What to expect in Belgrade
As the capital of Serbia, Belgrade is fairly visited by tourists and adventurers interested in discovering the culture of this side of Europe. Some of them still think there’s a war going on here, others are attracted by the low prices, but those who decide to give Belgrade a chance are not disappointed, on the contrary, they are delighted.
Anyone who visited Serbia can tell you that we love to eat. Our national dishes include pljeskavica (a ground beef/pork patty), ćevapi (grilled minced meat), and sarma (grape, cabbage, monk’s rhubarb or chard leaves rolled around a filling based on minced meat). Given the fact the Balkans have been influenced by the rich oriental cuisine during the centuries of Ottoman rule, some of the traditional dishes have a lot in common with those of Greece and Turkey. An average Serbian breakfast would include bread, eggs and a cup of coffee. When it comes to lunch, Serbians must eat a soup before the main course, which could be your average soup, but also something else called čorba (soups with roux or eggs). Here, we love meat, so the main course is always a meat dish. Salads are eaten with the main course and not as an appetizer. Don’t miss your chance to try the Serbian salad (fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and grated feta, usually seasoned with olive oil, salt and commonly feferons) and the Shop salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, onion/scallions, raw or roasted peppers, sirene (white brine cheese), and parsley), you won’t regret it. In short, you will never be hungry in Belgrade, most of the time you will beg us to stop offering you food.
As much as we love to eat, I must admit that we love to drink more. No Serbian will ever let you leave his country without trying the national drink – rakija šljivovica (plum brandy), and to make it even more special, he would probably offer you his own, because many Serbians brew their own rakija. I still haven’t gotten to the really special part – no hangover included. Amongs others you can also try the honey brandy (medovača), or the pear brandy (viljamovka). Beer is mostly sold in half litre bottles, cans are less common and canned beer is of slightly better quality. Breweries began packing beer in plastic bottles of two litres. This beer is cheaper though equal in quality, but of course, it must be drunk fast. The most popular ones are Jelen (Deer) and Lav (Lion), so if you are a fan of beer, don’t hesitate to try them.
Customs and manners
When you meet someone for the first time, it’s custom to shake hands and say your name. If you want to impress them, you can say Drago mi je (Dra-goh mee ye), which means I’m pleased to meet you. Serbians are glad when someone tries to speak their language and will always encourage you to learn some words and never to be embarrassed. If you have heard about the custom of kissing in the cheek three times, I can assure you it’s pretty old-fashioned and reserved for grandparents or relatives. So, when you encounter your new Serbian friend again, it’s perfectly fine to kiss them on the cheek once. Another thing known about Serbians is their hospitality, and that really can’t be more true. If you are invited for dinner or a drink, the host will always insist on paying, and you won’t be able to do anything to stop him. For him, you are always the guest and he will try to do his best to make you feel welcomed. You should also know that smoking is very common in Serbia, allowed in cafés and restaurants, so if you smoke, it will be great for you, if not, you will have to try to get used to it.
You probably already know that the Balkans had a turbulent history. But most Serbians want to put all of that behind and lead a normal life. That doesn’t mean you are not allowed to ask questions about it. The relationship between Croatians and Serbians is still in some ways complicated, even though it has been more than 20 years since the war. Some people still hold a grudge and are taught to hate or discriminate. But fortunately, most people are smart enough to make up their own minds and realize that the past should stay in the past. So if you are curious, feel free to ask your new Serbian friends about the topics that interest you, and expect an honest answer and a lot of interesting facts or experiences you have never heard before.
A more recent matter is the problem of Kosovo, the autonomous province of Serbia, who has declared its independence in 2008. Many Serbians you encounter will tell you they are against the possibility of Kosovo being a state, but then again, you will have an unique opportunity to hear the pros and cons from a local. In general, Serbian people is very open and welcoming, so they will always try to answer your questions even if they disagree with you, so don’t miss the opportunity to talk about these important parts of their history.
Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, has gained a very good reputation when it comes to the nightlife. Belgrade is considered as the Balkan’s Ibiza, and that did not occur by chance, because this city has indeed a lot to offer. There are many different places you can go, and each of them brings a new kind of fun. First, you have the old-school kafanas, with checkered red and white tablecloths and acoustic folk music. It’s nothing fancy, and it doesn’t need to be, because it has an amazing and welcoming atmosphere and cheap drinks. Then you have the fancy kafanas, similar to the old ones, but with loud music and dressed-up guests. Let’s not forget the rafts on the Sava and Danube rivers, which are basically clubs, but in the open, perfect places to enjoy a night out in the summer. Finally, Belgrade offers a number of alternative places with jazz, indie or rock music, with more intimate atmosphere and cool surroundings. If you choose any of these places, a good time is guaranteed, so don’t hesitate to visit them all.
In Belgrade, you will eat well, drink well and party like you’ve never had before. You will encounter happy and relaxed folks who will do their best to make you feel at home. Take a walk down Knez Mihailova street, watch Sava and Danube rivers meet beneath the Kalemegdan Fortress, try rakija and have the best night of your life. One thing is for sure – you will want to come back to Belgrade, again and again.