Of all the countries we visited in the Balkans, we spent the least amount of time in Serbia. Although our time in this former Yugoslavian region was admittedly short, it did give us a taste of what being vegan in Serbia is like, as well as what it could blossom to be in the future.
We arrived into Serbia on the tails of spending 3 days in the gorgeous, yet not overly vegan-friendly, area of Durmitor National Park in Montenegro. We were also nearing the end of our month-long road-trip, and had already visited Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. A good meal would have done wonders to boost Mindy’s spirits, since food can be a huge comfort, and the lack thereof can make traveling through a foreign country quite emotionally challenging for her.
In doing research for our trip, we were drawn to a specific area in Serbia to enjoy hiking in the Uvac Special Nature Reserve, and so we allotted 3 nights there. We were prepared for a quiet vegan scene, but we were a bit surprised at the relative non-existence of it.
Since we visited in August, the summer harvest was plentiful, and there were many small markets showcasing a variety of fresh fruit. At most places, though, the fruit was extremely ripe, so the wasps were already feasting on it.
At our hotel, we spoke with the staff, and they had never heard of veganism before. Unfortunately, they didn’t really seem to understand, even after we explained it. This gave us an insight as to what we might find in town. Walking through the streets, passing numerous cafés and restaurants, seeing plate after plate filled with meat dishes, we thought we might have better luck at a local grocery store.
Except for a specialty store in the town center of Sjenica, where we could get almond milk at a hefty mark-up, all the food we bought seemed to be from the “accidentally vegan” category.
Although the vegan landscape in Sjenica was indeed bleak, we tried to make the best of our time there, by imagining we were on the reality TV show, Chopped, with a basket of pretty boring ingredients: pretzels, peanut butter, mustard, and stale rice cakes.
We ended up making “pizzas”, consisting of a rice cake base, topped with a) peanut butter & pretzels b) peanut butter & blueberry jam c) mustard & pretzels or d) mešana salata (pickled veggies). We didn’t starve, but we also didn’t win any culinary awards.
We were happy to see that HappyCow listed a couple vegan options in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and many other restaurants that are vegetarian. However, we were blown away to learn that just an hour northwest of Belgrade is the country’s second-largest city, Novi Sad, with a much more vibrant vegan scene.
For that reason, we planned our itinerary to visit Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Museum in the afternoon, and then continue onwards to Novi Sad for dinner. With the knowledge that we’d have good vegan food in our bellies that evening, we were able to really enjoy the drive north from Sjenica. It was incredible, with jaw-dropping vistas that took our breath away.
Novi Sad (Нови Сад)
We nicknamed Novi Sad “The Vegan Capital of Serbia”, as our biggest problem was trying to decide which of the handful of vegan restaurants to go to for dinner.
To be honest, if we had more time in our itinerary, and we weren’t at the tail end of our road trip, we would have spent a few more days here. That way, we could have tried all the vegan spots listed on HappyCow, because Ananda and Bananas Veggie & Raw Cuisine also looked fantastic!
Given where we were staying, and how exhausted we were from traveling that day, we decided to go to Rekalibracija, a friendly fast food vegan joint. We got the Classic Burger and the Smoked Tofu Burger, with a couple of fresh shakes. After the challenges of finding satisfying food in the more rural areas of Serbia, this meal was sweet relief!