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European countries don’t come much more unorthodox than Serbia, so it stands to reason that the Balkan nation is full of weird and wonderful attractions. Some are more unusual than the rest, however, from bizarre statues to utterly pointless bridges.
We’ll start with the aforementioned utterly pointless bridge. Zrenjanin’s Dry Bridge wasn’t always superfluous, but the redirection of the Begej river in 1985 left this overpass without a purpose. Originally known as the Captain’s Bridge, it has become a somewhat ironic symbol of the city, and has thus resisted all calls for it to be pulled down. Bridges are generally there for a reason, making this redundant example one of the most unique of its kind.
Serbia is full of statues of military leaders, poets and politicians, but it is also home to a statue of the world’s favourite fictional boxer. The people of Žitište, an agricultural village in Vojvodina, were looking for an idol to celebrate the values of hard work, perseverance and discipline. Who better than Rocky Balboa? The statue was unveiled at Chicken Fest (yes) in 2007, and the rest is history.
There is something peculiarly beautiful about dead trees, and anyone who echoes that sentiment should make a beeline for the little village of Šalinac right away. The nearby grove of the same name is home to a few hundred old trees, many of which are as dead as the dodo. This is the last example of the oak and ash forests that were once king in these parts, although all that remains is an eerie atmosphere and some magnificent aesthetics.
Belgrade Zoo isn’t a particularly great place to be, but it is home to a true curiosity on the planet. It is in the confines of the Kalemegdan park that we find Muja, widely believed to be the oldest living alligator in the world. Muja has been here since September 1936, and is among the residents of Belgrade who can say they have lived in four different countries without leaving home.
Found all over the country, the Partisan monuments of Serbia (and the wider former Yugoslav region) have become some of the most iconic memorials in the world. Each is different to the last, and all of them have a story to tell. Many of the so-called spomeniks (spomenik is Serbian for ‘monument’) have been left to rot, but even those present a fascinating window into the complex history of the region.
Get that pinch of salt ready. Jagodina holds a strange reputation within Serbia, and not without good reason. It is home to a wax museum that everyone has heard about but not everyone has visited, both of which are due to the same reason. The Jagodina Wax Museum is one of the most befuddling we have ever experienced, a small house of distorted figures that confuse and enthral in equal measures. It is a rollicking good time, although maybe not in the way you expected it to be.
A tiny village in the very east of the country, Banatski Sokolac isn’t likely to ring many bells among readers. Less than 400 people live here, but the village gained international notoriety in 2008 when it unveiled a statue to Jamaican reggae legend and worldwide superstar, Bob Marley. Much like the Rocky statue in Žitište and the Bruce Lee equivalent in Mostar, the idea was to celebrate a figure of peace and co-existence.
The capital is full of imposing architecture, but few buildings in the city inspire as much awe as the Western City Gate. Known colloquially as the Genex Tower, it looks for all the world like the headquarters of an evil genius and his much-maligned cat. One of the towers is actually abandoned, while the other is home to fairly basic apartments. The spaceship on top was once home to a rotating restaurant, and we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the aforementioned evil genius there today.
It might seem strange to recommend an entire city as a weird attraction, but there is something truly jarring about the western city of Užice. Nowhere in the Balkans is the juxtaposition of historical and brutalist architecture so stark, and the city centre is a jolting mixture of old buildings and monolithic blocks of concrete. The town itself is a lot of fun, but spots like Hotel Zlatibor will more than likely be the prevailing memory once you’ve left.
Sitting sweetly on the Drina is a tiny house, a most unusual sight in Serbia’s natural wonderland. The house was built in 1968 by a group of friends looking for somewhere to rest while swimming, although its precarious position has seen it destroyed on multiple occasions in the years since. The house managed to avoid the international press until 2012, when it was feature as the National Geographic’s ‘Photo of the Day’. None of this changes the fact that houses shouldn’t exist in the middle of raging rivers.