Dotted sporadically along the bank of the Danube river, Serbia’s renowned river barges or rather Splavs provide a welcome retreat from the intense summer heat and chaotic hustle and bustle of urban life. During the summer months it is a common occurrence to witness large numbers of both local people and tourists enjoying a cool beverage or meal whilst taking in the peace and tranquility of their Danubian environment and enjoying the cool river breeze.
Yet in recent years the form and function of these Splavs has been transformed, in line with shifts in modern culture- in particular with the demands of young people. Hence in the modern day, Belgrade receives much recognition on account of its river night life. In other words, many Splavs which were previously used solely as cafes and restaurants, were renovated into chic and on trend bars and night time clubs. One of the most famous of these clubs is the Amsterdam River Club which is located at the Zemun quay on the Danube. On account of the variety of music and the general glamorous and pleasant atmosphere, Splavs have taken on a new meaning in the eyes of the youth of Belgrade: Splavs offer excitement and escape from society- all in a beautiful and unique setting. In this sense Splavs offer a magical and perhaps even surreal alternative to dingy city night clubs and hence customers can expect an unforgettable experience on board. Indeed without a doubt, Splavs provide additional strength to the claim that Belgrade is one of the best locations for nightlife in the world.
Notably the majority of these Splavs enforce no strict dress code and hence in a quiet way, they rebel against the inclusive and pretentious fashions followed by many other major European cities. In fact numerous Splavs- such as Shlep- proudly mention on their commercial websites that customers should not expect to find ‘complicated cocktails or hard-to-find liquors’. This detail, coupled with the knowledge that many Splavs continue to play traditional Serbian folk music as opposed to western house music, rock or commercial hits, suggests that the owners of these Splavs refuse to completely disregard their Serbian pride and traditions.
To conclude, the role of Splavs is complex and energetic, juxtaposing both calm and tranquil cafes and renowned vibrant bars and nightclubs. In my opinion this comparison represents perfectly the uniqueness and unpredictability of Serbian culture.