Serbia was only supposed to be a quick stop on your Southeast Europe trip. You wanted to see Belgrade, its many times over war-torn capital, before it changed too much. But the White City quickly got under your skin. People you just met welcomed you into their loud groups as though you were old friends. Rakija (a fruity brandy) flowed in the cafés. Plus music streamed late into the night. The next stop on your itinerary no longer seemed important. However, the rest of Serbia did.
From Belgrade, you traveled northwest to Novi Sad, Serbia’s second-largest city. You visited Fantast Castle, a famous Austro-Hungarian castle, outside of the city. You wandered down Zmaj Jovina, a pedestrian thoroughfare that extends from the town square. And you stopped at more cafés along the Danube. But it’s across the river, in Petrovaradin, where you truly became enchanted.
Petrovaradin, like the rest of Novi Sad, was settled, captured, and recaptured numerous times after being established in the Stone Age. The Celts, the Romans, the Ostrogoths, and the Lombards all conquered the hilly land at one point—and that’s before the Byzantines named this section of the city. Fortifications were first created by the Romans, though the Petrovaradin Fortress that stands today was built in the 17th century when the Habsburgs were under attack by the Turks. Its military importance declined after the Hungarian Revolution in 1849. It’s now home to small art studios, a city museum, a planetarium for clear nights, and a popular summer music festival.
You’re a little too early for the Exit Festival, which isn’t held until July. Instead, explore the narrow, cobblestone streets lined with Baroque buildings. Find the clock tower famous for its reversed hands—the long hand is for the hour—that fishermen were able to see from the water. Then make your way to Garni Hotel Leopold I near the Varadin Bridge. The hotel features jacuzzi tubs in the suites and a traditional Serbian restaurant. You’re here for the terrace though. A panoramic view that includes the Danube and Novi Sad, plus apéritifs in the late-afternoon sunshine, are the perfect way to relax after getting to know the city all day. Music, rakija, and new friends will surely follow. Again, you fall in love.