Novi Sad: new now, but with an old-world feel
My posts about Vojvodina wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Novi Sad. Novi Sad is Serbia’s second largest city and the capital of Vojvodina. Though the city has an urban feel, there’s a slower pace and speech there that made this Belgrade lady feel at ease. In fact, the Serbian spoken in Vojvodina is considered to be quite clear, and several language schools have sprung up there as a result.
“Novi Sad” historically meant young vineyard. It literally translates to “new now,” but the city has been populated since the Stone Age. A fortress was built there during the 4th century (B.C.) by the Celts and improved upon by various conquerors of the region. During Hapsburg rule in the late 1600s, the Serbian Orthodox population was forcibly moved out of the fortress to the other side of the Danube. Novi Sad now encompasses both areas, and the fortress is a popular tourist destination and site of the EXIT festival.
The fortress also features “the drunk clock tower,” whose hour and time hands are reversed to make ships see the time more easily. But I’ll bet more than a few drunken sailors thought they were way off schedule.
The pedestrian area is the jewel of Novi Sad. Hapsburg architecture flanks at least three main pedestrian avenues, several orthodox churches, and a beautiful Catholic church (shown at upper left.) It’s an unusual sight in the middle of this mostly Orthodox town. I was told that the Catholic church was originally on the outskirts of town, but the avenues expanded to include this area.
The prominent Catholic church is unusual but not surprising. Vojvodina is known for its history of ethnic and religious diversity. In addition to the Catholic church, there’s an historic Jewish synagogue just off the pedestrian area.
Walking through picturesque streets lined with shops and bakeries, it’s hard to believe the the city has suffered so much damage in its past. It was bombed by Austria, Hungary, Germany and the Allies in WWII, and in 1999 by NATO forces. Though most buildings in the area aren’t over 150 years old, the town has a timeless essence that makes Novi Sad feel like a Veliki Grad (old city).