Serbia, Syria, Siberia, all three sound the same but are totally different areas and countries. While Siberia is a part of Russia known for its cruel weather conditions where your tears freeze short before you wipe them off, Syria is a main news topic nowadays regarding the war and sad reality of Syrian refugees. Well, that’s what Serbia has in common with Syria, wars. If you plan to come to Serbia, don’t ask someone older for an advice, they will tell you there is still a war and how dangerous it is. Nope, there’s no war in Serbia. There are however territory disputes regarding Kosovo, Serbian southern autonomous province. And while beauty contests’ girls promote world peace every year, we do things to achieve that, sometimes with more, sometimes with less success.
After 132 words written, time to hit the topic. I just love Serbia. But I haven’t always. I started loving my home-country after I left, while I was studying abroad in 2015-2017 where all the people I met and who had a chance to visit Serbia said they ‘absolutely loved it’. Sure, ‘’you are rich EU-US-CH citizens’’, I thought, ‘’who went to a place with cheap food, cheap drinks, cheap everything, of course you loved it.’’ But no, it’s not about that. If you have a chance to stay in Serbia, I am pretty sure you will like it too.
People from Serbia are always complaining about the government, lack of work, bad public services and similar. If you get ‘lucky’ enough and ask ‘what should I do in Serbia’ you will get an answer ‘just leave Serbia’, meaning live the American dream in Vienna, where around 100.000 Serbs live. While studying abroad for two years with people from all over the world, having friends from Spain to India, working in international advertising agency and just travelling around Europe, believe it or not, I found out that people outside Serbia have problems too, i swear!
People are also complaining about politics, about work, expensive accommodation, low salaries or expensive beer in pubs. I was talking to people and they all have problems in their countries, maybe monetary nature or not, but they are not super happy about living in their country and you won’t hear many times proudly said ‘‘Ich bin aus Deutschland’’. It made me think about it, because all I heard in Serbia was that everywhere is better than here. It is not, now I know.
Little, poor Serbia that survived more wars, political regimes and border changes than most of the countries can imagine. Small and poor, but a country of amazing and famous men and women, beautiful tradition, breath-taking landscapes, delicious food and the most important, good people. Seems that countries with rather difficult and complex past give birth to better people. In times of war, in times of lost and in times of poverty, people talk, people help each other and always find a way to cheer up, no matter what problem is knocking at the door. Sometimes I think that song ‘’Always look on the bright side of life’’ was inspired by Serbia. You don’t?
Complaints of Serbs on the side, take a walk anywhere in Serbia and you will see how people are smiling, laughing with each-other and more important for you as a tourist, they are very hospitable and helpful. Serbian people are well known for hospitality, where if you have a chance to visit Serbian home, you will be offered with coffee and rakija. The housewife will set up a table in a minute and apologize for not having anything to offer you, while setting 3 different types of meat, 2 soups and a homemade cake. It’s like that, Serbian home feels honoured to have a guest. The more you go outside cities toward villages, the number of dishes at the table increases by distance. And there we come, mid-century Orthodox churches and monasteries, beautiful landscapes, pure untouched nature and air that feels like from O₂ planet! Although small, Serbia has a variety of everything in any sense. If you ask me for a weather in Serbia, well, it can go from -20°C in January to +42°C in July. We have hills and plains, rocks and fertile soil, snow and sunburns, low salaries and highest percentage of smokers in Europe. Contradictory, right? Researchers say that countries suffering high unemployment rates have more pubs and bars and cafes, higher alcohol sales and betting places at each corner, in our defence.
Besides cafes and betting places, in Belgrade, the capitol, you will have a chance to enjoy the architectural mix you can’t see on many places. Serbia, especially Belgrade as a point between past Austro-Hungarian monarchy and Ottoman Empire, is inspiring blend of East and West, with Serbian touch at the middle, the most beautiful architectural style - kafana! You know kafana?
While in Serbia, you won’t hear words pub and bar, just kafana. The simplest way to explain is – kafana is a place where you have coffee with rakija in the morning, lunch in the afternoon and go for drinks and live folk music with friends in the evening, and all the time it feels like home. It is a cult, it is a great and important part of our tradition and place where, during and after Ottomans, most of the governmental, educational and cultural forms took place. It is not a joke, there were kafanas in the beginning of the XX century that were schools in the morning, political party offices in the afternoon and kafana, at its core, in the evening. And you thought you knew everything!
Serbia has internet! Yes we do, 72.5% of households have internet, and not dial-up, if you remember it. We tend to be very modern despite the fact history always wanted to slow us down, reverse, downgrade, regress and…couldn’t find more expressions. We tend to be very good with computers and have rapidly growing IT industry that exported more than one billion euros last year, having in mind IT industry development started few years ago. After IT, we have raspberries and 95% of the world’s raspberries production comes from Serbia. We have car industry, textile, electronics at basic forms, grapes and wines, pharmacy industry and so on, but most importantly, we still have untouched nature, organic food (most of the farmers in Serbia don’t even know for GMO term, and better leave it that way) and streams with ice cold diamond clear water!
We have so many good things we do not appreciate, and we do not appreciate it because we have it. Maybe that is why I started loving my country so much after I left for a few years. And that’s the nature of people, they tend to appreciate things when they lose them and love people when they leave them. As a Serb who was in good grace of educational authorities and had a chance to study abroad and visit 20 countries including mine, I believe I appreciate what we have. I just hope you will have a chance to visit Serbia and asking you kindly to respect this country because it is a, and I will repeat myself, country of beautiful tradition, breath-taking landscapes, delicious food and the most important, good people. Dobro došli i živeli!