Sremski Karlovci, Novi Sad & Subotica, Serbia
Sremski Karlovci is famous for its Bermet wine, which was the primary reason we were heading to this town. We had no idea what Bermet wine was, other than it was consumed with desserts. It sounded as though it might be white and sweet, like a typical dessert wine. We were sorely mistaken.
Out of the 30 cellars in the region we visited two. The first place offered us Bermet straight away, so we sat down and were shocked to watch the lady pour us a glass of Merlot. She explained that Bermet is wine mixed with different herbs, spices and fruits, and every winemaker has their own recipe. Our first thought after taking a mouthful was how similar it was to mulled wine, only served at room temperature. Danny bought a bottle, thinking it would make a great Christmas drink. I doubt it will last that long.
The next cellar we visited was the big, touristy one in the area, Živanović. We joined a tour of their beekeeping museum and the cellar before sampling their wines. I don't remember most of information session (something about being pioneers of modern beekeeping in Europe) but my attention was regained when it came to the tastings. We tried two of their honeys, one being lovely and the other tasting like sugar syrup (not so good). When it came to the wine we thought we would just taste a single Bermet, but eight different wines were placed in front of us, a mixture of white, red, rosé and Bermet. They made both a red and a white variety of the Bermet, each made with the same herbs, spices and fruits. Overall none of their wines stood out to us, and we walked away with only one bottle of the white Bermet (as a contrast to the red). Again we hope it will last until the end of the year. Again I can't see that happening. The town of Sremski Karlovci was extremely quiet, and other than a beautiful centre square there was no reason to stay long here.
Ten minutes away was the city of Novi Sad. Danny wasn't feeling the best (although he had no problem drinking all the wine), so he stayed in the van while I found the tourist office (on the massive centre square) and picked up a map. The friendly lady of the office gave me free tickets to two museums (that we didn't use) and let me know about a Dali exhibit currently in town. Although Dali's paintings are up there with the weirdest artwork I have ever seen, I was definitely interested in having a look.
After a quick stroll around the centre I headed back to the van to pick up Danny. We walked around the pleasant streets aimlessly, stopping at a cafe for a drink and admiring the stunning buildings. When we returned to our van we discovered we could access free WiFi, which made it the perfect spot to spend the night.
We walked back to the centre of Novi Sad the next morning and then kept going until we crossed the Danube, where the fortress was located. Not that it looked like much of a fortress now - the walls were obvious, but the interior contained a hotel, restaurant and a few galleries. We climbed to the highest section for views over the not-so-picturesque city and the river. The sky was overcast this morning, for the first time in a many weeks, and this was partly why the scenery was so underwhelming.
Next we headed over to the Salvador Dali exhibition. I thought it was going to be in an exhibition centre or museum, but it turned out to be a makeshift set up on the ground floor of an empty building, which could have possibly been a shopping mall once upon a time. We were expecting to see a few of his famous works (that we can generally make no sense of), but none of these were present here. The exhibition ended up being divided into two stages. The first was a series of over 100 prints illustrating Dante's poem The Divine Comedy. Dali was asked to create the prints by the Italian government, but in the end the government didn't want them. Now they appear to be touring around obscure towns in Eastern Europe. I didn't know Dante's poem, so the subject matter meant nothing to me. The most interesting part was a section where two prints had been broken down into their individual colours, and then each colour was slowly added on top of each other so you could see the final shape taking form.
Stage two of the exhibition was another series of over 100 prints but this time it was scenes from the Bible. He used an original technique of shooting ink pellets from a gun so that they made blobs on a piece of paper, and then created pictures out of them. We were both amazed at how professional they looked and the level of detail he achieved from these blobs. Stage two was far more fascinating for both of us.
Our last stop in Serbia was Subotica, close to the Hungarian border. It was a tiny city but it was filled with decorative buildings, almost to the point of being fairy tale-like. Subotica has a strong Austrian-Hungarian influence, which separates it from the southern part of the country, and this was clearly noticeable in its architecture. The City Hall was fantastic, painted bright red and yellow in an Art Nouveau style. The synagogue would have been beautiful in its day, but now it had been abandoned and most of the windows were smashed. We spent a long time circling the streets, looking at the beautiful buildings and wondering why they don't make them like this anymore.
We decided to drive out to Lake Palić, just outside of the city, for a quiet place to spend the night. It was a huge body of water, with a few cafes dotted around the edges. Walking around the periphery we spotted frogs sitting on the bank, jumping into the water whenever we came close. This amused us for longer than we care to admit. We also witnessed an impressive sunset, the lake's surface reflecting the warm orange glow.
While we were eating dinner we encountered insects that looked like mosquitoes that had been injected growth hormone. There was no messing around with these ones – we sprayed ourselves in copious amounts of insect repellent until we were certain they weren't going to attack us. Otherwise we had a peaceful night in a car park looking over the lake.
To celebrate completing our tour of Eastern Europe we decided to go for a run around the lake the next morning. We hadn't run at all over summer, so we weren't surprised that we could only pull out a slow half hour jog. I guess anything is better than nothing. With our exercise complete we hit the road, ready to enter Central Europe again.