The Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia to India, Vladimir Maric, talks to Shubh Yatra about what links the two nations and says that Indian tourists no longer need a visa to visit his country
You came to India as the ambassador of the Republic of Serbia in 2014. How has the experience been so far?
Excellent, both from the professional point of view and from the point of view of living in India. New Delhi is one of the most important diplomatic centres of the world, and the intensity of the diplomatic life here is very high. Living in India has been an amazing experience.
Had you travelled to India before your posting? What kind of transformation have you seen the country undergo through the years?
I first came to India in 2011. I always use Gurugram’s Cyber Hub as an example when I speak about India’s development. The hi-tech office build- ings, excellent restaurants, entertainment venues and exciting shops in one beautifully designed complex that is extremely well connected to the city through highways and ultra-modern Metro lines – this is the transformation of India that I have witnessed.
What are the similarities you find between India and Serbia?
There are quite a few, but to me, the most significant similarity is the warmth, sincerity and compassion of the people.
Where have you travelled to in India? Do you have any favourites?
There are several destinations – it is very difficult to choose! I loved the Rann of Kutch and the road trip to Gangotri.
Is there any region/city in India that is on your travel bucket list?
There are many, but Kerala and Ladakh top the list.
What are the five things that you suggest an Indian should see in Serbia, and the five things you would ask a Serbian to see in India?
At the top of the list would be our capital, Belgrade, for its restaurants, bars and clubs, galleries, museums, architecture, the Danube and Sava rivers, fashion shows and shopping.
Make sure not to miss the Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegdan Park, and the Knez Mihailova pedestrian street for shopping. And a visit to the Museum of Nikola Tesla, the famed Serbian scientist, is a must. Belgrade is approximately six hours from Vienna by road. Air India flies directly to Vienna from New Delhi.
Visit Serbian mountains for great ski runs or wellness and relaxation… or both. Kopaonik is home to a national
park and the largest, most popular and most luxurious Serbian ski resort. The city of Novi Sad is also a must-visit for its culture (declared European Capital of Culture for the year 2021) and the Exit Festival, an award-winning musical event held against the extraordinary backdrop of the Petrovaradin Fortress. Visit the natural spa, Bukovicka Banja, known for thermal springs, in Arandelovac (76 km from Belgrade). If you have time, take a trip to the Serbian wine regions of Zupa and Fruska Gora.
In India, a Serbian should visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, Varanasi, Darjeeling, Mumbai and Goa.
What is the best time to visit Serbia?
Serbia is an all-season destination, but I would recommend spring or summer if you want to visit the cities or the countryside. Winter can be just as beautiful, especially if skiing is what you are looking for.
Tell us about the unmissable experiences Serbia offers.
I will mention two. First, one must go out for dinner and live music to one of the old kafanas (local bistros) in the Skadarlija area of Belgrade. Second, one should visit the famous Guca Trumpet Festival in August and join the great masters of the instrument for an unforgettable five-day celebration of music and food.
India and the Republic of Serbia will complete 70 years of bilateral relations in 2018. What, according to you, have been the milestones along the journey?
After around three decades, in January 2017 we had a visit to India at the highest level – our then Prime Minister (and now President) Aleksandar Vucic was in India and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We are seeing concrete forms of cooperation emerge. This is what we need – to bring the level of economic cooperation between the two countries on a par with our political relations.
Tell us about your experience with Air India.
I have loved Air India’s Dreamliner experience on several flights that I have taken with my family.