The breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s led to many wars among the ethnic groups and six republics that had been merged into one country, Yugoslavia, after World War II. Those Balkan republics were Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia. Now all these Eastern European republics are once again independent. Serbia was in the news quite a bit during that time.
The entire Balkan region is a confusing patchwork, made more so by changing political boundaries and controlling governments. Getting familiar with the map makes traveling in the Balkans easier.
Serbia is a landlocked Balkan country that can be found on the lower-right hand side of a map of Eastern Europe. If you can find the Danube River, you can follow its route down into Serbia. If you can locate the Carpathian Mountains, you'll also be able to find Serbia on a map – the southern part of the Carpathians meets the northeastern border of the country. Serbia is bordered by eight countries:
- East of Serbia: Romania, Bulgaria
- South of Serbia: Macedonia
- West of Serbia: Croatia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo
- North of Serbia: Hungary
Getting to Serbia
Belgrade is well-served by carriers from major U.S. departure points.
You can fly from the U.S. to Belgrade with a choice of many flights and routes out of New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Phoenix. Airlines that fly to Belgrade include United, American, Delta, British Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Aeroflot, Air Serbia, Air France, KLM, Air Canada, and Turkish.
Belgrade is also connected to major European cities by train. You'll need a Eurail pass to travel by train throughout Europe. If you want to fly to London first and spend a few days there, you can hop on a train and get to Belgrade through Brussels or Paris and then through Germany and either Vienna and Budapest or Zagreb to Belgrade. This scenic and romantic journey, a destination in itself, is a pretty fast ride. If you board the train in mid-morning at St. Pancras Station in London you'll be in Belgrade around dinner time the next day.
Use Belgrade as a Base
Belgrade can be used as a jumping-off point for other cities in Serbia and the Balkan region. Take the train to the storied Croatian coast, scenic Slovenia or Montenegro or other countries in Eastern Europe. Or stop off on the way to Belgrade in any of the German cities the train travels through or Vienna, Budapest or Zagreb for a full-on European train adventure.
You can buy a full pass that covers many train trips or point-to-point tickets, depending on your travel plans. Spring for a sleeper compartment if your journey is going to extend into the next day or for several days. You'll get a nice bed, towels and a basin and have a bucket-list view right out the window, just like in the movies.