Written by fizzytom on 10 Oct, 2010
As our bus crossed the border from Bulgaria and ploughed onwards through Serbia, I fell in love with the country a little more with each passing mile. I watched stout old ladies in their headscarves and voluminous gathered skirts picking fruit from trees in their…Read More
As our bus crossed the border from Bulgaria and ploughed onwards through Serbia, I fell in love with the country a little more with each passing mile. I watched stout old ladies in their headscarves and voluminous gathered skirts picking fruit from trees in their gardens, elderly men enjoying a glass of home made rakija while sitting on the steps of an almost tumbledown cottage, a hawk hovering over a field of gently swaying corn; for mile after mile, Serbia unraveled itself in a series of picture postcard images. This was the countryside, though, and we were heading for the city of Niš (pronounced Neesh), Serbia’s third largest. It’s situated in the south east of the country, a two to three hour drive from the Bulgarian capital, Sofia (though this can vary depending on the length of queues at the border. Unless you’re traveling through this part of the country, perhaps on to Macedonia or Bulgaria (or even beyond as Niš is on the road to Istanbul), you might easily overlook Niš and spend time instead in the two other large cities which are more firmly on the tourist map. It would be a shame, though, because Niš is an interesting place with much to offer visitors both within the city and in its environs. Although we spent only a day and a half in Niš, we managed to get a taste of the city and have it marked as one to come back to in the future. On first sight the city may look a little grim – tower blocks and concrete are the main visual theme – but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find plenty of history, some handsome architecture (and some Communist era classics) and plenty of culture. There are several important events in Nis’s cultural calendar but whenever you visit, there is enough to occupy at least a couple of days. What's more, Niš is pretty cheap with museum entrance rarely going much over a pound or two and a decent meal with wine coming in at around £7.00 a head.The river Nišava cuts through the city but doesn’t make that much of an impression. The bridges that cross the river aren’t at all grand and walking along the riverbanks is not much of an appealing prospect. North of the river is the large fortress which is the highlight of Niš; the fortress that visitors see now dates from the eighteenth century but earlier civilisations had built fortifications on the same site. The main entrance is the imposing Istanbul gate and just inside is the old hammam (Turkish bath house) which is now restored as a restaurant. Within the walls there is an old mosque – now an art gallery – and an amphitheatre where a variety of concerts are held. Among a number of notable events held annually, visitors flock to Niš for Nišville - an international jazz festival – and Nišomnia – a rock/indie/dance festival, not on the scale of Novi Sad’s Exit Festival but still a popular draw. The heart of Niš is Podeba, a pedestrianised shopping street with a line of pavement cafes running down the middle. There are a number of international chains and up market stores on the street but you get the feeling that few of Niš’s citizens spend their money here, preferring instead to window shop and have a soft drink or a coffee. There’s very much a café culture but not really the money to sustain it so cafes appear to have little problem with customers who order one small drink and sit for an hour with an empty cup. At first glance it may look as if people have money to spend but if you spend a while in the same place you will see that a single drink is made to last a long time. You will also see people carrying shopping bags from designer boutiques, reinforcing the impression that there is money to spare, but if you look closely, you’ll see that the bags are old and slightly tatty, having been used countless times since the one frivolous luxury splurge. Historically Niš is an industrial city though much of that industry is long since gone. On the outskirts of the centre there are lots of scrap-yards where rubbish is sorted into piles for the day when – hopefully – the money will return to recycling and the rubbish can be sold on. There are large numbers of Roma in Niš and you often see young men using horses and sometimes pedal bikes with trailers to haul rusty metal around the city. In spite of its industrial heritage, Nis has not lost its ties with the countryside – as, indeed, is the case across Serbia – and everyone seems to understand and appreciate the seasons and the land. One place to get a good feel for this is the central market which is north of the river, beside the fortress. The market takes place daily – even on Sundays – starting early and going on until early evening.A ten minute walk from the market is a former Nazi concentration camp now open as a museum. It’s a small site with only one building now open to the public; the old kitchen and officers’ quarters are now offices. As I intend to review it separately I’ll be brief here and say it’s worth a quick visit if you happen to be in this part of town. Another chilling tourist "attraction" is the Skull Tower; it’s situated a couple of kilometres from the main square and a bus stops opposite it. The tower was built in the early part of the nineteenth century as warning to invading Turks; again, I'll be reviewing this attraction separately.Perhaps the most important historical site is Mediana a place where the Romans built an imperial palace in the 4th century. It’s on the same road as the skull tower, but another couple of kilometres further out of town. There you can see the excavated remains some eighty buildings including some spectacular mosaics. The architecture of the city centre is a mix of crumbling concrete monsters, a handful of wonderful Soviet style classics and a few elegant nineteenth century buildings nestling between them. There are a couple of vast squares containing decrepit modern fountains filled with litter and one or two statues of Serbian national heroes. Even in showpiece squares the pavements are in poor repair. My favourite of the squares was trg Kralja Milana where you’ll find the towering Hotel Ambassador which looks in danger of collapse at any moment; having used its toilets on the ground floor I’d suggest that might not be such a bad thing. Outside the city perched on up on Bubanj hill is a striking monument to the ten thousand Serbians executed here by the Nazis during the Second World War; three fists make a defiant statement. You can take a bus that passes close to the bottom of the hill and then make the fifteen minute climb on foot. There is plenty of good walking outside the city centre and the hills are not too demanding. If you want a bit more relaxation you could travel the 12 kilometres or so to Niška Banja, small spa town which is reasonably well developed in tourism terms. Niš now has more accommodation than at the time our Bradt Guide was published; only one hostel was listed and we didn’t bother to do further research before booking online directly with Hostel Niš. It was a fair enough place but others have opened since the book was published and some sounded rather good in comparison. Although there are some quite new shiny looking hotels in the centre of Nis, I suspect they might not be as great as they look; customer service in Serbia still has some way to come and you are more likely to get good service from everyday people or those working in small enterprises than in larger establishments.We had a really enjoyable couple of days in Niš and will definitely back at some point to visit Mediana and to take in some of the museums we didn’t get round to this time. I’m also keen to spend a day at Niška Banja and in the Niska valley. In spite of the interesting things to see in and around the city, Nis isn’t yet overtly touristic and would be better suited to more adventurous travelers. I was really pleased with my first taste of Serbia; Niš is fun, laid back and, in spite of looking somewhat forbidding at first, colourful and characterful. I found most people friendly and helpful and in spite of obvious hardship, people seem to be making the best of things. I would recommend Niš as an excellent stop off between Istanbul or Sofia and Belgrade for backpackers, and as an interesting two night trip from Belgrade if you have time. Close
Written by Autumngolightly on 19 Dec, 2009
Everyone knows of the War between Belgrade and Sarejevo, But now peaceful whats happening?I came here from Budapest on December 18, 2009 and am staying with a friend Dajana. I cant read Cyrillic and had trouble contacting my friend as the train was 2 hours…Read More
Everyone knows of the War between Belgrade and Sarejevo, But now peaceful whats happening?I came here from Budapest on December 18, 2009 and am staying with a friend Dajana. I cant read Cyrillic and had trouble contacting my friend as the train was 2 hours late from Budapest its because of the Snow Serbia can be very cold and at present the trains can run late because of the freezing conditions.Arriving in Belgrade late at night just after a blizzard can be daunting but I did eventually find my friends place about a 1000 metres from the train station. She lives in a cosy loft apartment and has a job at a local hotel. But has a major but is having trouble finding work because of the embargos set by the EU. Apparently visas expire from midnight tonight and then Serbians will be able to travel in Europe without a Visa. Good thinking because it will help them with rebuilding.I dont really want to re address their civil war but Belgrade or Beograd suffered also during the war and there are many buildings still just hollow shells from air bombardments and the rest. It is daunting to see this damage and reminds you that though we are in 2009+ WAR can affect Europe.Surprisingly Serbians are warm and welcoming people, I am here only for a short while, but surprised by gentle hospitality and laughter.Language is not such a problem trying to find eggs in the local supermarket I just made duk duk chicken noises and flapped my arms she took me to the deli for roasted Chicken and then I made out an egg coming out of Chickens bum! The sales lady rolled with laughter and finally took me too the aisle with eggs. It was so funny and she was endeared that I was trying to communicate. She gave me a big hug and I think in Serbian said "God Bless you?" Whatever through global interaction I made her day and in a way she made mine.There are also cheap outdoor markets but only the strong at heart can brave the cold for long to venture across snow and ice.Beograd is rising out of the ashes and I would like to come back in Spring. Food is really really cheap so it is worth a visit. I have really enjoyed this city and hopefully long time peace will remain in this region. I really enjoyed seeing my friend and visiting Beograd I would tick it as my YES VISIT box next time and they are trying to mend bridges. Train service just restored to Sarejevo and cheaper than the bus.People tend to forget Eastern Europe but I believe it will be a hot spot of developing tourism as Western Europe inherent with social problems loses its lustre. Close
Written by dangaroo on 13 Jan, 2009
Beograd or Belgrade (not sure why it's down as Belgrad!) is the Serbian capital city. Noisy and hectic, it's without doubt the most bustly of the cities in the Balkans (except possibly Bucharest). Belgrade is a pleasant surprise and has become more popular in recent…Read More
Beograd or Belgrade (not sure why it's down as Belgrad!) is the Serbian capital city. Noisy and hectic, it's without doubt the most bustly of the cities in the Balkans (except possibly Bucharest). Belgrade is a pleasant surprise and has become more popular in recent years, behind the sprawl is a nice centre with a good collection of cafe's, pubs and restaurants. The nightlife is cracking and after years of trouble, Serbs just want to have fun. No one parties in Europe like a Serb.---------------------------------------------Hot els/HostelsThe first time I visited there were no hostels, now there is a huge amount of them. Any of them will do, Three Black Catz is highly recommended. I used to stay at the Hotel Royal, a 3 star gaff in the vicinity of the Kalemagdan fortress that will set you back about 10 pounds a night, the restaurant is a lively place and each evening the Serbian guests have an enormous drunken singalong and party downstairs and invite people to join.-----------------------NightlifeAs I mentioned before, Belgrade is very much a party city.. most of the clubs are on the barges along the Sava and Danube rivers. The Irish pub - The Three Carrots, is the place you want to be watching for watching sport. There is also a bohemian district in the old part of town called Skadarlija. Here you'll find poets, artists (read: drunkards!), small cosy pubs and a great brewery. On the way home from any night out in Belgrade, make sure you visit one of the many 24 hour bakeries and buy yourself a fresh pizza or better yet some burek.-------------------------------------Sightseein gSeveral amazing structures stand in Beograd, namely the Parliament building, Cathedral of Saint Sava, The Old Palace, Beli Dvor, The National Assembly and the National Museum. Kalemegdan is a nice park & fort, where you can easily spend a couple of hours resting. Prince Michael street may be of interest but is your standard main street in any Central European city! Novi Beograd across the river had (I can't be sure that it's still there), a famous Chinese market where you could buy plenty of copied goods at cheap prices, there is also the Eternal Flame monument in memory of the Nato Bombing of the RTS. There are also several islands in the rivers that have great nature.Transport--------------------Well connected to Sofia, Istanbul, Skopje, Athens, Budapest, Novi Sad, Bar (Montenegro), Zagreb and Germany by train and any number of destinations across the Former Yugoslav countries by bus as well as the rest of Europe with Eurolines.Local Transport---------------------Regular inspections, means it makes sense to buy a ticket from a kiosk. Not enough electricity for the trolley buses to run was a regular occurance. I'm not sure how it is these days.General Info===========Serbs in general have a good command of the English knowledge and are well educated, you might want to avoid being too judgemental about the war as it's a complicated subject and Serbs are proud people. You will find that many a Macedonian, Croatian and Bosnian come to Belgrade for the weekend due to the nightlife, cheap prices and common language. Partizan OR Red Star (Crvena Zvezda) are the local football teams, be careful in which company you show a preference for what team?! Close
Written by ucrnojgori on 17 May, 2005
My husband and I were strolling through Belgrade’s old town, Kosančićev venac, wanting to see one of the most important Orthodox churches in Belgrade and Serbia, the Saborna crkva, or in English, the Orthodox Cathedral. The church (circa 1840) itself is simply gorgeous –…Read More
My husband and I were strolling through Belgrade’s old town, Kosančićev venac, wanting to see one of the most important Orthodox churches in Belgrade and Serbia, the Saborna crkva, or in English, the Orthodox Cathedral. The church (circa 1840) itself is simply gorgeous – white classic-style church with colorful mosaics decorating its western façade. To our surprise, we arrived just in time to the start of a wedding ceremony. Living in the area for a year now, we have come to know that a caravan of honking decorated cars is common place for such a festivity, but there is something about weddings that always makes it special and exciting. It was fabulous – the bride, groom, and a handful of other guests piled out of the decorated cars. The wedding caravan, maybe seven cars long, extended across the block and through one of the major intersections in town. Other motorists seemed to be pretty patient at first – it was a wedding, after all – but after two turns of the lights, with no movement, other Belgraders seemed to be getting anxious and started honking their horns. This time the horns were not out of nuptial jubilation, but rather impatience. Everything worked out in the end. Soon enough, the wedding caravan had dispersed, and the church doors closed for the religious ceremony. It was definitely an interesting moment in time. Close
Written by BOKI on 14 Nov, 2000
Accommodations in Budva can most easily be found at some highly rated and expensive hotels. Hotel AVALA and Hotel MOGREN are right next to Old Town. Hotel complex SLOVENSKA PLAZA is close by and includes a string of restaurants, boutiques, playgrounds and more. Budva…Read More
Accommodations in Budva can most easily be found at some highly rated and expensive hotels. Hotel AVALA and Hotel MOGREN are right next to Old Town. Hotel complex SLOVENSKA PLAZA is close by and includes a string of restaurants, boutiques, playgrounds and more. Budva also has a Youth Hostel, though rooms may be hard to find at peek season times.
A better bet for budget travelers is to head south 2 miles to Becici. Here too, a number of higher priced hotels offer fine accommodations. Hotels include MONTENEGRO, BELLEVUE, SPLENDID and MEDTERAN. Just across the street, however, is a 400-site camping complex, where the great location and easy access to the beach can be enjoyed at very low prices.
Further south down the Becici beach is the community of Rafailovici, which offers a number of B&B style private accommodations. This is one of the best ways to stay on the Adriatic. Rooms for rent are available all up and down the Yugoslav coast (just look for the signs), and a great way to experience local lifestyle and cuisine at an affordable price.
More budget accommodations can be found further south towards the city of Bar. The beach of Buljarica is home to several good campgrounds.
Written by BOKI on 13 Nov, 2000
Budva is Yugoslavia's top beach resort. The highlight of the city is its medieval fortress inside which narrow streets wind their way through cozy neighborhoods, past churches, restaurants and taverns. After viewing the churches, old houses and the maritime museum, stop at CASPERCAFFE for a…Read More
Budva is Yugoslavia's top beach resort. The highlight of the city is its medieval fortress inside which narrow streets wind their way through cozy neighborhoods, past churches, restaurants and taverns. After viewing the churches, old houses and the maritime museum, stop at CASPERCAFFE for a cold and refreshing drink.
Although Budva's main beach is a fairly ordinary bunch of pebbles, head 500m north to Mogren Beach and you'll find a true gem of a beach. Or head south of Budva, about 2 miles, to Becici beach. Becici and Budva are connected by a picturesque hiking trail. Becici beach was voted the best beach in Europe on several occassions.
Written by angie cadie on 12 Mar, 2003
The effects of war were really brought down to earth after the visit. The friendly people that we met were so kind to us, and I could not stand to think that our country had bombed them in the previous years. One very…Read More
The effects of war were really brought down to earth after the visit. The friendly people that we met were so kind to us, and I could not stand to think that our country had bombed them in the previous years. One very helpful man at the electrical scrap shop told us of the car factory being bombed and how the bombs came down on the town like rain. This still brings a tear to my eye to think what kind of suffering these poor people (our new friends) had suffered. I also realised how much we take things for granted back home - everything in this town is recycled, from materials to electrical parts; nothing goes to waste. All the food is also grown organically, and there are no overweight people in this town to be seen - the junk food thing hasn't taken off here yet. The people are also really hardworking for the little they get paid to live on, but from the impression we got, they are happy with the way they live and carry on to the best they can after the war. Close
For an exciting day trip away from the coast, and a dose of Montenegrin history, head to Mt Lovcen. The mountain is a national park, and at its summit, reached after a brisk hike is the mausoleum of Petar II Petrovic Njegos, a famous ruler…Read More
For an exciting day trip away from the coast, and a dose of Montenegrin history, head to Mt Lovcen. The mountain is a national park, and at its summit, reached after a brisk hike is the mausoleum of Petar II Petrovic Njegos, a famous ruler of Montenegro.
Then, head to Cetinje, about 15 miles away. Once the capital of Montenegro, Cetinje is a historic and picturesque town. The most imposing building in the city is the former palace, now the State Museum. Opposite is the former house of Cetinje's prince-bishop, built in the 19th century. The Cetinje Monastery, founded in 1484 and rebuilt in 1785, has a treasury of artifacts, including a collection of liturgical songs printed in 1494.
Overnight accommodations can be found in a couple of hotels, including Grand and Zicer. Budget accommodations are available at a Student Hostel. Montenegro cuisine cam be sampled at restaurant Opera.
On the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, Kotor's old town is a magnificant city. Must-see sites are the churches of St. Tryphon and St. Luke. Tour the old city, grab a cold beer at any of the taverns lining the many city plazas,…Read More
On the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, Kotor's old town is a magnificant city. Must-see sites are the churches of St. Tryphon and St. Luke. Tour the old city, grab a cold beer at any of the taverns lining the many city plazas, then head south to some of the best beaches in the Adriatic. Close
South-east of Budva is Sveti Stefan, a remarkable old fishing village turned hotel. The hotel is expensive, but the town is worth a look. Nearby is the King's Beach, site of the Yugoslav royal family's resort complex called Milocer.…Read More
South-east of Budva is Sveti Stefan, a remarkable old fishing village turned hotel. The hotel is expensive, but the town is worth a look. Nearby is the King's Beach, site of the Yugoslav royal family's resort complex called Milocer. Close