Places to Visit, Sights to See
|The Danube near Lepenski Vir.|
In 3 weeks time I’ve naturally not been able to see everything there is to see in this fascinating country, so keep in mind there’s much more than the places mentioned below. Other places you could visit include Subotica, the Fruska Gora National Park and Deliblatska Pescara in Vojvodina; the archaeological site of Vinca near Belgrade; many monasteries (including the UNESCO-protected Studenica and Sopocani); and the mountains (Kopaonik, Zlatibor).
Novi Sad’s old town is very pleasant to walk around. There’s a plethora of churches, many outdoor pubs and lots of archways. The main sight outside the old town is the Petrovaradin citadel across the Danube, which offers a splendid view over Novi Sad and Petrovaradin, the Danube, the surrounding hills and, sadly, a bombed bridge. Also nice is Dunav Park.
The Vojvodina Museum I offers a great overview of life in the area, from prehistoric times to the 19th century. Next door the less complete Vojvodina Museum II illustrates the First and Second World Wars.
There is a tourist information desk at the train/bus station, which can help with finding accommodation.
We got a double room with shared bathroom for DM30 (EURï¿½15) at Bela Ladja, Kisacka 21 (tel. 021/616-594), in-between the station and the old town, and across the street from the house Albert Einstein used to live in (look for the inscription).
|Kalemegdan citadel, Belgrade.|
Top sights in the city centre include Terazije Street, the Yugoslav Parliament, Republike Square, the St. Sava and St. Alexander Nevsky churches and Studentski Square. Bombed buildings are everywhere, and will probably remain there as painful memorials for years to come.
You can wander around the Kalemegdan citadel, first built in the 11th century and later used by the Turks, for hours or even days. There’s lots of old gates, walls and towers, a big park, a view over Belgrade and the Danube and Sava rivers, the military museum and some other smaller museums, various statues, etc.
The National Museum at Trg Republike has a large collection of Serbian (and one room with foreign) art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The archaeological wing was unfortunately closed when we visited.
Across the river Sava are Novi Beograd (New Belgrade) and Zemun. Novi Beograd consists of blocks of apartment buildings built by the communists. From Kalemegdan, you can see what Vlad referred to as “the new highest building in Belgrade” (i.e. the highest building that wasn’t bombed by NATO), a curious construction of two towers connected by a passage at the top to form some sort of city gate. Zemun used to be a different town altogether, but now borders Novi Beograd. There’s nothing extraordinary to see, but it’s nice to walk around for a few hours.
The best place to go for dinner is Skadarlia, a picturesque cobblestoned street lined with restaurants and pubs.
There’s a tourist information office in an underground passage at the intersection of Terazije and Kneza Mihaila, the pedestrian shopping street that leads to Kalemegdan. Also on Kneza Mihaila are an English bookstore (in the basement of the store on the first corner on the right, coming from Terazije), and numerous stands selling postcards, maps and souvenirs. The best place to look for CDs (illegal copies, but who cares for 120-150 dinars; ï¿½2-2.50) is the outdoors market next to the student cultural centre off Kralja Milana.
Budget accommodation is hard to find (see the practicalities section) and I was lucky to not need look for it as I was staying at Vlad’s place, but at Lonely Planet’s Thorntree message board “Ali”, “bsuf” and one anonymous poster all recommended the Hotel Centar by the train station (DM35/ï¿½18 for a double with shared bathroom).
|Castle at Smederevo.|
The main attraction of this town is the medieval castle on the bank of the Danube. It’s rather dilapidated, but then again there are no hordes of tourist to bother you when you’re exploring it. The centre of town is quite nice too, though not especially remarkable.
The Hotel Smederevo (Izletnicka) charges 980 dinars (ï¿½17) for a single; but there’s no real need to stay here overnight. You could do it as a daytrip from Belgrade, or a stopover between Belgrade and the Djerdap National Park.
The main reason why I went to Nis is to see the Cela Kula (Skull Tower), built by the Turks from the skulls of rebel Serbs in 1806. It’s now being kept inside a chapel with some explanatory panels about its history. Only about 60 out of 952 skulls remain, but it’s still an impressive sight.
Like Novi Sad and Belgrade, Nis has a citadel, but the difference is that this one was completely built by the Turks, giving it a significantly different look – note the Arab inscriptions on the gates. Roman remains were also found here, amongst others a collection of gravestones.
Other sights include Oslobodenja Square, the city’s only remaining mosque at Generala Milojka Lesjanina, the people’s theatre and the market that’s held daily near the citadel and the bus station. Also interesting to see is how the army barracks have been rebuilt, while the restaurant next door still has a huge gap in the wall.
Not far from Nis is the spa town Niska Banja. On the way there the bus passes by the Roman site of Mediana (which I found a bit disappointing, to be honest).
Djerdap National Park
The Djerdap National Park, south of the Danube on the border with Romania, offers both magnificent natural beauty (the bus ride from Kladovo to Golubac alone would be worth it) and a wealth of archaeological and historical sites, including the remarkable prehistoric settlement of Lepenski Vir and the castle at Golubac. For more info, here’s an excellent website.
The Hotel Djerdap at Kladovo, a cozy town in the east of the area, charges US$33 for a single, and I’m afraid the Hotel Lepenski Vir at Donji Milanovac and the Hotel Golubac would be equally expensive. I stayed at the Hotel Tekija in the village of the same name (a 15-minute bus ride west of Kladovo), where I paid DM35 (ï¿½18) for a single. Wild camping seems to be popular in the area as well.