Six years ago Nato bombs were raining on Belgrade – today the city is at the cutting edge of cool. To the jaded palates of today’s jet-setters, being in a recent war zone adds a distinct frisson to any city’s appeal. There’s a vicarious shiver of danger, even if the reality is completely safe.
But Serbia’s troubled past has actually helped shape Belgrade into the hotspot it is today. During the Milosevic years, liberals hung about in clandestine bars, and many have remained to form the basis of the city’s exciting bar culture. Others were so-called ‘hobby bars’ set up during the war in people’s flats to help get cheaper access to alcohol. Ben Akiba, in an apartment block, is the pick of the formerly secret bars. In cellars under the fortress, Anderground attracts big-name international DJs.
Abu Dhabi burst on to the travel scene this week with the opening of the Emirates Palace Hotel – a monument to excess and opulence. John Kampfner checks in
There I am minding my own business, marvelling at the architecture, when who do I bump into but Boris Becker? In fact, you can’t really mind your own business here, because there are too many people minding it for you.
I have just arrived at the Emirates Palace Hotel, much more palace than hotel, and one of the most jaw-dropping places to stay on the planet. This is a monument to excess and opulence in a region where if you’ve got billions you flaunt them. One man who has done this more than most is Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi who has transformed the emirate from a few huts in the desert in the early 1970s into today’s booming city-state. But it still has a long way to go to catch up neighbouring Dubai … which is where the Palace comes in.