September on Splavs

Serbia is hands down the most random country on my travel itinerary this year. My boss told me he would rather go to prison than go to Serbia (LOL). I heard similar sentiments from most people about the country.

The conversations would go something like this:
Friend 1: "So where are you living next month?"
Me: "Belgrade... it's in Serbia."
Friend 1: *confused look* "Is Serbia the same as Siberia?"
Friend 2: *equally confused look* "Who goes to Serbia? Isn't it really cold there?"

To which I could only laugh in response because I knew just as much about Serbia as I did about Siberia (AKA absolutely nothing). But I was going there regardless so it was safe to say soon I would find out more.

Let's set the record straight!

Belgrade turned out to not only be better than prison (or how I imagine prison would be), but to be one of my favorite cities that I've lived in this year. That is to say- I found it very easy to live in Belgrade, and I enjoyed the day-to-day Serbia life. It is not necessarily a place that will be showing up in top vacation destination articles any time soon. And to confirm, it's not Siberia.

Ok so what's to like then? Lots of little things that I didn't recognize the significance of until I embarked on this year of living abroad: the locals are very friendly, most people speak English, everything is SO cheap  - like cheaper-than-South America cheap, food options are varied and delicious, and there's not a whole lot of tourist attractions to explore.

That last "perk" is counterintuitive... many people might view a lack of tourist activities as a negative. However, it's a perk for me for a couple reasons:

1) It takes off the inherent pressure that I feel in each new city we live in or visit to try to see and do ALL the things. I don't have to worry about doing all the things when the things don't exist!

Saturdays in Serbia: apple picking next to a burnt down cathedral followed by a wine pairing lunch at a backyard winery... you can't get less touristy if you tried (we didn't)

2) It offers up a challenge to find activities that are off the beaten track. I did some pretty random things in Serbia purely to do something, and those things turned out to be really cool and different!

Visited this aeronautical museum. Not a museum fan. Liked this museum. <3 airplanes

3) It leaves more time to do normal daily life activities that might have been left by the wayside during the whirlwind of the previous months. For example, I finally picked up a tennis racquet again this month, inspired by the gorgeous tennis facilities Novak Djokovic established in his homeland (yes Djok is from Serbia).

So all of the above is well and good and added to my appreciation of Serbia, but I buried the lead big time because by far the best part of Serbia is SPLAVS! If you follow me on Instagram, you most likely saw some of my splav-obsessed stories and posts.

I'm on a splav.

Let me tell you a quick splav story (hehe I have so many):
When our group arrived in Serbia, we couldn't move into our apartments yet because they were still being cleaned from the previous Remote Year group that lived there. Non Remote Year people: I cannot adequately describe the lack of patience us Remote Year idiots have on moving days. It is nearly impossible to placate us over any minor inconvenience - we are uprooted lost children and we want our new homes and we want them yesterday. So this development was absolutely one million percent unacceptable.

Knowing this all too well, Remote Year staff tried to come up with a solution to keep our frustrations at bay while we waited for our Belgrade apartments to be ready. Their solution was to take us directly from the Belgrade airport to a splav, and I can't speak for the rest of the group, but their solution worked on me!! The moment I had a drink in hand on the splav, I couldn't care less where my new apartment was or when I would be arriving there. I was prepared to post up on that splav all day long, nicely done Remote Year!

Serbia Day 1: On A Splav

Now I should probably elaborate on what a splav is... doesn't "splav" sound like some weird acronym or combination of two words combined or something? That was my initial assumption, which was incorrect. Splav is Serbian for raft or barge, and the term more specifically refers to the floating clubs, bars and restaurants along the Danube and Sava rivers. Serbia is known for it's wild nightlife scene, which exists solely on these splavs in the spring and summer.

There's a splav for every taste: some are catered toward day time river enjoyment, some are known for their food, and most are best recognized for the club they transform into after midnight, reverse-cinderella-style. Within the club scene, each splav has it's own unique character.

This article says it best (and explains more about splavs for those who want to learn more):
"Everyone in Belgrade has a favourite splav, and everyone is prepared to share an opinion. Don’t be surprised if no two recommendations match, however. Visiting a variety of splavs and picking your own favourite is part of the fun."

Surprisingly my favorite was a splav called Money Club that plays throwback hip hop jams, where fake money periodically falls from the ceiling. In any other world I would hate the Money Club scene... like how horrible and tacky does that description sound? But something about the club existing on a floating barge just worked for me.

^splavs along the river   ^splav squad in full force    ^daytime splav life

Clearly I bought into the splav scene, and I bought in hard. I spent the majority of the month splav-hopping, and when I wasn't on a splav, I was talking about them. It's crazy to think how they were such a big part of my life, but for such a fleeting amount of time. #neverforgetsplavs

I probably won't rush back to Serbia, but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the little known country that is most definitely not Siberia.


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