It only took about a month to pass through all the Balkan states, but it feels like we’ve already been on a long, incredible journey. The Balkans treated us better than we ever could have imagined, and we are sad but very satisfied to close this chapter of our trip now that we’ve arrived in Istanbul.
But not all Balkan states were the same, oh no. To celebrate our favourite of them all, we present to you: 9 Reasons You Should Visit Serbia!
1. The people are hot
And by hot we don’t just mean sexy–but that too. Serbians are a friendly, easy-going bunch with the warmest and most relaxed hospitality we experienced. So many people had a chilled out vibe, and stressing about life, the universe, the economy, or the police just wasn’t the way they rolled. They smile, they laugh, they’ll invite you to come home and meet the family but won’t get heartbroken or insulted if you say no. People value friendships and wide social connections, and an important part of that bond is……
2. The rakija
Where have you been all our lives? This clear little spirit knocks vodka out of the ring with its alcoholic punch, but its meant for sipping and socialising, not for shooting. And it’s the best medicine around; one in the morning before breakfast gets the pipes running smoothly, so they say. Everyone’s father or brother or uncle or grandpa makes their own special blend from whatever fruits are abundant in the area, and thus you can experience regional differences right down to each family’s garden and basement.
3. The nature is epic, and you can camp anywhere
4. The history is complicated
Think history is boring, boring, boring? Never been interested in World War I or II, Yugoslavia, or Communism? Then check out Serbia to get super interested by seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling history in this still relatively politically-volatile region. It doesn’t necessarily have all the sights, but it’s smack-dab in the middle and a great starting point for a magical mystery history tour to any of the other former-Yugoslav countries. And although history might be a big AVOID for chatty conversation with strangers in our own countries, Serbians are more than happy to shoot the breeze by talking about historical happenings, and they’ll give you an earful of the “other side” of the story compared to what was perpetuated in Western media.
And don’t worry about people holding the whole NATO bombing thing against you if you’re a Yank, German, etc.. Almost all the Serbians we met were pragmatic fellows who realise it’s the government who pushes those big red buttons, not the people.
5. The food is awesome
Do you like meat? Do you like meat wrapped in meat? Do you want some cheese with that? Then come to Serbia, where restaurant advertisements ubiquitously feature a gigantic picture of lamb roasting on a spit. If lamb isn’t your thing, they have plenty of pork too, and we found out by surprise that you can buy an entire pig’s head for only 300 dinars. Bargain! If you’re having reservations about visiting a country where the national dish is barbecue, there’s always ajver (vegetarian caviar) and shopska salad, which is topped with the creamiest cow’s milk feta cheese to ever melt in your mouth.
6. They have banging parties
For foreign visitors the big events are Exit Festival and Guča Trumpet Festival, both of which are a solid bet depending on how much you like trumpets. But bohemian Novi Sad and Berlinesque Belgrade are both great places to easily find places that are into down-and-dirty, shirts-off partying alongside the awful dress codes, the table service, and the top-40 house tunes that plague clubs in the rest of the Balkans.
7. You can still smoke inside
Not a bonus for everyone, but this is just one example of how Serbians prefer to resist having their personal freedoms encroached upon by pushing towards EU membership. This ain’t your average European country, and they know that EU’s one-size-fits-all policies and legislation just might not be right for them. (We heard some dissatisfaction from neighbouring Bulgarians about their country’s possibly premature entry into the EU…)
8. They are the best drivers in the Balkans
Maybe it’s because they don’t hate their lives as much as everyone else in the region, but Serbians are slightly more careful on the road than other Balkan drivers. No suicidal passing on a two-lane road like the Bosnians, or pushing into speeding traffic with the nose of their cars like the Montenegrins. It doesn’t mean they’re prissy grandma drivers, though. Speed limit signs are about as important as “No U-turn” signs, but the skill with which they execute their careless driving means less white-knuckling for us foreigners when navigating traffic.
9. It’s cheap enough to make you feel good, but not guilty
When we visited in July, the Serbian Dinar was 116 to the euro. You can get a can of beer for 60 dinars in a shop, a bottle of wine for 400. Rakija is probably free once you make friends. But you don’t have to feel guilty when someone tries to charge you €430 to replace your car’s engine and you say no. Because €430 is a lot of money in any currency!!
Have you been to Serbia? What ranks up there on your reasons to visit that we missed? Write us in the comments!