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Serbia Trips

  • Medieval Serbian monastery, Gracanica

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As a frontier between the great empires of east and west, Serbia has weathered centuries of turbulent and dynamic history. Its status as an international crossroads – along with its fortuitous position on transcontinental trade routes – have long brought it diverse cultural influences, forging a distinctive Balkan identity steeped in a love of fine art, music, literature and nature. Today, its urbane and endlessly elegant cities overflow with fine Orthodox churches, palaces, castles, and historic townhouses. Its rural countryside, filled with hospitable villages and handsome stone-built medieval towns, are bastions of folklore and rugged life-styles, all grounded in the ancient rhythms of the seasons.

Bordered by Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro, Serbia enjoys a diversity of natural settings. To the north, a rambling network of low river valleys punctuates the landscape, their flood plains fertile ground for fruit orchards, wheat crops, and vineyards. To the south, mountain ranges flank Serbia’s borders on either side, rising skyward with a convoluted network of desolate peaks, vertiginous gorges, enchanted waterfalls, caves, and towering rock formations. Almost a third of the national territory is covered with forests, fine country for hiking and bird-watching. If that all sounds too athletic, bear in mind that over 1000 hot and cold water springs emerge in Serbia, its luxurious and deeply relaxing spa facilities nestled in pristine natural surroundings.

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Evidence of history is never far away in Serbia, a land subjugated by the Romans in the 2nd century. No less than 17 emperors went on to be born there, and today, a slew of excavated temples, amphitheatres, baths, and palaces recall the splendour of the antiquities. If anything, the Byzantine era was even more formative for Serbia, signifying a golden age in thought, politics, and cultural development. Fine monasteries, churches, and commanding fortifications are among Serbia’s outstanding medieval heritage, along with Christian artwork and early forms of Slavic literature.

More recently, Serbia’s 20th century history has been dominated by episodes of instability and turmoil. Two Balkan wars saw its territory expand by 80%, whilst the pan-Slavic union of Yugoslavia bound it to its neighbours as one. In 1989, following decades of Communist rule, Slobodan Milosevic notoriously fuelled ethnic tensions across the Balkans.

As Yugoslavia tore itself apart, Milosevic clamped down on civil liberties and sought to stamp his authority on the rebellious province of Kosovo. NATO responded by bombing Serbia non-stop for almost three months, eventually forcing a surrender. In 2000, isolated and impoverished after years of economic sanctions, half a million protesters gathered in the capital to force Milosevic out of power. Today, Serbia is a free, democratic and independent nation striving to re-invent itself in the 21st century.

Places of interest in Serbia

  • Sirogojno

    The highland village of Sirogojno is famed for its high-quality knitwear; during the 1970s, Sirogojno sweaters graced...