The first thing you notice about Novi
Sad is the tranquil pace of life.
A slower and more serene stride, where
you have time to enjoy your surroundings. If you work in one of the major
cities, London for me, then you will appreciate the fresh air and healthy pace
of life; no packed underground or busy buses. It takes me a day or two to slow down
and let go of the stress; but afterwards I not only enjoy it, but also
appreciate its health benefits.
Novi Sad is a historic city, where
the Austrian-Hungarian building design influence is noticeable. It is the
capital of Vojvodina, an autonomous province, based in northern Serbia. The
river Danube (Dunav in Serbian), which runs south of the city, is crossed by 3
bridges, which were destroyed during the 1999 bombing raids. The main bridge,
which crosses over to the Petrovaradin Fortress (Petrovaradinska Tvrdava), is
the Varadin Bridge . Varadinski Most, now known as Duga in Serbian, was rebuilt
in 2000. It is most beautiful at night, when it comes to life in a
kaleidoscopic rainbow of colours aimed at it from underneath.
The construction of the
Petrovaradin Fortress’s was finished in 1780. The castle, which overlooks Novi
Sad, is definitely worth a non-hurried visit to discover its history and its
exhibits. There is a road with ample parking at the top. For the more active among
us, its stone steps will lead you to the summit. A local guide will take you on
an underground tour of its tunnel system, when they gather enough numbers to
make up a group of at least 10 people. Its most prominent feature is the large
clock, with its hands inverted – small hand showing the minutes and large hand
the hours. This was to aid maritime traffic calculate the tides as the hours
hand was visible from a long distance. Modern technology has since
simplifiednavigation. A grandiose hotel
is situated behind it with a coffee shop, which overlooks the river and the
city from its veranda. At the top of the castle, you can enjoy a number of
ateliers behind the battlements with Novi Sad in its splendour at your feet.
The Bridge of Liberty (Most
Slobode), one of the most modern bridges in Europe, is located above The Strand
– Novi Sad’s sandy beach by the riverbank. The Strand has a number of huts for
hire during the summer months, bars, food stalls and deck chairs where you can
enjoy a drink watching the tree rich banks of the river. The Danube is fast
flowing and, although not as warm as the Mediterranean, it is enjoyed by locals
and visitors alike. People in dinghies can be seen to jump into the river and
float lazily next to them, painter in hand, to keep cool in the summer. Lying
on a beach chair, you can enjoy the green bank on the opposite side and the
beautifulchurches and houses that are
built t in the copses.
On the right side from the fortress
is the Rail-Road Bridge (Drumsko Zeleznicki Most), which, following its
destruction during the raids, was temporarily rebuilt in 2000 to accommodate
the passage of the train and cargo loads.
In the winter the temperatures
fall below 0°C (-25°C over 2011-12 winter season) and the city is usually
covered in snow. Unlike other more modern cities though, life in Novi Sad does
not stop. Public transport continues to run and people, despite the bitter
cold, go about their business as usual. It is a mountainous dry cold though,
which requires lots of warm layers.
Novi Sad is very pretty during
Christmas. Brightly decorated and snow-covered, it is indeed Holly. The visitor
can enjoy two Christmases. The Gregorian Calendar on the 25th December and the
Julius Caesar (Julian) Calendar on the 7th January. The latter is the Old Style
Orthodox, which is a Bank Holiday in Serbia. On the eve of it (Badnje Vece),
locals burn branches of the Badnjak tree and make a wish, which is carried to
Jesus (Christos) by the smoke and the flames.
The atmosphere in the coffee shops
and bars is really warm and friendly. Mulled wine (kuvano vino) is drunk, which
warms the cockles of your heart; especially in good company.
Dunavski Park has a lake with a
pair of swans known as Isa (the husband) and Bisa (the wife), benches where
local people can be found reading or chatting and public toilets. The loving
couple of swans have been together for years. Opposite the park is the Museum
of Vojvodina, displaying a wide range of historic exhibits, which traverse
through the ages. It is open Tuesday-Saturday; its website at museum of
Vojvodina is available in English.
Located in the centre of the town is
Liberty Square (Trg Slobode). The Town Hall can be found on one side and facing
it, is the Catholic Church of Holy Mary, which is worth visiting even if you
are not religious. Behind the Town Hall is the National Theatre (Serpsko
Narodno Pozoriste), founded in 1861. Its website at Serpsko Narodno Pozoriste
is in Serbian.
It is worth walking down all the
little side streets, which are full of coffee shops, if only to enjoy the
city’s architecture. In the summer, most coffee shops put tables out for people
to sit and drink coffee in the sun. There are also the Kafanas. These are
traditional bars, where local, and travelling singers, play music whilst you
enjoy plum Brandy (Sljivovica rakija). Be aware – it is strong!
Novi Sad, due to its culture is
known as the Athens of Serbia. Its residents enjoy visiting the museum and
theatres, locally and further afield in Belgrade. There are a couple of
noticeable bookshops, the Mamut (IPS) in Zmaj Jovina 15 and The English Book in
Njegoseva 147, which are not very far from the centre. One worth visiting
though is the Small Bookstore (Мала велика књига) 4 Ignjata Pavlasa, where the
owner will discuss books and authors with you in perfect English. He also helps
local children with theatrical shows.
The mountainous area north of Novi
Sad is called Fruška Gora, where there are 16 monasteries, ranging from the
12th to the 15th century. The most famous one being Krušedol, which was built
between 1509 – 1514. Nowadays, you will find modern buildings on its grounds,
where film crews stay when they are shooting on site. If you do visit it in the
winter though, wear warm clothing as it is not heated and its cobblestoned
floors do not offer much insulation.
There are a number of hotels in
Novi Sad. Petrovaradin Fortress offers its own, although slightly dearer than
some others; it is a castle after all. The town centre itself has plenty. It is
worth visiting them and asking to see the room before you book. I could not
recommend one over the other, because they all have their own charm and
qualities. One thing they all share in common is the warm Serbian hospitality.