June 15 – 26, 2020 (Summer)
With Serbia keeping restrictions light, we decided to relocate to Novi Sad to celebrate our tenth anniversary. The vibe on our first visit was relaxed, the center walkable. It has a river with shore paths and a giant fortress looming over the Danube. What more could we want?
This post is about our 2020 visit to Novi Sad. Read about our longer 2017 stay here↗.
Our Airbnb↗ rentals could be decent, for one thing. We didn’t want to celebrate to the soulful sounds of drilling concrete or spend a romantic night in smashing cockroaches. Construction workers appeared on the scene of our first apartment within minutes of arrival. Apartment #2 failed, somehow, even faster. The dirty floor was an immediate turn-off, but it was the roaches that caused us to flee. Fed up with back-to-back disappointments, we upped our price range and finally found our salvation.
For the next few days we could relax over a princely view of the Danube and Petrovaradin Fortress. And a spotless kitchen. We enjoyed barges drifting by, teenagers celebrating graduation on the river bank, and of course the massive fortress looming over everything during the day, and brilliantly illuminated at night. We capitalized on the upswing and treated ourselves to a stunning 10-year-old Italian red from a great wine shop aptly named Wine Therapy.
Now in a better mood and with our apartment hopping (temporarily) behind us, we did the best thing we could think of: procure burek. The best burek anywhere comes from a bakery in the Republic Square Market. Robust and flakey and filling, it’s the perfect take-away snack (though don’t try to eat it while walking).
For our celebratory dinner we chose Project 72. They serve modern but authentic Serbian food with locally-sourced ingredients like ajvar ice cream (?), veal cheeks and mushrooms, grilled asparagus with goat cheese and egg, garlic-stuffed lamb, and spicy cheese ravioli. It was, across the board, delicious. We lingered over wine to savor every bite. They were even sweet enough (pun intended) to cap our night off with coconut flour chocolate cake and caramel icing.
For anyone asking how we’ve managed ten years, with nearly five of those on the road living in relentless and often stressful proximity? Our secret is, unfortunately, a boring one: we really like each other. Despite the pressures we each somehow feel like we’re the lucky one (and half suspect the other might be blind).
After a couple days we had to surrender our wonderful apartment and rejoin the roulette wheel of Serbian Airbnbs. One last stay in Novi Sad was a block away, also along the Danube, but in a smaller space and with a less impressive view. We could still glimpse Petrovaradin by leaning out over our railing, but the view was dominated by the city’s bridges. The twin arches of the furthest span, Žeželj Bridge, were illuminated in brilliant white lights. NATO bombed and completely destroyed the original bridge in 1999. A ‘temporary’ replacement lasted 18 years before the new bridge could be inaugurated. When we visited in 2017 the first span was just being put into place; it was nice to finally get to enjoy the completed project.
The sloping stairs up Petrovaradin Fortress lead to the best panoramas of the city. Aside from Fruška Gora, the long, low hill to the south, the area around Novi Sad is incredibly flat. That means on days with spotty showers, a quick glance lets you know exactly where to expect rain. The fortress’s main wall faces west back to the river (and city), so it’s a perfect place for sunsets. Cafes at the top know they have the best spot in town for a late afternoon drink.
Petrovaradin town stretches away beneath the fortress. The handful of streets nestling inside the fort’s walls are the cutest in the city. Some are nightclubs. The music scene in the area is surprisingly robust, even though Belgrade is better known as the hard-partying city. In non-pandemic years the parties culminate during the Exit Music Festival, which is held on the fortress grounds. This year, however, they gave out rain checks.
Two weeks after arriving in Novi Sad we headed back to Belgrade, a bit on the disappointed side. Our streak of uncomfortable apartments was wearing on us. As were the muggy days and mosquitos. The continuing uncertainty generated by Covid – both the disease itself and the ever-changing border restrictions – had us cursing as different governments muddled our plans on their non-epidemiologically-tested whims. But our anniversary was nice, if muted compared to our original plans. And a little spare burek never hurt anyone.
Continue with Belgrade – Part Two↗.