Friday, 20 August 2010

Serbia: Happy Travels in Novi Sad

Despite the Balkans' increasing popularity with travellers, Serbia remains a mystery to most. 

In this guest blog, Serbian student and writer Jelena Farkic (who we met in Szeged, Hungary during our recent European trip) relates the charms of her hometown and Serbia's second city, Novi Sad...

Serbia will welcome you with a smile on its residents’ faces, a glass of extra cheap lager and rich traditional dishes you will not forget for life!

But if you are contemplating coming to Serbia, make sure the capital Belgrade is not your first and the last stop.

Experience the uniqueness of travelling on old trains from the communist era - an aged, red, massive locomotive will slowly drag its wagons, taking you to just any corner of the country.

One of the significant stops, Novi Sad, is definitely not far from Belgrade - you can get there in a hundred minutes and for just a few euro coins for a ticket.

A journey from Belgrade to Novi Sad passes within the glimpse of an eye - as you go, you may be watching the rolling countryside of the Pannonian plain, then you start to see the city outskirts and the Danube, eventually getting to the peak of the medieval fortress and bang! – there you are at the station being herded off with all the other travellers, being inserted into the everyday life of the city.

So what's so special about Novi Sad? Being Serbia’s second largest city, far less hectic and far more laid-back than Belgrade, it offers its visitors culture, vibrant nightlife, delectable cuisine, friendly citizens and alluring charm, all wrapped up with style.

The pleasant atmosphere that rules the city provides you with the feeling of comfort, tickling your imagination, prompting many questions and making you more curious with every step you make.

Summers in Novi Sad used to be lethargic and totally dull. Then the story changed - within just a few years, it has become very lively and dynamic, partly thanking to numerous cultural events that arose from the creative minds of young people and, one by one, came into being.

The most significant one is the EXIT summer music festival, unique for its location. The 17th century Petrovaradin fortress, proudly overlooking the city from the other side of the Danube, becomes the meeting point for music fans of many nations for four days each July.

Just a few weeks prior, the Cinema City Film and Media Festival gives the city a completely new image for more than a week, turning it into a global cinema offering 20 different locations in which to watch over 150 films of either domestic or international production.

The best way to meet the city is to meet its residents - you may find out a lot more talking to people than just strolling along the streets on your own, led by the map, ticking off every sight in a guidebook.

Friendly locals may lead you to the hidden corners of the city, introducing you to the specific rituals they have; and they may also teach you several phrases in the Serbian language so you know how to greet and thank people, order a drink or make the toast "ziveli!".

You definitely shouldn’t plan your stay in Novi Sad too thoroughly in advance; as once you step onto its streets, you may be possessed by the feeling of pleasant unpredictability...

Jelena Farkic is a student and writer in Novi Sad, Serbia.