Serbia - Welcome Gift
After checking out of the winery in Ilok, we stopped quickly into the small village church to see the decorations for the upcoming wedding of a lady we met at the winery the evening before.
Then off we went to the border crossing for Serbia. We were closer to the border than we thought. It was a quick 20 minute drive on a small road where we were greeted by a woman customs officer who was rather pleasant. She asked a few questions, gave her the necessary information, and off we we went. One of the questions she asked of course where we were headed, and after telling her, she had a very quizzical look on her face as most folks don’t travel this way to go to Novi Sad. We did mention we were stopping off at a small town Sremska Mitrovica. She then understood.
As soon as we departed from the customs station, the roads changed immediately. The roads were in much need of love. It meant driving at reduced speeds and maneuvering through the potholes with some minor patchwork just to make it more interesting. The villages we passed looked quite poor, with dilapidated homes, some of the roofs were collapsing, grass was overtaking many of the buildings and old beat up cars on lawns. Although it appeared poor it was quite interesting to see. Such a contrast from Croatia.
We arrived at Stremska Mitrovica which was similar to others where there is a pedestrian walking street, church in the middle of the town center, close to museums and parking at a premium. The reason where we there was to see the Roman ruins. This city at one time was the largest city in the world during the Roman Empire, as well as one of the 4 capitals of the the empire.
One can still see some of the ruins in the main square, and there are a couple of museums with one showcasing Roman artifacts.
Roman ruins remain as they build a stage for a festival
After spending some time in this town, we continued on to Novi Sad. The decision to drive through the Furska Gorda National park seemed like a great idea as you can also stop to visit some of the monasteries in this region.
We stopped at one adorable monastery made of wood, which gave us a glimpse of what we can expect visiting monasteries in this area. The colors were a vibrant blue, with reds yellows and greens highlighting key stories of the bible. Minimal seating area as like others parishioners stand during the service.
Meanwhile outside we were greeted by puppies we believe were covered with fleas. They definitely were cute, but seriously needed a bath. We were also greeted by a couple of ladies who just smiled and went about their business while we were playing with the dogs.
After our brief break we continued going through the national park and just when you thought the roads couldn’t get any worse, we found out that they could. Bush and grass have now grown onto the road, along with more and deeper potholes. Aside from navigating the road through the park, it was quite lovely as the canopy of trees gave us a reprieve from the sun.
As we were heading out of the national park, a light on the dashboard came on, telling us to check our tires, as the sensor was stating one of the tires was low. Mark checked but couldn’t see anything so we continued on.
Upon our final arrival into Novi Sad, Mark saw that the tire was low and planned that once we had internet we would check for garages. About an hour later, he moved the car to park ti across the street the tire had no more air in it. Talked to the manager at the hotel who offered to see if anyone would come and take a look at the tire. It was 17:30 by this point, he didn’t have high hopes. Worse case, there is a garage 500 meters from the hotel.
Since there was no more to be done, we walked into the old town of Novi Sad, which was about a 20 minute from our hotel.
As we arrived into Novi Sad, we found a very cute old town square where the City Hall built in a baroque style which was across from a very large old cathedral. The square itself was surrounded by shops, bars, restaurants and some historical buildings, one being the Bishop’s house. Apparently pays to be a Bishop.
Took a break from the heat and grabbed a beer before walking to the fortress which was across the river from the town square. Snapped a bunch of photos of this impressive fortress as this is one fortress which was impregnable. This is also much larger than one in Belgrade. Due to timing we figured it was too late to take the underground tour so we would try and grab a tour the following day.
Time for dinner, then back to the hotel to call it a day. Only upon entering our room, we noticed a very large puddle on the floor near the air condition. Went downstairs to advise the manager, and at this point they just moved us to a junior suite. The manager was trying to tell us how to use the hot tub, when after repeatedly telling him, no need, we’re good.
So, the gift we received from Serbia, was a 1 inch piece of twig which apparently did some major damage to the tire. It didn’t just embed itself in the thread, it pierced the tire. Thank you Serbia! The next morning Mark changed the tire to the doughnut, while I watched and took photos.
The guy at the garage looked at it, and told us to come back, so the morning we sat waiting for the tire to get fixed. By noon they did the best they could with the tire. They were able to seal it, but they couldn’t guarantee we wouldn’t get a flat again. Even if we wanted to buy a new tire, they didn’t have the tire we needed for our car.
Now we had some time to continue touring. First we grabbed a bite to eat in the old town before going to the fortress. The heat has been pretty hot in these parts since returning from Tasmania ranging from 32-36C. How we missed those nice cool days in Australia.
Arrived at the fortress which was quite large and inside the area were shops, restaurants, and throngs of tourists. It took a bit to find the ticket office, and once we did find it, all tours were sold out for the day. They did however, have 2 the following day, one at 10:00 with a group of Chinese or at 13:00 for regular English speaking tourists.
The young man who advised us about the tours, offered to give us a private tour if we could wait about 20-30 minutes when he gets off his shift. Sure, we were up for it, we didn’t have any other plans. We spent the time looking at their history museum until he was ready.
He collected us and off we went to the fortress underground. Although we would walk about 1km under the fortress, the fortress itself has over 20kms of tunnels and passageways. Our guide was excellent providing us with the rich history of the region, and breaking it up with some jokes to break up the monotony of his lectures.
The fortress could hold up to 10,000 soldiers. The soldiers were trained 2-6 months under the fortress so they knew every passageway where the cannons were, how to block the enemy. Families would be stationed around the Fortress itself, as well as the women of the evening were across the river to be of assistance should the need arise. The soldiers were single and not allowed to be married, so these women would service them whether it was a haircut, clothes which needed to sewn, or other services.
The last minute tour was about 2 hours and well worth it for anyone visiting this area to put this on your list of things to do. It is one of the larger fortresses in Serbia.
After heading back to sunshine, we gave our guide a nice tip, and headed back to the town for dinner.
We were really impressed with Novi Sad, and it’s definitely worth at least a 1 night visit.