Explore the Balkan country Serbia from Niš10.08.2016
A holiday in Serbia? Why not! Sure, Serbia is not a typical holiday destination and the city of Niš is relatively unknown. But that is precisely what makes this central Balkan country one of the most exciting destinations. Far away from the tourist masses and huge hotels, Serbia is an insiders’ tip for visitors to eastern Europe. There is much to explore here, from the fascinating countryside to well-preserved cultural monuments. You could begin your tour of the country, for instance, in Niš, the third biggest city in Serbia after Belgrade and Novi Sad.
Retracing the history of Serbia starting in Niš
Visitors to Niš (pronounced “neesh”) will get to know one of the oldest cities on the Balkan Peninsular. Niš is situated on the Nišava river in southern Serbia, around 250 kilometres southeast of the capital Belgrade. The city’s fortress, built in the 18th century by the Ottomans, is well worth a visit. It is one of the best-preserved Turkish fortresses in the Balkans. The fortress park is wonderful for a stroll. The complex also includes an old mosque, a Turkish bath, and an ancient amphitheatre that is used for cultural events. You need strong nerves for the Skull Tower (Cele Kula), which was built using more than 3,000 human skulls and bones after a battle between Serbs and Turks. Visitors interested in archaeological excavations should take a closer look at the Mediana Roman ruins on the outskirts of Niš. The Roman emperor Constantine the Great was born in this former imperial residence. The Early Christian tombs from the 2nd - 4th centuries are testimony to an ancient Christian tradition in this city. If you walk along the Nišava river, you will encounter a life-size bronze statue of Šaban Bajramović (1936-2008). The Serbian-Romani singer was born in Niš. Šaban Bajramović was considered a legend already in his own lifetime and was known as the “King of Romani music”.
Niš, the city of festivals
The Serbs love celebrations. That becomes very apparent in Niš too, where various festivals are held every year. They include the annual Nišomnia rock festival, the Nišville international jazz festival, the Serbian film festival Filmski susreti, and the choir festival. Almost all of the festivals take place in the fortress’s amphitheatre. And by the way, in Serbia you generally clink glasses with a home-made schnapps – you look into one another’s eyes and say “Živeli!”
Kopaonik mountains – a paradise for hikers and skiers
One of Europe’s most beautiful skiing regions is located in the Kopaonik mountains, Serbia’s highest mountain range. It provides skiers and snowboarders with around 55 kilometres of pistes and 24 ski lifts. Snowfall in this winter sports region is very dependable. Kopaonik nature reserve is a paradise for hiking enthusiasts. There are geysers as well as waterfalls to explore, including Serbia’s highest, the Jelovarnik waterfall. From the highest mountain you have a fantastic view of Kosovo. Other popular places for outings near Niš are the Sićevo and Jelašnica gorges, the green mountain oasis Bojanine vode, and the Cerjan cave.
Serbia, the country of monasteries and churches
A visit to Serbia would be incomplete without visiting a church or monastery. With their medieval architecture, frescos, and icons, they are among the country’s special attractions. Around three hours’ car drive from Niš is the Studenica Monastery, which is considered to be the cradle of the Serbian Empire. The medieval monastery is today still an important spiritual centre for the Serbian people. Monastic life at Studenica began in the 12th century and continues right up to the present day. In 1986, the monastery became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located on the Transromanica European Cultural Route, which is rich in historical cultural heritage. The Zica and Gradac monasteries, not far from Studenica, are also well worth visiting.
Getting there / Airport
From 4 September 2016, Ryanair will be offering a new connection from Berlin to Niš. The airline will fly to the southern Serbian city twice a week from Berlin Schönefeld. The route will be served on Thursdays and Sundays. Niš Konstantin Veliki airport is situated four kilometres from the centre of the city. You can reach the city centre in just a few minutes by taking the no. 34 bus or by taxi. An identity card or passport is required for entry to Serbia. No visa is necessary for a stay of up to three months.