Serbians love the water. No matter where they live or how far they travel, Serbians like little more than enjoying life by the waterside. Many head to the coast in Montenegro, Croatia or Greece while, for those in Belgrade, summer in the city is all about having fun by the river.
Day and night, the country’s waterways host bathers, party-goers and people who just want to enjoy life along the river. Novi Sad and Belgrade both host rowing and other watersports, while Belgrade even hosts Serbia’s first blue flag beach at Ada Ciganlija.
Further out of town, people head to rivers and lakes to cool off in the hot Serbian summer. In the vast northern region of Vojvodina, packing up the barbecue and heading to wooded areas alongside the network of lakes and rivers that stretch out across its flat landscape is a popular evening or weekend pastime, as I experienced on a recent visit to the area.
Idolised Balkan singer Toše Proeski has taken his place alongside the great and the good from Macedonia’s history.
Many in the region have long placed Toše on a pedestal but now he has been represented in a line up of Macedonia’s most prominent artists and cultural icons as part of a flashy makeover that is underway in Skopje.
Last year, two colossal statues of Alexander the Great and his father Philip II of Macedon were set in floodlit fountains in the city centre.
Now the city’s bosses have erected 29 statues along a new bridge in the city, and a 30-metre tall statue of Mother Teresa will soon join the gaudy new Skopje skyline. The city is keen to be recognised as the birthplace of the Nobel Peace Prize winning nun who famously said: “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
Peel away the petals of a rose and yet more lovely petals can be exposed. Beauty that would have been missed by just enjoying the flower at first glace could be revealed by peering beneath the surface. The same could be said of Serbia, a land to be enjoyed not just for its cities and nightlife but also for the wealth and variety that reward a little extra effort.
People can be amazed to learn that Serbia is a tapestry of diverse landscapes, varied cultures and even multiple ethnicities. Hosting such a rich mix of historical and cultural influences is what helps to make this country and its welcoming communities so rewarding. For many visitors to Serbia, this can be one of the most surprising things to discover in a country about which they know quite little. It can also be one of the most fulfilling gifts that Serbia can offer any casual visitor or tourist.
Life would be better for everyone if we could celebrate our differences, embrace our similarities and cherish what makes us unique among equals. The rich diversity within a cultural does not need to dilute our heritage or identity. Rather it should help to make life more thrilling and allow us to share those small surprises that make us smile.
Cultural variation is something to appreciate. Whether they are to be found among people of a continent, a country or even a town, the differences that we encounter can enhance life and ensure that our modern cities are more exciting places in which to live. The vibrant mix of people sharing their lives, enjoying mutual spaces but maintaining their own identity can enrich a city and make it a place of great creativity, colour and spirit. It should not be any surprise that these cosmopolitan cities are also some of the most interesting places to visit.