Yugaslavia — and the country thats not quite over it

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Many guidebooks will tell you Serbia and its people are wholly misunderstood. Given a bad rep due to their former leader Slobodan Milošević, who thankfully was indicted for war crimes in 1999, Serbians have a complex view on their most recent history and seem to celebrate their ‘golden age’ of power in the 1960s and 70s under the rule of Josip Tito.  

In many ways locals are not ready to talk about their countries most recent misgivings. Instead, they look back to the forming of the second Yugoslavia as a prouder moment for their country. In fact, many still refer to their country as such. Serbians are Yugoslav’s and their country is Yugoslavia

Nothing makes this more apparent than at the National History Museum. An odd building that showcases the merits of Serbia as the lead in the Yugoslav Republic, the museum itself has mock ups of what ‘life was like under communism’. An odd showcase to a time period that was not so long ago, it is easy to see why the locals still look to this period as the foundation for the modern era of their country.

Even more interesting than a museum dedicated to the glories of communism, was the burial site of Josip Tito himself. Set-up as a ‘winter garden’, the indoor mausoleum is a mini-museum dedicated to Titos life and rise to power. Set-up as a bit of a shrine, it is easy to see why this man was so loved by the communist party. He truly came from nothing and worked himself up into political power.

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We mainly went to Serbia to celebrate the coming of 2015 in the Balkans most notorious party city, Belgrade. Set-up for outdoor celebrations, the city had several stages set-up with lively music. While we had prepared for the hearty drinking of rakia, and folk style dancing, we did not prepare for the bitter cold. Even with my two layers of pants and 3 layers of tops (and belly full of rakia), I could only hold until the striking of midnight then was forced to admit defeat and head home for the evening.

e56e57 (2)e58e57Pictured above is the local drink, rakia. As with many of the eastern nations, rakia is the drink of choice for all ages. It even comes with its own bottle which is designed to not spill when dancing around – they have their priorities straight.

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Not without its troubled past, pictured above is one of the attempts to improve the economy. Rather than traditional methods, the government added more zeros on the ends of the bill; prices fluctuated so much that it was unpredictable how much simple household items would cost day to day.

While we spent 4 days in the country, I feel like we only scrapped the surface on the countries multifaceted history and people. The people themselves remind me a lot of Americans; unapologetic of their past, and welcoming to anyone that will share a rakia with them.

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Novi Sad

Novi Sad marks our entrance into Serbia at the start of our 14 day road trip through emerging travel destinations in Europe: Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH), Montenagro, Albania, Macedonia (FYROM), and Kosovo. Having explored most of western Europe, I’m looking forward to touching the eastern parts of the continent, still raw from the 1990s.

Flying into Belgrade, I was pleasantly surprised by the pristine airport and newly built northern highway that led us to Novi Sad. I had this image of Serbia being this archaic-snowy-backwards-looking Russian country. You’ll be happy to know that none of the above is true, although it is still evident that the country is slowly, but surely, growing out of its war torn, communist era past.

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Guide books will say that Novi Sad is the ‘Athens of the North’, but I would say it is more the Budapest of South…but less vast and well-known. A 3 mile radius of newly built rainbow sandstone encompasses the town centre, leaving the rest of the outer radius less aesthetically pleasing.

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The famous Danube river lines the outer edge of town. It provides a backdrop to the citadel which sits on the top of a ridge across from the city centre. With stunning views of the rest of the town and laid with artists and swanky wine bars, the citadel was easily the most interesting part of town.

Novi Sad is worth the trip if you use it as a stopover to hike Fruska Gora national park, however, not necessarily recommended otherwise. Happy to have seen it, but not needed if short on time.

Fruska Gora
On our way out of the city we passed through a beautiful national park called Fruska Gora.

http://www.npfruskagora.co.rs/eng.html

Famous for its 32 monasteries scattered through the forest, it is a beautiful walk worth taking. As an added bonus, wine growers also populate the area primarily focusing on white chardonnays – a perfect way to end a day of walking!

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