Lakeside Days and Waterways in Serbia

Vojvodina Serbia Lake Wild-rooster.comSerbians 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.

Lazing by a Serbian Lake

Lazing by a lake in Vojvodina was a whole new experience for me. It not just the first time I had experienced lakeside life in Serbia. It was the first time that I have ever sat beside a lake, surrounded by trucks, barbecues and beers before noon.

Lake swimming is not something that we do too often in Britain. We prefer the sea and tend to steer away from inland waterways. We might fish in rivers and reservoirs but we draw a line at going all in. As a child, I was taught that free flowing water could be clean, while still waters could contain all sorts of creepy crawlies. So lakes were a no-go area, with the fear of swallowing the water with all its bugs and gubbins being drummed into us from an early age.

Lake Serbia Vojvodina

So when we rolled up at a lake outside Bačka Topola in Vojvodina, we were a little taken aback by the turnout. It seemed that the entire community from the neighbouring villages had come to enjoy their day by the water. Young and old, teenagers, children and adults, they were there in their droves to pick a patch of grass alongside the lake.

From the fit to the far from perfect, nobody seemed to care about stripping down to their swimming gear and either laying on the grass or diving into the cooling water. Not feeling up to a dip in the lake, we chickened out of getting wet and opted to sit in lounge chairs beside the bar, sipping chilled wine and snacking on barbecued tidbits and salad.

Feeling relaxed and full after a drawn-out lunch, we decided to settle down in the grass to read. Easier said than done. When we arrived in the morning, it has been quite quiet, so we were not expecting the hordes of family and friends spread out on towels around makeshift barbecues that filled the park with so much smoke that my eyes stung. It would seem that smoke-free barbecues are not favoured in these parts. But in the spirit of if you can’t beat them, join them’, we spread our towels on a tiny patch of land between the various overlapping groups and joined the party.

Kotlich Cooking by a Vojvodina Lake

Many people seemed to have brought their own food to cook alongside friends. Corn from the fields was a popular choice to go with the key ingredient for all Serbian barbecues: lots of meat. As well as the familiar skillets and iron plates, many preferred the hole-in-the-ground wood fire, kotlich and tripod method of cooking. And, yes, while this looks very rustic and is certainly quite hearty on a late autumn evening, I still cannot see how someone could eat bowls of steaming stew while outside temperatures top forty degrees. I guess there are some regional quirks that I will never quite grasp.

So we sat there and soaked up the atmosphere. Reading was pretty out of the question, though, as the competing music blasting from cars backed up to the barbecue became somewhat distracting. But, after a few drinks, anything goes.

Wannabe Magazine Serbia Marcus AgarMarcus Agar has been commissioned by Wannabe Magazine to write personal observations. Click for Serbian (translator: Ranko Trifković) or for an interview in English or Serbian.

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