Serbia has always straddled East and West, not only in a geographical sense, but also politically and culturally. At first, Serbia found itself between the Byzantine and Roman empires, then it became a frontier between the Ottoman Empire and the Christian West. This centuries-long position in the path of conquering armies from both sides has led to constant migrations and the mixing of populations. The result is a multiethnic, multicultural and multiconfessional society in Serbia.
And even during communism the inhabitants of this region were somewhere between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. In contrast to other post-communist countries in the region, the people of Serbia have a more comprehensive education, a more contemporary approach to life, better knowledge of foreign languages and more readily accept new technologies and behaviours.
Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is the third largest city in South-eastern Europe after Istanbul and Athens. Just over 1,700,000 people live in it. Belgrade is the city of youth. More than 40% of its citizens are between 15 and 44 years of age.
All citizens of Belgrade love to talk of the spirit of the city. Open and ever ready for fun, many Belgraders will claim to be true hedonists – and many of them really are – knowing all there is to know about good food, wine and music.
The citizens of Belgrade like all sorts of things: pleasant conversations and long walks, drinking their morning coffee or days off work, they also love it when they find freshly baked warm bread in the local bakery. They like being in motion and therefore the streets, walkways, cafes and restaurants are always filled with peeeople.
The climate in Belgrade is moderate continental, with four seasons. Autumn lasts longer than spring, with longer sunny and warm periods.
The two weeks of belated summer in October, particularly enjoyed by Belgraders, are called St. Martin’s Summer (“miholjsko leto”). The winters are not particularly harsh. There are 21 days on average with temperatures below zero degrees centigrade during the winter. January is the coldest month, with average temperatures of 0.4 °C. Springs are brief and rainy, with summer arriving suddenly. The hottest months are July (21.7 °C) and August (21.3 °C).
Belgrade and its surroundings experience an average of 684 mm of rainfall annually, and umbrellas are mostly in use during May and June. Sunlight is most plentiful in July and August with around 10 hours per day, while December and January are known to be the cloudiest. Snow is present in Belgrade for an average of 27 days per year.
The košava, a strong and cold south-easterly and easterly wind arising in the Carpathians and bringing cold and dry weather to Belgrade is a true climatic attraction of Belgrade. During the autumn and winter, košava regularly ventilates Belgraders. It can reach speeds of up to 130 km/h and put a strong chill to the bones. It came into ill repute because of the innumerable umbrellas it snatched or broke.
Belgrade is located in South-eastern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula, at the crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe.
The city lies upon the Danube River, the aquatic route connecting the countries of Western and Middle Europe to the countries of the South-eastern and Eastern Europe. Its harbour is visited by ships from the Black Sea, and with the deployment of the Rhine-Main-Danube channel it found itself at the centre of the most important aquatic route in Europe: Northern Sea – Atlantic – Black Sea. Due to its position it was rightfully named “Gates of the Balkans” and the “Doors of Middle Europe”.
The coordinates of Belgrade are marked in the centre of the city (in Knez Mihailova Street): 44°49’14″ of geographic latitude north, 20°27’44″ of geographic longitude east and 116.75 m above sea level.
The area around Belgrade consists of two different environments: the Pannonian plain to the north and Šumadija to the south. The Kosmaj (628 m) and Avala (511 m) mountains are near Belgrade. The length of riverbanks is 200 km, with 16 river islands, the largest being Ada Ciganlija and the Great War Island.