Novi Sad & Belgrade, Serbia (Srbija) 4 to 8 June 2013

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June 9th 2013
Published: June 9th 2013
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Novi Sad and Belgrade, Serbia (Srbija) 4 to 8 June 2013

We come to Serbia to mainly see 2 places, Novi Sad and the capital Belgrade (Beograd) and learn quickly that it is a country of much to see, beautiful cliff lined River Danube in the north, quaint little country villages, good and terrible roads, friendly people, wide rural regions, with wheat, maize and canola crops as well as row cropping. It is green and has been wet on and off. The River Danube flows down through its centre.

Men are prominent in this country (only from an outsider’s observation so we may be incorrect). When we arrive at a local restaurant, particularly in the rural areas, we mainly see men socializing…loudly.

We come here a little reticent but leave with confidence that they are trying to improve facilities for locals and tourists and there is a feeling they are keen to welcome touristsw. It is a country that is not as developed as the countries we have visited to date, however we have found that there are more English-speaking people, particularly in the service industries, compared with Slovakia. However Slovakia is more set up for motor home travelers. We found only one camping area outside of the capital (12 kms out of town). We had to ‘free-park’ south of Novi Sad in the Fruska Gora National Park, as no official facilities were available.

Crossing into Serbia was the 1st time we have had to go through a border crossing, so getting a stamp in our passports. At our camp site on the 2nd night, the camp manager has to fill out his paperwork and send it to the authorities so that they know where we are. This information is then matched up when we left the country!!!. Say no more.

The write-up on Serbia is ‘warm welcome and a hell of a lot of fun – everything you never heard about Serbia is true. Serbians are known for their trait of rebellious defiance and this country doesn’t do ‘mild’. Novi Sad is known for its EXIT Festival in July which of course we miss, but it is an annual music festival that celebrates the time that the young rebelled to oust Milosevic.

The currency is Dinar (DIN) which is about 83 DIN to AUD $1.00.

Now to what we did: We drove out of Hungary to Subotica. This town which is full of art nouveau architecture was beautiful. We are going to take more country roads rather than the main highway as we see more of the lovely little towns along the way. And many of them are really quaint or beautiful. They often have a church in the middle and the houses are built for cold weather rather than heat. Many of the houses have little flower pots with red-flowering plants on the window sills.

The drive from Subotica to Novi Sad (just over 100 kms) was very pleasant. Although travelling on secondary roads they weren’t too bad. In patches it was a bit of a rumble strip and one section after Novi Das, driving over to highway 22, was single lane.

Arriving at Novi Sad, which has a population of about 350,000, we drove around to get a feel for the town. It has pretty parks and outdoor cafes. The Petrovarian Citadel keeps a stern eye on the city, particularly during the EXIT Festival. This Citadel sits on a 40m-high volcanic slab built to the specifics of French fortress maven Vauban – nicknamed “Gibraltar on the Denube”.

We tried the local Kajmak (salted clotted cream) on our garden salad. I was a little like feta but creamier. Serbians are known for their carnivore preference and menus reflected this. A lot of chicken and pork are eaten.

In Belgrade, we visited Kalemegdan Citadel. Wow, another large walled castle which now has a hotel in the middle of the grounds, several restaurants and in between duel walls we saw tennis courts (Serbs love their tennis stars!) and basket ball courts. We saw turrets, a military museum with lots of samples of cannons throughout the ages. There was also a large clock tower and the clock’s hour hand is larger than the minute hands so the sailors could see the hour time (not worrying about the minutes).

What we have to keep reminding ourselves is the length of their history. Australia is easy as we have had a couple of 100 years history since the European invasion, but these guys have Centuries and Centuries of history. 1500s and 1600s onwards is a long time!!!

Belgrade is known as outspoken, adventurous, proud and audacious: it is by no means a ‘pretty’ capital but it is one of the most happening cities in the Bulkans and Europe. Belgrade has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times in its 2300-year history. It was 1st settled by the Celts, then the Romans took over in the 1st century and then colonized by Slavic tribes in the 6th century. Austrians, Turks and Serbs all battled over Belgrade and Turkey relinquished rule in 1867. In 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire captured Belgrade but were driven out later, only to return with German help. In 1918 Belgrade became capital of Yugoslavia after Serbs, Croats and Slovenes were united. It was the 1990s and 2000 that there was the strong resistance against Milosevic, both underground and in the open. There was another uprise in 2008 with the results being greater independence. We are finding this history very confusing and complex!!!.

We saw where the Sava River flowed into the River Danube. Our camp was right next to the Danube.

We walked down the Knez Mihailova walking mall after visiting the very helpful Tourist Information Centre which was is the Republike Square. In this square we saw many, many tables for outside dining. This fascinates us throughout Europe as we have seen numerous walking malls full of dining opportunities, rain, hail and shine. Restaurants provide blankets for your knees and heaters for outside dining in the cold weather. It’s excellent.

That night, we walked down the night entertainment/restaurant strip, the Skadartija. We were immediately hit by a 4-piece band including a piano accordion, rhythm and base guitar, and cello players. We had a very filling meal, starting with a Greek Salad, whole meal bread followed by a traditional chicken hotpot for Tom and pork satay for me…..very filling.

The next morning we sat in Camp Dunav’s restaurant (where we were staying) and did some internet work. It was a good strong connection. The camp manager has been very helpful with maps of the area and local information. After lunch we did the domestic thing and found a shopping centre and stocked up. Back at Camp Dunav we tidied up the motor home. Bit by bit we are getting things organized. We bought a light blanket so we are now stocked up for all weather conditions – freezing, cool and hot. It rained on and off today.

In the shopping centres, we saw very middle-class people with some spending ability. We sat down in a Coffee House (brand name for great coffee outlet) and noticed everyone watching a TV screen. We noticed Djokovic was playing in the French Open tennis. The locals were right behind him. We didn’t stay for the finish so not sure if he won. The sets were all tied up when we left.

When we got back to the camp, there were 10 motor homes which had arrived, all from France – travelling together. We had also talked to a well travelled Belgium couple who gave us lots of tints for our future travels. They also asked us what the best way to travel around Australia is. We swapped contact details (as you do) and they were on their way down to Greece.

Although wet, it is certainly getting warmer – yahooooo!

We talked to a couple from Belgium and another from Germany who told us about some archeological ruins in NE Serbia so we decided to drive there. It was the old town of Viminacium, just past Kostolac, which is a Roman city and military camp. Crop farmers have had to sell their paddocks as there was a discovery of 3rd and 4th century Roman towns, with Roma heated baths, townships, latrines, aqueducts etc. They have done some ‘Deep Geological Sensing” that has been shown extensive Roman structures underground. There are 3 large tents that protect major “digs”. Fascinating! There is even the skeleton of a mammoth one million years old discovered 27 metres below Roman cemeteries.

We then drove further east as a result of talking to a keen traveler from Germany (couple who were in their 60s) and who are travelling along the Danube through all the countries it flows. They strongly recommended driving through the “Iron Gate” which means going from Belgrade to Golubac (which is on the border of Serbia and Romania). When we did this, we came across a Fortress and multiple arches and tunnels built by the Romans and these were the Iron Gates. It was fantastic. The Danube was incredibly wide here. What spectacular views, with cliff faces running down into the Danube. It was beautiful.

We then decided to take a ‘short cut’ (some of you know I come up with these ideas of going the adventurous way!!!) across from Donji Milanovan to Brza Pallanka which is again on the banks of the Danube. It was only 27 kms BUT the road was very pot-holed and slow going. Tom was very tolerating. Poor Betsey the anti-divorce GPS didn’t know where she was going….so we ignored her. None-the-less we got there and found a camp site where many people were fishing.

The manager of the camp site (Kamp Mirocka Voda) invited us for coffee. He called his wife over to make it. She was fishing at the time. They had a caravan with all their worldly possessions, her toothless smile was greeming, and she obviously adored her husband, and their hospitality was priceless and unique. They gave us berries they had preserved in honey, and 2 types of home-made spirits (fire-water- wow, very warming). The coffee eventually came. Tom enjoyed his but my black coffee was not drinkably so I was very ill-mannered and said I could not drink it. We said our farewells and went for a walk.

We found a local cemetery which had head stones that had birth dates but no dates of death. We presumed that people had prepared their plots with head stones in preparation for their death. Many head stones had different writing for their birth year compared with their year of death.

After our 1st cold shower in the morning and our 1st squat toilet on this trip to Europe (there are plenty of these through SE Asia), we were on our way to Sofia in Bulgaria.

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