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Published: October 9th 2009
The Bishop's Palace
We entered the world of Cyrillic bus timetables in the bid to relocate to Novi Sad - capital of the autonomous region of Vojvodina. The timetables of course meant absolutely nothing and it was just a case of scrolling down until finding what Novi Sad looked like on the Cyrillic translation we had written down. In the end it was all quite straight forward, we were directed from one ticket booth to Number 13 (!!) where a degree of English smoothed the transaction. The transaction also came with an explanation of the token that you get with the bus ticket (575 dinars) - a token is required to get through the barriers on to the platforms at the main Belgrade bus station, so don’t lose it. The same token system didn’t operate on the return from Novi Sad, which was a bit confusing as we were initially waiting for it with the ticket.
The bus was best described as full and old and it cost another 30 dinars for the bag in the luggage hold. It left on schedule, drove out through Novi Belgrade and past the Arena before hitting the toll motorway. The journey took 1 ½ hours to
cover the 100kms or so and we were dropped at the main bus station next to the train station, which is about 2kms from the centre of the city. The scenery once outside Belgrade is a small scale journey into the mid-west of America - flat agricultural cultivated land for miles. We stayed on Jevegska, which was an easy 5 minute journey on the Number 4 bus - you pay the driver in Novi Sad, rather than buying the tickets from a news stand.
The city centre of Novi Sad is very pretty, with a pavement café culture enhanced by a large pedestrian zone around the Town Hall, Catholic Church and surrounds. There are the obvious pavement cafes and those that are also tucked away behind the scenes in the little courtyards. It was late September and whilst the weather was still warm late into the evening, we were amazed by the copious numbers sinking a Jelen Pivo or two - just how busy it would be when the EXIT Festival is underway.
Novi Sad is a million miles away from the more hustle and bustle atmosphere of Belgrade, with more of the centre given over to the
noble pastimes of drinking and thinking. The big name label franchise shops were largely absent from the streets and the independent shop prevailed. The main Freedom Square is dominated by two buildings facing one another - the Town Hall and the Name of Mary Roman Catholic Church both built in 1895 - the Town Hall is supposed to be an exact copy of that in Graz in Austria. A monument to Svetozar Miletić, Novi Sad mayor and a Serb political rights champion in the 19th century stands proud between the two. The pedestrianised Zmaj Jovina street leads away from the Square towards the Bishops Palace. This pedestrianised is the place to promenade on an evening and the street is lined with pavement cafes. We also found a large selection of bars in the courtyards off the main drag and the terrace of the Gander Bar became unofficial team HQ for the visit - plenty of Tesla girls around in Novi Sad too. The city centre is a good 10 or 15 minute walk away from the Danube and the shoreline reveals the looming structure of the Petrovaradin Citadel or Fortress - home of EXIT. Petrovaradin is a fortress of huge
The Town Hall
magnitude that is one of the more well preserved in Europe, which was developed as a significant garrison home for the original forces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to defend the homeland against the Turks and has more latterly found a use as a home for the Balkan’s most significant music festival. As large as it is, we still couldn’t get our head around where the big main stages would be located within the complex. The fortress houses a museum featuring local history (100 dinars), a hotel, some cafes with fine views over the city (and extremely good cream cakes) and a bizarre clock on the Tower which is supposed to be unique in that the big hand tells hours and the small one minutes. It was allegedly done this way so that the boatmen travelling on the Danube could see the time from a long distance.
Of course, a trip to see where FK Vojvodina play was obligatory. A municipal athletics track with a main stand and not a floodlight in sight. In the midst of taking a snap or two, I was talking to a guy picking up the sunflower seed debris from the last home game and
on asking where we were from he started repeating ................ Nottingham Forest, Nottingham Forest, I like Nottingham Forest..........if that wasn't bad enough he let himself down by declaring similar thoughts about Liverpool.......there was a thought that this interest might be based on previous European Cup successes, but it appears that the "like" comes from betting on English football scores............must have picked some freak weeks with Forest then! The stadium complex is next to a big sports hall - apparently the home of the World Table Tennis Championships 20 years ago. We strolled down to The Strand - Novi Sad's answer to the beach. A sand complex on the bend of the Danube with some fine white sand, a serious number of changing huts that suggests more clientele in the height of the summer than the 100 or so present on our visit - by all accounts they charge you to get in too!
After the successful experiment with long distance transport to get to Novi Sad, we headed the short distance to Smreski Karlovci where the Serbian region of Vojvodina was proclaimed in 1848 from the Town Hall balcony. The flat fare out of town is 120 dinars on
..........yes believe it or not, that is the cyrillic version
either bus 61 or 62. The town is only small, but has a big place in Serb history - it became the centre of Serb Orthodox Church in the 18th and 19th centuries. The tiny town centre is compact - but features the Orthodox Cathedral, a Patriarchal Palace, a Town Hall and the town is supposedly the first place where a round table was used for diplomacy in 1699. The world passed Sremski Karlovci by and Novi Sad took over as the dominant town.
Novi Sad is a really pleasant place to lay your head for a few days - judging by the odd Mancunian accent accompanying a Tesla girl, at least one Festival goer had found reason to lay his head since last July!
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