At first glance, Novi Sad looked positively ordinary. When we arrived in the second-largest city in Serbia I asked myself, “Why are we here? Why didn’t we just stay in Belgrade?” We arrived at our hotel around dusk and took some time to get settled in. We had already had a long day, but a few of us decided to explore since we only had a few days in the city. We walked down the humdrum street from our hotel toward the city center. We passed a few shops and restaurants, but nothing too exciting. We reached the end of the street and took a right turn. In that instant, Novi Sad became rich and vibrant. The city center was thriving. The streets were bustling with tourists and locals—there were musicians, street performers, cafes, and shops. Magical is the only word I know to describe how I felt while walking toward the city square. To say I was wrong about Novi Sad is an understatement.
Over the next few days I got to see so much of this beautiful city and experience its rich culture. No wonder Novi Sad was named Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2021. We explored libraries, archives, museums, parks, and a 17th century fortress. We ate bold, rich meals, silky-smooth gelato, and fresh-popped popcorn to our hearts’ content. Our excursion to Novi Sad ended up being the highlight of my time in Serbia. I can honestly say being wrong never felt so good.