Belgrade – Capital of Serbia
Visiting Serbia often means arriving in its capital called Belgrade (or Beograde for Serbians) which translates to White City. It is largest city in the Balkans that used to be the capitol of Yugoslavia that existed until 2006 until it was left with Serbia as its sole member. One could say that Serbia has been around since 1217 when Serbian Kingdom was recognized by Rome, although settlements here were built way before that. During it’s history, Serbia has been annexed by Ottomans and many rulers of those times.
The very core of Belgrade is the fortress. For a long time the population of the fortress used to be the population of the city. The fortress and its surroundings are often used to host many open air events like concerts, art installations and more. During our visit there were art exhibitions going on for free. It holds a nice view over New Belgrade on the other side of the river, hosts a military museum and many paths for walking or jogging with a shade from the sun and peace from the urban life.
If you want to know more about Belgrades history go to the free walking tour that starts “next to the horse” in the middle of the city center at 11am and look for a guy with orange umbrella. Ask any local where the horse is and you get pointed into right direction. The tours are operated every day and you can’t go wrong with this one.
Novi Sad – The New Garden
Many people told us to spend more time in Novi Sad instead of staying in Belgrade. After two days in Belgrade we fleed.When approaching city limits of the New Garden (as Novi Sad translates) we passed the fortress and the old cobblestone streets with old buildings that looked really neat. After the short moment of awesomeness we were on the bridge and saw the real Novi Sad which had some industrial soviet aura but enough greenery to go with it. The old buildings near the fortress were actually out of city limits and belonged to Petrovaradin.
Novi Sad is second largest city in Serbia and is often referred to as the industrial and financial center of the country. It was founded in 1694 by Serb merchants and starting from 18th century it became an important trading and manufacturing center, as well as a center of Serbian culture. During the revolution of 1848 in Austrian empire, the city was heavily devastated but got restored afterwards. Today it plays a big role in Serbian financial and industrial economy and is considered to be a major cultural center across Serbia.
While in Novi Sad you should definitely visit the Petrovaradin Fortress which gives you a nice panoramic view over the city and to the greenery in the other side. There are some cafeterias and even a 5 star hotel in case you want to feel luxurious.
The center of the city offers you a walking street with numerous pubs and bars, evidently built for tourists. It is a great place to relax, take a short walk around, eat some local food for cheaper than in Belgrade and finish your day behind the tap. They seem to favor Russian and British tourists as they have Putin Cafe and a pub named England with respective interior.
Food and bed in Serbia
For getting some Z’s in Belgrade there is a place with good vibes, but not so good mattresses, called The Green Lounge. They provide excellent dormitories with a big common area and well equipped kitchen. This was the first hostel where we witnessed free laundry service. On top of that they also offered free rakia, tea, coffee and, for the extreme penny pinchers, free accommodation. The latter might only mean a place in the basement but we met a girl who used that option for about a month in return of serving people free rakia in the bar. Oh yes, all residents in the hostel get entry to private bar on the same street where the hostel lies.
When you are traveling in the Balkan region its a wise to check out the Balkans Best Hostels webpage. Once you enter your first “best hostel” ask for their promotional passport covers. This can offer you many free services and even a free night in any of the hostels, once you qualify.
For food you can’t go wrong with any of the stuff you get on the streets, unless you are a vegetarian in Belgrade. The food comes relatively cheap and tastes a lot like meat. Pljeskavica, a meat patty made out of a selection of ground meat, can often be big enough to be eaten alone but it’s often accompanied with a thick pita. You probably will get to select which sauces and vegetables you want with it. Try several combos over several days and your cholesterol levels will reach new limits.
If you are hungry for a heart attack you might want to stick with something more tasty like Karađorđe’s steak which is a breaded and deep fried, rolled steak filled with kajmak, a popular dairy product, and often some other goodies like bacon. It can weigh around 500 grams so you might not need to eat anything after this bad boy for quite some time.
If anything in the menu is accompanied with the word “velika” you are in luck – that means you are going to get a bigger portion. In Serbia I really liked the fact that most places tell exactly in grams how much contents (meat) are you going to get for your money.
Other than that Serbia offers, like any other Balkan country, a wide selection of burek’s which are essentially pies that come in different flavors like meat, potato, spinach or meat.
Oh, if you ever planned to do some porridge in hostel kitchen for your breakfast then better head to eco food shelves and expect to find a selection of one (or less) type of expensive oatmeal.
I enjoyed eating out in Serbia and so will you.
Traffic jams in Belgrade are common so entering with your own car can be stressing. We went there by train which was a great option. There is a metro in the city but sadly it’s quite ineffective – the stations are in weird spots around the city while some of the stations are not functional. Easiest way around is with a city bus, buying tickets for foreigners is optional – getting a fine without citizen ID is impossible.
There are also 11 lines for trams but we never used them. It might be a good option as they looked nice and new. The whole tramway system was reconstructed during 2000s.
With bad weather you can use buses and trains, the latter being cheaper option. Bear in mind that it takes a bit longer to get to your destination with a train. The possibility to walk around in the train makes it okay though. We took an overnight train, there are sleeping carts and normal carts. Actually the seats in normal carts can be opened up, so if the room is not full, you can make a bed for yourself in the cost of 2 opposite seats. We have heard some horror stories of bike gangs raiding the trains but never from anyone who actually got robbed, so go figure.
Hitchhiking is always an option and it works quite well in Serbia.
What we missed?
Serbians declare Kosovo to be their land so this kind of suits in this post- but its yours to decide. The best way to enter Kosovo is from Serbia. You could be denied entry to Serbia if you have entered Kosovo from Macedonia. Because of rainy weather, bad bus schedule and not much time in hand we had to skip this gem. But our trusty German Spy Milan went there and told us stories so good that we need to go back. The next time we probably would love to see Niš and hike around in countryside – just take the time off and do things close to earth.
Have you been to rural places in Serbia? Let us know in comments how you liked it!