17 Little-known Facts About Serbia You Should Know

The Victor monument in Belgrade

By now, you’re familiar with basic facts about Serbia. You probably know a thing or two about the culture, and maybe you can speak the Serbian language to an extent. If you’ve visited this small Balkan country, you know all about the tasty food and the Serbian hospitality.

Then, it’s time to dive deeper and learn more about the country than an average tourist. So, here’s a list of little-known facts about Serbia. Take a look!

Little-known Facts About Serbia

1. The word vampire comes from the Serbian language

When you hear the word vampire, you probably think of Count Dracula. Or maybe Twilight? But did you know that the word vampire comes from the Serbian word vampir? In fact, this is the only Serbian word that spread around the world.

As legend has it, Petar Blagojević, a villager from Serbia, turned into a vampire after his death. Allegedly, he murdered many people, including his own son. Finally, other villagers burned his body and speared his heart.

If you want to know more about Serbian vampires, check out the movie She-Butterfly (Leptirica). But don’t expect a romantic story or Brad Pitt-like, gorgeous vampires. Serbian vampire movies are truly bloodcurdling.

2. 18 Roman Emperors are from Serbia

Serbia was never an empire, yet it had emperors. As many as 18 Roman emperors were born in today’s Serbia.

Out of these, ten come from Sirmium (today’s Sremska Mitrovica), which was one of the four capitals of the Roman Empire around the third century AD. Thanks to this fact, Sremska Mitrovica boasts the remains of this Roman city. That means you can see the Imperial Palace, where great Roman Emperors once lived, together with the excavation museum.

So, if you’re into history and all things ancient, head to Vojvodina and get a glimpse of the time long gone.

3. Christmas tree for New Year?

A lady decorating a Christmas tree
New Year, not Christmas 🎄

Now, people in many countries decorate Christmas trees for Christmas. However, Serbs decorate the Christmas tree (jelka) for New Year. In Serbia, New Year’s Eve is festive, full of parties, fireworks, and flashy decorations.

Christmas (Božić) is an important religious holiday, so there’s a different tree for this day. However, this tree doesn’t require any decorations. On Christmas Eve (Badnje veče), at midnight, Serbs burn an oak tree (Badnjak).

4. Christmas isn’t in December

Speaking of Christmas, Serbs don’t celebrate it in December. In Serbia, Christmas is on January 7th. This holiday is a huge deal for Serbs, who usually spend it at home with their families, eating enormous amounts of food.

One of the essentials of this holiday is česnica, a homemade bread that contains small items, such as a coin or wooden figures, that are supposed to bring luck to those who find them.

5. The priciest cheese in the world

Serbia has the most expensive cheese in the world 🧀

Would you ever pay more than $1.100 for cheese? If so, you can do it in Serbia. Apparently, one kilogram of cheese costs more than a grand in Zasavica special nature reserve.

So what’s so special about this cheese? Well, this cheese – Pule – is made of donkey milk. The donkeys are hand-milked three times a day so that the milk can become the costly cheese, thanks to a 3-century-old recipe. Another factor that drives up the price is the health benefits. Namely, Pule is rich in vitamin C and low in fat. So, if you’re into luxury souvenirs, give it a go!

6. Two writing systems

Did you know that Serbian is a digraphic language? That means Serbs use two writing systems – Latin (Latinica) and Cyrillic (Ćirilica) alphabets. 

Thanks to the Internet, the Latin alphabet is more popular, and most Serbs prefer it. Still, if you live in Serbia, you’ll need to learn Cyrillic, as well, since it’s used for official documents and in schools.

Both consist of 30 letters. The Latin alphabet is similar to the English one, but some letters differ, such as š, ć, č, etc. Conversely, w, y, q, and x don’t exist in Serbian. On the other hand, Cyrillic is much different. To illustrate, here’s the same sentence in both writing systems:

Latin: Ja volim srpski jezik.

Cyrillic: Ја волим српски језик.

(I love the Serbian language.)

7. There’s a rainforest

rainforest
Vinatovača – Serbian Rainforest 🌳

Serbia is by no means a tropical country. Still, it boasts an actual rainforest.

Vinatovača is in the middle of the Kučaj mountains (Kučajske planine). It’s a true hidden gem since many Serbs don’t know about it. This fact explains why this rainforest remains unchanged by a human hand.

The stars of this rainforest are beech trees that are more than 300 years old. Of course, cutting them down is strictly prohibited.

Although Vinatovača is inaccessible, if you’re a nature lover, you can experience this primordial forest, and there are organized tours to make it easier. Just make sure to follow the rules and not pick any plants or disturb nature.

8. The deepest gorge in Europe is in Serbia

A gorge
Đerdap Gorge – the deepest gorge in Europe

The Đerdap Gorge (Đerdapska klisura) is the deepest gorge in Europe. This astounding place on the Danube River is a part of Đerdap National Park and consists of four gorges – Gospođina Vira, Kazan, Sipska, and Golubac.

To experience the beauty of the Đerdap Gorge, take a boat tour and enjoy exploring it from within.

9. The oldest urban settlement in Europe is in Serbia

Lepenski vir is another attraction in Đerdap National Park. It’s around 8,5 millennia old and is the first organized settlement in Europe.

If you take a boat tour of the Đerdap Gorge, it’ll probably include a visit to the Museum of Lepenski vir within the protected archaeological complex. There, you can see prehistoric tools, jewelry, and even human skeletons.

More Fun Facts About Serbia

10. Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla, one of the most renowned inventors and engineers in history, was a Serb born in Croatia.

11. Exit Festival

Serbia hosts one of the largest music festivals in Europe, the Exit Festival.

12. The Skull Tower

In Niš, there is a macabre monument known as the Skull Tower (Ćele-kula). It was constructed by the Ottomans using the skulls of Serbian rebels who died in a battle during the First Serbian Uprising in 1809.

13. Bridge of Love

The Bridge of Love in Vrnjačka Banja is famous for its romantic tradition. Couples attach padlocks to the bridge’s railings and throw the key into the river as a symbol of eternal love.

14. Spa Culture

Serbia is famous for its spa towns and natural thermal springs. Places like Vrnjačka Banja and Sokobanja offer wellness and relaxation opportunities amidst beautiful natural surroundings.

15. Rakia Tradition

Rakia is a traditional fruit brandy that holds significant cultural importance in Serbia. It’s not just a beverage but also a symbol of hospitality and friendship.

16. Unique Cultural Celebrations

Slava is a unique Serbian Orthodox Christian tradition where families celebrate their patron saint.

17. St. Sava Temple

The St. Sava Temple in Belgrade is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world. Its impressive architecture and size make it a significant religious and cultural landmark.

Learn More Fun Facts About Serbia

After learning these facts about Serbia, you probably know more than most Serbs. But don’t stop there. Do your own research, and you’ll discover other peculiarities worth knowing.

And since these facts are perfect conversation pieces, make use of them. Book our group Serbian conversation lessons and improve your Serbian by sharing your knowledge with other learners.

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