I asked the hostel receptionist for a recommendation for some lunch/dinner and she recommended a local place that she said was good and inexpensive. Of course since it was like 4pm I was the only one in there and the waiter didn’t exactly seem happy to have to work. Since I planned for this to be my only meal, I decided to get an appetizer and entrée. I got the “non meat appetizer” that came with sheep’s cheese and 3 hummus-like dips and some bread. It was really good! And the main course was “filled chicken” which came grilled and stuffed with cheese and bacon. It was good, but not as good as the appetizer so I finished all of that but didn’t finish the chicken.
After whatever you want to call eating at 4pm, I walked around the main pedestrian square for a while and then ventured into the Danube park. It was Friday night and there were a lot of families with small children out and about. The city seems to have a lot of young families, which I wasn’t expecting as I’d read Novi Sad was a university city. But it’s fun to see all of the kids playing and having fun- there are a lot of stands on the streets that sell popcorn and ice cream bars, rent out mini-motorized cars and stuffed horses on wheels, bubble-makers and helium balloons. It’s a child’s paradise here! I don’t know if these things are always out or if it was just for the weekend.
It started to rain while I was walking around the park so I returned to the hostel and grabbed a beer with my roommate. I’m embarrassed to say that this is the first day I didn’t get 10,000 steps 😦
This morning I walked around the square some more, grabbed lunch at one of the many cafes in the square (I had a breakfast club sandwich- bacon, egg, chicken, lettuce and mayo- I suppose the egg makes it breakfast) and then met up for the free walking tour. Vlad, one of the guys I had met when I checked into the hostel yesterday was leading it so it was nice to be familiar with the guide. A couple from France, a guy from Japan and a couple with their 1-year old son (he’s from Portugal, she’s from Serbia and I think they currently live in Portugal) were on the tour. The tour was centered on the old town so we saw St Mary’s cathedral, city hall, the bishop’s residence, the synagogue, Danube park, the main pedestrian streets and squares, the orthodox church, the government building and the Armenian monument. This city also has a lot of interesting history as a part of the Astro-Hungarian empire, a former Communist country and as part of the former Yugoslavia that was severely affected by the NATO bombings in the 90’s. As part of the Astro-Hungarian empire, Serbs, while the majority ethnic group of the city, were not represented in government and so took part in the Revolutions of 1848. The empire’s leaders were not happy about this and so bombarded and devastated the city, which lost over half of it’s population. Only 5 buildings survived this strike and are still standing today. Of course, during WWII the Nazi’s invaded and then the Soviet’s invaded and ruled. Novi Sad was then part of socialist Yugoslavia and not until 2006 did Serbia become an independent nation. NATO bombed much of Yugoslavia, in particular Novi Sad, in 1999 in an effort to stop Yugoslavian military forces from persecuting Albanians in Kosovo (a region in southwest Serbia). Much of Novi Sad was destroyed, including all of their bridges across the Danube. A lot of the surviving buildings (namely the government building and the national theater) are from the Communist era and are therefore, as Vlad puts it, ugly. Anti-NATO sentiment is still quite fresh among Serbs. But on a happier note, we got to do some free wine tasting! The area around Novi Sad is famous for it’s wine growing and producing – especially their Italian Riesling and Bermet, a sweet dessert wine.
St Mary’s CathedralNational Theater Bishop’s ResidenceSome wine varieties
After the tour ended I came back to the hostel for a little and then went out to find dinner. I ended up at a pizza place. I had an apparently traditional Hungarian pizza (according to the menu) and it was quite good (spicy sausage, hot peppers and egg). Then I decided to have dessert and ordered the Nutella/plazma crepe. It may have been the best crepe of my life! It was so delicious! After dinner I wandered into an Irish pub where a live band was playing. Of course, I didn’t understand any of the songs, but I stayed for a few and awkwardly swayed along. Then I came back to the hostel to go to bed.
I had a pretty late start to my day (I woke up early, but laid in bed for a couple hours getting caught up on everything back home). But then I decided to workout since I had the room to myself, so that felt good. Then I showered and got ready for the day. Near my hostel is a health food store with a smoothie place inside so I decided to stop in and get one. The actual smoothie maker wasn’t there as it was Sunday, but the health food casher said that she would make me one! I was really excited since I really had my mind set on a smoothie. I choose the “wellness” smoothie and all I could tell from the description/picture was that it had strawberry, banana and yogurt in it. It also ended up having honey, almonds and oats in it as well so it felt super healthy and tasted pretty good! With my smoothie in hand I walked around and people watched a bit until it was time to meet up for the free fortress walking tour (there’s so much to see in the old town and the fortress is so big they split up the two). I met up with Milos (another guy I met when I checked into the hostel) and we waited for about 15 minutes, but no one else showed up so I got a private tour!
The Petrovaradin fortress was built on the opposite bank of the Danube from the old town (or rather the old town was built on the opposite bank as the fortress was built first) so we crossed the Danube on the rainbow bridge (unfortunately not a nod to gay pride- apparently on the day it opened there was a rainbow in the sky so they nicknamed it the rainbow bridge). The fortress is the second largest in Europe and has over 12km of underground passageways. It is also one of the only fortresses to have never been conquered by an enemy. It was an important landmark to fishermen as the Danube changes directions in Novi Sad and it was used to warn fishermen. There’s also a clock tower on the fortress and it’s hour hand is actually the longer hand and the minute hand is the smaller one- also believed to help fishermen so that they could see the hour more easily as this was more important than the minute. The view of Novi Sad from the top of the fortress is quite spectacular. Milos said that it took 100 years to build as wars kept getting in the way and that about 70 people died a day building it- which is more than ever died defending it from enemies. The reversed clock towerOne of the main gates that used to be a drawbridge
Since I was the only one on the tour, Milos and I got to talk a lot about his life in Novi Sad which was really interesting. He went to university for tourism but since tourism season is quite short here during the summer he works in the mountains for 5 months during the winter.
After the tour, I went to the hostel to rest (there are a lot of stairs up the fortress and it was quite a humid day- plus I had worked out in the morning ;). Then I went out for dinner at another café along the pedestrian square. I had a chicken salad that was delicious! Of course it came with tomatoes, olives and bacon that I didn’t eat much of, but the corn, egg, cheese and lettuce was delicious! I ended up sitting here for about 2 hours (a very common event- sitting at cafes is quite the thing to do in eastern Europe) and had some hot tea. The waiter asked where I was from and when I said the US he was surprised and said he thought I was from the UK because I was drinking tea. When I finally left I walked around some more and took pictures, then got some gelato (another very popular thing to do here- it seems everyone is walking around with ice cream/gelato) and headed back to the hostel.
Tomorrow is Victory Day- a celebration of the end of WWII and there is a free concert in the square which I will try to check out. Other than that, I have no other plans. Except to get another smoothie 😉