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SERBIA (Република Србија / Republika Srbija)

Although the figure in Novi Sad is not flipping his finger, but clearly beckoning. I felt in some ways it would be a pertinent indicator of Serbia's mindset if it was his middle finger. Serbia was seen as the aggressor in the 1990's Balkan confilicts, and paid the price heavily. As with most regimes, it was the leaders, not the people who were behind it. With the leaders gone a dark cloud still hovers over the country, it's economy going nowhere fast. However you get the impression the Serbs don't care, they can tell the rest of the world to go do one. The Serbs are currently facing internal moratoriums over whether to join the EU and heavens forbid, the Euro. The general feeling there, was no. The Serbs look after themselves first, and do it well. They also know how to party, hence why less than a kilometre from this statue is one of the best parties in Europe, the Exit festival. Unknown to most, is that this goes on for up to a 100 days! The Serbs know how to have a good time, and will happily do so with or without other countries.

The countryside is pleasant and sparsely populated in the areas I visited, towns consist of old creaking industry, sometimes abandoned altogether. Nis had some abandoned steam locomotives slowly being broken down by nature's forces. Belgrade isn't a spectacular city by any means, it feels more like a small city than a capital. The old ministry of defence building still has the results of NATO missiles in it, as it waits longingly for demolition. As a car driver, the city is something of a nightmare. Trying to find the airport is a major mission. Tom Tom don't seem to supply decent maps for the country which doesn 9;t help. The World Traveller Club in the centre of Belgrade is a definite highlight, all tucked away in the basement of a non-descript building with sociable seating and a homely atmosphere. The worst thing about the country is the heavy smoking that's permitted everywhere, the best thing is how friendly the people are.


Essential Information

Language: Serbian (written language is moving to Latin based script from Cyrillic, as such, both can be found)

Currency: Dinar (DIN)

Visa: Not required for most Western countries

Plug: European two round prongs, 220v


GDP Ranking (IMF): #82 £6,500 (Similar to Colombia and South Africa)

Communications: Country code is + 381

Health: No vaccinations are needed for Serbia, medical insurance is recommended.

When to Visit: Serbia's seasons are dictated by it being in the Northern Hemisphere. Summers are hot and winters cold. Visiting in Spring and Autumn are the most comfortable times.

Personal Safety: Serbia is generally a safe country, with the usual precautions in urban areas. There's a small possibility of unexploded ordnance being found, but likely very rare. Be careful around the border with Kosovo, as tensions are still high there. Homosexuals should be discrete, as homophobia is rife. F&CO up to date advice here.

Getting Around: Rail services run from Belgrade to Nis, Novi Sad and Subotica only. They are usually slow and unreliable. Buses cover most of the country, but beware that hubs may not be convenient for some destinations. Car hire is cheaper than neighbouring countries, and a good place to start if touring other countries in the area. There are no internal flights.

What to see/do: Stari Ras was the first capital of Serbia, and has several fortresses and religious building, along with monuments. Gamzigrad-Romuliana, Palace of Galerius, is a Roman fortress in Eastern Serbia and a listed UNESCO site. Vrnjačka Banja is a popular spa town near Kraljevo, for those seeking such relaxational treats. The capital Belgrade offers the Kalemegdan Citadel, which dates back to Celtic times. Stari Grad is the oldest area of Belgrade, just outside the Citadel. Skadarska and surrounds, is a good place to find somewhere to eat. A nearby bar I highly recommend, is the Federal Association of Globe Trotters. Tucked away in the basement of Bul Despota Stefana 7/1. If brave enough to fight the heat, Novi Sad hosts the EXIT festival every July, the biggest music festival around.

Food & Drink: Burek is the national snack, a filo pastry based pie. Have it with cheese (Sir), meat (Meso), potato (Krompir) or mushrooms (pečurke). Grilled meats are the name of the game in Serbia, and eaten as Ćevapčići (rolled spicy mince), Pljeskavica (ground beef burger) and Ražnjići (pork shish kebabs)for example. Veggies should look out for Srpska salata (Serbian Salad) or Gibanica (cheese pie). Rakija is the Serbian brandy, with plum and quince being popular varieties. Jelen Pivo (beer) is a popular light beer, as is Lav Tamno.