Serbia is a country still little known to Polish tourists and often overlooked in holiday plans, but a direct flight from Kraków to Belgrade may nudge visitors in that direction. All the more so because a multitude of unusual attractions await them – from breathtaking mountain landscapes to one-of-a-kind architectural monuments.
Undoubtedly, Serbia is a country for connoisseurs of tourism, who prefer active rest and sightseeing, and who value beautiful mountainous panoramas more than seaside beaches
The capital and largest city of Serbia remains a metropolis of contrasts. This is where you will find historic streets where time has stopped and monumental modernist buildings characteristic of Brutalism.
A must-see in the Old Town is undoubtedly the picturesque Kalemegdan Fortress, rising on a 125-metre-high hill above the mouth of the Sava River on the Danube. Initially, there was a fortified Celtic settlement here; later, the ancient Romans built a fortress on the hill. The current buildings date from the 17th century. Today, the fortifications and the adjacent park are one of Belgrade’s biggest attractions.
History and architecture buffs should also visit the Church of St. Sava, one of the largest of its kind in the world, often referred to as Serbia’s Hagia Sofia, as well as the historic artistic street Skadarlija in the Old City, which has been compared to the famous Montmartre in Paris.
ĐERDAP NATIONAL PARK
About 120 kilometres east of Belgrade, under the border with Romania, on the waters of the Danube, lies a protected area established in 1974. It is the largest national park in Serbia. In 2002, it was included in the UNESCO information list, which means it has the chance to become a part of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The park entices not only with breathtaking views of Europe’s most famous river trailing through the mountain ranges, but also with unique historical attractions.
The mighty medieval fortress of Golubac, located near the Iron Gate – as the gorge section of the Danube is called – separating the Carpathian Mountains and the East Serbian Mountains – is one of the most beautiful fortresses in Serbia. This monumental structure was probably built by the Hungarians as early as the 13th century on the site of a Roman defensive stronghold, and over the centuries it changed hands, being ruled by Turks, Serbs and also the Habsburg family. It was in this area that Poland’s most famous knight, Zawisza Czarny, died in 1428!
Another much older attraction is Lepenski Vir – an unusual archaeological site discovered in the 1960s during the construction of a dam on the Danube. The remains of human settlements found there are between 6,000 and 8,000 years old! It is also where bizarre, massive anthropomorphic sculptures of unknown deities were unearthed, which, according to conspiracy theorists, represent visitors from outer space. They can be seen in a special, spacious museum pavilion on the banks of the Danube itself.
TARA NATIONAL PARK
On the other side of Serbia, south of Belgrade, on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, stretches the Tara National Park, no less attractive than Đerdap. It offers magnificent views of the picturesque Drina River gorge and the mighty Dinaric Mountains – the largest mountain region in Europe after the Alps and the Scandinavian Mountains.
The park offers an unforgettable experience and sometimes stands out in some unique ways. In addition to beautiful landscapes, there is an unusual house built on the river. Interestingly, it is not even a monument! Nevertheless, the construction is so distinctive that it has become a symbol of Serbian tourism and is considered one of the most original places in Europe. The house was built relatively recently, in 1969, and for mundane reasons – a few local boys decided to create a summer retreat for themselves. The building was erected on a rock emerging from the waters of the Drina. Today, the house attracts tourists from all over the world!
Equally remarkable is the mountain panorama offered by Banjska Stena. It is the most popular – although not crowded – vantage point of the Tara National Park. From here, you can admire the emerald waters of Lake Perućac in the sunlight and the Drina River winding through the mountains. Of course, this is not the only such point in the area. It is also certainly worth visiting Biljeska Stena, Crnjeskovo, Oslusa or the highest of them, Sjenic, which is 1,444 metres high and has a 12-metre-high wooden tower.
More and more
Serbia still unfairly remains somewhat on the sidelines of European tourism. Although there are no golden beaches here, this remarkable country offers a wide range of alternative attractions that travellers and mountain hiking enthusiasts will appreciate. Also on the list of places to visit should be Šarganska osmica (the Šarganska Eight) – a picturesque route of the historic narrow-gauge railway, Petrovaradin and Novi Sad – historic towns on the Danube, as well as Subotica and Niš. In the latter, centuries ago, Constantine I the Great, the Roman emperor, and Justinian I, the Byzantine emperor, were born. And all this is barely the beginning of a great adventure in a country still undiscovered by mainstream tourism…