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The Magic of Niš – spending a day in Serbian food capital

Southern warmth and tasty food will make your day

Čegar Hill in Niš / photo: Matea Lac
Čegar Hill in Niš where the famous battle took place.

When you mention Serbia to people for former Yugoslavia, there are a few things that pop in their mind: Belgrade as the city that never sleeps, war, orthodox religion or Rokeri s Moravu. Rarely anyone would go as far as the southern city of Niš, the third largest city in Serbia after Belgrade and Novi Sad. The first thing you are going to notice, if you are a Slavic language speaker, is the specific dialect spoken among the people of Niš. It keeps the very old and archaic word stresses, often omitting some of the seven cases in the standard Serbian language.

The will not say: “Bio sam u kafani” (I was in the tavern), but “Bio sam u kafanu”. Yes, taverns are quite popular in the Serbian South, which leads us to yet another specialty of Niš – the grill. Leskovac, a nearby town, is the most popular one regarding grilled meat, but Niš has some of its specialties as well. Meat is being consumed every day in almost every lunch, except on Fridays and holiday among people who are fasting. And while you eat meat for lunch, Niš has something special to offer for breakfast  – burek.

Burek
Burek

Burek was brought to Niš in the late 15th Century while the Ottoman Empire was still ruling.  Not to be mistaken with “sirnica”, Niš’ “burek sa sirom” is quite a greasy and delicious pastry with cheese, consumed with yoghurt for a great start of the day. And while you eat and drink one of the best foods available in this region, you might be shocked by the Saturday’s flea market near the 18th Century Fortress in the centre of Niš. The flea market offers military uniforms, used toilet seats, rusty tools, laptops, bicycles, mobile phones and chargers, clothes, books and everything your mind comes upon. There are literally no limits.

The river Nišava as seen from the famous fortress

And yet, while most of them live quite scarcely, the people of Niš are always joking around and laughing. Southern humor is based on almost everything, they will find a joke about themselves first and then continue to joke around something specific about you. If you are good friends, they will notice that you have gained weight, but add:”It doesn’t matter, may you be healthy and alive!” and actually mean it.

The famous song “Niška Banja” , named after a famous spa area in the surroundings of Niš, is known to every citizen of Niš, explaining how the “Nišlije” cannot live without schnapps and a good time.

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Some of the most famous people born in Niš who are still alive today include the French handball player Nikola Karabatić, rock singer Aki Rahimovski, violinist Nemanja Radulović, traditional folk singer Bilja Krstić and many, many more.

Would you like to visit Niš?