Uncharted men, delicious food, an impressive exchange rate, and some of the world’s least known beaches and lakes -” the Balkans are calling your name.

But before you pack your ruby slippers and venture past the walls of the cosy gay ghetto it’s important to remember that although homosexuality is legal, there’s a long way to go before it is accepted by the wider Eastern European society.

Serbia is far from being picturesque thanks to the destruction caused by NATO’s bombing, which is still evident in the various burnt-out buildings left to rot in the country’s commercial hub, Belgrade.
But don’t let these images prevent you from visiting because what the area lacks in geographical beauty it more than makes up for in pretty boys, great food and a burgeoning underground club scene.

The Serbian people have a strong sense of self and an immense national pride which can be felt as you make your way through the groups of locals going about their daily business. And that feeling intensifies the minute you step inside one of the city’s popular nightclubs.

Toxic, The Apartment, and VIP are just some of Belgrade’s most popular gay clubs. In contrast to Oxford St, your safety is virtually guaranteed thanks to the bevy of police officers who not only guard the entrances, but carry out random body searches.

But don’t expect to see a drag show or Paris Hilton wannabes because they don’t exist. Oh, and forget about air conditioning. The Serbs like their dancing just like their men -” hot and sweaty -” and mixed in with a strong alcoholic beverage and plenty of pumping Eurobeats.

And for those looking to land themselves a sexy, rugged, masculine fella to warm their bed, this is the place to be.

Unfortunately finding gay life outside Belgrade is difficult -” actually, it’s non-existent.

Macedonia is geographically stunning thanks to its luscious forests, snow-capped mountains, unique fauna and Europe’s oldest and most exquisite lake, Ohrid -” but forget about finding yourself some same-sex company.

On the upside, cheap jewellery and shoes are in abundance. Make sure you take a day trip to Carsija in Skopje to find all the local souvenirs and bargain-priced goods. Neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, has a long way to go before it compares to the states around it. This land-mined region is expensive, but does boast an interesting array of unusual restaurants.

Once a month there is a weekend gay night, but most locals said they preferred to head to Serbia if they were thinking of having a night out.

But the highlight of any Balkan experience has to be to the amazing Croatian coastline thanks to its crystal clear ocean, pebbled beaches and Speedos-wearing men. It’s not quite Mykonos, but Croatia oozes a charm you won’t want to ignore.

If you want to try something a bit daring, try one of the many nude beaches. Hvar Island, Brac Island and Dubrovnik all have spots for the budding naturist.

info: Sunny Burns travelled to The Balkans for the Eurovision Song Competition.

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