Hidden Belgrade (10): Grand Hotels of Belgrade

Given its place on the major East-West trade routes, hotels and inns played an important role in the development of Belgrade. Although none of the great hans/caravan serais from the Ottoman era remain in the city, there are several major hotels from 19th and 20th centuries which still remain open. These hotels not only offered the first glimpse of Serbia to weary travellers, but they … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (10): Grand Hotels of Belgrade

Day 3-4: The Balkans, Veliko Tarnovo and Zheravna

From Sofia we drove north-east towards the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo and its impressive UNESCO-protected citadel Tsarevets. We were going deeper into the Stara Planina (Old Mountain) and the scenery was lovely. It was this mountain range’s Turkish name, Balkan, meaning “a wooded mountain”, that gave our peculiar region its name. In the early 19th century a German geographer Zeune, wanted to find … Continue reading Day 3-4: The Balkans, Veliko Tarnovo and Zheravna

Guča: Serbia’s Dionysian spectacle of trumpets, cabbage and beer

Originally conceived as a festival to promote the fledgling institution of a brass band 1961, Guča Trumpet Festival (aka Dragačevo Fair) evolved in the past two decades into one of the most popular festivals in Serbia and a somewhat divisive cultural institution. For all but the musical purists, Guča is much much more than an ethno-music festival. Although the festival is devoted to preserving this … Continue reading Guča: Serbia’s Dionysian spectacle of trumpets, cabbage and beer

The Nutshell Guide to the Montenegrin coast (2): Budva, Lake Skadar, Podgorica and Cetinje

This is the second part of my guide to the Montenegrin coast aimed at visitors planning to spend a weekend or a week in Montenegro. The first part suggested places to visit in the Bay of Kotor.  Budva Both metaphorically and physically, Budva is at the heart of the Montenegrin riviera and concentrates all of its best and worst features in its wonderful bay. On … Continue reading The Nutshell Guide to the Montenegrin coast (2): Budva, Lake Skadar, Podgorica and Cetinje

The Nutshell Guide to the Montenegrin coast (1): The Bay of Kotor

Despite its great natural beauty and diversity, until relatively recently Montenegro was under the radar of tourists outside the Balkans, Italy and Russia. Tourism in Montenegro started in the times of Yugoslavia, from the opening of the luxury peninsular fishing village/ resort of Sveti Stefan in 1955, which has since hosted glitterati like Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Bobbi Fisher, to the nudist camp at … Continue reading The Nutshell Guide to the Montenegrin coast (1): The Bay of Kotor

Lake Skadar: eerie land of macabre fairies, ruins and skeletal hills

Lake Skadar is as dramatic as landscapes get in Europe. Whichever side you apprach it from in Montenegro your first sight of it will be an explosion of a green watery expanse, dotted with white cones of karst covered in thick Mediterranean bush. As you train your eye on its beauty, you will notice birds soaring above its waters and maybe a ruin of a … Continue reading Lake Skadar: eerie land of macabre fairies, ruins and skeletal hills

Serbian elites’ long war on clarity

Although it is 170 years since a simplified Serbian language became the norm, Serbian elites still prefer muddying the rhetorical waters  In 1847, after three decades of struggle, Vuk Karadžić and his allies, Petar Petrović Njegoš, Branko Radičević and Đura Daničić, decisively won the battle for the standardisation of Serbian folk language and its literary use. Their victory was achieved by proving that the language … Continue reading Serbian elites’ long war on clarity

Hidden Belgrade (9): The forgotten golden age of Belgrade

In 16th century Belgrade was considered the only city that lay between Ottomans and Western Europe. Located at the very edge of the Hungarian kingdom, the city’s fortress protected the Pannonian plains from the Turkish assault and was often attacked by the Ottoman armies from the nearby Turkish-held fortifications that were as close to the city as Avala, where the Ottomans held the town of … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (9): The forgotten golden age of Belgrade