Vojvodina on Open Days 2009

Representatives of Serbia's norther province Vojvodina are going to attend for the first time ''Open Days 2009''. This is an annual summit of European regions and cities that was created as a discussion platform for many diverse issues and problems that are facing the continent and its people. Its organisers hope that through this summit, regional representatives can interconnect and eventually, form mutually beneficial partnerships.

Although Serbia isn't a member of the EU, this is a great chance for Vojvodina and the rest of the country. Tourism, like food production, is one of the economical forerunners currently developing in Vojvodina, and it's important to get this message across.

Instead of using just standard tools like advertising, I believe that open discussion about pitfalls and possibilities in Serbia is also very important.

The decision to take Vojvodina to the ''Open Days'' is even more important with the publication of statistical data about visitors to the region: according to it, number of visitor for the first 8 months of 2009 dropped 9% compared to the same period last year.

If Vojvodina wants a steady revenue generated by tourism, it's time to expand its European promotion.

Anti-violence march announced in response to the death of Brice Taton

Yesterday, the french football fan that was attacked on 17th of September in Belgrade has died from his injuries. Heads of State sent out condolences to his family, and there was an united call for an end to street and sport violence from all major political parties in Serbia.

Also, according to B92, Human Rights Ministry State Secretary called on citizens to gather at Belgrade's central square at 11:30 CET on Wednesday, (30.09.2009) to pay tribute to the victim.

Attend this important, although very sad event if you can, no mater where you come from.

Safety in Belgrade

In the last few days, 4 foreigners were attacked in Belgrade. One, a supporter of Toulouse FC was badly injured in a fight that broke out before a match with Partizan FC, and just few days ago, a Libyan student was a victim of an a apparently random attack.

So, did Serbia, and especially its capital, suddenly become unsafe for visitors from abroad?

I don't believe so.

Although street violence is a horrible thing, I don't see this as something endemic (although some do). The bright side is that all of these crimes got a lot of attention from the media. In my experience, it's better to maybe overestimate these kinds of problems, then to underestimate them.
With increasing publicity, the justice and the police department got under more public pressure. Police officers are more visible than before, and now, all most all alleged perpetrators of these attacks are incarcerated and waiting for their trials.

It is also comforting that a lot of statesmen have voiced their concerns about these attacks - the most recent is the statement of the tourism Minister about the negative impact these incidents have on Serbia's international standing.

photo from srbijanet.rs

Hopefully, all of this will transform those attacks into a bad memory.

Lake of Ledinci is gone

Usually, I write about interesting places and events in Serbia. This time I will write about something opposite - the complete destruction of one of those places.

Ledinacko lake (or Lake of Ledinci) formed in an abandoned quarry on Fruska Gora mountain. The first time I saw it I was amazed, because it looked like something from the pages of National Geographic magazine. Surrounded by steep rocky hills, the water in the lake was light blue, cold and very clear. During the summer, people came from Novi Sad and other near-by towns and villages to enjoy this great place that wasn't meant to be. Few years ago, a boulder fell from the rock wall and injured a few people, forcing the authorities to close all access to the lake.

This year, the site was drained and the lake is no more.
Local politics, business interest and safety issues aside, it's hard for me to believe that there was no other solution except the one that called for total annihilation of this gem.

I can just hope that the next generations won't look at these pictures and wonder what the hell were we thinking...

photos by Sel Emil

Golubac Danube fair

I’m very pleased to see that cities and town with access to Danube are expanding their tourism offers. This year, from 24th to 26th July, Golubac, a city in eastern Serbia, is hosting a Danube fair. This etno-event will cover smaller venues that will offer local food (especially the fish stew), traditional artwork and crafts, as well as folk music, all with the common theme of Danube.

I personally love Danube, because I grew up with this mighty river. But Golubac, located just before the Djerdap National park is truly a spectacular sight. There, Danube widens drastically, and is a great spot for waters sports like sailing. If you didn’t visit Golubac or Djerdap, Danube fair is a perfect opportunity to change that and enjoy on of Europe biggest rivers in its true glory.

May Day in Sokobanja

Single party communism was abandoned almost 25 years ago, but people in Serbia are still madly in love with the biggest workers day off – May 1st, or May Day. It’s a nation-wide holiday, and everybody takes to the great (or not so much) outdoors to barbecue and seriously relax.

This year, Sokobanja, one of the leading spas in the country is making a wide ranging picnic festivity. Sokobanja is located in central part of eastern Serbia, some 230 km from Belgrade, and 90 km from Nis. The event is called ‘’Prvomajski uranak’’, or loosely translated ‘’Mayday Morning’’, and it’s going to take place on several meadows and picnic sites, ideal for BBQ. For everyone that doesn't feel like cooking, a mini fair will be dedicated to local cuisine. A part from this, galleries will be presenting an ethnic themed series, and in the center of the city, forth annual flower festival will be held.

This event sound like fun for families or bigger visitors groups. I like the ethnic touch, because usually, Mayday is all about eating meat, drinking beer and doing nothing else. This is a good sign of diversifying a big national holiday.

Novi Sad & Souvenirs

News like this gives me some hope in development of Serbian tourism – Novi Sad harbor is getting a souvenir shop!
This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but in many ways it is. Novi Sad lies on Danube, and weekly, big river cruise liners from Germany, Romania, Hungary and Austria pass through. A lot of tourist go out and spend few hours strolling around city center. There are souvenir shops around town, but it was more than logical to put one right in the harbor, where these types of tourists are sure to pass.

I’m not big on collecting stuff, but I love nicknack's that I picked up during my travels, especially those that where cheap, small and useless – the exact things this new shop should store. For example, my friend has a collection of fridge magnets he bought during his time in the USA, and it looks great.
I hope that ‘’river’’ visitor will be able to get “Greetings from Novi Sad’’ or ‘’Novi Sad ain’t half Bad’’ magnets soon.

Inviting investors to Serbia

Like most of the eastern European countries, Serbia is in need of more foreign investment into domestic tourism. Local business investors usually favor heavier industries or commerce sectors, rather then tourism, which is seen as more of an exotic and risky opportunity.

On recent Travel Trade Show that was organized in Berlin, Serbian government promoted its plans for bringing more investment into the tourism sector. Except for the usual rhetoric about our untouched natural beauties, Serbia’s improving image (at least, they hope it’s improving) and so fort, I think two things stand up for investors that are (rightly so) interested in profit, and not the improvement of our world-standing.

First of those is the expansion and promotion of archeological sites from the Roman era, so called ‘’Emperors Route’’ – I believe this is really a potential for development. Ancient Roman sites are always interesting and have a big appeal to most people.

The other thing, although less spectacular, is a planned cycling track alongside Danube, which is intended to promote bicycle tourism. This could be a jackpot for some low to medium investments – the landscape through which Danube flows is very flat, green and tranquil, and good basic infrastructure is already there. With some well planed tours that last 4-7 days, Serbia could easily get on the eco-tourist maps.

So, where do you want to put your money - ancient Rome or bicycles?

Karlovci Christmas festivities

Although the New Year holiday season is whining down, there are still some events that are ongoing. In Serbia, majority of the population is Christian-Orthodox, and according to the old Julian calendar, New Year falls on January 14.

In Sremski Karlovci, a traditional event called ‘’Karlovci Christmas festivities’’ started in December, but will end on the 14th. Every year more and more people visit this event because of it broad and interesting subjects: culture, spiritual heritage, traditional folk values. All of this is presented in a modern, multimedia fashion.

If you like to learn more about local culture and, especially, spiritual and religions heritage (Sremski Karlovci is a very important center for both), on the 13th you can see the preparation for the Orthodox New Year in the church of St. Nikolaja around midnight, or New Year mass and church choir concert on the 14th , starting in 9:30AM.