Rapid-paced trip through Vojvodina including Novi Sad, Subotica and Sremski Karlovci.
Planning to get an early start but owing to the complicating factors of drinking too much the night before, me desperately wanting a haircut and the fact that we're all basically on vacation we didn't leave for Vojvodina until 2pm. Despite that the trip turned out to be a fantastic way to spend ~34 hours and I don't feel like we missed much of anything.
We started our trip cutting west toward the Croatian boarder from Belgrade before turning north to drive through the "mountainous" national park of Frus(h)ka Gora. (I put mountainous in parenthesis because it's a very long hill of about 600m which gets it's dramatic look from the fact that it rises suspiciously from the otherwise flat plain of Vojvodina) Fruska Gora is very pretty and reminds me of the drive toward Sol Duc in Washington. There are many Serbian Orthodox monasteries throughout Fruska Gora and it, along with Sremski Karlovci on it's northern edge, has played an important role in the development and maintenance of Serbian cultural identity.
Our first major stop in Vojvodina was in Sremski Karlovci. It's a small town with some very nice baroque buildings in its main square. It was the center of Serb culture for a period and was a very important political center. The facade of the Serbian Orthodox church looks much like the catholic churches in Budapest and Krakow but inside its features are much more obviously Orthodox. Incredible icons in gold and ebony cover one wall and the rest of the walls and decorated in deep greens and reds.
Before leaving Sremski Karlovci we ate lunch/dinner in the main square which consisted of typical Serbian fare - grilled meats, shopska salad and bread. The shopska was easily the worst that I've had. The cheese was horrible and faaar too sharp.
After dinner we headed to Petrovaradin Fortress. It's a very large fortress that was built by the Austrians to defend against the Turks and was never captured. In 2000 growing discontent with the Milosevic regime led a large group of artists and musicians to hold the EXIT Festival on the grounds of the fortress. Initially it featured only domestic musicians and lasted for 60 days but the following year, in 2001, EXIT became international. It's now widely regarded as one of the best international music festivals gathering popular acts from all over the world and few (if any) can claim a setting so dramatic as the grounds of a massive fortress far above the Danube river.
Across the Danube we stopped in Novi Sad. Novi Sad functions as the seat of the Vojvodinian provincial government. Serbia doesn't have a lot of beautiful architecture south of Vojvodina (though there is some!) but Novi Sad, with continued investment, could (and probably will) be a solid tourist attraction. There are some great baroque pieces and a fantastic catholic cathedral built during the time that Vojvodina was under Austro-Hungarian rule.
As the sun started going down we jumped into Mateja's car and made for Subotica, a city in the far north of Serbia and right on the Hungarian border. I had read a little about Subotica but wasn't prepared for the beauty of the small city.
The destruction of World War 2 largely bypassed Subotica and left it's array of baroque and art nouveau buildings intact. Among the more impressive buildings is the modern art gallery which errs on side of Gaudi but is less superficial and superfluous and seems to follow more natural lines with certain Mucha qualities. At one side of Trg Republike (Republic Square) is the huge Subotica town hall - also in the art nouveau style. Oddly, at the base of the town hall is a McDonalds. Also in Subotica is one of the best cafes I've been to in Europe (which, much like the rest of Serbia, has freakishly awesome prices) called Cafe Boss. Apparently the owner invested 1 million euros in the remodeling which left it looking fantastic. It's also located on the back side of the modern art gallery and shares a beautiful setting.
We slept at a girl named Milica's apartment. She works with ISIC (international student organization) and Kristina, who also works with ISIC, made the connection. Milica and her boyfriend, Vladimir, met us at the Boss Cafe. Turns out Vladimir was an exchange student in Ohio and spoke fantastic English (he's also been accepted to a college in Tennessee). We hung out with them for a while before going to bed.
The following morning we walked around the city before hooking back up with Vladimir and heading to Palic. Palic is a lake on the edge of Subotica which has a nice town featuring many art nouveau buildings. We sunbathed and drove a peddle-powered boat around the lake. The lake is pretty filthy owing to the fact that the Subotica sewer flowed directly into the lake for a long time. Thankfully there's a campaign to clean up the lake.
After leaving the lake we dropped Vladimir off at his place and drove back to Belgrade.