The city of Belgrade, Serbia is located where the Sava River meets the Danube and where old-world culture meets the hip and modern. The “White City” is the capital of Balkan culture and it is emerging from its brutal history and the fall of communism- becoming one of the leading travel hubs in south-eastern Europe. The city has a strong spirit that can be found in its café culture, nightlight and laid back Mediterranean pace.
When planning your travels around Eastern Europe, make sure that you include Belgrade along the route. It’s not necessarily the most beautiful city in the world, it suffers from an abundance of faceless grey Soviet Bloc concrete architecture, but it has a very happening cultural scene and lots of attractions. Rather than being a treat for the eyes, it is a city rich with experiences.
Eager to learn more about this city? Here are seven fascinating facts about Belgrade that you probably didn’t know:
Imagine being paid your wage, only to have it become almost worthless within two weeks. Imagine three litres of milk costing as much as a monthly pension. This was the reality of those living in Belgrade in the early 1990s, when Serbia was part of Yugoslavia. There was an incredibly severe hyperinflation that was caused by criminality and economic mismanagement.
As enormous amounts of money were printed, the value of the currency plummeted. This caused 5 reevaluations of the currency between 1990 and 1994. All workers have to spend their wage immediately or it would lose its value. A 50 Billion dinar note was barely enough to buy a loaf of bread. Many businesses started to pay wages in goods and the locals started to use a barter system rather than currency. It was a tough time for people in Belgrade and they had to rely on connections with family and friends abroad who could provide foreign currency, or those in the countryside who could grow food.
This thin fruit and rose petal preserve, its name meaning “sweet”, is a used traditionally to greet guests in a Serbian home. When the guest arrives they are given a spoonful of slatko and a cup of water. Also, if you are invited to visit someone’s home, it is polite to bring something sweet even if you are only visiting for a short time.
There is an area of Belgrade called Strahinjića Bana Street that is known as Silicon Valley, but it has nothing to do with computers, electronics or technology. In fact, it is a term that the locals have coined for the nightlife entertainment area of the city where all of the bars, restaurants and pubs are located.
The silicon refers to the breast implants of the glammed-up women who like to party there with their dates who drive fancy cars. In these glitzy bars these trophy girlfriends dance in their tight jeans and toss their bleached blonde hair as their boyfriends chug beer and huddle around the bar.
According to data from 2011 from the Commissariat for Refugees, more than 700,000 people from territories affected by war in former Yugoslavia have sought shelter in Serbia. In fact, refugees make up nearly 10% of the entire population of the country. A total of 65,000 people still had refugee status, while others had obtained their Serbian citizenship. This rising tide of migration has brought the challenge of providing them housing and other vital needs.
In Belgrade, as well as in many locations along the Danube, the Serbian Orthodox church celebrates Epiphany by holding swimming competitions in which participants jump into the freezing waters of the Danube and recover a Holy Cross. The holiday commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ and takes place in January.
The priest will throw a cross into the river and young men jump in, swimming through the icy water to retrieve it. The priest then throws cold holy water over everyone to bless them. If you are the lucky swimmer who manages to retrieve the cross first, it is believed that you will have guaranteed good luck for a year. Perhaps you would be lucky not to get hypothermia from swimming in those icy waters!
The Celts built a city here in the 3rd century BC. It was conquered by the Romans in the 1st century BC and it was then called Singidunum. Also, only 15 km east of Belgrade you will find the village of Vinca, which was the very first urban settlement in Europe – built in the 6th millennium BC (even earlier than settlements in Mesopotamia).
One of the most famous monuments in Begrade is the Podednik, which is located in the Belgrade Fortress. It is a 14 metre high column on which a nude man stands, holding a falcon in his left hand and a sword in his right.
The statue overlooks the confluence of the Danube and the Sava rivers and the sword represents how Belgrade is ready to take on any new threats on the horizon. The Pobednik (translates to “The Victor”) is one of the most powerful visual symbols of Belgrade.
What are your thoughts on these seven interesting facts about Belgrade? Let us know in the comments below!