Official name is Republic of Serbia, covers area of 77,474 sq. km. Serbia is largely mountainous. Its northeast section is part of the rich, fertile Danubian Plain drained by the Danube, Tisa, Sava and Morava river systems. It borders Croatia on the northwest, Hungary on the north, Romania on the northeast, Bulgaria on the east, Macedonia on the south and Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the west. Serbia was one of six republics that made up the country of Yugoslavia, which broke up in the 1990's. In February 2003, Serbia and Montenegro were the remaining two republics of rump Yugoslavia, forming a federation. In 2006, Montenegro split from Serbia. Capital city is Belgrade. Terrain varied, in the north, rich fertile plains; in the east, limestone ranges and basins; in the southeast, mountains and hills. Climate: In the north, continental climate (cold winter and hot, humid summers with well-distributed rainfall); central portion, continental and Mediterranean climate; to the south, hot, dry summers and autumns and relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall inland.
Serbia is one of Europe’s most culturally diverse countries. The borders between large empires ran through the territory of today’s Serbia for long periods in history: between the Eastern and Western halves of the Roman Empire; between Kingdom of Hungary, Bulgarian Empire, Frankish Kingdom and Byzantium; between the Ottoman Empire and the Austrian Empire (later Austria-Hungary). As a result, while the north is culturally “Central European”, the south is rather more “Oriental”. Of course, both regions have influenced each other, and so the distinction between north and south is artificial to some extent.
The cultural and historical heritage of Serbia begins with prehistoric archaeological sites and its legacy from classical antiquity. Perhaps its greatest riches, though, are in the many mediaeval Serbian churches and monasteries. All year round, numerous cultural, entertainment, traditional and sporting events are held in Serbia, demonstrating the creative power and spiritual vitality of this country. The World Heritage list includes almost 1000 properties of cultural and natural value, from all over the world, deemed by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to be places of outstanding universal value. UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, to which Serbia has its own ambassador. In selecting the properties which Serbia put forward for inclusion in the World Heritage List, an emphasis was placed on Serbia’s mediaeval heritage, particularly monasteries and royal mausoleums belonging to the Byzantine sphere of cultural influence, but with recognisable national characteristics. Serbian sites so far added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites: Studenica monastery, Stari Ras and Sopocani, Mediaeval Monuments in Kosovo and Gamzigrad – Romuliana. As part of the UNESCO Memory of the World program, Nikola Tesla’s Archive (2003.) and the Miroslav Gospel (2005.) from Serbia have been added to the World Documentary Heritage register. Also, the UNESCO MAB Council has declared part of the Golija nature park as the Golija-Studenica Biosphere Reserve.
The official language is Serbian and the script in official use is Cyrillic, while Latin script is also used. In the areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, the languages and scripts of the minorities are in official use, as provided by law.
The main religion in Serbia is Christian Orthodox. There are also other religious communities in Serbia: Islamic, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and other. Upon visiting churches and monasteries you are required to act politely, not to laugh or raise your voice too loud or to use mobile phone while you are in the church or monastery. The dress code doesn’t allow shorts or mini-skirts, which could be a problem in summertime. When entering, take your hat off. If your visit coincides with a service, you can enter, but stand in one place and don’t walk around. On all occasions women are not allowed in the altar space behind the iconostasis. Ask for permission if you want to take pictures with a flash, especially in the church.
As Serbian's are good hosts they will call you to visit them at home. Upon arriving at someone’s home you will be treated to a coffee, juice and brandy (rakija). Don’t miss trying the delicious sweet preserves “slatko” of which you should take just a spoon or two accompanied by a glass of water. Sometimes you will be served with bread and salt, it is custom for welcoming the guest, especially in rural areas. Upon your first entry in a household it is customary to bring a symbolic present, a bottle of an alcoholic drink, an assortment of chocolates, flowers or similar. Do not be surprised while greeting people the Serbian's will kiss you three times! Shaking hands, done using the right hand, is customary when being introduced or meeting somebody of either gender. When people meet for the first time they say their first name, shake hands and say: „Drago mi je“ which means Nice to meet you. Kissing is not a necessity when meeting somebody for the first time, but every time you meet from then on, if you have developed affection for the person in question, kissing three times on the cheeks is the order of the day in Serbia. Of course, nobody will object if you only kiss once or twice while giving a long and sincere hug. If you are seated, rise when you meet people, especially women and elder men. When meeting after a longer time or upon some celebration such as a birthday, it is Serbian custom to kiss three times on alternating cheeks while shaking hands.
The greatest honor for every guest is to be invited to a “slava”, a celebration of a family’s saint day. Don’t forget to bring a symbolic gift, such as a bottle of wine or flowers. The conventional greeting is “Srecna slava”, followed by kissing three times on alternating cheeks while shaking hands. You will be offered “zito”, a ceremonial sweet made of wheat, honey and nuts; you are required to make a sign of cross (if you’re a Christian), take one spoon and leave it in a glass of water. All that you have to do afterwards is to enjoy the hospitality.
Serbia has a lot to offer to hedonists and eating out to catch local flavors is an unforgettable experience and a highlight for many visitors. You simply have to try the local dishes. The prices are low for visitors from western countries, so go ahead, indulge yourself. Serbian cuisine is a reflection of all historical influences in this area and Oriental and Slavic tastes are dominant. Local favorites are „cevapcici“ - small rolls of mixed minced meat, which are eaten with plain onions and warm bread, also, „pljeskavica“ and all kinds of grilled meat. During meals don't hasitate even one moment to take more if you like the food. Serbian's also eat very much. The courses – starters, soup, main dish, dessert are accompanied by saying „Prijatno“ which means „Bon Appetite“ and answering „Hvala, takodje“ with meaning „Thank you, same to you“. Paying the bill in restaurants is a big part of the Serbian mentality. The host will almost never allow a guest to pay for lunch, dinner or drinks because it is customary for the host to take care of all expenses while a guest is staying with him or her. By Serbian custom, upon drinking in a café or dinning our, the bill will be paid by the host as a sigh of hospitality. Sharing the payment around the table, except when there is no money around, is not considered convivial. You can ask to order a round after you enjoyed several paid by your hosts.
Belgrade is famous for nightlife and it is Balkan's New York that never sleeps. Often called „City of Sin“, Belgrade is the center of the unforgettable fun and entertainment. Even the most famous tourist guide „Lonely Planet“ included Belgrade in the first place lists of the world's best cities for nightlife. The same is with the rest of the cities in Serbia. In contrast to the rest of Europe, there is no single day of the week in Serbia when you cannot have a night out and that holds true for all generations, for all lifestyles and musical tastes and for all available budgets. After a wild night out, somewhere around three or four o’clock in the morning, people continue onward in search of grilled meat or „burek“.