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Published: September 29th 2018
We have a long drive today; 4 hours and 240 miles across the Serbian border to Novi Sad, a city on the banks of the River Danube.
I start the day with a shower. The shower gel is mint and nettle, so I am clean but smell like an enormous throat lozenge. Next, breakfast; we are served pancakes and home made plum jam which causes great excitement after 3 weeks of bread, cheese and ham. Then we set off for Serbia in a cloud of minty freshness.
Most of what I know about Serbia comes from news reports on wars with its neighbours. This image was not helped when, in Ljubljana, a group of Serbs handed us a leaflet saying “Welcome to Serbia,” which seemed like rather an aggressive thing to do in the capital of Slovenia. The same thing happened again in Zagreb, in Croatia. In addition, we have Kosovan stamps in our passports and I have read that this can cause issues when trying to enter Serbia.
Driving across the Balkans is expensive; most of the motorways have tolls and then there’s parking. By now, every cubbyhole in the car is filled with cash of varying
currencies. We stop for petrol and the old man has to accelerate hard to rejoin the motorway. This leaves him wearing the Albanian Leke which shoot out of their cubbyhole and fly across the car.
The drive to Novi Sad is very dull, just one long, straight stretch of motorway. Last night’s host has warned us that the most exciting thing we’re likely to encounter is a lorry driver who’s fallen asleep at the wheel.
We reach the border, the final toll is 128 Kuna, which is unfortunate as we only have 100 left. But the man in the booth agrees to take a combination of Kuna and Euros (taking a decent commission for himself). The border crossing only takes 20 minutes and we pass without problem. Most of the delay is due to an enormous Serbian military convoy.
Once in Serbia, the road deteriorates significantly. We bounce along the final 30 miles into Novi Sad through huge plumes of smoke where farmers are burning stubble in the surrounding fields.
First stop is on the outskirts of town, on a rock overhanging the Danube, at the Perrovaradin Fortress. There’s not much fortress left, but a walk
round the walls provides great views across the Danube.
Time to check into our hotel. It has mixed reviews, so either the good reviews are fake or some people are just too picky. We have lowered our expectations accordingly, but it’s actually not too bad. The bedroom and the bathroom are enormous. There is building work going on, but the builders are finished by 5 so disruption is minimal.
Just tea to worry about now. We find a supermarket and the old man attempts to get enough money from the ATM for our 4 days in Serbia. He calculates the exchange rate wrong so we end up with about £20 and the machine won’t let him have a second chance. In the supermarket I make a major discovery – cherry Jaffa cakes. After a dinner consisting primarily of Jaffa cakes and cider, I am sold on Serbia.
We round our evening off with a walk along the Danube (in theory). In reality, we end up sandwiched between a military base and an industrial wasteland inhabited by packs of feral dogs. Sometimes I think I live in a parallel universe to the writers of Lonely Planet. Never mind,
tomorrow morning we depart for Belgrade...
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