One of the greatest things about quitting the rat race to redesign my life is the chance to work from different locations. Of course I am a father and a husband so I am at the mercy of my daughter’s education and the ability of my wife to have the same flexibility as me.
As a family we made decision at the beginning of the year to try to use every school holiday as an opportunity to travel somewhere during 2017.
Now, as I type these words I am sitting in Amelie, a charmingly shabby little bar in Belgrade, drinking a coffee, half an eye on the world strolling by seen through a tatty net curtain.
I am killing time before we have to go to the airport for a flight home and it gives me a chance to reflect on a city in which I lived very happily for two years. Belgrade is not the most beautiful city in the world. It lacks the signature art and historic buildings with which the great capitals of Europe easily sell themselves but it does make up for these shortcomings with a vibrancy of life, particularly café life, which has made me fall in love with it over the years, since I first came here back in 2008, for work.
There is a degree of nostalgia that I feel for this area of downtown Belgrade since I used to live just around the corner and spent many an evening in Amelie sipping cold beers as the hot summer sun faded, under the shade of the broad leaves of two sycamores. As much as I love my own land as a whole and have felt a longing to be back, I have never felt a strong sense for a specific place within it. If you ask me where I come from, I will struggle to be more specific than "the UK”.
Belgrade is different. Perhaps because the time I spent here was one of transformation, not only in my working life as I built a business but also because I met my wife here, but I feel an attachment to this city that I otherwise don’t feel. Over the last ten years I lived in a few different places; the manicured mountains of Tirol, among the majestic architecture of Vienna as well as a brief spell in the scorching heat of Malta but of all these transitory places, Belgrade is the one which at times has engendered the greatest feeling of sentimentality in me.
It has changed greatly over the last nine years, becoming gradually more international and evolving positively from the influx of foreign visitors and influences. I am encouraged to see that many of the tired old buildings are in the process of having a facelift, but I am told this may be inextricably linked to the recent election and the opium of public opinion.
One constant has been the extraordinary abundance of quirky bars and cafés. The digital nomad could spend a month in Belgrade and work from a different location each day. Of course they sometimes seem to open and close like the stuttering doors of Belgrade's fleet of beat-up buses, and it is nigh on impossible to keep up to speed with which represents the “coolest” spot to be seen. Nevertheless, here is a list of a few favourites as a recommendation to anyone wishing to spend a while in this seldom vaunted, and little known city; a stone’s throw from Western Europe and offering something akin to the bohemian atmosphere of Berlin but without the self awareness of Germany’s capital. They are in no particular order and there are countless others for the visitor to discover.
Address: Kralja Petra 56
Hours: 9 am until 12 am
Web: Web site
Good food, drinks and cocktails!. A lovely courtyard and usually a good mix of people here.
Address: Nevesinjska 11
Hours: 8 am until 12 am
Web: Web site
Lovely breakfast, fresh pastries - just a little bit different!
Majstor Za Pivo (translates as BEERMEISTER)
Address: Hercega Stjepana 15
Hours: 12 am until 10 pm
Food: No (this is a beer shop really, but you can buy, sit and sip a wide range of Serbian an international craft beers).
Web: Web site
It's amazing (and totally awesome) how craft beers have really taken off in Serbia of late. Can think of no reason not sit here and sample a few.
Address: Uskočka 8
Hours: 8 am until 11 pm
I'd say this is a great place to start off your day. They have really good coffee and lovely breakfasts and its just off the main drag.