I spent four and a half days exploring Belgrade back in October 2016. When I’m in a country for a few days, I try and spend at least one of those days outside of the capital, to see what’s beyond. I feel that capital cities portray a different story to what the rest of the country is like (I mean, think of the UK: London is amazing, but there’s nowhere else like it in the country!).
What I’m trying to say is that capital cities don’t accurately portray how most people live, so I like to travel further afield and see somewhere that’s a little less discovered.
Escaping the Capital
Serbia’s third biggest city, Novi Sad is 90 minutes north of the concrete Serbian capital, which made it the ideal place for a day trip.
We caught a coach from the bus station just around the corner from the apartment we were staying in. The whole process of getting a ticket was pretty confusing – alongside the ticket, you also had to pay a few extra Dinar for a token (which we weren’t informed of at the office), to give to the person who worked at the gates to the bus station. If you didn’t hand over the token, you weren’t getting on the bus!
Our tickets had a designated seat number, but we soon found out that everyone disregarded these!
The drive out of the capital was mostly a long stretch of countryside: for miles and miles all I could see were flat fields full of green grass.
In the outskirts of Belgrade however, despite it being a Friday morning, the streets were busy with people milling around. Later on that evening as we met my dad’s Serbian friend for a drink, she mentioned that unemployment rates in the country were extremely high, and a lot of people find it hard getting a job, which explained things. It’s quite sad, as I feel that Serbia has a lot of potential, but the country is too poor to invest to make it more tourist-friendly and create jobs, which would ultimately help drive revenue into the country (who wants to start #ProjectBelgrade with me and make this happen?!)
We were dropped off at the bus station in Novi Sad, which was opposite the train station. A quick check on Google informed us that the centre of the city was a forty minute walk away.
Images of the city showed it to be such a pretty place, with quaint pastel buildings lining the cobblestoned streets. Not here though. It was the spitting image of Belgrade, in fact: grey, concrete and communist.
Shopping in Novi Sad
We started on our long walk down the main street: Bulevar oslobodenja. There was a mish-mash of slightly dodgy looking street vendors, next to flashy glass buildings, home to head offices of various international banks.
Turning left, we eventually came to a roundabout and spotted the first tourist information shop we’d seen since stepping foot in Serbia (result!).
Venturing inside, we picked up a map and saw that we were actually just around the corner from the central hub of Novi Sad.
Now Novi Sad may be the third biggest city, but it’s still only home to around 200,000 people. Its claim to fame is the annual Exit Festival, which takes place at Petrovaradin Fortress opposite the Danube; but in all fairness, it’s size means that there’s not actually that much to do. We spent six hours in total at Novi Sad, and found that we had plenty of time.
We grabbed lunch at a boat-themed restaurant on Zmaj Jovina. I had a traditional meal of savoury pancakes filled with chicken and sour cream (it was really tasty).
Walking round the shops, they had an Aldo which just so happened to have a 20% off in-store event, so I bought a beautiful iridescent gold and pink clutch bag… just contributing towards the economy in Serbia!
View from the Danube
The Danube Park was pretty to walk through (although rather small). It was a lovely autumn day: whilst it was cold, the sun was shining – my favourite kind of weather: winter coat, scarf, mittens and sunglasses.
As we reached the end of the park, we crossed over the main road to the Danube.
Now I’ve visited the Danube in Germany, Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia and I have to say, the views of the Danube (at least in Belgrade and Novi Sad), aren’t great! There’s litter everywhere, and as I’ve said so many times, it’s all just so… grey. If it’s beautiful views of the Danube you’re after, then Budapest is most definitely the place to be.
One of the main tourist attractions in Novi Sad – Petrovaradin Fortress (venue of the Exit Festival), was on the other side of the river. We decided not to bother crossing over to the other side – mainly because we were pretty cold.
Instead, we headed back to the centre of Novi Sad and had a wander around the cute little streets, where they were setting up for Serbia Fashion Week (it’s what the signs said, anyway!). The centre of Novi Sad was really pretty, but it was so tiny (I’m literally talking about one street here). The second you stepped out of that little bubble, you were back to concrete, concrete everywhere…!
Quest for Cake
On one end of the main street lay Vladičanski dvor, and at the other end was Freedom Square, with The Name of Mary Church. One of the nearby shops were selling the cutest little decorated gingerbread biscuits which I obviously had to buy, and then we looked for somewhere to stop off for a drink.
We were trying to locate a café to get cake (Belgrade does cake seriously well – my personal favourite was the chocolate pistachio mousse I had at Usce shopping centre), but the best we could find was a McDonalds!
We made sure we allowed plenty of time to get back to the bus station to catch the 5pm bus back to Belgrade. We had another mini catastrophe with the ticket and token saga; but then the bus never turned up anyway, so we had to wait in the rain for half an hour, waiting for the next one to turn up!
Back in Belgrade for 7.30pm, we climbed the eight flights of stairs up to our flat and dropped off our stuff before heading out for a final evening meal in Belgrade, followed by cocktails.
Novi Sad was definitely prettier than Belgrade (well, when you were in the centre of it anyway). However, if I were to compare the two cities, my preference would be Belgrade, as there’s much more to do. And as I’ve said before, I find the bombed buildings and concreteness quite pretty, in an ugly way.