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Serbia - The heart of the Balkans

Must Visit Places: Belgrade, Zlatibor, Visegrad, Frusko Gora


While Croatia and Slovenia were modern economies, emerging from restricted Yugoslavan rule, Serbia seemed like a shocking decades step back. Gritty, with beige buildings, scowling people and what seemed like a Socialist/Russian environment. Socialist blocks are squeezed between art nouveau masterpieces, and remnants of the Habsburg legacy contrast with Ottoman relics and socialist modernist monoliths. They feel resentful of this new world, because under Tito’s Yugoslavia, they were the “rulers” and milked all the other countries. That party has clearly ended. 


Belgrade



We arrived at our airbnb that reminded me of vintage Colaba flats in Mumbai, facing a large green park. A young couple had inherited their grandparent’s home and had just put it on Airbnb. I think we were among their first customers. Luckily we had a parking spot (tight) that took 40 mins to back (and forth) into, with the help of three other folks! Needless to say, the car remained there till we were ready to leave for our next destination. 


We were well situated near many attractions - the Kalemegdan Citadel, the site of 115 battles over centuries, the Cathedral, the Princess' house. Stroll down Knez Mihailova Street, the main pedestrian lane in Belgrade that stretches for around a kilometer between Terazije and Kalemegdan Fortress. Saborska church is nearby too and the Place of Princess Ljubica. We walked along cobblestoned Skadarska - with cool stores, Roma violin music, local artists, Bohemian atmosphere and explored Stari Grad, an Old Town atmosphere. 


Of all the beautiful buildings in downtown Zagreb, Hotel Moskva is a must see. It has hosted numerous well-known guests over the years, including Albert Einstein, Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Nixon, among many others. It was also the Gestapo headquarters during World War 2.



En route to Zlatibor we visited The House of Flowers, Marshal Tito's grave, as Joe was very keen. He also wanted to pop into the Nikola Tesla Museum, a science museum celebrating his body of work. Established in 1952, this small but mighty museum housed in a residential villa won't take more than an hour of your time.


Foods and drinks we enjoyed: 

Börek - a family of baked filled pastries (like a pie) made of a thin flaky dough filled with cheese, meat or vegetable.  

Kaymak is a creamy dairy product similar to clotted cream,  added to bread, burgers. It is made from the milk of water buffalos, cows, sheep, or goats. 

Urnebes, which is a type of salad made of cheese and hot chili peppers, with salt and other spices. 

We sampled Rakija (pronounced RA KEE Y), an alcoholic drink made from the distillation of fermented fruit. It is a clear-as-water kind of drink, with a percentage of alcohol that can range from approximately 40% to 65%. We were careful to take only a small portion. 


Zlatibor


We drove through single lane inside roads, through mountains, fog and rain to get here. A true jewel of Western Serbia, it is one of the most visited mountain centers. At 1,000 meters above sea level, mild climate lures visitors all year round. Lots of outdoor activities like caving, skiing, ATV rides, mountain coasters and scenic rides in sky-high cable cars. 


A great ski and wellness destination, the crisp air here makes you want to be outdoors all the time. Ride the Gold Gondola, the world’s longest panoramic gondola.

The beautiful Gostilje (Gostiljskoj) waterfall is a 22-meter high fall that plummets over a limestone cliff. A paved pathway leads to it and there are a handful of viewpoints to see it from different angles.


Frusko Gora


Serbia's oldest national park, Fruška Gora is an 80km stretch of rolling hills where cloistered life has endured since monasteries were built between the 15th and 18th centuries to safeguard Serbian culture from the Turks. Of the 35 original monasteries, 16 remain and they're open to visitors.


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