Sunday, 14 June 2015

Slovenia v England

So after the rubbish friendly in Dublin onto more important matters of qualifying matches. We had decided to fly to Belgrade and get a train up to Ljubljana. This is also meant a two new countries Serbia and Slovenia numbers 67 and 68 on my quest to conquer the world.

These 4 pictures nice sum up the trip, 2 fantastic cities, a great game of football and an added bonus of a Robbie Williams gig when we returned to Belgrade.

Thursday 11th June

It all started on Thursday, we drove up to Luton airport for our 8pm flight on Wizz air to Belgrade.  Luton is a horrible horrible airport, over crowded and full of stag/hen parties on cheap flights!  It was a relief to board our plane.  With the 1 hour time difference we landed in Belgrade at 23.30.  A quick visit to a cashpoint to get some Serbian Dinar and it was in a taxi and by 00.30 we had checked in to our rather posh hotel, the Hotel Majestic.  As we were checking in we heard some familiar voices and Albion Director Derek Chapman wandered in!  He had also come via Serbia to tick of another country, he wants to hit the 100 mark before he is 60 and now has 2 years to do 5 more!  He said he would ask Tony Bloom to calculate the odds of us being in the same hotel at the same time in a country England NOT playing in!! We quickly dumped our bags and headed out for a quick beer and a kebab!  

Friday 12th June

So it was up about 9am as breakfast finished at 10am.  It turns out that our hotel had been the place where the Manchester United team had been the night after drawing 2-2 with Red Star Belgrade in 1958.  They flew home the next day via Munich!

Our rather posh hotel room and the view to our nearest bars!

The hotel had a corridor of all the famous people/teams that have visited the hotel, the Man Utd 1958 team and story was the biggest tribute.

So after looking at the picture gallery in the hotel it was time to head out into the blazing sunshine and boy was it hot hot hot!

On the recommendation of the people from the hotel we headed to the old part of town which was only about a 20 minute walk away and the main attraction was Belgrade Fortress

The river running to the side of the fortress is the Sava that eventually ends up in Slovenia!  The Sava and Danube meet just north of the fortress.  The bar at the top offered a lovely view of the meeting of the two rivers - so we just had to stop!

The meeting of the Sava and Danube rivers

There was some military museum and a museum of torture at the fortress but we just took in the free views

It had been a very hot day so we had stopped at various bars and decided it was time for some food,  The first bar had a great view over the Danube.

Sampling some of the local beers! Jelen definitely my favourite!

We were hungry and ordered quite a lot, well actually more than quite a lot!  However we tucked in and gave it a go!!!

Once we had been back to the hotel for a late afternoon snooze and time to digest the rather large meal it was time to head out again.

Saturday 13th June

So today was the day to take the train from Belgrade to Ljubljana.  It was roughly a 10 hour journey.  We wandered down to Belgrade station and were soon settled in our carriage, luckily next to the buffet carriage!

The buffet carriage served my favourite Serbian beer, a right result and the cold bottles helped the 10 hour journey to pass pretty quickly! The beer prices started in Serbian Dinar and ended up in Euros.  At one point I was drinking Serbian beer in Croatia and paying in Euros!  Complicated, not at all, another beer please kind sir!

Crossing the Sava river and into the residential side of Belgrade
Belgrade City Centre

We were soon out of Belgrade City and into the countryside.  The train was very slow to start as we were down to single track as they were pretty much replacing the whole of one track for most of the time our train was in Serbia

It was a very slow train and here are a few of the stations, yes I know skip them until we arrive in Ljubljana!

After leaving Zagreb the scenery becoming much more impressive. 

The train was also delayed by I think 5 Engine changes, checked by boarder security out of Serbia, into Croatia, out of Croatia and finally into Slovenia!  I now have a nice stamp in my passport with a train on it!  On one page I have a stamp with a car, one with a plane and now one with a train!  Well I was impressed! Can you get one with a boat on it??

This impression wrongly gives the impression that the train went at any speed.  10 hours to do just 500km
We finally arrive into Ljubljana and Eva our apartment owner met us.  When we had cleared up Nelsons dribble we finally got checked in and the apartment was very nice!

So Eva kindly gave us a lift back into the city centre and we had a lovely meal and a few Lasko beers.  Time flew by but it had been a late start and by 2.30am decided to walk back to our apartment!

Poor old Nelson had been up for hours and had come in via Munich!  well he blamed his occasional power naps on that and not the many beers consumed!

Sunday 14th June

So today was match day.  We headed out to collect our tickets and it was soon time to hit the bars for a beer or two pre-match.

England fans take over central Ljubljana

Michael eats the worlds biggest pizza (family size) and eats the lot!

The Match

So it was now time to head to the free buses to the stadium.  We were soon at the ground and after a pretty thorough security check were in the ground.  It was a nice small stadium, when you walked round outside you were at roof level.  The capacity was 16k and I think the crowd given as 12,300 with just over 2,200 England fans.

 The ground looked tiny from the outside!  The basketball arena next to it looked more impressive!


You can just about see the players through the double netting

The teams line up.  The ground may have been small but the support was passionate.  Noisy, one end dominated by a group of Ultras segregated from the rest of the Slovenian fans.  We were poor first half and missed several great chances!

Slovenia take the lead much to the locals delight 

The weather had finally broken and it was pouring but as we had won 3-2 with 2 world class goals by Wiltshire, nobody cared!  We jumped onto the free buses back to the city centre and it was time for a few more cold refreshing beers!  

A few more pictures from the match, my mate Paul from Hull takes a little snooze during the first half!

We were kept in for about 20 minutes, one England fan got bored and decided to climb the annoying netting to a chorus of "Your getting sacked in the morning", he was escorted out by the English police! 

Monday 16th June

So today it was time to see Ljubljana as a tourist!

We opted to take the wooden boat for our river trip. The captain and asked would anyone like a beer!  Poor Kevin was not well so had stayed at the apartment.  Fiona, Sara and I decided a cold beer would be good, as did the other 4 England fans on the trip!  Its a tough life following England at times.  

If we had carried on for a few hours we would eventually have ended up in the Sava river and could have paddled on to Belgrade.  It would probably have been quicker and perhaps I could have got my elusive passport stamp with a boat on it!

The shoemaker bridge, called that because that area of Ljubljana used t have loads based in that area, today there is just one left.. 

Some weird art exhibition!  Definitely a prospect for the next Mrs McCarthy for our mate Scott who sadly could not make this trip!

Three Bridges, I wish I lived near this Three Bridges and not the place I have to get a train from normally at stupid o'clock for Brighton away games.

The dragon bridge, I will leave you to work out why it is called that!  Next to it is the fish market. Yuk!

So that was the end of the boat trip, it was now time to take a walk up to the castle

Just behind the bars on the riverside we found another beautiful area of the city, I love this place.

The start of the steep (ish) walk up to the Castle

The views half way up

Some stunning views looking back down to the city

Having walked up we opted for the funicular back down

After the boat trip and exploring the castle we decided to refuel!  We stopped at a restaurant recommended by Eve and tucked in to some traditional Slovenian food.  I had steak and cheese dumplings, with a couple of cold Union beers.  We dumped into fellow Albion fans Neil and Sarah and they joined us for a couple of drinks.  It was a very enjoyable day, well it was for us, no so much for Kevin who slept most of the day!

We spent a lovely evening drinking down in the bars along the river, I think this is the life for me!

Some more pictures from around the city

Tuesday 16th June

It was now time to head back to Belgrade.  An early train - 8.25am - but at least in meant getting back to Belgrade at a decent time.

The weather was rather dull and we passed through low lying cloud as we headed back towards Croatia
Zagreb Station

Wednesday 17th June 

Today was a day to explore Belgrade.  The lady in the tourist information office was so uninterested in helping it was almost amusing!  We managed to force out the location of a bus tour but failed to find a cruise on the Danube!  We left before she could say "computer says no"

Some bizarre robots in Republic Square

Changing the guard Serbian Style

The Red Star Belgrade Club Shop

We decided to take a tour of the city on one of the bus tours

The old Yugoslavian Military HQs that NATO bombed in 1999

Below shows a floodlight from the Partisan Belgrade Stadium and then we drove by the Red Star Belgrade Stadium!  They are very very close and I do mean very close to each other!

Passing what we considered our Belgrade home, Republic Square, on the open top bus

Lots and lots of buildings around Belgrade!  The one below shows the home of Basketball and where the first ever game was played (do I need to add an allegedly here?)

So the bus tour was over and we headed back to the main square and settled down for a traditional Serbian meal. It was very tasty, looking back there seams to be way tooo much food and drink on the trip :-)

Wednesday 17th June continued - Robbie Williams Gig

So the next treat, Robbie Williams was playing his first ever gig in Serbia and it was tonight!  So after finding a local ticket office we picked up 3 tickets @ 4,990 Dinar each, about £29 each!  The Venue was about a 25 minute walk from our hotel.  So at 6pm we headed off to find the place, it was easy in the end as it was follow the crowd!


18:00 Gates open

19:30 Exit Avantura Live! with Perpetum Mobile ft. Bojana Stamenov & X Factor Adria finalists

20:45 2Cellos (Sulic & Hauser) - Special Exit Adventure Guests!

Let Me Entertain You Tour 2015!

Serbian X-Factor finalists

Belgrade is rather excited to see Robbie Williams

I quite like this one!

We bumped into a few lads and lasses from Stoke/Port Vale.  They got right down the from and Robbie gave them a mention!

Thursday 18th June

So another fantastic trip is over, not long to San Marino and a mini tour of Italy - bring it on!

Some more totally random pictures!

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