Cities of Serbia
Belgrade, the city at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava has forged to itself the confluence of cultures as different as the East Ottoman, the Austrian Europe and the Slav civilisation. Destroyed more than twenty times in the course of its millennial history, Belgrade has kept a Balkanic firmness and pride. The “White Town” surprises always especially by its stormy rhythm of life and by a certain nonchalance that found their origins in its history full of movements. So trip to Belgrade is also a trip through history!
Belgrade has above all been noticeable by its taste for liberty. The stubborn defence against the Germanic attacks in 1915 as well as the spirit of resistance of its inhabitants have forged strong values of independence in its population.
In 1980s Belgrade has been before all other towns in Yugoslavia a port for the independent journals and a focus of the contest against the fetters of the communist administration. It has been totally natural that this attacking spirit found its vent in winter 1996-97 in a longer movement of the pacific contest organized against the communism of Eastern countries. The Belgrader has been voluntarily boastful and contestable and he never hesitates to say in a high voice what he thinks!
Belgrade has been constructed on a group of hills leaning on the Danube and Sava offers various urban landscapes suitable to walking and discovering. Before your trip to Belgrade, we strongly advise you to stay in some of the hotels in the city center because you can visit everything on foot. From the fortress of Kalemegdan dominating the Sava to the height of the ancient royal estate in Topcider, going through the bohemian Skadarlija, this variety makes many days necessary to discover the “white city” But one place has been imposed itself to welcome those who start their trip here in Belgrade or to say good-bye to them – the walking Street Knez Mihailova. This is the main artery of the town which everybody passes at least once a day, and Belgraders need not to make rendezvous as they always meet a wanted person there. So if you are planning a trip to Belgrade, you should get used to the general philosophy of farniente and an entirely oriental exhaustion.
It is this mixture of nonchalance, festive Balkan spirit and obvious oriental influences expressed by certain culinary specialities, by the taste for the Turkish coffee, or in certain musical sonorities, with the opening towards the Western culture, which make of Belgrade a very special city.
The variety of choice is very large… in summer and winter. In summer, you will be able to go swimming in the Lake of Ada Ciganlija, to taste roasted fish, and to finish your evenings at one of the houseboats. In winter, you can take a sljivovica in an old bar, then dance in one of the cellars discotheques which are located below Kalemegdan. You will want this trip to Belgrade never to end!
All in all, “the white city”, illuminated by thousand night lights , opens its arms to you! One is for sure, Belgrade will not disappoint you!
Novi Sad, folded on the Danube and peacefully installed in the planes of Vojvodina has got all trumps to become the new Prague. Its placement and its configuration, the cultural riches of its monuments and of its festivals has been above the whole atmosphere made by the seriousness of a European centre and the entirely Balkan euphoria at the same time, these are the trumps of a great future for tourism.
The “new furrow”, the literal name of Novi Sad could effectively known how to develop a strong character entirely independent of the very nearby Serbian capital and at the same time to clear its own way accumulating various tourist opportunities. The region finally contained the reserves of the good luck: the natural reservations and the monasteries of Fruska Gora, the castles and residences of the dynasty of Dundjerski, the capital of wine and the Hungarian farms – salasi – where one may eat well at the sound of tamburica, Novi Sad has above all been a remarkable site on the Danube. On its left bank an important commercial centre on the river between central Europe and the Balkans had been developed. Here have been disembarked the monger [products to transport the cereals from the region. Novi Sad became so the economic capital of this immense wheat plane of Vojvodina. In the XX century an important industrial activity had been added. The result has been that Novi Sad became the next to the first town in population with its 300,000 inhabitants.
Novi Sad has also been the town of the Serbian culture and was born and had developed under the Austro-Hungarian protection and thanks to the personalities o character. The “Serbian Mother” had collected all great names of literature and the thinkers of the Serbian language. The first Serbian lyceum and the first library had been founded here 1826e. to the present town all Serbian intelligentsia fled from the Ottoman yoke, after their study in Vienna, Budapest an Krakow had come here. You may find this very marked character in the town during your visit to the very central quarter: the cathedral, the “Serbian Mother” and the library.
The capital of Vojvodina has also been peopled by different nationalities such as Serbs, Hungarians. Montenegrins, Slovaks, Ruthens, Croats and Gipsies. The Montenegrins having fled because of the war violence, had been settled here especially 1946. It was forbidden to them to return under a decree by Tito. Closer to us the Croats had continued to move into this town very peacefully in spite of the war context and the battles in Vukovar. This multiethnic character had truly been enhanced because it may explain that Novi Sad never had warlike discussions and had no followed the war path.
An important symbol of multiethnicity has been the observance of the minority languages. If you would be roving close to the municipal counsel hall, you may find to the left of the monumental entrance gate the name of the town and of the Counsel written in four languages and two alphabets: Serbian, Hungarian, Slovak and Ruthen being the official languages. The inheritance from the Titoism this equality of the languages has been visible in media: still today the television journal has been given in four parts respecting the minority languages. In villages where the minorities had been represented by 50% population the minority language became that of the majority at schools. This multiethnic identity has been taken by the uncertain political projects. On the one hand the strong national revenge supported by the parties and the movements turned to the past, and on the other hand the creation of a great autonomist current for Vojvodina led by Nenad Canak with a hymn and a multicoloured flag. Before these identity intentions the inhabitants of Novi Sad and of the region remained attached to the observation of their local traditions, but in the federal Serbo-Montenegrin framework the autonomist list had not exceeded 5% votes for the legislative in December 2003.
On the right bank there is the fortress of Petrovaradin with its painters ateliers and its hotel on the trench wall are offering an unforeseeable view of the town and farther on of the hills of Fruska Gora. The centre of the town placed in front and with the advantage of being of little dimensions has easily flanked along the central korzo and all museums and galleries have been limited here in the evening a lot of cafes, taverns and concert halls are in an explosive gaiety.
The first stage of traditions in Banat, Pancevo, has been known as a town of the history as the churches of many confessions have been witnessing. Pancevo has been a multiconfessional town indeed, and one should merely go to the cemetery to take account. A half of the tombs have been Orthodox, a quarter Protestant, and the last quarter Jewish. This was a town of colonisation during the Habsburg monarchy. The Austrian, Hungarian and other workers, artisans and others had been coming to settle here, and that is what has given the today multiethnic aspect to the town with not less than 23 nationalities. The communities have been co-existing in the greatest peacefulness and there has been developing an industrial life with the famous brewery constructed in 1722.
Today, Pancevo remained an industrial town being such a one since 1945 with its petrol refineries and its chemistry plants. The 1999 bombings had damaged them to the ecological consequences. But it had known how to develop its trumps on the Danube bank, especially with the camping on the bank of the river.
Smederevo, on the Danube, 45 kilometres East from Belgrade, is the first important stage on the way of fortresses. Dominating the Danube, its medieval fortress imposes a respect by its dimensions and by its history. But Smederevo is also the most important river port on the way to Romania in the sense of its strategic position downstream from Belgrade. Finally, Smederevo is an emblematic town of the economic restructuring led since 2001 because it contains an iron melting complex of Sartid bought by the American giant of US Steel, while the port installations had been sold to an Austrian company.
Situated in the extreme North-West of Serbia at the beginning of our part of the Danube, Sombor has been a town of culture and at the same time a place surrounded by hunting grounds. Sombor has been a town of green, with the elegant bourgeois facades and of numerous parks where one still may take a walk on coach and listen to the “tamburasi”, the typical cord music, and in the Danube breeze.
The second most populated town (160 000). Subotica has been a historical crossroads and a high tourist place at the same time. Peopled by Serbs, Hungarians, Jews and many minorities like Bunjevci or Slovaks, Subotica has been a true multi-confessional and multiethnic town. Situated a few kilometres away from the border to Hungary on the great road connecting Europe and the East, this town became rather of the world, a kind of Pannonian St. Moritz. At the end of XIX century when the town had completely been transformed, there began coming the Viennians and Hungarians from Budapest attracted by the shadowed parks, the charming hotels and the lakes in summer. Today Subotica has been in the heart of a region offering numerous tourist attractions.
Eighty five kilometres away from Belgrade at the borders of Romanian Transylvania, a town of 40,000 population being a long time the economic and cultural centre of the region. Vrsac has been known by its young and fruited wine, but also by its agreeable climate. In fact, lent to the greenish hills of Vrsacki Breg (641 m high) the town has been emanating an agreeable atmosphere favourable to walks. Thus, passing the palaces and churches constructed in XIX century, then the hills till the height of the town, wherefrom there is a splendid view of the planes of Banat. This greenish framework and the clean air at an hour on the road from the Serbian capital have been explaining numerous sport successes of the national teams in the basket ball and the volley ball, as well as the first most Westward hotel in Serbia-Montenegro.
In the heart of Banat, and connected to the Tisa by a channel of a European model. Zrenjanin became the most spacious town in all Vojvodina. This town of 56,000 population had three times changed its name before, but that is has been understandable because it has been peopled by not less than 22 nationalities. This peaceful town with the shadowed parks and with the facades of central Europe presents the interest to be surrounded by a very particular nature and by the residences of princes and the houses of unique and attractive bourgeois hotels.
In continuation of the river Kolubara one first crosses a landscape of hills and wavy valleys one comes to mountain ranges of the massive of Balkans. Valjevo, with its 96,000 population is the first stage on the road to Bosnia and Montenegro and the first town on the height of West Serbia. Its natural environment and its tourist offering make it a perfect first stop coming from Belgrade. Placed in a plane 185 m above the sea surface, Valjevo has been spread on the banks of the rivers of Kolubara and Gradac surrounded by the forested mountains of Medvednik, Povlen and Maljen.
Its natural situation offers numerous tourist offerings. Its greenish and of the spring nature at the same time permit to give oneself to pleasures of walks to the kayak and to speleology. The town of Valjevo itself is rich in monuments of its situation at the Turkish border. There is a Turkish town and a Serbian town separated from each other by a river, and the monuments the resistance to the oppression during two World Wars.
Arandjelovac presents a particularity perhaps unique in Europe: the spa of Bukovicka is wedged in a park itself in the heart of a town of 50,000 population. You can say that one breathes a fresh air and walking through the heart of the ton in agreeable. Since Prince Milos Obrenovic has discovered and exploited its mineral water the town has been developing with the spa. This effervescent water has been served in all good establishments in Serbia. It is the famous calcareous and radioactive “Knjaz Milos from Arandjelovac”. It is comparable to the mineral water of Vichy. In the park of 14 hectares there are two hotels and the medical centre, but also the sources of the mineral water and an open swimming pool. The park has been traversed by the tree-lined paths below the trees. It constitutes the greatest sculpture museum under the blue sky in Europe. In summer time many concerts, the theatre plays and the folklore dances have been performed under the blue sky. The culture had not been missed with the complex around the villa Karadzic, the museum of the town and of the church. St. Gabriel; from here the walks toward the hills in the environment have been beginning to take a view of this town full of trees. The last particularity of the park is the presence of a cave at the entrance to the town.
In the heart of Sumadija, “the city of the kings” is a charming little town of 80.000 population where it is agreeable to stay. Three hours on the road away from the capital, Kraljevo has been installed comfortably on thanks of Morava and emanates an atmosphere of joy. The best sign is its “korzo” in the Italian style. Obligatory walks I the nice walking street at the beginning of the evening in the family or the youth among them. Surrounded by four mountains between 1,200 and 1,500 meters of height with the nice wavy relief-Goc, Stolovi, Troglav and Cemerno-Kraljevo offers chance for excursion into the mountains. On the other hand this typically Serbian town controls the flow of the river of Ibar charged by history: the fortress of Maglic situated at a culminating point or the monasteries of Studenica and of Zica attested it. This town of the waters surrounded by three spas, one of which the most important in Serbia, Vrnjacka Banja. Nothing to put under question, dynamic cultural life and the always animated soirées make the visitors’ satisfaction.
With its 180,000 population Kragujevac is the third town in Serbia and the economic lungs of Sumadija. Its industrial activity especially with the only national vehicle factory of Balkans makes of it an important town for the economic life of the country. At the entrance to the town and to the border of the ancient centre itself the complex Zastava is stretching, marking the town and its insides. The factory is a substantial part of the town and had given it its identity since 1945. after the embargo of 1990s and the stubbornness of the communist government the unemployment severely affected the town. But especially the bombings of Zastava in 1999 have left still visible traces on the quays and the square “Crveni barjak” Nevertheless, the stigmata of a recent past should not obliterate the cultural richness of a town of the richness in the events of the past. Because Kragujevac, the resistor has always maintained the relationships for the less loosened with the political power. In 1941 its support to the Resistance cost 700 children’ lives in a sole day.
Novi Pazar is interesting as a typically Muslim town in South Serbia.. It is surrounded by some of most beautiful Orthodox monasteries. Its history is significant by this wedging between the two different religions, Orthodox and Muslim. Under the dynasty if Nemanjics the town of Ras and its fortress was the capital of the Serbian Empire spreading to Kotor at the Adriatic seaside. As at the beginning of the XIV century King Milutin enlarged his empire toward the South, Ras was not the capital any more and was known under the name Pazariste meaning commercial town. In the middle of the XV century Isa Beg Isakovic had founded here a Turkish fortress of Novi Pazar that became an important city for caravans placed on the commercial crossroads. In the XVII century Novi Pazar had been supplied by mosques, medresas, Turkish baths and other bazaars. But already in the XIX century the town declined and today it seems to be dozing.
THE MUSLIM TOWN: From the Turkish fortress that had been spreading on the hill dominating the town there remained just the parts of the walls and loopholes and a high octagonal tower. The mosque Alem Dzamija should be visited. It is on a square where there is a picturesque, typically oriental house from the beginning o the XX century. Finally on the central square a caravanserai with four buildings distributed on the sides of a vast courtyard.
Its situation at the cross roads of great roads linking Serbia with the East Balkans have given to this metropolis the name of the “Gate between East and West”. With 250 000 population is an industry and University town where the French presence is active a long time. Lamartine used to stay here 1823 and has taken there from some fragments of the popular Serbian songs. French Oriental Army has been greeted here as the liberators 1918. This long tradition of the links with France explains the presence of a French cultural centre and of many associations maintaining the cultural contacts with France. The history had powerfully marked this town and had left permanent traces. The emperor Constantine was born here and used to stay here many times what had left a complete Roman place Medijana. In the heart of the town Turks have imprinted their seal with this fortress dominating Nisava and especially with the famous the “Scull Tower” celebrating the Serbian defeat by Ottomans 1809.
This metropolis linked directly to Belgrade by a modern highway used to develop an abundant activity. It has profited by its situation on the Balkan cross roads. Nis is in fact an unavoidable stage in all the traffic coming from Central Europe and going to Greece and Turkey. Numerous galleries and museums confirm the vitality of the town but stimulate longings. The inhabitants of the town still remember the bombing of NATO 1999. The air campaign cost them many dead and the destruction of the central market and one school, and one tobacco factory. Nevertheless the second Serbian ton had been governed by the opposition to Milosevic and continues with a municipality of liberal tendencies. But this does not disturb the “Nislije” at all to go on singing the delicious melodies of South Serbia we can hear in the cafes and restaurants of the town.