Going to Serbia and not drinking the local firewater is a sheer waste. It is made of fruit residue and most often of plums. According to the fruit in use the liquor has its specific name. For example the spirit distilled from plums is called “slivova” (slivovitz) and so on. The generic name is “Rakia”. Rakia exists in practically all Balkan countries except for Greece where the name is different. Turkey also has it (called raki if I am not mistaken) despite its mostly Muslim populace. Mind you, the name is specifically reserved for liquor with anise, in the same group with Pernod, Sambuca and Ouzo. Further south in the legendary land of Lebanon the word loses its first letter, becomes Arak but is as potent as its counterparts. And if really thorough, one can find it all the way in Nepal as Raksi!?!
All the fluff apart, what is most special about this particular location on the outskirts of Nis is the fact that they have Rakia made of quince. This is very rare product and practically impossible to find in the industrial output. Moreover, whether finding it is possible or not is beside the point. This particular joint produces a liquid with divine qualities. The smoothness of the Rakia combined with its exquisite aroma are very difficult to beat. This masterpiece of a firewater goes for 10euros a litre, not exactly cheap but worthy of every euro cent and you. Cheers!
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
When we arrived at our hostel we got a sort of "accomodation confirmation" document which listed the address of our hostel, our arrival and departure dates as well as our passport numbers.
The guy from the reception told us that we should take this document with us all the time. In case we were stopped by the police, they could ask for it.
Also when leaving Serbia the border control could be interested in this document.
However, we neither got stopped by police nor did the border control to Romania (EU) ask for it. Nevertheless, it still seems to be an odd law in Serbia to get such an obligatory document from your accomodation.
- Budget Travel
Something I didn't know about Serbia is the fact that the Serbian language can be written with both Cyrillic and Latin scripts. Both versions are officially recognised, so most people can read and write both alphabets.
I noticed an interesting mix of Cyrillic and Latin letters on for example signposts where some directions were in Cyrillic, whereas others were in Latin letters.
Also newspapers, advertisements and many other things come in both variants.
So as a conclusion it is definitely helpful if you can read Cyrillic letters when travelling through Serbia.
- Budget Travel
The local currency in Serbia is the Serbian Dinar or RSD, which is freely convertible (de facto, if not de jure) into euro and USD. Major cities are literally crammed with exchange offices (menjalnica) and other outlets, like casinos, will also exchange to and from EUR and USD. There aren't restrictions on tourists coming in and out of the country with a moderate amount of cash, but be aware that you won't be able to do anything with your RSD once you leave the country. It's better to change as much as possible into EUR before you leave, even if you're going to Croatia, Romania or Bulgaria.
Major purchases can be made in either EUR or RSD, but using RSD for smaller goods (like food) will ensure that you get something similar to the local price. NEVER EXCHANGE CASH WITH SOME DUDE YOU MEET WALKING DOWN THE STREET!!! That sounds odd, but you are likely to meet at least one man in the city who offers you RSD for EUR or USD on the street. Your chances of being cheated are pretty good, especially of you speak little to no Serbian.
You can't miss saturday Nis market, between the bus station and the main square, around the Fortress on the Nisava river.
Probably one of the mos characteristic of the Balkans.
Well you'll find dozens of old people selling ther own products, ad onions, potatoes, peppers (oh yes tons of peppers), cabbage, at prices which are ridiculous for Western people, but even very cheap for serbians. 10-20 cents per kilo in eh case of peppers or potatoes. You ccan see and hear old woman trying to attrct you on heir little desk.
A particular attention is to be given to cheese-sellers, they are grouped together and it's possible to try kajmak, ahome-made soft and fresh cheese that can be plain or salty, in any case terrific, to be tried!!
On he river you can buy almost everything: used sweathers, trousers, spare parts of old, very old cars, in a crowd of people chatting, eating (grilled meat everywhere), bargaining.
"Do not bother me!"
At the railway station of Nis, the predicament was whether, how and how much money to change for the purchase of a reserved seat on the Nis-Bar train. First, the woman at the wicket asked me to come back in 15 min. because she had not started work yet!? Then after the promised interval, during which she was all the time behind her desk, she suddenly disclosed a trade secret. The train was practically empty and there was no need of reserving seats. "Do not make me write," (please)! How wonderful - no worries about money change, no extra expense and at the same time a gift of a great "local customs" tip!
- Road Trip
Army Day ceremony
June 16th is an Army Day, and on the main square in Nis there was an Army orchestra playing some tunes (including the anthem), soldiers firing the fire of honor and important people putting flowers on the monument to the people died in various wars, and liberators of Nis.
Eating out with Serbians
There are some things that you must keep in mind when going to a restaurant with a Serb. First of all, if you have been invited to go out, the treat is on the host. You may offer money, but it will not be accepted, because splitting bills is considered extremly rude- according to our tradition, the one who invites is expected to pay. If you feel uncomfortable about that, you can offer to recompensate by paying for desserts or coffee (usually at a different place). The only situation in which "going Dutch" is tolerated (although looked down on) is in very large companies.
The next thing you have to keep in mind is toasting. We do it very often, and it is accompanied by the saying "ziveli" (cheers). Looking people in the eyes while your glass is up is a must. If you don't, you will be considered very rude.
Alternatively, if you are invited into somebody's house for a meal, be prepared: our housewives tend to put virtually everything from their fridge on the table :) Don't be intimidated, it is just our way of saying that you are wellcome. Inviting people over and then not having enough food is every host's worst nightmare, so we do our best to prevent it from happening :)
Vegetarian's hell :)
Our cuisine is meat-based. Vegetarians are extremly rare and almost all restaurant offers contain only dishes with meat. So, if you are a vegetarian (or a vegan, God forbid :)), your options for eating out are rather limited. In Serbia people refrain from meat only when they are sick or during the fasting days, so the trick may be for you to ask for a "fasting" meal (in Serbian "posno") and make sure you don't get the fish :))