The moon provided the only light to guide our way home. My friend Kati’s two sons led the way. I was the last of four, with my computer and purse tucked into the metal basket secured in the front of my bicycle. My mind flashed to the climactic scene in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, where Elliott rides through the forest with ET in his basket.
Serbia evokes a range of images and expectations, but ET is probably not one of them. Yet there I was in Srbobran, Serbia, a small town of approximately 12,000 people, thinking of ET.
I traveled with Kati and her boys to Srbobran—her husband arriving later in the week. We stayed at Kati’s parents’ house. Even though they live in Germany, her parents keep the house because they grew up there and still have many family members living in town.
During the trip, I met many of Kati’s extended family members—very kind and generous people. All spoke Serbian and Hungarian, and many spoke English fairly well. Her aunt did not, but still made a special effort to greet me: “How do you do?” Laughter erupted around us, as family members enjoyed her dignified English greeting and the seriousness in which she offered it. I was instantly charmed. And then I ate her stuffed peppers. As they say in Hungarian—finom!
While in Serbia, I visited two cities. With a population of 350,000, Novi Sad is the second largest city in Serbia. Its main attraction is the Petrovaradin Fortress, which originally served as a fortification along the Danube. Its military service long done, the fortress now houses a hotel, a museum, and artists’ studios. It also provides a sweeping view of the city.
My favorite was Subotica. With a population of 140,000, it’s smaller yet still has a lot to offer.
First and foremost, there’s city hall. The third structure on the same site to house city hall, the current building oozes Hungarian Art Nouveau. Tours are offered in the ceremonial parts of the building and the tower. Both are a must.
The view from the tower is worth the climb. Whether from the tower or during a walk, you’ll see more Art Nouveau architecture throughout the city that’s sure to please.
Just a short taxi ride away is neighboring Palić with a nature park, lake, and, more important for me, the Zvonko Bogdan Winery. I love visiting wineries and trying new wines, and Zvonko Bogdan did not disappoint. The winery is beautiful and state-of-the-art. Fortunately, the wine lives up to the winery’s aesthetics. In particular, the Cuvée No. 1 is fantastic—dark and lush with great depth of flavor.
There were many parts of the trip that I enjoyed, but my favorite came at night. The oppressive heat of each August day left with the sun. If we were lucky, a slight breeze would offer added relief. Depending on the hour, Kati’s sons were busy playing games with the neighborhood children or asleep. Foregoing the bright overhead light, Kati and I would light a candle and sit on the back porch enjoying a glass of wine. We would talk about everything and anything.
That’s my Serbia.