If your idea of travel is an endless stream of famous sights, museums, and monuments, then Novi Sad, Serbia shouldn’t be on your agenda.
But if you’re tired of the tourist treadmill and want to get off for a bit, this relaxed, medium-sized city is a dandy stop. Lonely Planet travel guides describes it as “chipper,” and that word fits it fine.
As long-term travelers, one thing that we’ve learned about ourselves is that we can’t be tourists all the time. Periodically, we need a break from the tourist routine. We want time to relax, reflect and digest what we’ve seen. After the hustle-bustle of Belgrade, we were ready for a change of pace.
We read what a comfortable place Novi Sad was, and because it’s only a two-hour bus ride north of Belgrade, we decided to use it as a base for exploring the area. There were many things we liked about the city, but the quality that appealed most was its people-friendly attitude.
Much of the city center is pedestrianized, and the wide boulevards are lined, both sides, with one cafe after another. The cafes open early and close late, and happy customers while away hours over a coffee, beer, or a large ice cream.
Terri worked her usual magic and found a perfect studio in a wonderful, convenient location. Our tiny second-story studio was at the end of an ancient passage – we rubbed knees when we sat on our postage-stamp balcony – and every view over the terra cotta rooftops was a private moment of travel joy. Our place was buried in the depths of the pedestrian area, so all we heard were the sounds of life afoot: a busker’s flute, far-off conversations punctuated with laughter, and the neighbor’s clinking dishes down the alley. Drinks on the balcony during a world-class thunderstorm was one of the the highlights of our visit.
Unlike some cities we’ve seen, Novi Sad doesn’t have churches on every block, but there was a very active Orthodox Cathedral a stone’s throw from our apartment. We’re early risers, so the sound of morning church bells just around the corner is an endearing, romantic, old world sound rather than a rude wake up. The melodic randomness followed by the chiming of the hour always makes me feel like I’m somewhere special.
Novi Sad won’t knock your socks off with famous attractions and monuments. But what it will do is charm you with its festive pedestrian area, cafe culture, and relaxed ambience.
In our time there, we only saw one small tour group, and the few tourists that come are treated more as a novelty than a nuisance. If you want some time off the treadmill, in this part of the world, you couldn’t pick a better spot.