An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery: Subotica and the Art of Falling Gracefully Through Piers.

Posted on July 22, 2013

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Peace.

Peace.

Last week,  a few days made themselves free in my schedule. I don’t have a particularly stacked schedule at the best of times, but with question marks over shifts in the bar and obviously night shifts always coming around, I haven’t done much in the way of overnights outside of Belgrade since arriving in May. With the days becoming available and Nick and Funk (the wonderful Canadians from fight night) heading in the same direction, the decision was made to head north, to Subotica. I’d always wanted to go there, for whatever reason, and go there we did. First, here’s some history and basic knowledge.

Subotica is the most northern city in Serbia, only 10km from the border with Hungary. Because of its geography (and indeed its history), the city has a much more Hungarian feel than anywhere else in this wonderful country. Well, I’ve never been to Hungary, so that is my assumption, but parts of Subotica are indeed what I imagine Hungary is like. It is the second largest city in the region of Vojvodina, and the fifth largest in the country, with a population of around 100,000. The history of the town is what you would expect from a city in this part of central eastern Europe. It’s been a settlement since forever, but only grew majorly in size when the Tatars came in the 13th century. Following this, it would be part of the Kingdom of Hungary, then the Ottoman Empire, then in the hands of Serbian mercenaries, then back to the Ottomans, then the Habsburgs, then an era of confusion, then Austria, then Yugoslavia, then the Axis powers in World War 2, then back to Yugoslavia and finally Serbia. Well, Vojvodina, depending on the future. It has a history as a big city, even being the third largest in the first Yugoslavia, but has since been overtaken by other places. Got all that? Phew.

Our route to Subotica was made immensely easier by the presence of Ena, a lovely young Serbian lady that Nick and Funk had met at Exit festival. She offered to drive us all the way there, because Serbs are wonderful. We arrived late, checked into our hostel hotel thing and headed out for a quiet pivo. Subotica is a quiet town these days, so not much was doing. Still, we had a small number of the things and headed back to the hostel to drink and socialize there. Unfortunately/fortunately, by socialize I mean play the Tool drinking game. It was the first good nights sleep I’d had in ages.

When we awoke on the Friday, we decide to head out and go, yes, full tourist. This obviously entails taking photos of absolutely everything, and I feel we did a good job. Subotica has a particularly striking main square, probably the nicest I have seen in Serbia. Photos were taken. After getting a bite to eat at a restaurant called ‘Boss’, a very apt name’, we decided to head out to Palic, a small village nearby that is dominated by a lake. Things were about to get a little more interesting.

Lakes are awesome, and the former Yugoslavia is absolutely heaving with them. We all know about Bled and Bohinj in Slovenia. Ohrid in Macedonia is no longer a well kept secret. Just drive through Bosnia and you’ll be inundated with the things. Palic is another of these lovely lakes, with a lot of activity around and cafe bars and whatnot. We purchased a pivo from the kiosk and sat down on the pier, umm-ing and aaah-ing about swimming. Bizarrely, considering I am easily the weakest swimmer going, I was the first to get into the water. The temperature was strangely inconsistent, but most worrying was the green hue that the water gave off. And the smell. Oh lord, the smell. Still, I had a nice paddle, and before long all 4 of us were splashing around like excitable children. We even took photos, because FULL TOURIST.

We got out, and milled around a little. Myself and Nick decided to explore the pier a little more, and there was an area in particular that didn’t seem like it was getting attention. We wandered over to it, because boys will be boys. It didn’t look too strong at all, it was mostly made out of rotting wood, but we’re little guys, so we figured we’d be fine. It became apparent to me that I was running out of boards, at which point I turned to Nick and told him I’d chose the wrong route. He responded with the information that he had a fourbanger ahead of him. I’ll explain later. I exclaimed surprise at the fourbanger, but before the word could be finished there was a great crack and all of a sudden there was nothing between me and water.

Yes, I fell through the pier.

Now, don’t go getting all excited about this. This was a very small fall, small enough for me to attempt to catch myself on the rest of the pier around me and succeed to a degree. Not enough to save my shoulders and biceps from getting an almighty flaying though. I swam around, quietly smug about the fact that maybe I’m not as weak a swimmer as I previously assumed, but secretly shook up. Or shaking, I’m not sure. One good thing about it was the main damage was done to my back and ribs, with a wound that wasn’t visible to me. Things hurt less when you can’t see them. After all that excitement we needed to calm down with pivo, and pivo we did. Possibly a little too much, but there we go.

Saturday started off emotionally, as we all went for our final breakfast, our last supper if you’ll pardon the blasphemy. Nick and Funk headed to Budapest, and me and Ena headed home. I dread to think of how many times I told them this on Friday night, but Nicholas Rempel and Jordan Funk are hands down two of the finest men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting whilst doing this ridiculous summer escaping. It was an absolute joy chaps, and I’ll see you next year.t

Me and Ena had a long drive home though, so why not drag it out by stopping in a whole host of places? The first of these was the largest field of sunflowers I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Despite the row of ridiculous scarecrows, this was simply one of the most peaceful things I’ve ever experienced. As I kept telling Ena, I think I could lie in a field of sunflowers and just be fine to stay there all day long. Maybe I’ll do that some time. I can’t think of anything romantic, which is possibly an indictment of my romance.

How could we not stop in Sombor, the greenest town in all of the country? What about Backa Topola, home to Nikola Zigic and some of the finest street lights a man could wish to see? We didn’t stop in Srbobran, but that was mostly because of the vomiting dog and suicidal cats in the road. A bullet dodged. Still, we did find time to stop at the fantasy market in Feketic, a village with a very pretty road dominated by two churches. The final stop on our tour was Sremski Karlovci, a place I had visited previously but not this much. To be blunt, Sremski Karlovci is the prettiest town I have ever visited in Serbia. So beautiful indeed, that we decided to stop in the Leprechaun bar. Why not? The drive finally ended in Belgrade, and straight to a night shift at Vesna’s I went.

I think that’s me done as far as Vojvodina is concerned. Subotica, Novi Sad, Fruska Gora and Sremski Karlovci in particular are all places I will revisit at many more times, but from now its time to go to visit South Serbia. Well, after three straight night shifts and more films from the ‘Official Una Ciric Best Movie Ever’ collection.

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