Plenty of things have made the intrepid trip into the wider universe by now, but a fresco from a Serbian monastery will forever hold the honour of being the first image to venture out of our atmosphere. The White Angel fresco from the Mileševa Monastery was sent from Europe to North America via satellite, an image of peace in the middle of the Cold War, extending the hand of friendship at a tumultuous time for the planet. The artist remains unknown.
Like anywhere else on the planet, there only seems to be a handful of first names that get used by Serbs. Make friends in the country and your phonebook will be full of names like Milica, Jelena, Nikola and Dragan, but you might even get a wolf or two in the contacts list. ‘Wolf’ is one of the most popular boys names in the country, albeit in its Serbian form of ‘Vuk’. Why? Well, the guarantee of bravery, courage and strength, of course.
Not James Bond exactly, but the main inspiration behind Ian Fleming’s iconic womaniser. Bond was partly based on the Serbian spy Duško Popov, a man recruited by the Nazis who immediately offered his services to the Allies in World War II. Popov was famous for his playboy personality and love of threesomes, but there was more to Duško than gambling and extra-curricular activities.
Milunka Savić eventually faded into obscurity once her life as a soldier was over, but that doesn’t take away from what she achieved in her career. No female in the modern history of warfare is as decorated as Savić, a woman from near Novi Pazar who took her brother’s place in the army and fought in both Balkan Wars, along with World War I. She was eventually honoured with military medals from as far afield as France, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
And that is well and truly an underestimation. For most of the year, the sleepy Serbian village of Donja Lokošnica is exactly that, a tiny town with nothing going on and even less planned. That all changes with pepper season, when the village is covered from floor to ceiling with bright red paprikas of all shapes and sizes. This is the pepper capital of the world, although it doesn’t take an aficionado to work that out.
Whether you believe in extra-terrestrial life isn’t the question here. Serbia is home to some of the most unusual nature on the planet, formations that quite simply can only be the work of those from somewhere out of this world. Đavolja Varoš in the south is a collection of rocks planted by aliens, while the unusual Rtanj mountain looks like it is trying to tell us something. Add Uvac canyon, the monumental Đerdap Gorge and the rest, and you have unequivocal proof of alien design. Possibly.
We aren’t willing to confirm or deny the existence of foul, fanged fiends in the modern age, but the etymology of ‘vampires’ is impossible to deny. The history of vampires is traced back to Serbia and some unexplainable occurrences in the north of the country, happenings that the locals could only attribute to the dead. Serbia is the home of vampires, although that might be a fact that turns off some more cowardly individuals.
While that isn’t quite taking off as a tourism advertising slogan, we still wholeheartedly encourage the area around Bor and Majdanpek to embrace it. Eastern Serbia is the country’s least developed region, and the rich history of mining means there is questionable legacy left over. The biggest man-made hole in Europe can be found in this area, although tourists are yet to flock to this attraction. Get ahead of the curve.
We’ve all heard the familiar saying, ‘two alphabets are better than one’, right? Serbia is a country with two official alphabets, with the Latin sitting snugly alongside its phonetic Cyrillic brethren. While the latter might cause some discomfort among those less experienced with it, it doesn’t take too long to learn at all. Your time in Serbia will be immeasurably better with a vague understanding of it, plus who wouldn’t love to claim that they know multiple alphabets?
Undoubtedly the most popular Serb among younger generations, Nikola Tesla is largely considered to be the brains behind much of the technological development that took place in the last century. The wildly eccentric man was an immensely creative inventor and engineer, bringing radio, wireless, remote control and AC electricity into our world. Tesla was the dictionary definition of eccentric scientist, and his museum in Belgrade is a must-visit.
That’s right, if you don’t love Serbia then you run the risk of your skull being used to line the walls of a tower. That is an exaggeration and a half of course, but the country’s third largest city is home to a building that is indeed made out of human head bone. Niš is a city of great architecture and even better food, but it is the Skull Tower that usually makes the headlines.
If this list doesn’t make you love Serbia, you’ll just have to visit and see for yourself.