The largest outdoor party in Serbia – and possibly the Balkans – is kicking off around the country as youth is celebrating May Day.
While May 1 marks International Workers’ Day on a global level, the less political in Serbia tend to associate the day with leisure time, friends or heading somewhere outside the city to consume vast quantities of food, drinks and loud music.
But only a few decades ago, May Day was solely about the glorification of the working classes and taking pride in factory work, all across the former Yugoslavia.
Nowadays, younger generations see May Day as the opportunity to spend the entire day out of the house minus their ‘boring’ parents, while the older generations still cherish May Day as an official holiday to be respected.
So, how does it all look and what should you know about celebrating this holiday in Serbia?
Funnily enough, May Day kicks off at dawn on May 1 – which is why the holiday is called “Prvomajski Uranak” (May Day Morning) in Serbia. The strongest devotees even go camping overnight to welcome in the holiday.
Parks, mountains, riverbanks, lakes, forests and other picnic sites are the most popular locations. People set up tents or simply lay huge blankets out on the grass.
Barbecues and roasting lamb or pork are a May Day staple.
However, the tradition has some roots in history. Legend has it that during the Ottoman Empire, Serbian renegades fighting Turks would have a reunion each spring during which they would roast a pork for the occasion.
In honour of this, we offer you some basic guidelines:
Traditionally, a cleaned and prepared pork is roasted on a skewer over a fire – essentially a hog roast. The younger the pork, the better it tastes, according to experienced cooks. It is also very important to marinade it with various blends – most notably beer! – so it does not get burnt.
Be aware that preparing this specialty takes hours, which is why people in Serbia start doing it the moment they arrive at their May Day picnic spot. The smell is beautiful, and the meat tastes best when warm.
There are literally hundreds of places where you can head to for May Day.
If you are in the mood for parties, you should definitely visit Srebrno Jezero (Silver Lake) in eastern Serbia, located some 110km from Belgrade. The party – entitled Uranak Festival – lasts four days, during which there will be several renowned domestic and regional DJs and bands, performing across three stages. This is also the biggest and the most famous May Day party in the entire country.
The event takes place from April 29 to May 2 and organisers expect more than 2,000 people to attend.
While you can go to Srebrno Jezero in your own car, boarding the organisers’ bus is also possible. It costs €15 if you go from Belgrade, Kragujevac and Nis, and €20 if you board at Novi Sad. The cost for the three-day parties, including accommodation, is around €30.
For more information about the festival, go to www.puzzlegroup.org/index.cfm/putovanja/srbija/go/uranak-srebrno-jezero.
Still, if you are not into parties and prefer something more ’calm’ for a non-working day, bear in mind that every city, town and village in Serbia offers something on May Day. It does not necessarily have to be organised by the municipality – it can simply be local citizens’ favourite spot for leisure activities.
If you are in Belgrade, there are plenty of places you can head to. Some of the traditional places in Belgrade to spend May 1st are Topciderski Park, Kosutnjak, Mt. Avala and Ada Ciganlija Lake.
Topciderski Park is a firm favourite among Belgraders and tourists for its three small lakes. If this is your pick, make sure you arrive as early as possible; the place will most likely be fully-packed, as is the case every year.
Kosutnjak lies some 6km southwest from downtown Belgrade and encompasses 330 hectares of thick forest. If this is your pick, you should head to the Hajducka Cesma spring, which is the most popular picnic site on Kosutnjak.
You can also go to Belgrade’s beloved Mt. Avala, which stands some 500m high and lies 18km from the centre of the capital. If you’re not into camping, there are several restaurants from which you can enjoy the view of nature. While there, make sure to visit the Avala Tower, which is the tallest in Serbia.
Atop the mountain’s highest peak is the monument to the Unknown Hero. The view from the area is stunning.
Last but not least, you can head to Ada Ciganlija – or Belgrade’s ‘Sea’, as it is also called by Belgraders. Ada is actually a river island converted into an artificial peninsula full of bars, restaurants, cafes as well as lots of sporting options. You can enjoy football, volleyball, tennis, golf and roller-skating. Or, if you feel like lounging, you can simply enjoy by the water.
Source: Balkan Insight