Serbia is a country of beautiful countryside, popular events and rich in history. Although Serbian capital Belgrade receives most of the tourist traffic throughout the year, the rest of Serbia can prove itself nothing less interesting and adventurous if you give it a chance. Finally, I dare to say that country which hosts one of the most famous European festivals – Exit, with medieval architectural (fortresses, churches, etc.) and natural gems (Djerdap, Devil’s Town…) cannot be boring.
Short history of Serbia
Let’s start from the beginning. The Slavs (and the Serbs among them) migrated to the Balkan region upon the Roman Empire’s downfall (roughly from the 5th to the 10th century). Serbian medieval state, despite occasional setbacks, advanced very well until the 14th century.
During the reign of the Nemanjic dynasty (1168 – 1371), it transformed itself from a tribal state, through a kingdom, to an empire. Emperor Dusan Nemanjic, also known as Dusan the Mighty, who was most powerful Serbian ruler in history, unexpectedly died in his 48 year of age (1346), just when he was preparing to confront the emerging Ottoman Turks. As it happened quite often in history when a powerful ruler died, the Serbian medieval state crumbled due to the ambitions of various noblemen, and, despite a few significant victories over the Turks in 1381 and 1386, had fallen prey to the newly raised superpower at the Kosovo Battle (1389).
The Ottoman Turks ruled Serbia, more or less, for next five centuries and Serbia was liberating itself from the Turks the entire 19th century. Finally, the 20th century brought two Balkan Wars (1912 – 1913), two World Wars and the 1999 bombing. In its long history, Serbia waged wars and was under a foreign rule longer than it lived in peace.
Serbian natural gems
With the exception of Vojvodina province, regions of Serbia are mostly mountainous and hilly. Main tourist centers, featuring beautiful nature, are the Kopaonik, Tara and Zlatibor Mountains. The oasis of greenery during the summer, these mountains become popular ski resorts in wintertime. If your time doesn’t allow you to go so far inland, the Divcibare Mountain is a very good substitution. All of these mountains are crisscrossed with engaging hiking paths and spectacular panoramic views.
Serbia is also rich in lakes, and the Palic Lake in Vojvodina, near the Hungarian border, is most famous and developed. Palic Lake, being rich in minerals, is a popular destination for certain medical treatments, but also for activities in nature and Palic Film Festival in summer. Surrounded by mountains, the Vlasina Lake is the highest lake in Serbia. Because of its altitude and fresh air, it’s an excellent choice for those suffering from anemia.
If you are a fan of river cruising, the Danube River cruise, which includes the Djerdap gorge, would enchant you. Djerdap is the longest and the largest European gorge, where various archaeological sites and historical monuments are located. One of the grandest is a portrait of huge proportions of the last Dacian ruler Decebalus (reigned from 87 AD to 106 AD), carved in the stone. Sadly for him, the Romans weren’t impressed with such a display of power.
Did you know that Serbia had its candidate for the most recent Natural Wonders competition? Djavolja Varos (the Devil’s Town) is located near Kursumlija, on the mount Radan, featuring a few hundred earthen figures and various thermal springs.
Architectural gems of Serbia
Serbia is rich in Orthodox ecclesiastical structures, and most of them were commissioned during the reign of the Nemanjic dynasty. In short, wherever your way leads you to the south of the Danube and the Sava Rivers, you are very likely to find some monastery or church. Although the Christian religion was “discouraged” during the Turkish reign, it follows that they weren’t very persistent in utter destruction of Serbian religious structures.
A great deal of Serbian medieval religious architecture is located in Kosovo (Patriarchate of Pec, High Decani, Gracanica…), but most attention worthy in Serbia are Studenica (near Kraljevo), Mileseva (Prijepolje), Djurdjevi stupovi (Novi Pazar), Sopocani (Novi Pazar), monasteries of Serbia’s Holy Mountain (the Ovcarsko-Kablarska gorge), etc. Most significant monasteries located nearer Belgrade are Ravanica (near Cuprija) and Manasija (Despotovac).
Various medieval strongholds and fortresses are preserved to a smaller or larger degree throughout Serbia. Smederevo Fortress, which sheltered briefly the last medieval Serbian capital, was the last great achievement of the Serbian fortification craftsmanship. Assuming a strategic position on the bank of the Danube River, it’s one of Europe’s largest plain fortifications.
At the entrance to the Djerdap gorge, the Golubac Fortress is among best preserved fortified cities in Serbia and Europe. The fortress is located on a rocky slope, with its lower parts jutting out from the river. It’s also one of the most engaging sites of the Danube.
Petrovaradin (Novi Sad) and Nis Fortresses, built throughout the 18th century, are more recent additions. While the Petrovaradin was created by the Austrians, the Nis Fortress was built by the Turks.
Although not nearly as opulent and magnificent as central and western European palaces, Vojvodina features a myriad of fine palace examples. Among the most famous are Kulpin, Sokolac, Celarevo and, especially, Fantast.
Popular annual events
Certainly the most famous event in Serbia is a summer music festival Exit, which takes place at the Petrovaradin Fortress. Attracting musicians from all over the world, this award-winning event features Rock music, Heavy Metal, Dance, and most other genres.
The Belgrade Beer Fest is an excellent opportunity to enjoy beer from various regions of Europe and local specialties while being entertained with excellent music. Performers from all countries of former Yugoslavia flock to such a prestigious summertime event, competing who is going to create the best atmosphere. The Belgrade Beer Fest is not exactly Munich’s Oktoberfest, but you should manage quite nicely.
The Guca Trumpet Festival is another great event you are obliged to visit if you happen to be in Serbia in August. The festival is the largest trumpet event on earth, and once you have it attended, it will remain incised in your memory forever, maybe even longer.
Good reasons why you should visit Serbia some time are endless, and those above-mentioned are just a few. In general, Serbia is a small country, which can be passed over in a matter of several hours. The official currency in Serbia is RSD, and approximate rates are 120 RSD for 1 EUR, and 110 RSD for 1 USD. Weather, in general, is pleasant, featuring moderate winters and hot summers.