A lofty experience
AirBNB in the balkans
26 February 2015
Choosing an Airbnb apartment was an obvious decision, both in terms of cost and the ability to locate myself right in the heart of the city.
But rather than book a regular room, I chose the slightly more unorthodox option of a loft apartment. The one I settled on was in the heart of downtown Belgrade. It had a little ‘cave’ leading from its back door. Inside, laundry lines ran and another narrow opening led out to a balcony with views of the skyline.
In the distance, I could see the vast confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. This Airbnb apartment belonged to a DJ; and his presence permeated the furnishings; from posters to his bookshelf to the fancy painted walls. Outside, a pair of pigeons roosted in contentment.
Downstairs, it was a short hop to the Historical Museum of Serbia, its ironclad exterior holding a wealth of treasures. In the immediate vicinity, a supermarket offered wine for the princely sum of 2 euro a bottle. Nearby, a used clothing shop did a brisk business. People here aren’t well off, and so things might seem cheap to visitors, but they keep themselves, and the city well. And so Belgrade maintains its own dignity; as befitting its history as the administrative capital of the Hapsburg empire and even further back, to circa 7000BC.
Unfortunately, the loft is no longer available, but Airbnb has a whole range of similar apartments for rent.
Another city, another Airbnb loft. This time, Sofia, with its lush swathes of green and Mount Vitosha, a perfect day-hike out of the city. Not that Sofia is dull, its long boulevards of history jostle for attention with out-of-the-way restaurants that serve delicious local fare.
My hosts, Boris and Tsvety, were headed out of town that weekend; it seemed I had arrived on a public holiday, so I was unable to get the free breakfast promised, but I did get a sandwich and a Coke upon arrival. Plus the chance to hang out with the denizens of the little cafe at the foot of the apartment block, run, incidentally, by Boris’ mother! It seems I had stumbled onto a real family business. And to sweeten the deal, there was a bottle of wine waiting atop the kitchen counter when I arrived.
I joined a free evening walk to get an insider’s perspective on the streets. Sofia is another city with a chequered history, and ongoing excavations in the city centre reveal its storied past, dating back to the Ottoman occupation of the city up to the 17th century.
The cafes are stuck in 90s pop, Roxette seemed to be my constant companion, but at least the cool end of summer and the promise of wine back at my loft made Sofia a most pleasant stay indeed.