Serbia Travel Guide

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Panoramic view of Sokobanja

Panoramic view of Sokobanja

Saša Stojanović

Serbia, founding member of Yugoslavia and Serbia- Montenegro, has always been turbulent when it comes to its size and shape; its borders and cultural heritage have been crossed and determined by 56 armies in recorded history. Romans, Celts, Greeks, Arabs, Huns, Slavs, Persians, Hungarians, Franks, Germans and Turks have shaped this country's identity through different fields: religion, cousine, music, art, monuments, crafts, language and literature- into a unique mixture of the West and Orient. These are the reasons Serbs use two different scripts- Cyrilic and Latin, believe in the Eastern Orthodox God (Greece), serve gulash as their "national" dishes (Hungary), have toponyms such as Fruska Gora (Frankish Mountain) and Singidunum (Celtic Belgrade); their first kings were crowned by the Vatican, Atilla the Hun was presumably buried in Belgrade as his grave overlooks the Emperor Leopold's Gate (Austria). The most beloved queens in Serbian history were Helen d'  Anjou  (French), Anna Dondolo (Venetian), Catherine of Hungary, Symonide of Byzantium, Empress Milica (Serbian) and Maria Theresa (Austrian).

Short historic timeline

Founded in the 9th century by Serbian dynasty of Vlastimirovic, Serbia evolved into a Kingdom in 1217 inheriting the First Kingdom of Zeta (today's Montenegro),

The Serbian apogee in economy, law, military, and religion took place during the rule of the House of Nemanjić between 1166 and 1371; the Serbian Kingdom was proclaimed in 1217, joined later by the Kingdom of Syrmia, Banovina of Mačva and Bosnia; finally, the Serbian Empire of Stefan Dušan was formed in 1346.

Under Dušan's rule, Serbia reached its territorial peak, becoming one of the larger states in Europe. The renowned Dušan's Code, a universal system of laws, was enforced.

Belgrade broke off and joined Catholic Hungary, resisting the Ottomans until 1521, when most of today's Vojvodina (northern Serbia) was also included into the Muslim Empire; at one point Second Serbian Empire of Jovan Nenad was established but the state was shortlasting. By the end of the 17th century Vojvodina expelled the Turks and joined Austrian Empire, followed by Belgrade and Central Serbia, however the latter only for a couple of decades. Serbian revolutions in Turkey between 1804-1815 enabled Serbia to establish itself as an independent state for the first time in 300 years; however following the Napoleon's invasion on Russia Serbia had lost an important ally so it was obligated to ackgnowledge supreme Ottoman rule. Nevertheless, from that point onwards Serbia was governed by its own Prince, formally proclaiming its independence during the Russo-Turkish war (1875-78) alongside Montenegro. South Serbia, Sandzak and Kosovo united with Serbia as a result of the Balkan wars against Turkey and Bulgaria; Vojvodina broke off from Austro-Hungary to join Serbian Kingdom following the collapse of the Empire in 1918. Finally, this Kingdom of Serbia (corresponding more or less to its modern size) was merged with the former Austro-Hungarian territories (Slovene, Croatian and Serbian), and united with the Kingdom of Montenegro to form Kingdom of Yugoslavia (official name since 1929), governed by the Serbian royal dynasty Karadjordjevic.

Geopolitical profile

Serbia is a Central European (Pannonian) and South European (Balkan) country, with variety of nations, religions and geohistorical regions. If we exclude population of Kosovo which comprises up to 23% of the overall population, the country is a nation of 7.5 million people, out of which 6 million are ethnic Serbs, followed by Hungarians, Bosniaks, Slovaks, Croats, Montenegrins etc. Some 80% of the country is Serbian Orthodox Christian, while 8% are Catholics, with 7% Muslim and the rest beeing atheists. Although official language of Serbia (proper) is Serbian, Vojvodina province ackgnowledges also Hungarian, Slovak, Croatian, Romanian and Rusyn as official; local communes are conducted in Bosniak, Bulgarian and Albanian languages as well, while Kosovo's official language is Albanian apart from Serbian. 

Serbia is bounded by Montenegro to the south, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the west, Bulgaria to the southeast, Croatia to the northwest, Hungary to the north, Macedonia to the south, Romania to the northeast. It controls one of the major land routes from Western/Central Europe to Turkey/Near East.

Belgrade, population 2 million, is Serbia's national capital, and home to 28% of the country's overall population (excluding the UN-run Kosovo). Novi Sad, Subotica, Nis, Kragujevac, Pancevo, Novi Pazar, Smederevo and Zrenjanin are the biggest cities in the country following the capital city, each of them exceeding 100,000 in terms of population, and offering some magnificent sights from ancient, medieval and modern times. Sirmium, not far from Novi Sad was one of the capitals of Roman Empire during "tertrarchy'; Novi Sad (ca 300,000)- also known as "Serbian Athens"- place of the national awakening of the "Austrian" Serbs, one of the cultural and spiritual capitals of the country; Nish- third largest city (ca 250,000), heart of the "Balkan Serbia" with its Oriental, Greek and Western outlook; magnificent fortresses on the Danube- Petrovaradin (Novi Sad), Zemun- Belgrade (Taurunum/Kalemegdan), Golubac (Smederevo), Viminacijum (Kostolac), as well as Felix Romuliana and Mediana- are only some forts that have remained from the turbulent past, many of them awaiting official UNESCO status. 

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: http://wikitravel.org/en/Serbia

Contributors

November 23, 2006 change by neron (5 points)

October 06, 2006 change by giorgio

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