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Eastern Serbia is a little bit different. Nature is king in these parts, and that goes for life above and below the surface. There are plenty of reasons to approach this rarely-worn path however, from unique culture to magnificent natural aesthetics.
Once upon a time, Viminacium was the prosperous capital of the Roman Province of Upper Moesia. That came to a shuddering halt when it was sacked and obliterated in the middle of the 5th century, leaving the famous town to lie dormant under the soil for almost 2,000 years. It was eventually excavated, and an incredible town was discovered all over again. The remains of Viminacium are just a short ride from Požarevac, a town that has ironically buried its own major claim to fame.
Serbia has some of the most refreshing waters on the planet, but no spring on the continent stretches deeper than the one at Mlava. It is found in something of a natural amphitheatre, an incredible location accentuated by lush woods and a most tranquil atmosphere. This is as deep as green gets in Serbia, and the spring is one of the country’s most inspirational spots.
Like any country that reached its peak in the medieval times, Serbia is home to a number of magnificent fortresses. The immense structure at Golubac is arguably the finest of them all, a majestic 14th-century castle sat on the side of the Danube. Countless marauders tried to conquer it, some with more success than others, and today it is susceptible only to the passionate advances of tourists. This is one of the most picturesque images in the region.
Rtanj is unlike any other mountain in Serbia. It has a cone-like peak, giving it the image of a pyramid as much as a big hill. Serbia hasn’t quite latched onto the commercial potential of this like they did in Visoko (Bosnia & Herzegovina), but more people head this way on an annual basis to see a most unusual mountain. It may or may not have been the work of aliens, we’ll leave that up to you to decide.
The 19th century noblemen of Serbia were no fools, and almost all of them made a beeline for Sokobanja when they were in need of restoration. The healing properties of the waters here are well known, and they have invigorated many of the nation’s best. It was here that spa tourism in Serbia got its start, when Miloš Obrenović demanded an entire renovation of a location that the Ottomans had lazily neglected for years.
While it is yet to be used as a snappy tourism slogan, the biggest hole in Europe can be found in Eastern Serbia. The surface pit of Bor is simply humongous, a giant crater in the landscape that gives the visitor the feeling of being on the moon, although we are yet to visit the satellite so can’t really confirm that. The miner’s cafe is one of the most unique in the country, chiselled into the rock some 400 metres below the surface.
Stretching along the right bank of the Danube, natural attractions don’t come much more impressive than Đerdap. Known as the ‘Iron Gate’ (a little easier to say, obviously), this is a magnificent display of nature’s power. Romania sits on the other side of the gate, as the mighty Danube ploughs its furrow into central Europe. As far as gorges go, this is Serbia’s best.
Serbian lager often leaves a lot to be desired, but one brand stands head and shoulders above the rest. Founded in 1875, Zaječarsko spent most of its history as a largely ignored regional beer, but the 21st century saw it become a major favourite around the country. Originating in the town of Zaječar, the brewery may be owned by Heineken but the quality remains the same.
As far as subjects go, this remains one of the least understood in Serbia. The people of the east are deeply superstitious, and nothing displays this better than the reverence and apprehension displayed towards witchcraft, so-called ‘Vlach Magic’. It is almost impossible for the visitor to penetrate the subculture, but it remains one of the most mysterious aspects of daily life in Serbia.
Built by Roman Emperor Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus (a bit of a mouthful, admittedly), Gamzigrad is one of the finest examples of Roman history found in Serbia. This was once an imperial palace ordered by Mr. Maximianus, who wanted to respect the land that produced both him and his mother. Little remains today, but the white walls and towers hint towards what was once a truly magnificent structure.