Like a lot of the other countries we’d visited, I didn’t know much about Serbia, or its history (in fact, I didn’t know much about any of the former Yugoslavia countries and how they all came to be independent), so I wasn’t sure what to expect when arriving in Belgrade.
It’s a capital city with a buzz, that’s for sure. The nightlife is excellent– although we never went ‘clubbing’ as such, we had a few nights bar-hopping until about 3am and drinking the local beer with some local people which was a lot of fun.
As mentioned in my previous post, the citadel in Belgrade is wonderful, but for me, it was the places that lie just outside of Belgrade which make it worth spending time there.
One of my favourite things was cycling to Ada Ciganlija beach. A designated cycle path has been created running all the way along the river to the beach which lies about 10km (give or take, I’m no good with distances) outside of Belgrade. Even around the artificial beach there is a lovely cycle path amongst the trees – the only time I really cycled was in my street back home and on family holidays to Center Parcs so having somewhere where I didn’t need to worry about colliding with cars or pedestrians was very beneficial. On this sunny day it was busy but wonderful – and the most exercise I’d done in a while.
We spent about four days in Belgrade, seeing most of the sights and exploring bits just outside the city too. After that we headed north to the town of Novi Sad, most known for hosting EXIT festival each summer. The hostel we stayed in was in a wonderful location in the town square, right next to a grand Catholic Cathedral. We had one full day in Novi Sad which was enough; we spent the day walking around the Fortress. From the outside, it doesn’t look that impressive but once you get inside and look at the view, it’s really spectacular. EXIT festival takes place inside the citadel/fort which I reckon must really be something special, and would be a reason for me returning there in the summer.
Although it wasn’t logical, we then headed back down south, making our way to the mountainous town of Zlatibor. We arrived in the dark but awoke the next day and were greeted by snow and ski slopes all around us. Apparently there were some sights in nearby towns which were worth a trip, unfortunately, after visiting the tour agencies and speaking our very best Serbian, they weren’t running day trips to the places we wanted due to the time of year. We were gutted to say the least, however, we decided with all the gorgeous ski slopes, our day could be filled with other activities. Neither of us are big into winter sports (or any sports for that matter), but one thing both of us can do is tobogganing! Only £2 to rent for the whole day, and a whole lot of fun.
Due to the lack of day trips, we left Zlatibor and headed to our final Serbian destination: Nis. Located in the south of Serbia, it’s the next biggest city after Belgrade. There is an excellent app you can download, not only telling you the location of all the things tourists like us want to see, but also information about them which it will read out to you when you get to said site (who needs books anymore eh?). Like many other towns in Serbia, it has a lovely Fort/Citadel overlooking the city with a park and cafes inside, dotted with relics of history for you to read and visit. One of the most interesting but harrowing places to visit in Nis is a well-preserved concentration camp from World War Two. Although it is well preserved, part of the outside wall was destroyed in the 1999 NATO bombings. For me, the idea of somewhere which was used in the war being bombed so recently reminded me how much war this country has seen.
As I said, I didn’t know what to expect with Serbia but it’s a delightful mix of atmospheric cities and lovely landscape; I grew quite affectionate towards the country in the week and a half we spent there. In Serbia, I began to learn about the history of the former republic of Yugoslavia, but as we’ve been to more countries you truly see the effects that it’s had on people and communities all over the Balkans.