Novi Sad, the most Westward facing city in the East.

Clocktower atop Fortress

I took a bus to Novi Sad, also known as the “Serbian Athens” last weekend to try to get see a bit outside of Belgrade. A few people were wondering why I was going there, its only 90km or so from Belgrade, but for about $16 US, you can get a round trip ticket. I left it open whether I would stay the night or not, but ended up just making it a day trip. This is an easy way to see a nearby city and I highly recommend it. The difference between Novi Sad and Belgrade is stunning. Though I love Belgrade, Novi Sad had a much brighter feel to it. Take into consideration I was there on a Saturday, and it was the most beautiful day we’ve had so far, so everyone was outside. It felt like spring. Novi Sad seemed like a very Happy city. It’s much smaller than Belgrade, but with its 250,000 residents, it actually seems much bigger than it is, due to its typical European urban layout. From the main bus station, I took the number 4 bus to the central pedestrian zone, the Trg Slobode area. This was where the differences were really magnified. Knez Mihailova in Belgrade is great, but this pedestrian zone was much wider, much more open, and the architecture was Magnificent. Gone were the brutalist style buildings of gray cinderblocks and gone was virtually all of the graffiti. In its place were towering cathedrals, magnificent parliament and other government buildings, museums, galleries, and art instead. Also, I noticed a lot more families and young children, and generally a more light hearted, spirited tone about the place. It was quite charming.
It seemed worlds away from gray Belgrade, and it was obvious that the many years of Austro-Hungarian, instead of Turkish rule, had changed the city into something much more beautiful that your traditional Eastern European city. After taking in the area, I went to Dunavska Park, where I witnessed a bride and groom taking wedding photos. After perusing the gardens there and the many statues, I crossed one of the bridge’s that was completely destroyed in the 1999 NATO bombing campaign to explore the Petrovaradin Fortress. Belgrade’s fortress, in Kalamegdan Park, is quite different. From Petrovardin, you have a grand view of the city, steeples in the distance, and the fortress ground has been converted into art studios and café’s, the clock tower being the main central area, and it was packed with locals enjoying their weekend. From there, I took the number 3 bus back to the main zone. But first I visited The Novi Sad city museum, which was interesting, but if I went back, I would choose instead to go to the Vojvodina museum instead, as it would have been much more extensive.
Unfortunately, I was not there during the right time to experience the EXIT festival, one of the most renowned musical festivals in all of Europe. This festival started just prior to the ousting of Milosevic, and was named “EXIT” as a nod to the currents stewing regarding his near departure. “The ethos behind the 2001 festival was a twofold celebration: finally being rid of Milosevic, and also of Serbia’s opening up to the wider world after years of isolation”. Now it boasts over 190,000 visitors, over half being foreigners.
The bus ride back to Belgrade is only 1 hour and 20 minutes, and the busses run every 20 minutes. One thing to note about Novi Sad, besides the sparklingly clean public restrooms, was that hardly anyone seemed to speak English, and there are basically no obvious tourist information areas, so do your research before you go, if you don’t speak Russian or Serbian passably. All in all, a beautiful day trip. It was refreshing and exciting!

Cathedral

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2 thoughts on “Novi Sad, the most Westward facing city in the East.

  1. I don’t see how would Russian help you in Novi Sad. Still, I strongly believe, more easy you can find English speaker then any other language speaker in Novi Sad.

    • Maybe you’re right about Russian. It just seemed to me there, that if a Serb had a second language that wasn’t English, it was generally Russian. That was the most common next choice. And as stated here, I was only there for 1 day, so I’m sure I can’t realistically tell how many English speakers there were in Novi Sad. However, compared to Belgrade at the train station, bus station, and main pedestrian zone, there were much fewer signs in English, and I didn’t find one tourist information center at all there. In Belgrade, there are at least a few obvious signs for English speaking tourist info kiosks. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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