Serbia is the smallest and, perhaps, one of the oldest Slavic countries in the Balkans, located right at the “crossroads” of European roads. Friendly people, beautiful nature, interesting history and a huge number of attractions have made this land a true tourist paradise.
Serbia leads its chronicle from the VI century. AD, when on its lands the Slavs — immigrants from the Balkans — founded the first proto-state formation — the Serbian Principality. For most of its history, the country was under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire, from which it gained independence only in 1878. After the collapse of Yugoslavia, in June 2006, having separated from the union with Montenegro, Serbia became an independent state.
Where is Serbia located?
On the political map of the world, Serbia should be looked for in the very center of the Balkans, next to Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro. The country also borders Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and de jure Albania (de facto Serbia borders Kosovo).
The area of Serbia is 88400 sq. km. The country has no access to the sea and lies, for the most part, in the Pannonian lowland.
Climate and natural features
The climatic features of the country are strongly influenced by the Adriatic Sea, the Atlantic and the mountain systems surrounding Serbia. In the northern part of the country, the climate is characterized as continental, with humid and hot summers and rather cold winters. In the south, the climate is temperate continental, with elements of the Mediterranean. July is the hottest month (average temperature up to +22 °C), the coldest month is January (up to -3 °C).
The flora of the country is represented mainly by broad-leaved, coniferous and mixed forests and Pannonian steppes. Fir forests, Serbian spruces, beeches, ash trees, willows, poplars and chestnuts grow on the territory of Serbia. 29% of the country’s territory is occupied by forests — this is one of the best indicators among European countries.
Corn, sugar beets, wheat, flax, hops, sunflowers and rice are grown on the Middle Danube Plain. Serbia is the world’s largest supplier of raspberries, grapes and plums.
Boars, hares, roe deer, deer, bears, ground squirrels are found on the territory of the country. Storks, black grouse, pheasants, partridges, woodcocks and turtledoves live here. The rivers are rich in catfish, trout, pike, carp, sturgeon, carp and perch. There are five national parks in Serbia, including the largest in terms of area — Djerdap, and the oldest — Fruska Gora.
Like most European countries, Serbia is a parliamentary republic with a unicameral parliament that has legislative power. The president is elected every 5 years by direct universal suffrage, the government of 20 ministers is the bearer of executive power.
Since 2012, Serbia has had the status of a candidate member of the EU; in 2000, the state received membership in the UN.
The capital of Serbia is the million-plus city of Belgrade (1.2 million people), founded in the 3rd century. BC, was ruled by the Romans, Avars, Byzantines and Slavs. It is located in the center of the country, at the confluence of the Sava River with the Danube. It is considered the largest city among all the states of the former Yugoslavia, it is subdivided into 17 municipalities, and occupies an area equal to almost 4% of the entire area of the country.
The largest cities in Serbia are Kragujevac, Nis, Uzhice, Šabac, Cacak, Smederevo. Krusevac — the industrial center of Serbia, Loznica — textile, Novi Sad and Subotica — educational. In addition to them, there are 20 more settlements in the country that have the status of a city, 195 urban-type settlements and 6150 villages and villages. According to the constitution, Serbia includes two autonomous regions: the first is Vojvodina, located north of the Danube, the partially recognized state of Metohija and Kosovo, which is not controlled by the Serbian authorities.
The currency of Serbia is the Serbian dinar (its code is 941), which is equal to 100 local «kopeks» — pairs. This monetary unit was put into circulation in 2003 to replace the Yugoslav dinar.
Flag and coat of arms
The state symbols of Serbia are represented by the coat of arms (used during the Obrenović dynasty), which was adopted in 2004, and two flags. The first — the national flag of Serbia, is a panel with three wide horizontal stripes — red, blue and white. The second is the official one, on which the coat of arms of the country is additionally applied.
Population, language and religion
The population of Serbia is about 7 million 200 thousand people. Since the early 1990s the country is in the worst demographic crisis and has one of the lowest population growth rates in the world. The national composition is distributed as follows: Serbs make up about 83% of the total population, Hungarians — 4%. Among the representatives of other ethnic groups live here: Bosnians, Albanians, Gypsies, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, Slovaks, Macedonians, Vlachs, Rusyns and Romanians. There is a Chinese diaspora in the country.
As in any secular country, religious freedom is officially enshrined in Serbia, while 82% identify themselves as Christians (of which 85% are Orthodox, 5.5% are Catholics, 1.1% are Protestants), 2% adhere to Islam. There are 16 other confessional associations registered in the country.
The official language of Serbia is Serbian, with the Cyrillic alphabet. Part of the population speaks Albanian, Slovak, Hungarian, Romanian, Croatian, Ruthenian, Bosnian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian.
Recreation and tourism in Serbia
Despite the absence of the sea, Serbia can offer tourists holidays in such resorts:
- Balneological: in Serbia, these are Zlatibor, Sokobanya, Vrnjacka Banya, Bukovicka Banya, etc.
- Ski – Kopaonik, Stara Planina.
In addition, the country can offer guests wellness treatments and treatment in numerous sanatoriums that can be found everywhere in Serbia.
The largest carnival in Serbia is held annually in the city of Pancevo, the days of Vojvodina and Bavarian culture are held in Beshka, the trumpeter festival is held in Guca, and the fish festival is held in Belgrade.
Since the country is already perceived as part of the European Union, many tourists do not know whether Serbia is included in the Schengen or not, and whether a visa is required to visit this state. The answer is unequivocal — Serbia has a visa-free regime with the CIS countries, and Schengen should be opened only to those who plan to cross neighboring states that are in the Schengen zone.
What to see in Serbia?
Among the numerous sights of Serbia, the most popular is Drvengrad, an ethnic village created by Emir Kusturica. The most visited natural site in Serbia is the Devil’s City, the only rock formation in the world (located in the south).
On a relatively small territory of Serbia, there are many monasteries (Vitovnitsa, Zhicha, Lipovac, Rachia, Studenica, etc.), fortresses (Belgrade, Smederevskaya, Petrovaradinskaya, Nisskaya), churches (St. Sava, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Trinity). In addition, there are other, no less interesting objects, namely:
- Shargan eight— an old narrow-gauge railway line, built in 1916.
- Resava cave. Its age is 80 million years, its length is almost 2900 m.
- Gamzigrad — a large architectural ensemble, founded in the III century.
- Chele-Kula — a historical monument dedicated to the Serbian uprising of 1809 against the Turkish conquerors.
- Gazimestana monument of culture and history.
- Museum of Nikola Tesla (founded in 1952), scientific and educational, interactive complex.
- Ada Tsingaliaan artificial lake located near Belgrade.
- Skadarliyathe oldest quarter in the capital, where the cultural life of Belgrade and Serbian bohemia is concentrated.
- Dzherdap gorge — one of the most beautiful places in the country where you can see the Danube in all its grandeur.
- Gallery of Matica Serbianfounded in 1826
Cuisine and restaurants
The traditional cuisine of Serbia is far from exotic delights and culinary experiments. As a rule, these are hearty peasant dishes, simple, with a minimum number of ingredients. The gastronomic habits of the locals were formed under the influence of neighboring countries such as Germany, Turkey and Austria-Hungary. For example, in the north of the country they prefer dishes of Bulgarian, Romanian and Hungarian cuisine, in the west — Turkish.
The national cuisine was described by the culinary specialist Pata Markovic, who published the country’s first cookbook in 1907 — Pata’s Cookbook, which is still relevant today.
The most traditional dishes of Serbia are:
- «Roshtil» — a juicy piece of meat, grilled.
- «Prshut» — dried in a special way pork or beef ham, an analogue of the Spanish jamon.
- «Muchkalitsa» — Serbian goulash.
- Cheeses and kaimak (fermented milk product, reminiscent of sour cream).
- «Urnebes» and «Aivar» — Serbian «prayers» (sauces that are spread on toast).
- «Chorba» — a rather thick, hearty and very rich soup based on meat or fish.
- «Prebranac» — Serbian lobio, made from onions and baked beans and heavily seasoned with paprika.
- Various pastries: zhu-zhu, kifla, gibanitsa, krofna, proya, shtapichi, mrezhitsa and dzhevrek.
- Licitar gingerbreadbaked in the shape of a heart.
Interesting facts about Serbia
To better understand this country and its people, you need to know that:
- The most favorite drink of Serbs is coffee, which even children drink here.
- Many thermal springs discovered during the Roman Empire are still used today.
- Raspberries are the national pride of the country. One third of the total export of this berry in the world falls on Serbia.
- Constantine, emperor of the Roman Empire, who converted to Christianity and made Byzantium the capital of the state, was born in Serbia.
- There is an unspoken analogue of the Spanish «siesta» in the country. Afternoon rest, during which you can sit in a cafe with a cup of coffee or take a nap, is called “merak” among the Serbs.
- In Serbia, when coming into the house, they never take off their shoes, even if it is raining or snowing outside.
- Belgrade in its history was conquered 40 times by armies of other countries, and 38 times rebuilt almost from scratch.
- Red wine is called «black» here.
- Nikola Tesla is the favorite and pride of the Serbs, the historical hero of the country.
- Serbs’ favorite sport is football. Serbs of all ages and genders are some of the biggest fans in Europe.
The transport system of the country, despite the bombings of 1999, is quite developed and is represented by rail, river, road and air. Serbia’s main airport, located in Belgrade, is named after Nikola Tesla and is the hub for Air Serbia, the national airline. The largest car rental companies in Serbia operate in the building of this airport, so renting a car here is not difficult.
How to get there?
There are three ways to get to Serbia:
- By plane. Two airports in the country accept international flights — the capital, named after Nikola Tesla, and the air harbor «Constantine the Great» in the city of Nis.
- By train. This way is more expensive both in terms of time and cost: as a rule, such a trip lasts about two days and costs $225. Before you get to Serbia from the CIS countries, you will have to cross the borders of Belarus (or Ukraine), then Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.
- By bus. This type of transport is one of the most developed and inexpensive in the country. Routes connect Serbian cities with settlements in Romania, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Greece, Croatia and other European countries. The fare per person ranges from $15-45 one way. The central bus station is located in Belgrade, next to the railway station.