We were originally planning on spending two weeks in Hungary before travelling west into Slovenia. But our first week was spent exploring western Hungary with a couple of friends and we thought travelling back east to then travel back west was a bit silly. So we looked at a map and decided on a small trip to Serbia and a dip into North Eastern Croatia before heading to Slovenia to meet up with another friend.
Serbia was very much unknown. All of the countries (bar Germany) have been fairly unknown as we had never visited them before. But Serbia we literally knew nothing about, apart from its troubled past. It doesn’t usually appear in travel programmes, friends haven’t explored there, don’t know about their football teams…. So we were very excited to discover a tiny part of the country.
Subotica, Novi Sad, Sremski Karlovci, Fruska Gora NP, Belgrade
What we learned
People: The people are great! Everyone seemed so friendly, very expressive, quite loud but in a chatty way, and they seem to know how to have a great time. We were really impressed by the amount of people outdoors. In the national park everyone, literally everyone was there having picnics, all the family relaxing in the woods, with BBQs, fires, camping tables, tablecloths, games and of course drinks. It was so nice to see. In the UK this happens on the odd occasion when it’s super sunny and Brighton beach might be full or the parks in London, but this was different. It wasn’t incredibly sunny, the atmosphere was very friendly, there was no rubbish on the floor and largely people were there as family unit. Also, in the city, families were out in force during the weekday evenings, relaxing in the squares or playing in the parks creating such a nice friendly community atmosphere.
Landscape: Northern Serbia is FLAT. Pancake flat, even flatter than Norfolk. And they seem to grow one crop. Field after field after field of sweetcorn. This makes the small hilly ridge of Fruska Gora National Park a very exciting change in scenery. Lovely woods, dotted with monasteries and in the foothills there were vineyards, orchards and bee hives. Apparently the South of Serbia holds much more exciting landscapes with mountains, so we hope we can go back and explore there one day.
City life: We visited 1 town and 3 cities including the capital Belgrade. All of them had some interesting architecture especially Subotica with Hungarian influences and many art nouveau buildings. Novi Sad had some lovely wide pedestrianised streets filled with cafes and bars and a big old river. Belgrade had everything, a big castle park with great views over the river, pedestrianised shopping streets, cobbled roads with quirky shops and bars, a standard modern area but with lovely bars, parks full of life and several grand churches including the most amazing, goose bump creating crypt.
Subotica and Novi Sad:
Food & drink: We weren’t there long enough to get a real flavour of food and drink. But we did go to a really nice vegetarian restaurant called Mandala, were amongst other things we ate some revolutionary chickpea fries. And I can confirm Serbian white wine and Serbian beer is very good. And although we didn’t sample any, bakeries seem very popular selling lots of flaky pastry and tiny sausage rolls.
A dip into Croatia
We were heading back to Croatia after meeting a friend in Slovenia so our first visit was a quick two days on route from Serbia. We had one day in the capital Zagreb and one day exploring the Medvednica hills behind the city.
As capitals go Zagreb has a pretty small and compact centre. One side has shopping streets, and a big U shaped park including a botanical garden. On the other side, crossing over a busy road with trams, cars and bikes, is the older part of the city. Here you will find the cathedral, lively cobbled streets with lots of cafes and up on the hill the oldest part, a quiet area with nice views and all the museums. Graham really liked Zagreb; I thought it was nice for a day but not a huge amount to do and it didn’t have the atmosphere of our previous capital Belgrade.
The Medvdenica hills are a great thing to have on the doorstep of a capital. Lots of hiking trails through the woods leading to some open views at the top due to a few ski runs.
Stayed tuned for the coastal Croatia blog.