Between mountains and rivers: Serbia has it all
Serbia has yet to be discovered by the less adventurous tourists, for the exploring traveler it is already an open secret. When it comes to nightlife and party, Belgrade is for some the new Berlin, only wilder and less expensive. The go-to quarter is Skadarska Ulica, where clubs and restaurants are located and where the Roma musicians play their own brand of Balkan Beat in every location. The White City, as Belgrade is translated, has only few buildings older than a hundred years. In its turbulent history the city has been rebuilt 38 times. The oldest building is a medieval fortress that sits over the spot where the river Save enters the Danube. Here Belgrade was founded several times, from Celtic tribes through roman times until the Slavs entered Europe.
Serbia is to some a small version of Europe, with the flat northern Vojvodina, that is visibly shaped by the Austrian-Hungarian rule in the 19th century. The central part is the Sumadija, where mountains, forests and hills between the beautiful rivers invite for long hiking tours. It is mainly influenced by orthodox culture and architecture. Southern Serbia shows influences of the Mediterranean and the Ottoman Empire. But mostly the Serbian landscape is formed by its beautiful rivers, the Danube, Drina and Tisza being the biggest of them.
For the relaxed traveler a river cruise on the Danube is the way to go. The mighty river marks the border between Serbia and Romania until the so-called Iron Gate, where the Danube enters Bulgaria and eventually reaches the Black Sea. For the more adventurous there is a whole lot of sailing, kayaking and rafting on the most beautiful waterways in Europe to do. If you don’t trust the wild waters, take a bicycle ride on the river banks and enjoy the landscape from the saddle of a mountain bike. Another great way to discover the landscape and travel through untouched nature is on horseback. Serbia has a long tradition of horseback riding, guided tours are easy to find.
If all this is way too much activity, why not go into wellness mode and enjoy one of the many Spas with natural thermal springs that you can find all over Serbia. Some Spas are dating back to roman times, but most have a modern wellness hotel and resort in a beautiful landscape. If you are leaning to the less healthy, but more hearty part of life, have a go at the Serbian kitchen. It is described as a combination of Greek, Bulgarian, Turkish and Hungarian influences and tends to be meat-heavy, but has also specialties featuring fish and vegetables. Serbia also has a long tradition in wine growing, so you will find a local wine to every meal you order.
There is one thing that happens only in Serbia: the battle of the trumpets. In the little village of Guca in the west of Serbia there is a meeting of brass bands that compete since 1961 for the Golden Trumpet. The musicians are nearly all Roma, and the music tends to wild, fast and very loud Balkan Brass. Twenty Bands play for a week all over town for whoever is willing to pay, and on the last day they play the competition for the Golden Trumpet in the stadium. If you want to have a look at the soul of Serbia, the week-long Guca Festival is the place to be.
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