It’s getting a bit “another day, another country” at the moment – not quite how I’d envisaged things (“let’s go slow, stick in one place for a while and use it as a base to see other countries”). It is what it is, though.
Today we caught a bus to another country, something that I’ve never done before. It was a perfectly easy trip, as the bus was a nice big intercity tourist bus, picking us up on the way from Budapest. Of course we had to pass through border control as we were leaving the Schengen area (indeed the whole EU). As we arrived we passed dozens of trucks queued up, waiting for the weigh station. Some drivers were outside wandering around, suggesting the queue wasn’t going to move fast. Leaving Hungary was easy – we all got off the bus, filed past a border guard who stamped our passports, and we queued up and got back on. Arriving in Serbia was less effort but slightly more stressful – the Serbian guard got on the bus, took all our passports, and disappeared. Then the bus started driving off. Intellectually I knew it had to be OK (several buses a day go through this border) but emotionally it felt worrying. A few minutes later we stopped again and the driver came down the bus calling out people’s names and handing back their passports. Luckily I could see my own photo, because I wouldn’t have recognised my name.
Serbia itself was flat, like the Hungary that we’d been driving over for the past few days. It definitely looked poorer than Hungary. Lots of agricultural land, which looked fine, but the apartment buildings were in worse condition, and there was lots and lots of graffiti everywhere.
We arrived safely in Subotica. Lonely Planet praises its charming deco buildings. But Lonely Planet is basically wrong – there are some nice buildings, but they are mostly run-down, and the town as a whole looks very poor. I saw some very run-down apartment buildings, right up against the older, more interesting buildings in the town centre. That said, it felt safe, people seemed positive. There was definitely some wealth around, we found some nice cafes that were crowded with people. But there was definitely a have/have-not vibe to the place.
Our hotel was fantastic – one of the few decent ones in Subotica, so we paid a bit extra and it was worth it. The place had a spa/sauna attached, that guests could use for free. So after strolling round town and getting lunch we spent most of the evening in the sauna. Very pleasant indeed. And the receptionist was great – she exclaimed with delight when she saw our passports and explained how she and her husband were talking about visiting Australia and NZ, so we answered some questions and chatted. As she said, Serbs are very outgoing.
So not a bad day at all, mainly due to the hotel/spa experience.