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 Royal Hungary 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 north and south is artificial to some extent.
The Byzantine Empire's influence on Serbia was perhaps the greatest. Serbs are Orthodox Christians (not Roman Catholics), with their own national church - the Serbian Orthodox Church. They use both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, as a result of both Eastern and Western influences. The monasteries of Serbia, built largely in the Middle Ages, are one of the most valuable and visible traces of medieval Serbia's association with the Byzantium and the Orthodox World. With their architecture, frescoes and old scripts they are invaluable cultural monuments of Serbian culture in general.
Nowadays Serbia’s main cultural centers are its biggest cities, like Belgrade, Niš and Novi Sad, that can offer you a variety of both traditional and modern concerts, plays, and exibitions, as well as various sport events and intense nightlife. However, many important cultrual manifestations are also scattered throughout the country (check out the festivals list). In cities most of the people speak fluent English and will gladly help you, so feel free to ask anyone for directions/assistance.
SERBIA GENERAL INFO AND USEFUL FACTS
Area: 88 361 km²
Number of inhabitants: 7 498 001 (without Kosovo and Metochia)
Nationalities: Serbian (82.86%), Hungarian (3.91%), Gypsy (1.44%), Ethnic Albanian
(0.82%), Montenegrin (0.92%), Yugoslav (1.08%), Bosnian (1.81%), Other (5.14%),
Flag: Tricolor - red,blue and white
Order: Republican, multiparty, one house parliament
National anthem: God of justice
Serbian symbol: White eagle
International code for Serbia : SRB
Climate: Moderate continental
Religion: Christian (Ortodox 65%, Catholic 4%), Islam 19%, Other 12%
Time zone: Mid European (GMT+1)
Electricity: Voltage 220 volts AC
Currency: The monetary unit is the Dinar (CSD) - 1 Dinar = 100 Para. Coins: 50 Para, 1,
2, 5, 10 and 20 Dinar
Banknotes: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 1000 and 5000 Dinar
Power supply: 220 V, 50 Hz
Banks & Postal service: Most banks and post offices are open from 09.00 a.m. to 05.00 p.m. on weekdays and from 08.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. on Saturdays. On Sundays there is usually a designated bank or post office that maintains needed services.
Hotels and accommodation: 295 hotels, 87 motels, 344 vacation complexes, mountains lodges and other accommodation facilities.
Shops: Food shops typically open at 06.00 a.m. and work until 09.00 p.m., both, weekdays and Saturdays. Sundays they typically operate from 06.00 a.m. to 03.00 p.m.
Everywhere, there are stores open 24 hours a day.Markets are opened every day from 06.00 a.m. to 05.00 p.m.
Credit cards: International credit cards Visa, Master Card, Diners and others are accepted in the majority of stores, hotels and restaurants.
Medical care: 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. Pharmacies are opened from 08.00 a.m. to 08.00 p.m. on working days and on Saturdays from 08.00 a.m. to 03.00 p.m. Each city has a pharmacy that is open on Sundays and throughout the night.
Telephones: To call Serbia from outside, the country code is +381.
City codes are: Belgrade (0)11, Novi Sad (0)21, Niš (0)18 etc.
For the international calls from Serbia dial 99 + code of the desired country + code for the city.
Important phone numbers:
Fire service: 93
Medical emergency: 94
Help on the road: 987
Holidays-non working days:
January 1 & 2 - New Year
January 7 - first day of Orthodox Christmas
February 15 - Statehood Day of the Republic Serbia
May 1 & 2 - International Labor Day
Orthodox Easter - from Good Friday to the second day of Easter.
On non-working holidays only shops and institutions on duty are open.
Believers are entitled not to work on their religious holidays, depending on their religion.
CULTURE TOURISM IN SERBIA
It all began six thousand years BC. In Lepenski Vir, on the Danube, where our distant ancestors decided to settle down. At this world famous archaeological site, the first representations of life-size human beings were discovered. Ever since then, many different nations, cultures and religions passed through this area. Traces of prosperity and destructions of different epochs lie side by side, and trough centuries they had formed a magnificent cultural attractions. The adventure of discovering never stops.
Serbia, the land where 17 Roman Emperors were born, presents the region of impressive tracks of glorious Roman Empire (27 B.C. – 476 year), whose rulers, according to historical sources and archaeological examinations, raised their native land till highest point. The big role in development and extension of the great Roman Empire had the Danube River, which also presented the border of the Empire.
That role of the Danube River and its confluents, affected on a construction of big and small frontier fortresses and towns, whose remains testify about the magnificent Empire, with architecture that presents the crown of Roman architecture. Many authors and explorers wrote about tracks of Roman Empire on the Danube coast, where the most interesting and unique cultural complex raised. One of the localities – Felix Romuliana was ranked on the list of cultural heritage of UNESCO, in July 2007
Trajan Table (around 100 year), that is located on natural, almost vertical rock, high above the level of Danube river, near Kladovo, was raised by Roman Emperor Trajan. This is a commemorative sign on Latin language, like a testimony of completed work on building of Roman military road through canyon of Danube.
Trajan Bridge (104 – 105 year) near Kladovo, was raised over Danube, by Emperor Trajan, for the purpose of conquering of Dakija, nowadays Romania, so it belongs to the most significant masterpieces of Roman architecture. Only remnants of the pillar remained after the bridge demolition, during Hadrian, the Trajan’s inheritor.
Diana (the end of I century), near Kladovo, fortress raised on the rocky cliff of Danube river, during the Emperor Trajan, presents one of the biggest and most preserved roman fortresses (castrums) on Danube.
Remains of Viminacium (I till XIX century), near Smederevo, former Roman town and military camp, presents the worlds jewel and one of the most significant archaeological sites in Southeast Europe. Due to attractive presentation of this archaeological site, the cognition of ancient Roman town Viminacium, the capital polis of former Roman province Gornja Mezija was enabled
A crown of Roman palatial architecture is the archaeological site Gamzigrad – Felix Romuliana (III and IV century), the residence of Roman Emperor Gaj Valerie Maximianus Galerius. Gamzigrad, located on the upland, near Zajecar, in Timok valley, presents the superior achievement of late ancient times, due to art rang of mosaics and whole architecture. Its location indicates to importance that was attached to this region within Roman Empire. The significant part of the mosaic is situated in Museum in Zajecar that has to be visited, so the complete picture of this Roman site is gained.
Niš, birth place of the great Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (280–337 year), the first emperor that afforded the freedom of religion, to all Christians, presents the basis of Naissus, ancient Roman Empire. Mediana (IV century), suburb of ancient town Naissus, was built during the empire of Constantine the Great, as a residence where roman emperors resided, during their visit to Naissus. Today, only remains of basis, mosaics and marble figures are visible.
Caričin Grad – Emperors town (VI and VII century), near Leskovac, was raised in byzantine province Ilirik, where emperor Justinian was born. Caricin Grad was once known as Justinian Prima, built by emperor Justinian in year 530. Life in this town lasted from VI to VII century, when it was abandoned at the time of Avro-Slavic destroying. Earlier archaeological excavations discovered the organization of the fortified area, which was composed of an acropolis, an upper part and a lower part of the town, as much as several public buildings including eight churches.
When the Roman Empire was divided on east and west part, the metropolis of the east part became nowadays Sremska Mitrovica. Sirmium (I – IV century), also known as “the City of Caesars and martyrs” presents one of the four ancient roman metropolis in region of Serbia, that is located on a territory of nowadays Sremska Mitrovica. Archaeological excavations discovered the great part of the old settlement and till today 74 localities were explored. Mosaics, especially frescoes and sculptures, discovered on the territory of nowadays Sremska Mitrovica, possesses high art qualities that indicate that the first-class decorators and artists worked in Sirmium.
There are many monasteries in Serbia. This foundation of monasteries followed the forming of the first Serbian states starting in the 10th century. The first monasteries were built in the Raška region, in the Southwestern Serbia, then Kosovo and finally in Central Serbia.
Fleeing the Turkish tyranny, the majority of Serbs migrated to the north. Shortly thereafter, the first monasteries on the Fruška Gora Mountain were established. All the Serbian rulers were very religious and instead of building palaces, they established monasteries as their endowments and mausoleums. Monasteries used to be the place where important decisions were made. The first books were copied here and thus literacy was spread and the culture of the Serbian people was formed. The monasteries' walls were illuminated by frescoes reflecting the artistic styles of the time.
Some of this frescoes are extremely valuable art treasures like the Fresco of the White Angel (Beli andjeo) from the 13th century in the Monastery of Mileseva now under the protection of UNESCO.The monasteries of Sopoćani (1979.), Studenica (1986.) and Dečani (2004.) have been put on the official UNESCO list of cultural and natural treasures of the world heritage. The World Heritage Committee decided in 2006. to extend the site of the Dečani Monastery by adding to it three groups of churches, the Patriarchate of Peć Monastery, Gračanica Monastery and the Church of the Virgin of Ljeviška. The site is now to be known as Medieval Monuments in Kosovo.
Situated at the historic borders of eastern and western empires, Belgrade has been shaped by its history, each leaving traces as new generations continue to build and fight over this highly prized city. Unraveling the mystery and attraction of Belgrade means looking at this history, while enjoying and getting caught up in its passionate demeanor. Conquered and rebuilt by Celts, Romans, Slavs, Turks, and Austro-Hungarians, the Kalemegdan Fortress anchors the city to its strategically important position at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. Once a battleground, it is now a peaceful retreat from a bustling city. From its walls you can see the modern regional economic center of New Belgrade rising across the river and feel how important this crossroads city is.
Back in the city, cafés are packed with lively people, unloading leisurely onto the sidewalks during the summer months or packed in heated conversation during the winter. An eclectic mix of architecture marks new trends next to Belgrade's heritage, and a city that has always led change in the area continues to progress. Just as it has to its many inhabitants, Belgrade will amaze and surprise its visitors as it goes through yet another rebirth.
SIGHTSEEING IN BELGRADE
With impressive views over the Danube and Sava rivers, Belgrade's Kalemegdan Fortress is home to several city museums, galleries, memorials, the planetarium, and zoo, as well as smart cafés, restaurants and paths filled with locals and tourists seeking tranquility in the city. The fortress's historic walls shape its exterior and interior, holding in elm trees and a well-kept park, which peacefully replace a long succession of rulers and their warriors.
Walking back into the city, along the pedestrian street Knez Mihailova, 19th century Belgrade architecture lines the city's most traveled shopping thoroughfare. In summer, the center of the street becomes an extended outdoor café. Restaurants and galleries are located on the side streets leading to and from Knez Mihailova, which ends up at Trg Republike (Republic Square). Now a popular meeting point surrounded by cafés and the grand buildings of the National Museum (under reconstruction currently, though with frequent exhibits in its atrium) and National Theater (home to the city's major opera, ballet, orchestra and theater performances), this square was the center of protest and revolution during the last decade.
Belgrade expands outward from there, east to the district of Dorcol and its fashionable cafés and restaurants on Strahinica Bana, as well as the artist's quarter of Skardarlija and its cobbled Skadarska street, where you can find classic kafanas (taverns) serving traditional Serbian dishes as musicians roam from table to table.
Extending south is Belgrade's business and government center, with the national parliament, city hall, former royal residence and the skyline-dominating Beogradjanka. The world's largest Orthodox church, St. Sava (open to the public during its continued construction), can be found just past that in a park along with the National Library. In the Vracar district you can find Belgrade's stately urban residences, one of which now houses the Museum of Nikola Tesla, home to the influential scientist's legacy to electrical engineering.
In Dedinje, a leafy suburb with embassies, ambassador's residences and the city's most expensive mansions, is located the Mausoleum of Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslavia's former president-for-life.
Across the Sava River lies the Usce park, a spacious green space that holds the city's tallest building and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The park is a popular place for runners and walkers, as well as the many people who visit the restaurants, clubs and cafés located on the boats that are moored on the riverbanks. The boats stretch all the way up the Danube, inside Great War Island, to the city of Zemun, the former Austro-Hungarian southern stronghold.
During the summer, the city's population escapes to Ada Ciganlija, an island in the Sava that is home to a several kilometer long café-lined beach around its lake, an extensive system of parks and athletic areas, as well as more clubs that work through the hot summer nights.
GOING OUT IN BELGRADE
Most of the blocks in Belgrade's center have at least a few cafés on them, while some have rows set up for the city's trendy population to watch and be seen. These cafes fuel the social environment of the city as they fill with young and old alike throughout the day. Business meetings are also a common occurrence at these cafés in a climate where deals are made over espresso, cappuccino and the local coffee (brewed strongly, with the grounds left in).
Into the evening, crowds flock to the city's restaurants, many specializing in Serbian cuisine though more and more leaning to an international flavor. Prices for good dishes, made from excellent locally grown food, are still well under European norms. Clubs and bars in Belgrade compete with the rest of Europe in their decor and taste in music. With some located inside the walls of the Kalemegdan Fortress, hidden in passages or up stairwells, they serve up world-class live and DJ music and often stay open well into the late hours for a stylish clientele that knows how to have fun.