Serbia: home of the electrician Nikola Tesla1, the first vampire2, and the largest industry of raspberry exporting in the world3. It’s one of the six republics that constituted the former Yugoslavia4. My original list of “must-sees” didn’t include Serbia (mostly because I didn’t know much about it…how mistaken I was!), but that’s exactly why backpacking is so awesome–the flexibility of your itinerary!
How did I decide to visit Serbia? I’m glad you asked!
When I was in Munich in mid-March, I asked another solo female to take a photo of me at the top of the new town hall in Marienplatz (see below!).
We ended up going back down in the elevator together and I noticed she was walking alone as well. I thought I could ask her to lunch or something, but then I worried that would be weird. I didn’t want her to think I was creepy!
Then I figured–I’ll probably never see her again. So why not invite her to grab food with me?
So I ran after her (very stalker-esque) and asked if she wanted to grab food or drinks. We ended up getting beers and paninis, seeing a church together, and she accompanied me on my various errands (even backpackers run out of toothpaste!). Eventually, she had to leave to meet a friend, but we exchanged numbers.
Later that week, she texted me and invited me to stay with her in Belgrade, Serbia!
So after touring around Budapest for five days, I hopped on a bus to Belgrade and stayed the weekend with an awesome new friend (one who just *happens* to work at the #1 top rated place for desserts in Belgrade).
Isn’t solo travel, like, the greatest thing ever?!
I had no idea what to expect of Serbia. I’d never been to the Balkans5 before, and I don’t know anyone who’s been there. Here are my 7 tips for travel in Serbia (especially as a solo female traveler!).
1. Be smart and curious. I think there’s a misconception that this area of the world is unsafe, especially for female, solo travelers. Of course, you should always exercise typical cautions: don’t walk alone at night, don’t accept drinks from strangers (or drink anything that you didn’t see poured with your own eyes), etc. Those are precautions you should take anywhere, though! Don’t allow preconceived notions of unsafety deter your from visiting this beautiful, safe country (and the rest of the Balkans).
2. Learn about the history. Belgrade has, like much of Europe, a lot of history pertaining to World War II. My friend and I did a free walking tour (who’s surprised–me, doing a walking tour?!) and learned a lot about the victims of bombings, the former Yugoslavia, and Belgrade’s experience with the Holocaust. We also learned about a NATO bombing of a journalism building in 1999, where many civilians perished6. On that note: remember to be open-minded. As I travel Europe, I’m realizing more and more how what we’ve learned in school growing up may not be the way others remember the same events.
3. Visit museums! There are so many interesting museums! The Nikola Tesla museum, the Ethnographic museum, the Historical Museum of Serbia, the Museum of Yugoslav History, and the Military Museum are a few worth mentioning.
4. See the cathedrals. I had the great fortune of accidentally visiting Serbia during Eastern Orthodox Easter! The Eastern Orthodox cathedrals are massively beautiful–be sure to spend some time taking in their beauty. My friend and I visited two: St. Sava’s and St. Michael’s.
5. Check out local hot spots of food and drinks. The most famous street in Belgrade isn’t–surprisingly–the largest pedestrian street in the city, Knez Mihailova. While that street is absolutely worth a visit, be sure to check out Skadarlija Street! It’s only 400 meters long (source), but its cobblestone streets, traditional restaurants, and antique shops are sure to captivate all who visit.
6. Try the local food! It’s easy to want to stay within your comfort zone when traveling, especially if we don’t know what’s in the food. Trust me, I know all about this fear, as a non-meat eater! But it’s so important to at least get a taste (pun intended) of the delicious, local food.
7. Stop by the Belgrade Fortress. If you’re more of an outdoorsy type, be sure to see the Belgrade Fortress. It’s a giant, beautiful, old fortress with lush grass and breathtaking views of Belgrade. There’s also a mini-church inside the vicinity, and I got to see a baby baptism on Easter inside the church!
Serbia is an incredibly beautiful country with kind people, scrumptious food, and awesome views. I so wish that I could keep exploring the Balkans. Next time I backpack Europe, I’ll be sure to intentionally create time to see more of this historical, stunning part of the world.
For those of you who have been to Serbia, what is on your list of must-sees? What other tips would you give travellers?