h tour on the Danube and Sava from under an awning. It really was hot on that day and even the breeze on deck didn’t cool us down. The ship is small and its few benches offer space for maybe 20 to 30 passengers. Counting the crew and ourselves we were six people on board and were, therefore, able to move around and pick the spot with the best view.
What I noticed again on that day were the vastly different architectural styles of the city. Looking to one side of the river we got to marvel at the fortress of Belgrade. On the other side of the river were the concrete buildings of the socialist era and a little further down the modern buildings of hotel chains and industrial companies as well as the new developments around the Belgrade Waterfront. I don’t often see places where these different styles are all over the place. It certainly makes the city quite interesting.
We spotted a few houseboats, some also for rent. I can very well imagine staying on one of those during my next visit. Or in the legendary Hotel Jugoslavija Belgrade, a building that was designed in the Zagreb school of modernism, opened in 1969. It was home to what used to be the world’s biggest chandelier (until 2010). It was designed and manufactured by Swarovski and contained 40000 crystals and 5000 light bulbs. It measured 30 x 9 meters and weighed 14 tons. Queen Elizabeth II., Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Willy Brandt, Tina Turner and Neil Armstrong have all stayed at this hotel. During the NATO bombings of 1999, the hotel was hit by two rockets and its west wing was destroyed. Today, none of its old glory is visible from the outside (but maybe from the inside?).
The tour on the SLAVJANA was really nice. Thanks a lot for having us!
daily 14.00, 16.00, 18.00 at the river Sava mooring place
sold exclusively at the Tourist Centre at Knez Mihailova 56 No tickets sold on board!
We got to experience the boat tour in Belgrade for free as part of a cooperation with the Tourist Organization Belgrade. Thank you very much!