Novi Sad through the eyes of Jeroen

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Why Novi Sad?

Jeroen went to the Balkans for the first time in 1989, travelling around via Interrail. In Macedonia, he stayed with a family that only spoke Macedonian and Serbian. “I told myself I would learn the language too, so I could talk to people next time. Now, I speak Serbian fluently and this gives me a completely different experience. People quickly chat with you in the streets. Once, for instance, I met a farmer who started quoting a poem. I find those little conversations one of the most beautiful things, it makes me happy.”

In 2000, Jeroen briefly visited Novi Sad, a city in Serbia, for work. “Slobodan Milošević, the president of Serbia, had just been deposed. The city was still very grey and dark. I wanted to go back later to see if it had changed. And it had. It felt like everything had much more colour and it was livelier, so I liked what I saw. The city is smaller, clearer and more personal than Belgrade (a city I also know well). Life is a bit quieter. People are very polite and approachable and quickly chat with you. There is a lot of culture, so there is always something to do – think about festivals and theatre or bands in cafés.”

“Little conversations are one of the best things. And the next time I’m there, people recognise me. That is heartwarming.”

What immediately caught your attention in Novi Sad?

According to Jeroen, Novi Sad offers a nice mix between the Balkans and the West, wild yet structured enough. You also have tambura music (tamburaši) there. “In many restaurants, this music is played live and when people have had a drink, they automatically start dancing. Partying with complete strangers in a restaurant, that is a special experience. Street musicians in Novi Sad approach me and recognise me as ‘the guy from Gouda’.” Another thing Jeroen noticed, is that the streets and restaurants are always full of people. The colourful houses also stand out: “Novi Sad has a lot of colour. And people are always willing to help you.”

What are your recommendations?

  1. In Novi Sad, you have the Dunavski park. “This is a lovely place where I often go for the peace and quiet. In the middle of the park is a café, which is a really nice place! You can order particularly good coffee there, take a table and sit somewhere in the park.”
  2. Are you looking for restaurants where you can eat while enjoying live, authentic tambura music? “I love going to Sokače and Lazin Salaš for their fantastic live music and food.”
  3. For really good cake, Jeroen says you should go across the river, to Multi Tarte. “There, you will find the best cake you can get and that I have ever tasted. This comes from the tradition of Austria and Hungary. When visitors come, women often make five or six different kinds of cakes. People connect through food.” The district across the river is called Petrovaradin and there is also a fort with the same name there, for example.
  4. Jeroen also definitely recommends going to the theatre. “There is a lot of classical music, operas and ballet and it is not expensive. A lot is in the Serbian language, but with dance or classical music, the language is not a barrier.”
  5. One special café is the Radio café, which is full of radios. “On Thursdays, they have a language cafe, with tables for different languages, such as German, Serbian and Russian. It’s fun to go here and sit at one of those tables. That way, you come into contact with all kinds of people.”
  6. Do you want to completely relax? “Atrium Hamam & Spa in Petrovaradin is a fantastic spa/hamam with a restaurant serving Oriental food and the most beautiful rooftop terrace in Novi Sad, with stunning views of the city.”
Atrium Hammam and Spa, with a view of Petrovaradin
  1. If you prefer the beach, go to Štrand. This is located on the Danube and this is also where the locals go.
  2. Novi Sad is close to Fruška gora. “The hilly landscape reminds me a bit of South Limburg. There is a national park, so you can hike there. There are also 16 monasteries, some of which you can visit. It’s kind of the spiritual and cultural cradle of Serbia. But you also have Mövenpick Resort and Spa Fruske Terme, a hotel with spa, where you have beautiful views.”
  3. From Novi Sad, you can also easily go to the town of Sremski Karlovci, a museum town. “There are also a number of wine cellars you can visit, such as Vinaria vinum. You should definitely also try the local, sweet liqueur wine while you’re there.”
  4. At Roštilj Papričica (Bul. Oslobođenja 115), a small eatery selling street food, you can get the best Balkan burger for little money, according to Jeroen. “In Serbian it’s called Pljeskavica.”

What should you be aware of?

Novi Sad used to be not very easily reachable from Belgrade airport, says Jeroen. But nowadays there is a direct bus (bus line 600) that takes you to a bigger station within half an hour, and from there it takes another half hour by train to the centre of Novi Sad. You can take a taxi, but that costs about €50 – nowadays €60 – and the train only about €6. “Besides, it’s quite an experience when you travel by train.”

What is your fondest memory?

“I stayed at Atrium Hamam & Spa once, which has been decorated like an old Turkish house. It is a beautiful place, overlooking the fortress. I have never stayed in such a beautiful apartment.”

Jeroen will also always remember the chats with people or an evening with live music in a restaurant. “You are included in the dance, which is beautiful. I also had conversations with musicians, for example about their local singer, Đorđe Balaševic, who died a few years ago. Conversations about his song lyrics and that these are little poems. The next time I’m there, people recognise me. I think that is beautiful and heartwarming.”

Read more stories here from travelers who went to the Balkans before you.