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Clare
Clare

Day 14: Novi Sad

Due to the fact that Wizzair unexpectedly changed the day of our flight back to the UK, we have ended up with an extra day in Serbia that we didn't expect. We decided to make the most of it going on a daytrip to a different town, and our guidebook recommended Novi Sad as a good excursion from Belgrade. After our long day of travelling on Thursday, the last thing we felt like was catching another Serbian bus. Happily some quick searching on the Internet revealed that Belgrade and Novi Sad are connected by a regular train service. There was a train just after 10am this morning which seemed ideal, with tickets available at a bargain price of approximately £2 each.

When we arrived at the main railway station in Belgrade and boarded the train, we began to see why the tickets were so cheap. We have been on our fair share of rickety rail transport - from an incredibly slow train between Zagreb and Varaždin to a ridiculously crowded train between Riga and the Latvia seaside - but the train between Belgrade and Novi Sad was the sorriest train I have ever had the misfortune to see. Upholstery had been torn off the backs of chairs, there was grafitti inside the carriage dating from 1989 and when the driver started up the engine it didn't sound like the train was going to make it out of the station, much less the 100km to Novi Sad!

Fortunately once it did start moving it wasn't quite as bad as we had expected. It did bump backwards and forwards a lot, stopping at a whole host of local stations, but we arrived in Serbia's second city two hours later none the worse for wear.

Our first impressions as we stepped off the train in Novi Sad were that it wasn't a terribly inspiring place. It didn't help that the weather has been a bit mixed today and so the sky was resolutely grey, but even if it had been the brightest of blues I don't think it would have made much improvement to the housing estate we walked through on our way into the centre of town.

We didn't see any signs indicating the centre of town, so it was lucky that we had the Serbia guidebook with us and that it contained a handy map of Novi Sad. Within 10 minutes or so of walking, things began to improve when we caught sight of the colourful spire of the Catholic cathedral.

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It's not that usual to find Catholic churches in this part of the world, but Novi Sad is in the Vojvodina region of Serbia, which is quite ethnically mixed. Walking around the corner from the cathedral, we found ourselves in the main square - Trg Slobode - where there was an impressive town hall.

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We walked along some of the main streets and through a pleasant park until we came to one of the bridges over the Danube. By walking across it, we would actually be leaving Novi Sad and entering the town of Petrovaradin. We got our first glimpse of the Petrovaradin fortress on the opposite river bank.

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It's hard to convey quite how wide the Danube is, but it felt like walking across the bridge took at least five minutes!

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Once on the other side of the river, we started to climb up towards the fortress.

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We took the wrong pathway at first and, while it did ultimately lead us to a dead end, we did get some beautiful views of the river and the surrounding countryside.

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Once we got to the top we also had views back towards Novi Sad.

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At the top of the fortress there is this unusual clock tower. The minute and hour hands on it are reversed (with the hour hand being longer than the minute hand) apparently so that boats sailing the Danube can see the time more easily.

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The town of Petrovaradin itself, as we walked back through it towards Novi Sad again, was a little shabby but still had some really pretty buildings.

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Novi Sad has to win the prize for streets with the most colourful buildings though! We found a couple of streets in the centre where every building seemed to be painted in a different pastel colour, and stopped for a quick drink to admire them.

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We didn't have long before we needed to head to the train station to get our train to Belgrade, but we managed to locate a couple more beautiful stations on our way back. The one in the background is the Orthodox cathedral of St George.

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And this ornate building next to it is the palace of the Orthodox bishop.

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After our experience on the outward journey, we thought we would be prepared for everything Serbian Railways had to throw at us. We thought wrong! The train back to Belgrade was admittedly much less rickety than the one we had travelled out on, but it only had two carriages and it was extremely busy. We managed to find seats eventually, though not together, but were somewhat alarmed by the number of (armed!) police who had boarded it as well. They spent a while walking up and down the aisles of the carriages and then some sort of scuffle broke out between them and a very noisy group of youths. We think they were football supporters, judging by the fact that they kept breaking out into tuneless songs, and I guess the police were on the train as a precaution. Happily they all got off about halfway through the journey, so we were able to enjoy the rest of the ride in peace :)




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