Novi Sad – old town, pastries and hitchhiking

A pretty city centre, and not really that sad at all…

I arrived here about seven hours past what I had planned, so my time in this beautiful city was inexplicably cut short. In saying that, I’m not sure what on earth I would’ve filled those seven hours with had I actually been on time. In winter, it’s real cold in Novi Sad, and most of the things you want to see are outdoors. The city centre is beautiful and quaint, describing words we can only use so often, and there’s only so long you can spend letting your toes lose circulation before you decide the inside of a cafe is also a great way to sightsee around the city. My two hours in the morning of Novi Sad was thus spent merrily spending the last of my dinars on the most useless things I could find (a favoured game of mine as I’m about to leave a country. Whether it’s $20 or 20 cents, I always manage to leave with a backpack full of sweets and nothing remotely useful). It does have an excellent vibe though, and I’d love to go back when hypothermia isn’t threatening me in every step I take outside the confines of central heating.

But – what I can tell you is it has the best pastries in at least a 500km radius. Allegedly.

DO:Novi Sad

Wander: Not just because an hour’s walk through town is all I had time for, or because it’s so cold it’s all your poor body can handle, but because the best part of Novi Sad is it’s town centre. Kuckily, especially for me, the centre is small and all the sights are easily viewable in about an hour. The old town hall in the main city square, Trg Slobode, is rather beautiful as is the Church of Virgin’s name, in the square (can you tell I didn’t venture far).

The fortress: While it’s hard to impress a traveler with another castle, this one is particularly cool because it’s never been taken by an enemy. There’s a museum, an observatory and even a planetarium too. If nothing else, it’s a beautiful outlook over the Danube and surrounding area. Or, it’s a beautiful outlook from a bridge on the river Danube staring back at the fortress, because you had a rough night hitchhiking and spent all your sightseeing time in a bakery.

EAT:

The fortress in the distance, from my exit of town

Pastries. All of the pastries: The town of Novi Sad is also popular with students, so prices are low (as they are in most of Serbia anyway) and cheap eats are plentiful. My favourite part was the utter plethora of bakeries (I am a sucker for a baked good, of any description), and so, instead of the two hours of sightseeing I had set aside for myself – I spent an hour walking around, and an hour frequenting what seemed like every bakery in town. I can’t tell you which one was the best, as they all offer varying types of the exact same thing, but the nondescript ones down the random side streets are the best. Tip: if you spot a line of people out on the street, queuing for a pastry – join them. It will inevitably be worth it.

STAY:

Couchsurf: With Maja Vasic, to be precise. This is the grandmother of Couchsurfing everybody, and there’s a reason she’s as beloved as the Queen of England in this community. With an indomitable 321 references heaping praise on her generosity and kindness, can you say you’ve really been to Novi Sad if you haven’t trodden her floorboards? Along with daughter Zenja, and husband Unnamed, but lovely nonetheless, this family will have you sitting on the couch and perusing life’s biggest questions until the early hours of the morning – despite you arriving at 11pm at night. They’re completely at ease with any kind of traveler it seems, and hearing Maja’s stories of feminism, activism and just a life well lived will have you reinvigorated. And also feeling completely unworthy.

Zenja seemingly loves the company too, and despite the fact I only stayed barely 12 hours, was begging me to stay longer. Even if you don’t have the chance to stay on Maja’s couch – try and catch her for a coffee. Her tales are completely fascinating.

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