Day 3, Novi Sad (continued)

Well, after the hour was up everyone else in my group got kicked out of their machines. But mine is still going, and the girl who works here (who is hilarious in the way she just smiles and shrugs or points when anyone speaks English to herย  but who makes up for it with a spectacularly cute nose) doesnt seem to have noticed at all, even though we all paid together.

So, todays stories continue.

I have become known in the group for my history knowledge on this part of the world. I feel pressure to perform now esp when we get to Bosnia!! It has been nice though, at first I felt strange because everyone was so experienced at travelling and more worldly. So it has been good that Im good at something and can help out other people in the group with info ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, Novi Sad is so beautiful. NATO bombed quite a lot of this place at the end of the nineties, including the bridges over the Danube which have now been rebuilt.

We went up to Petrovaradin Fortress which is the main tourist attraction in Serbia. Best thing was, unlike the tourist attractions you would find in London or Paris, there was barely anyone else there at all. We probably saw about half a dozen people the whole time. It was really fascinating seeing this huge fortress totally unspoilt (apart from the graffiti left by some bored Serb kids). It was also completely spared any damage from the war.

I had some bacon/eggs for lunchย ; the portions here are so enormous!! I will return a fat bastard for sure. Again I reiterated my Novi Sad / bacon claim to much derision ๐Ÿ™‚ The bacon is lovely, so if its not really world famous for it, it should be.

Ive been adventurous with my drinks too. No tequila yet. Had some local wines and beers instead. And today I introduced my group to Bamboos! My friend Dragana told me about this and when I saw it on the menu I had to share it with my group. Its red wine and coke. *Sounds* disgusting but actually very nice. Now I am known in the group as the man to talk to about bacon, Yugoslav history, and alcohol.

Only one other person in the group here really smokes so I have so far only had one cigarette. I had been smoking more in the last month at home and wanted to just stop before I started, but it made no sense to stop before coming to smoky Yugoslavia. Not as smoky here as we thought though, but maybe that’s just Novi Sad.

After the Fortress we came down and wandered around. We saw this amazing contraption on the pavement on a side street. The back half was a bike but the front had been taken off and replaced with a trailer. And the bike steering had been wired up to steer this trailer. It was amazing it looked like something from the early 1900s when you see those wacky flying machines. The owner saw us and came out and invited us (he spoke no English) to have our picture taken riding it. He was so sweet. We did just that and we saw he was a fruit merchant so we all bought nice fruit for our trip back cos he was so nice.

The people here really are so lovely. Hard to imagine that things were so horrible just 10 to 15 years ago.

We had another lunch when we got back to the main cafe/restaurant area and just sat and watched the locals go by for a bit. There was a small child begging which became the topic of conversation for a while. Then it was overtaken by speculation over whether the beautiful blonde wearing very revealing clothes on the table near us was actually a prostitute. We never found out.

Then we went to tour some of the amazing churches here. Orthodox and Catholic churches are almost next to one another here just by where we are staying and theyre both beautiful.

I have got my group all excited about visiting Sarajevo, mainly because I won’t stop talking about it. That is going to be the highlight for me, although even what I’ve seen so far in Serbia has been really cool.

Tonight were going to see a folk dance group rehearse. That might not sound like much but apparently it is spectacular, and very rare to be allowed to watch them rehearse. We depart tomorrow at 9 for the Serbian capital Belgrade.

Day 3, Novi Sad

Just a quick update as my time is nearly up ๐Ÿ™‚

Today was our full day exploring Novi Sad, and its just incredible. It doesnt look like a city that was bombed to bits 10 years ago. Its so chic and cosmopolitan in places, very continental. Great food and drink everywhere.

We went to see Petrovaradin Fortress, high above the Danube, and I really need to wait till I have my photos online before I can describe it. Its just something else. The views were unlike anything Ive ever seen before. But I guess I have more sights like that ahead of me this coming fortnight.

Day 2, Novi Sad

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).ย  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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Day 1, Budapest

ย OK Ive finally got to an Internet cafe. Its currently Day 3 so let me try to fill you in on the past couple of days. This keyboard seems to be missing some puncuation keys which anyone who works with me, and knows how picky I am about correct punctuation, will probably find quite ironic.

I had my first meeting with the rest of the group at 6pm on Saturday in the Hotel in Budapest. My flight should have gotten me there about 4 but it was delayed, and I ended up bursting through the hotel doors at literally 5.55. I found it quite funny as someone with a reputation for always being late that I managed to time a trip from Tooting to Budapest so perfectly.

My biggest worry was that I had packed too much and although I have more than the others on the holiday, its not too bad.

The orientation meeting was daunting, lots to learn and lots of new people to meet! I only met 6 of the other travellers that night though as the other 5 had joined this trip straight from another and had come from Vienna, including a couple on their honeymoon. Cute.

Everyone is really nice, and every bit as diverse as I thought, huge age range, but a couple of things in common.

Firstly, *everyone* is from Australia or New Zealand! I am the only European!! Secondly, everyone is a pretty experienced traveller, some of the people here have been on over a dozen trips with this company, across Asia, South America and Europe. Its amazing, I really do feel really *young* here. Not in age but in experience. It has been such an eye opener!

Thirdly, some hadn’t even heard of PlayStation! And nobody in the group has one. Some hadn’t even seen one. Culture shock!

Saturday night we spent in a cute restaurant in Budapest, and I stuffed my face which I needed after the long trip. Afterwards, about 10 we just headed back to the Hotel as everyone was tired.

Following morning we were leaving at midday so I headed out early to catch some sights. When I say early, I meant to leave about 8 but I got almost no sleep due to a partying German stag group shouting and screaming and banging (on doors) most of the night. So in fact I got out at 10. I had a nice walk didnt see a huge amount but cross the river and walked around the Parliament building. As is normal for me, I only wore a tshirt and the weather in Hungary had been pretty bad. So just as I got to the furthest point of my walk, it started raining.

Budapest was really just the joining point for the trip rather than a section of the holiday itself but it was nice to see and Id really like to come back, especially to see a bit more of the nightlife.

When I got back to the hotel, I met the others from the previous trip and we headed off for the train station for the train to Novi Sad in Serbia.


Welcome to my holiday journal.

This is my blog from my 2 1/2 week trip around the former Yugoslavia in September 2007, I’ve recently rearranged it to list all posts from the start so you can read the journal as it was originally written. The trip was booked through Intrepid Travel; their Balkan Adventure package, and I was with about a dozen other travellers. I’d highly recommend it. Enjoy!