Belgrade is a town at the junction of the Sava and Danube rivers, seven thousand years old. The Sava coming from the west, and the Danube arriving from the north join their waters to proceed eastwards. The fortress, built on the high ground is overlooking the confluence of these two rivers. Belgrade was laid in ruins some sixty times but always arose from its cinders.
Serbs settled on Balkan Peninsula in the VI and the VII centuries and adopted Christianity in the IX century. The first Serbian state was founded in XII century. By the XIV century, under the rule of czar Dusan it became the most powerful state in the Balkans.
After Serbia was defeated in the battle of Kosovo in 1389, it was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire.
Through the XIX century its struggle against Ottoman rule intensified and in 1878 Serbia gained independence after Russia defeated the Ottoman Turks in the Russian – Turkish war of 1877-1878.
World War I began on Balkan Peninsula in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franc Ferdinand of Austria, which led to Austria’s declaration of war against Serbia. Within months, many of European countries were at war.
After the World War I in 1918. Serbia became part of Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, under the rule of King Peter I of Serbia who was the first ruler of Karadjordjevic dynasty. His son Alexander I succeeded him in 1921.
The name of the country was changed into Yugoslavia 1929.
In 1941, World War II begun, the Nazis occupied the country and the young king and his Government fled.
In 1945, after the War, the monarchy was abolished and the Federal People’s Republics of Yugoslavia with Josip Broz Tito as a prime minister was formed.
Tito became President in 1953. and President for life under a revised constitution adopted in 1963.
Serbia became an independent state again in 2006, after Montenegro left the union formed after the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1990s.
Serbia is a member of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Council of Europe.
Serbia is one of Europe’s most culturally diverse countries. The borders between large empires ran through the territory of today’s Serbia for long periods in history: between the Eastern and Western halves of the Roman Empire; between Kingdom of Hungary, Bulgarian Empire, Frankish Kingdom and Byzantium; and between the Ottoman Empire and the Austrian Empire (later Austria-Hungary). As a result, while the north is culturally “Central European”, the south is rather more “Oriental”. Of course, both regions have influenced each other, and so the distinction between the north and south is artificial to some extent.
Serbian Manners and Customs
Serbia is a land of kind and warmhearted people, where hospitality is the dearest obligation of every host, where everything will be done to make the guest feel at home.
Shaking hands, done using the right hand, is customary when being introduced or meeting somebody of either gender.
When people meet for the first time they say their first name, shake hands and say “Drago mi je” which means Nice to meet you. If seated, stand up when meeting people, especially women and elder men.
When meeting after a longer time or upon some celebration such as a birthday, it is Serbian custom to kiss three times on alternating cheeks while shaking hands. Of course, nobody will object if you only kiss once or twice while giving a long and sincere hug.
Serbs are, in general, open, friendly and direct.
As Serbian’s are good hosts they will invite you to visit them at home. Upon arrival at someone’s home you will be treated to a coffee, juice and brandy (rakija). Don’t miss trying the delicious sweet preserves “slatko” of which just a spoon should be taken together with a glass of water. Upon your first entry in a household it is customary to bring a symbolic present, a bottle of an alcoholic drink, an assortment of chocolates, flowers or similar. Sometimes you will be served with bread and salt, it is custom for welcoming the guest, especially in rural areas.
In Serbia, toasts are usually made with traditional rakija (brandy), often home-distilled. Toasts are made by clinking glasses, making direct eye contact and loudly proclaiming “Živeli!” A speech is usually only made on formal occasions, normally by the host, but a guest may give one, too.
During meals don’t hesitate even one moment to serve again if you like the food. The courses (starters, soup, main dish, dessert) are accompanied by saying “Prijatno” (Bon Appetite) and answering “Hvala, takodje” (Thank you, same to you).
Visiting for Slava
The greatest honor for every guest is to be invited to a “slava”, a celebration of a family’s saint day.
Don’t forget to bring a symbolic gift, such as a bottle of wine or flowers. The conventional greeting is “Srecna slava”, followed by kissing three times on alternating cheeks while shaking hands. You will be offered “žito”, a ceremonial sweet made of wheat, sugar and nuts; you are required to make a sign of cross (if you’re a Christian), take one spoon and leave it in a glass of water. All that you have to do afterward is to enjoy the hospitality.
Visiting Churches and Monasteries
The main religion in Serbia is Christian Orthodox. There are also other religious communities in Serbia: Islamic, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and other.
Upon visiting churches and monasteries you are required to act politely, not to laugh or raise your voice too loud or to use mobile phone while you are in the church or monastery. The dress code doesn’t allow shorts or mini-skirts, which could be a problem in summertime. When entering, take your hat off. If your visit coincides with a service, you can enter, but stand in one place and don’t walk around. On all occasions women are not allowed in the altar space behind the iconostasis. Ask for permission if you want to take pictures with a flash, especially in the church.
Food and Drink
Serbia has a lot to offer to hedonists and eating out to catch local flavors is an unforgettable experience and a highlight for many visitors. Make sure to taste the local dishes.
Serbian cuisine is a reflection of historical influences in this area, where Oriental and Slavic tastes are dominant. Local favorites are ćevapčići (small rolls of mixed minced meat), eaten with plain onions and warm bread, pljeskavica and all kinds of grilled meat.
Do not miss to try sarma (stuffed cabbage, minced beef and pork with rice enveloped in pickled cabbage or vine leaves), stuffed peppers, Serbian beans, podvarak (roast meat in sauerkraut), musaka (minced pork or beef mixed with eggs and potatoes and then baked), gibanica (pastry leaves mixed with eggs, cheese and then baked), proja (corn bread), etc.
The famous home grown spirits are šljivovica (plum brandy) and lozovača (grape brandy).
Should you be lucky enough to be invited to a dinner with a Serbian family, do not hesitate to accept! Such an invitation is always sincere, eating home-cooking meals always opens a whole new spectrum of tastes and flavors, and šljivovica offered to the guest in a Serbian home is always pure, strong and natural!
Paying the bill in restaurants is a big part of the Serbian mentality. The host will almost never allow a guest to pay for lunch, dinner or drinks because it is customary for the host to take care of all expenses as a sign of hospitality.
Sharing the payment around the table, except when there is no money around, is not considered convivial. You can ask to order a round after you enjoyed several paid by your hosts.
Belgrade is famous for nightlife and it is Balkan’s New York that never sleeps. Often called „City of Sin“, Belgrade is the center of the unforgettable fun and entertainment. Even the most famous tourist guide „Lonely Planet“ included Belgrade in the first place lists of the world’s best cities for nightlife. The same is with the rest of the cities in Serbia. In contrast to the rest of Europe, there is no single day of the week in Serbia when you cannot have a night out and that holds true for all generations, for all lifestyles and musical tastes and for all available budgets. After a wild night out, somewhere around three or four o’clock in the morning, people continue onward in search of grilled meat or „burek“.
The Serbian climate varies between a continental climate in the north, with cold winters, and hot, humid summers with well distributed rainfall patterns, and a more Adriatic climate in the south with hot, dry summers and autumns and relatively cold winters with heavy inland snowfall. Differences in elevation, proximity to the Adriatic sea and large river basins, as well as the exposure to the winds account for climate differences. Vojvodina possesses typical continental climate, with air masses from Northern and Western Europe which shape its climatic profile. South and Southwest Serbia are a subject to Mediterranean influences, however the Dinaric Alps and other mountain ranges contribute cooling down the biggest part of warm air masses. Winters are quite harsh in Sandžak because of the mountains which encircle that plateau.
- Official name: Republic of Serbia.
- Capital city: Belgrade (Beograd), population of more than 1,600.000
- Geographic location: Southeastern and Central Europe, Balkan Peninsula, Western Balkans
- Area: 88,509 km²
- Climate: Moderate continental
- Population: (excluding Kosovo and Metohija) over 7,000.000
- Religion: The main religion in Serbia is Eastern Orthodox Christian 85%, Roman Catholic Christian 5.5%, Muslin 3.2%, Protestant, Jewish and other.
- Government: Democratic Republic. The President and the Parliament are elected every four years in general election.
- Language: The official language is Serbian
- Official script: The script in official use is Cyrillic, Latin script is also used.
- In the areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, the languages and
- scripts of the minorities are in official uses, as provided by law.
- Time zone: Central European time zone
- Local time is GMT +2 (March to September);
- GMT +1 (October to February).
- Currency: The monetary units is the Serbian Dinar (RSD) – 1 Dinar
- Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 Dinar
- Banknotes: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 1000, 2000 and 5000 Dinar
- Power supply: 220 V, 50 Hz
- Water: Safe to drink
- International dialing code: +381
- National internet domain: .rs
- National vehicle code: SRB
Important phone numbers
- Police: 192
- Fire service: 193
- Medical emergency: 194
- Help on the road: 1987
Accommodation: hotels, hostels, motels, vacation complexes, mountain lodges and other accommodation facilities.
Most of the banks are open from 9 am to 5 pm on weekdays and from 9 am to1 pm on Saturdays. On Sundays usually there is a 24h duty branch.
Most of the post offices are open from 8 am to 7 pm on weekdays and from 8 am to 2 pm on Saturdays. On Sundays usually there is a 24h duty branch.
Weekdays 6 am-9 pm (some until 10 pm)
Saturdays 6 am-9 pm (some until 10 pm)
Sundays 6 am-3 pm
There are also 24-hour food stores
Open daily 6 am – 10 pm
Daily 10 am – 10 pm
Daily 24 hours
Health care institutions:
Weekdays 7 am-7 pm
Saturdays 7 am-1 pm (some until 7 pm)
There are 24-hour hospitals and clinics
Hospitals and out-patient clinics typically work 24 hours a day.
Private medical practices are common and emergency medical service is available everywhere 24 hours a day.
Weekdays 8 am-8 pm
Saturdays 8 am-3 pm
Sundays, only designated pharmacies
There are also 24-hour pharmacies
Most are closed on Mondays
Varied opening times throughout the week
Credit cards: International credit cards Visa, Master Card, Diners, American Express and others are accepted in the majority of stores, hotels and restaurants.
Internet: Internet cafes are common in urban centers. Internet country code is rs.
1st and 2nd January – New Year
7th January – first day of Orthodox Christmas
15th and 16th February – Sretenje (Visitation of the Virgin), Serbian National Statehood Day
1st and 2nd May – May Day (Labor day)
11th November – Armistice Day
Orthodox Easter – from Good Friday to the second day of Easter
On non-working holidays only after-hour shops and institutions are open. If the second day of a two-day holiday falls on a Sunday, then Monday is also a non-working day.
All Serbian citizens are entitled to non-working holidays for their religious festivals, depending on their faith.
For Christians: Christmas Day and Easter holidays
For Muslims: the first day of Ramadan Eid and Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice)
For Jews: the first day of Yom Kippur
The Serbian Orthodox Church calculates its religious festivals according to the old, Julian calendar, which runs behind the Gregorian calendar by 14 days.
27thJanuary – Saint Sava’s Day, Day of Spirituality
22nd April – Holocaust Remembrance Day
9th May – Victory Day
28th June – Saint Vitus Day
28th June – St Vitus’ Day (Vidovdan)
WHY VISIT SERBIA?
….a land of surprising contrasts… Since ancient times travelers have left written records in which they describe Serbia as a land of bewildering contrasts and wonderful beauty that awaken the imagination and passions of all who set foot in its territory. Those who are looking for a ‘off-the-beaten track’ explorative holiday will find Serbia extremely welcoming. The country boasts beautiful national parks, spa resorts and some of the best skiing in Europe during the winter months. Contained in the landscape of this verdant country are alpine meadows, impenetrable forests, glittering limestone caves, remote monasteries, mountain lakes, hot springs and fields of wild herbs. Serbia is definitely the tourist destination of the future and one that offers tourists a truly warm and hospitable welcome.