Just after noon on Sunday we departed on a nice Austrian train (with compartments, ooh!) for Novi Sad.
I read somewhere that Novi Sad was the bacon capital of Yugoslavia and proceeded to tell everyone about this. Since then noone in the group, or the group leader, have heard anything about this. So Ive been the butt (or buttie) of many bacon jokes for the past couple of days.
The train ride was quite bearable (except for the fact we were convinced the air conditioner in our compartment was actually a radiator (Brian on the trip tells me that radiators were invented by Maria Curie). I asked the cute Hungarian border guard to stamp my passport (the first ever one!!) She was very thorough, she was looking through everyones passport so closely it looked like she might just have been longsighted. We spent quite a while at border control between Hungary and Serbia.
About 7 oclock (or 19 oclock as the American girl at Gatwick airport put it) we arrived in Novi Sad, just after sunset. It looked pretty amazing even at night, and just by our hotel there seemed to be a makeshift bandstand with some live rock music playing. Novi Sad is famous for the EXIT Festival which has become one of the biggest in Eastern Europe, so I think this has raised the appeal of live music throughout the area.
We only really had time again to go out for dinner on Sunday night, but I thought as I was finally in Yugoslavia, I would make an effort, so my appropriately coloured red clothes made their first appearance of the trip and I got all the questions about “why the matching shoes and wristbands” out of the way early in the evening.
It was a strange feeling just being here, having spent the last 10 or 12 years wanting to go to Yugoslavia, and reading so much about the country and its people. Its hard to describe just how surreal it all was, but I was definitely walking around like a proper tourist, eyes wide and looking at everything like it was so new and so cool.
The people here are just so nice, everywhere, even the layabouts at the train station who smiled at us and welcomed us as we arrived. People really seem to appreciate tourists here, I think they are genuinely grateful that of all the tourist destinations in the world we have chosen to come here and learn about them and meet them, and spend our money with them.
The restaurant we went to Sunday night was amazing actually, they had a live band and a couple who had gotten married that day who shared their huge cake with our whole group. I had more food than I have ever had in a single day. It was a mixed grill which basically had some of every kind of meat dish they had on the menu. It was incredible and I actually managed to finish it! I spent a lot of time Sunday night learning about my fellow travellers which was cool.
I ended the night stuffed and tipsy after half a bottle of wine, a beer, and the halfbottle of vodka I got for the train earlier 🙂