Today we met up with Djiordje, for a Greeters Tour of Novi Sad. We’ve used Greeters Tours before in a couple of places like Paris. We found them to be a really personal way to be introduced to a new city. Recently we tried to join a Free Walking Tour of Sophia with a group of 60 people and we gave up. Today it was just the two of us and Djiordje definitely a more personal way to see a city.
We met up at Hotel Central a strange looking building covered in steel which the locals reckon makes it look like a radiator. They probably just need a few decades for it to really grow on them.
As market stalls were just setting up on Pozorišni Trg we took a look at the Serbian National Theatre. It’s made from limestone from the Island of Brac in Croatia. We were told how in former days theatres travelled from town to town so the permanent theatre is quite new.
The centre of Novi Sad has a large pedestrian area surrounded by lovely 19th century buildings. It centres around the market squares which run off Zmaj Jovina and Kralija Aleksandra. In former days a tram ran down the middle of these streets and with its removal has left a wide promenade lined with cafe’s, bars, restaurants and lots of shops. It’s a nice place to stop for a coffee or a meal and people watch.
Photo courtesy of www.flickr.com/photos/smithmakaay
Around the City Hall building Liberty Square is dominated by a statue of Svetozar Miletić, a prominent 19th century Serbian politician in the Austro-Hungarian empire. He was a lawyer, member of parliament, and former mayor of the city. He must have been a fiery figure for he’s captured with arm raised laying down the law.
Catholic Church of St Mary
Around Liberty square are a few prominent buildings such as City Hall, Catholic Church of St Mary, the old market building and an unusual Art Deco Building which dates from the 1930’s. Most of the buildings around the city centre are from around the 19th century and built in Austrian style. The architecture of the City Hall was based on Graz City Hall and the tower on top once was a fire brigade lookout. Much of the city was destroyed in a fire in the 19th century after an attack by Hungarians. The Catholic Church of St Mary has unusual coloured tiles on the roof and spire in chevron patterns which are quite striking. The coloured tiles reminded us of the tiled churches of the Burgundy region.
Walking along the promenade of Zmaj Jovina it’s easy to feel the vibe which permeates the city as small lane ways a lead to small bars, cafe’s, and restaurants packed with young people.
Halfway along the promenade Svetozara Miletića is the highest street in the city centre. There’s not much difference in height between the other streets but just enough to keep it out of the flood waters whenever the Dunav breaks its banks. It was because of this that it became the most expensive street in the city with mansions being built along it.
Serbian Orthodox Church of St George
At the end of Zmaj Jovina is the Serbian Orthodox Church of St George, Bishops Palace and the statue which the street was named after Jovan Jovanović. He was a doctor and children’s poet. When building his statue they wrote his date on the bottom 3maj which in cyrillic translates to dragon. Since then his statue has gained a nickname of “the dragon”.
Along the way Georgy told us how locals in Novi Sad escape the summer heat at nearby “City Beach”. An area on the banks of the Danube has been transformed into a beach with acres of sand, beach umbrellas, sun lounges, and changing sheds. We also visited City Beach yesterday to cool down with a swim. It was a hive of activity with lots of beachside cafe’s and restaurants, blokes cooking barbecues, kids kayaking and teenagers on their iPhones.
On the corner of Dunavska street we stopped to admire the 19th century buildings with local style windows which protrude from the window frame. In the past mothers would peer from the upper windows and watch to ensure their daughters weren’t mixing with the wrong company.
Between one of the windows Georgy pointed out a strange lump which was in fact a cannon ball which still protrudes from the wall, as a permanent reminder of a Hungarian attack.
The pedestrian area led to Dunavski Park, an oasis of green in the middle of the city. Tall trees lined the pathways and a small lake which was home to local swans until recently. There were a few playgrounds and grass areas where kids happily played.
Leaving Dunavski Park we headed across the bridge to Petrovaradin Fortress, which overlooks the Dunav River. It was built by the Austrians and featured star like defensive network.
Construction of Petrovaradin Fortress started in 1692 and lasted until 1780. During this time the Ottomans laid siege for 23 days in 1694 before retreating to Belgrade. The fortress also saw off the Austrian forces during the Hungarian Revolution of 1849, when the fortress shelled Novi Sad destroying 60 percent of the buildings.
Beneath the fortress over 16 kilometres of tunnels in four levels branch out in a defence against mining.
There were upper and lower fortress sections with connecting staircases. Once we reached the lower section we took a break to enjoy the view across the river and across Novi Sad. It was also time for us to say goodbye to Georgy. Our Greeters Tour was a great introduction to Novi Sad, which is a really beautiful city to visit.
After saying goodbye we further explored the fortress which is home to restaurants, gallery’s, shops and a museum. The shape of the fortifications is quite amazing to see from the top with its star shape with each wall which radiates outwards. As suggested by Georgy we found a small local cafe below the fortress selling coffee at a reasonable price.
As we were leaving the cafe was slowly filling up with locals and after seeing their price list we could understand why.
With our new found knowledge we spent the rest of the day exploring Novi Sad. As the sun was setting we found a nice restaurant for dinner before returning to the guesthouse. Tomorrow we head to Osijek.