New Year’s Eve in Novi Sad

During my high school years I learned a valuable lesson about the ‘’big night’’.
Don’t expect anything. It’s just another night out – it can be great, or it can suck big time. Ether way, it’s not your wedding and shouldn’t be over planned.
The best way is to simply go with the flow, and this year, if you happen to be in Novi Sad, there will be several ‘’flows’’.

First, there is the traditional concert and fireworks on the main city square – Masimo Savic is probably the biggest star on this venue.
Other ‘’stages’’ will include traditional Vojvodina music on the smaller Mladenci square, which is almost next to the main square; a lineup of DJ, both local and foreign will play on SPENS, a big sports center that is also near by.

So, if you happen to be in Novi Sad on the 31. December, feel free to venture out in the cold - there will be dancing on the streets.

Number of visitors to Serbia remains stagnant

Serbia, although never a ‘’hot destination’’, has seen a steady increase in the number of visitors since the regime change in 2000. It seems that this trend hasn’t continued into 2008.

According to the State statistic agency, the total number of visitors that Serbia received during first 10 months of this year is lover by one percent compared to the same period in 2007.
The most popular destination is the capitol Belgrade, then the second largest city, Novi Sad. The majority of the visitors, around 38%, stayed in spas and other thermal resorts like Vrnjacka Banja. Also, most visitors came from Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Germany.

I know that this isn’t a big downturn, but I think it may be a good sign for thing to come, especially having in mind the ongoing economical slowdown and the poor state of air travel industries.

I guess 09 isn’t going to brake any tourism records in Serbia - at least no positive ones.

Eco-house ''Small Bodrog''

Similar to most developing countries, village and ecotourism in Serbia have a lot of potential, but sadly, most of it is untapped. Although the local and regional governments are always quick to point out that tourism is a great source of income, money and other real backing rarely follows the reassuring words.
That’s why I’m glad to see small scale projects like ‘’Small Bodrog’’ (‘’Mali Bodrog’’ in Serbian) in Backi Monostor.

This country house was built 150 years ago in the style typical for the 19. Century south-east Austria–Hungary era, and was recently renovated and turned into a historical site.
Alongside the house and its preserved interior, ‘’Small Bodrog’’ displays the traditional large backyard with its well and accompanying buildings that were used by the generations of farmers who lived there.
I think it’s very good that people take the initiatives in their own hands and try to develop their cultural heritage into a tourist destination for everyone to enjoy, and also make some profit.
You can visit this small but interesting place and find out how people lived in this part of the world almost two centuries ago. I doubt it’s going to blow you away, but it should at least prove interesting.
The entry ticket is currently under one Euro, which is another incentive.

Find out more by calling +381 25/807-163, or just 025 807 163 if you are already in Serbia.

Joan MirĂ³ exhibition

Sombor is a small sleepy town in the far north of the country, but it’s organizing a very interesting event. Starting on 27Th November, Sombor city museum will open a big Juan Miro exhibition. There, almost 70 paintings, graphics and drawings created by this Spanish contemporary artist will be displayed.

I can’t say that I know a lot about his work, but he is a world renowned painter and sculptor, so this looks like an ideal opportunity to visit Sombor for a lazy afternoon of art and relaxation. The exhibition is open till December 20Th.

Medical tourism in Serbia

Being sick isn’t usually the first thing people associate with travel, but the phenomenon of medical tourism is growing in Serbia.
A little background story:

Republic of Serbia, like all former Yugoslav countries, has a very strong social approach to medical care. All citizens are eligible to receive a complete medical insurance package, provided by the state. There are several bases for this, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a child, unemployed or something different – everybody has it.
This system is in place for almost 60 years, and wasn’t disturbed by the regional conflicts or anything else.
Naturally, the level of medical services has dropped in the period of 1990-2000, but is steadily recovering. Because of this, Serbia has a lot of medical professionals like doctors, dentist, nurses and many others. Now, some of them have set up private clinics or smaller practices, because a lot of people choose to pay and receive faster service. For example, an ultrasound diagnostic will be complete after some 45 days from the moment the patient show up in the general hospital; in a private practice, it takes only few days to make an appointment and receive full results.

Medical tourism offers to foreign visitors, usually those from Western Europe, a chance to come to Serbia and get the medical treatment they need at a much lower price. For example, dental procedures are 4 times cheaper than in UK and the noninvasive diagnostic methods like magnetic resonance imaging are even cheaper.

So far, Belgrade and Novi Sad (capitol and second larges city) are expanding offers in medical tourism. Belgrade, with its international airport is the logical first choice, but organized transport to Novi Sad is also available.
In my case, I use both private clinics and state run medical institutions in Novi Sad, and I’m generally very pleased with the levels of service and professionalism, even having in mind that the free options are somewhat slow.
If you have some kind of medical condition or problem, especially a non-life threatening, like bad teeth or knee injury, think about this somewhat unusual option.

For more detailed information, check out Serbia Medical Tourism.

Beer Museum

Do you like beer?
I absolutely love it – no matter what time or place, I won’t refuse a cold one.
So you can imagine why I was pretty excited when I heard that Celarevo brewery (now part of the Carlsberg Serbia company) opened a beer museum!

The Beer Museum, set inside the brewery complex in the small northern town of Celarevo, will showcase how the process of beer-making evolved in this region. Although people were traditionally more inclined to wine or schnapps, beer became more widespread in the 19th century. Now it’s the most popular alcoholic drink in the land.
Celarevo brewery was established in 1892, and although there are older ones in the country (Apatinska brewery began working in 1756); this is still an impressive history of uninterrupted production.

I trust there will be things to see in the newly opened museum.
Of course, a chance to try out some of the beers from the current Celarevo production line like Lav and Tuborg, and then compare those to other big European brands like Kilkenny or Guinness isn’t either going to spoil the trip to this, shall we say, house of learning.

Days of Honey

Another day, another food festival!
This one named somewhat unimaginatively ‘’Days of Honey’’, is intended to promote... well, you guest it, honey.
It will last for three days, starting on the 17th October, and the location is town only a few dozen miles from Belgrade - Indjija. This little town in Fruska Gora range is by itself a pretty interesting place, being somewhat of a mini industrial Mecca inside Serbia, all thanks to its local government that has wisely offered a variety of Greenfield investments opportunities.
This place is definitely going places, no pun intended.


Having that in mind, I’m betting ‘’Days of Honey’’ will be a very meticulously organized event, and should at least prove interesting.
The main venue will be the town square, where the honey makers will present their products, and local art societies perform music and small-scale plays. Beside honey, there should be other kinds of honey-based products – I recommend you try Medovaca, a honey-infused schnapps drink. Personally, I prefer my spirit straight and cold, but Medovaca isn’t half bad, especially if you like sweet liquor.

This is chance to see a micro industrial boom town and try a lot of different honey flavours while drinking honey-schnapps – how bad could this half day visit be?

Devil’s Town

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk in Serbia about a place called Devil’s Town (Djavolja varos).
It’s a relatively small nature park, or nature monument, as defined by local law.
What is it exactly?
Well, simply put – a collection of weird rock formations. There are around 200 of them in Devil’s Town and they look like strange, elongated sculptures. Every one is really narrow and has a stone on its peak. They are created by erosion, and as I understand it, are somewhat of a geological rarity.
I never visited this place, or even heard about it till recently, but I’ll give it this: it sure looks like out of this world.


Devil’s Town became more famous when it entered the ‘’New wonders’’ competition, under the ‘’nature’’ section. Currently, it’s on the 24th place.
Generally, I’m always skeptical about any ‘’new and hip’’ tourist locations. Devil’s town it located in the southern Serbia, near the town of Kursumlija, so it’s not exactly very accessible because of the distance and road quality (except if you’re visiting Nis or some other southern city). For example, a one-day visit from Belgrade would take up around 10 hours just in transit.

Devil’s Town does look like it’s worth a visit, but don’t expect much more than what you have seen in the pictures.
Near-by Kursumlija has more tourist sites, so it’s probably best to incorporate Devil’s Town into a bigger sightseeing trip, just in case.

Belgrade air show

This is somewhat unexpected – Belgrade is going to host its first big air show.

Of course, there are periodical air shows all over the country, but this one sounds really big – around 40 aircraft and 60 pilots and skydivers are going to take part.

They will include the Serbian air force, national airline JAT, special airborne police units, private air companies and air sport societies. This will all take place on this Saturday, the 27 of September, starting at noon. The main spectator location will be the upper part of the Kalemegdan fortress (now really more of a park), located just next to the city center.

I’m not sure how will this air show stand up to similar events in the rest of Europe, but the idea is absolutely fabulous.
The Serbian capitol needs this kind of major public happenings for all ages, so if you’re in Belgrade or planning to come this weekend, I’m recommending you take a look to the sky from Kalemegdan.



The view should be interesting.

Update:

Yesterday, while practicing for the air show, one of the aircraft had a malfunction and crash-landed on the Belgrade airfield. Its pilot, Istvan Kanas a veteran instructor, has died in the accident.
The organizers decided to cancel the upcoming event because of this tragic development.

Vojvodinijada food festival

Vojvodina, the northern region of Serbia, has a very mixed ethnic background. During last 200 years, almost 20 different nationalities have migrated to this region. Naturally, they brought their own culture, and with it, cuisine.

‘’Vojvodinijada’’ intends to promote this fact.
Actually, this festival is organized like a ‘’best of’’ collection of several similar events that take place year round in several Vojvodina towns. Every one of them is centered on a particular dish or product, like cabbage stew or spicy sausages. Everything will be made on site (riverside resort called ‘’Dunavski salasi’’ located in the suburbs of Novi Sad) and following traditional recipes. Of course, local traditional music band and performers will also attend.


‘’Vojvodinijada’’ looks like nothing new – like all ‘’best of’’’, it’s better to visit one of the original festivals that revolve around just one food product. On the other hand, if you can make to one of those, this isn’t going to be bad, either.
Because I live in the region, I can tell you that the food will be slightly greasy, spicy, and mostly based on pork meat product. If you’re a vegetarian, run for your life.
But if you like me find those thing tasty, you should spend an hour or two there.
Just plan for a light dinner afterwards.

Fruska Gora – Petrovaradin Fortress

In my last post I mentioned that Exit music festival in Novi Sad takes place on a huge fortress complex. Well, that place is called Petrovaradin Fortress, and is probably the oldest constantly settled site in Vojvodina.
The original fort was built on a natural cliff extending from Fruska Gora, right next to the river Danube by local Pre-Celtic tribes around 3000 B.C. Although historians aren’t sure what was that village or small town like, they are certain it was a permanent, fortified settlement.

Those tribes were succeeded by the Romans, Hungarians, Turks and many other nations and, more importantly, armies. Current structure was built by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 18Th century, and hasn’t changed since then.
Today, Petrovaradin Fortress spreads for acres with an elaborate underground tunnel system that has 4 levels and combined length of 16 kilometers.

Fort lost its military purpose some 50 years ago, and now is completely transformed into a cultural destination.
It has a hotel, several restaurants with different themes (I recommend the one with Italian cuisine), two museums and dozens of galleries and painting studios. Because of its tranquility and picturesque scenery, a lot of people regularly spend a few hours every weekend there, relaxing and enjoying the grate view of Novi Sad and Fruska Gora.

Of course, if you like to go out and party, there are two big clubs on the fortress you shouldn’t miss out.
First one is called ‘’Museum’’ and is located right next to the hotel and the real natural history museum.
But the second one is far more interesting.


‘’Jelisavetin Bastion’’ was built right in the outer tunnels and has a big summer garden between the fortress walls.
Firs time I went there I was completely blown away – guests have to walk something like 100 meters through a tunnel network before they reach the club rooms – it was like an Indian Jones adventure and you should check it out, but not if you’re claustrophobic.

Exit festival is over!

And thank God for that.
One more day and my immune system would have completely shut down. But for me this festival was probably the best one in the last 5 years – all the fun and no fuss.

Exit is a music festival that started in Novi Sad in the year 2000. Since then it has grown to become the biggest event of that kind in the former Yugoslavia, and some say southeastern Europe. It takes place in the Petrovaradin fortress, a beautiful location on the Danube, just on the other side of Novi Sad city center.

I always attend, but this year was something special. The organization was best so far – no queuing, no big crowds, even on the main events. Also, around 50% of the visitors were from abroad, mostly UK, so this also gave it a great international flavor.
Performers I especial like were the N.E.R.D, Sham 69, Juliette and the licks and Tizzies, a small band of my friends that had it’s firs Exit show (I co/directed a lo-fi video for them, check it out on youtube). Between the main shows I chilled out on Reggae stage where dancefloor DJ and MC rocked all night long – this was a perfect combo for me.
I couldn’t attend the last day, so I missed The Sex Pistols and Hives, but so is life.

All in all, Exit festival didn’t let me down this year not one bit. I hope it will stay like this in the years to come, so you too can come and enjoy the good music vibes.

Cinema city Novi Sad

If you heard anything about the second largest city in Serbia, Novi Sad, it was probably because of Exit, the fastest growing music festival in Eastern Europe.
Although that sounds like some bad promotional slogan, it’s actually true.

But Exit starts in July.

Right now, Novi Sad is all about Cinema City - international film and new media festival.
What’s the connection? Both festivals are managed by the same team of young, experience people, with the backing of local and regional governments.
This is only the second annual Cinema City, but it has a lot of potential. There will be several projection locations – some indoor, and some under the open sky, right in the city center. Alongside those, experimental workshops, new media labs and of course, a lot of nightlife events (we never pass an opportunity to throw a good party) will take place.
The festival starts on the 14th of June, and will last another 7 days.
Check out more about Cinema City.


I know the festival is starting really soon, but if you’re in the region (Belgrade, possibly), you should come to Novi Sad at least for a day.
If you like movies and/or you like to go out and party, this is the best ticket in town.

Fruska Gora – introduction

I’m continuing to write about mountains in Serbia, but Fruska Gora is somewhat special.
Unlike the majority of places that I described so far, Fruska Gora is really close to my home, and I got to know it quite well.
Local pride aside, it’s really a great place in many ways, so I decided to make a series of articles about it.

First of all, it’s not a mountain. It’s more similar to a really small mountain range, and it’s made up from several elongate, wide hills, extending 80 km lengthwise east to west, and about 15 km north to south. The highest peak is Crveni Cot at only 539 meters, which is not exactly gigantic.
It’s located in the southern part of the northern province of Vojvodina, and it’s the regions only real non-flat part. Second largest city in Serbia, Novi Sad is practically just next to Fruska Gora; some neighborhoods are even almost on it.
Belgrade is around 50 kilometers to the south, depending from the point of reference.

If I had to describe Fruska Gora in one term, it would have to be: ‘’Green’’. The hillsides are covered with either orchards, grape and wine plantations (Grape dance in fact takes place in Fruska Gora), or with wild forest and meadows.
There are several mane-made lakes, and one or two natural ones. The most famous and beautiful is Ledinacko lake that was formed right in the middle of an abandoned quarry (there will be a special article about it, it’s really quite stunning, but has generated a lot of controversy).



To people that live near it or on it (there are several small towns and even more villages), Fruska Gora is very important.
For some, it’s their livelihoods or home, for other a great, accessible recreational destinations.
But trust me, everybody, including me, loves it very much.

You’ll find out why exactly in following articles.

Divcibare

Central and southern parts of Serbia have a very diverse mountainous landscape, but there is only one that is loved by every school kid in the country - Divcibare.

I'm not sure how exactly this whole thing started, but almost every elementary school takes it's pupils at least once to Divcibare. This has become an unwritten tradition.

Divcibare are located in the western Serbia. To get there, you will have to travel some 40 km from Valjevo, the largest city in the region, or 120-130 km from the capital, Belgrade.
The trip isn't hard, although the roads aren't great - expect potholes and bad surfaces.

Now, you're thinking: ''this is all fine and good, but what's that got to do with children?''.
Well, to put is simply - Divcibare are an ideal place for kids.

The highest peek is 980 meters above sea level, so Divcibare get a decent amount of snow every year; the resort has one ski lift, and the slopes are really mild.
But there are a lot of (no that expensive) ski instructors, so a lot of kids start learning how to ski or snowboard right there.

Divcibare have a very stable climate, and around 200 days a year are basically windless. Also, the air quality is so high that the mountain was declared a ''climate treatment resort'' in 1963.

During the spring and summer months, the activities can include hiking, boy scout trainings, nature schools and sports like tennis, handball and basketball. I'm not sure if there are any public pools, but it's more then likely.

In fact, only the late autumn period isn't interesting - every other period of the year is guarantied to be super-fun for the youngsters.

Visitors can choose between several hotels, apartments and private accommodations - whatever is your choice, be sure to try the local dairy and dry meat product - they are famous in the whole county, and for good reason.

So, if you have kids and are planning a visit to the region, take a 2 or 3-day detour to Divcibare.
It isn't going to be spectacular for you, but the younger members of the family will think different.

Kopaonik National Park


National park Kopaonik is located in central Serbia, 230km from the capital Belgrade. It is accessible from two corridors - Josanicke Banje and Brisa.

Although its one of the biggest nation parks, it doesn't cover the whole Kopaonik mountain; its situated on a flat region, a plateau caller Suvo Rudiste, and is surrounded by mountain peaks.
Around 118 square kilometers of protected forest and other mountainous landscape are incorporated in the park, and there are 12 separate zones (Kozje rocks, Vucak, Mrkonja, Jankova pond, Gobelja, Barska river, Samokovska river, Metodje, Jerak, Suvo rudiste and Duboka plain)

These zones are classified as ''special interest'' areas, because of the animal and plant species that live there, and are intentionally isolated and additionally protected (I'm not sure does this mean that they are no-go areas for tourist). Local laws, as well as a number of different international conventions regulate the park.

Of all the wildlife species that are living in the park, its variety of birds is probably most famous; those include scops owl, rock partridge and red-backed shrike. Bigger species of mammals like wolfs and bears are a rarity.

I have never visited Kopaonik National Park, but I have traveled to Kopaonik Mountain - the landscape is beautiful and often simply stunning. I can only imagine what the park looks like, but I can bet it's even more picturesque, due to it's protected status.

If you're into bird watching or are interested or love untouched mountain scenery, Kopaonik National park is the perfect place for a one-day visit.
For more info - kopaonik.net