After Marshal Tito's Yugoslavia dissolved in the early 1990s, a bitter war of ethnicity raged in the Balkans which claimed thousands of lives. Serbia, being the dominant state in Yugoslavia, was at the centre of this war and it was only in the early part of the new millennium that any kind of order returned to the region. For this reason, Serbia was neglected as a tourist destination for many years, and is only just beginning to appear on the consciousness of the more imaginative European tourist.
Serbian is the official language of Serbia and Montenegro, and is very closely related to the Slavonic languages spoken in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. There are slight differences in dialects, but Serbian is understood all over the Balkans. In Kosovo, and certain other communities in Serbia, Albanian is the main language spoken.
In the cities of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, English is becoming common. It is taught in schools and becoming increasingly integrated into the popular culture. Having large amounts of NATO troops stationed in your country makes English a useful language to speak, as the troops are often a good source of income for local businesses.
When the state of Yugoslavia dissolved, The Yugoslav Dinar was rejected by the new states of Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia and Montenegro. Serbia retained the Yugoslav Dinar as its unit of currency, but it is now commonly known as the Serbian Dinar. As of 09 November 2006 1 USD buys 64 YUN (Yugoslav Dinar), 1 GBP buys 122 YUN and 1 Euro buys 81 YUN. In Montenegro, the Euro is the unit of currency. In Kosovo, both the Dinar and Euro are accepted as legal tender.
Major credit cards are accepted and cash machines are common in cities. However, when using this machine stay vigilant, as there is a high incidence of identity theft and credit card fraud in the Balkans.
Serbia is landlocked and has a continental climate. The south and central portions have a Mediterranean climate with hot and dry summers, averaging around 26 degrees Celsius. The winters are cold, often with heavy snowfall and lows of around -4. Montenegro is similar except on the coastline, which has slightly warmer summers and less severe winters. The area experiences fairly high rainfall throughout the year, with the Montenegrin highlands experiencing some of the heaviest rainfall is Europe. The Serbian mountains are covered with snow through most of the winter months, and are becoming a popular, more affordable destination for skiers.
The Vrujci Spa is renowned for its mystical healing powers. The spa is in the centre of the country, 90 km from Belgrade.
Djerdap National Park is a huge, beautiful area of forest on the banks of the River Danube. The park has a diverse selection of flora and fauna and a hydroelectric dam with a large reservoir.
Zlatibor is one of Serbia's most popular mountain ski resorts. It is equipped with several modern and comfortable hotels and all the facilities you would expect from a more expensive resort.
Exit Festival is held in Novi Sad in the ruins of a fortress. It is the biggest music festival in Eastern Europe, and attracts a variety of big name acts. Last year saw performances from Franz Ferdinand, Pet Shop Boys and The Cardigans among many others.
Belgrade has a couple of modern, European style shopping malls. Prices are slightly cheaper than Western Europe, although this is more noticeable in local markets than chains stores and malls. Serbia and Montenegro are not known for their startling array of indigenous crafts. However, the pottery and fine china of Zlakusa is noteworthy and makes for tasteful souvenirs.
The Kelemagedan Citadel in Belgrade is the best place to look for clubs and bars. European dance and techno is popular and raves occur frequently, though usually in one off venues. You will need to ask around to get a feel for what's going on.
During the war, much of Serbia's infrastructure was destroyed, and some of it is yet to be fully rebuilt. Roads connecting the major cities are generally good quality, but drivers can be dangerously temperamental and speed limits are rarely observed.
Food and Drink
Serbian cuisine has influences from Greek, Hungarian, Austro-German and Turkish dishes, which makes it hard to say what exactly constitutes a typically Serbian dish.
Bread is the staple of the Serbian diet, and served with most meals. Many Serbians cook their own bread at home or buy it freshly at the bakery. It is a sign of hospitality to offer guests bread and salt. Breakfast has only been eaten in Serbia since the 19th century and bread with jam or cheese forms the basis for most breakfasts today.
Rostilj, or barbecued meats, are popular as main courses and are also available as fast food. Fish is rare in land-locked Serbia, the most commonly eaten meats are pork, beef, goat and ox. There are of course, the mandatory gruesome dishes to shock tourists. These include Teleca glava u skembetu, calf's head with entrails and Jagnjeca crevca u saftu, testicles of ox wrapped in cabbage. The national dish is called 'Cevape', and is small balls of beef mince with herbs and spices. This is popular both and restaurants and with those wanting a quick snack on the move.
A traditional dessert you should try in Montenegro is donuts served with honey and figs. This dish is available from cafes and eaten as an afternoon tea.
Beer and wine are the most popular Serbian drinks, and there are several breweries in Serbia and Montenegro. The national drink is a fruit brandy called 'ljivovica'. There are a variety of flavours, of which the most common is plum.
- National Tourism Organisation of Serbia (NTOS)
- Knez Michajlova Street 18, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
- Tel: (11) 3342 521 or 3232 586.