Monday, April 23, 2007
Hotel Putnik, Novi Sad, Serbia
It wouldn't be a trip without a little No Touch Monkey action.
Way back in February, when I was toodling around cyberspace, hunting for a place to spend an Easter weekend holiday with the cousins, Novi Sad starting looking very attractive. It's just a few hours drive from Budapest and makes and excellent base for exploring the monasteries and fertile farmland of Fruska Gora. The photos of its town square held enormous appeal. It looked like a nice little manageable town where there'd be a few cafes and places for the children to run around, without aggravating a sophisticated urban populace. It wasn't until we were crossing city limits that I realized Novi Sad is Serbia's second largest city. And it has a shortage of affordable accomodation. And the tourist office, where one contacts aforementioned said affordable accomodation was closing in an hour. And we had to figure out how / where to park the car so it wouldn't get towed. And change money to pay for the parking.
We went to the youth hostel, right off the main drag, in yet another pedestrian zone. After locating the disreputable looking back entrance, we climbed five flights up, where a handwritten sign instructed us to ring the bell or call. We rang the bell. No answer. Before we could jot down the phone number, the lights in the hallway went out. The switch was (presumably) on the ground floor.
Then we went to the oldest hotel in Novi Sad, which the tourist office lady had said was fairly reasonable. It was no about 8:30 at night and the kids were crashing. The lobby reminded me of the place where we stayed in Sibiu, Romania in 1994. The desk clerk reminded us of our friend Matt Bardin, which may be why we threw ourselves at him, basically leaving him little choice but to take over for the now closed tourist office. He contacted some guest houses, but when we realized we weren't too equipped to find them in the dark, with a stricken, exhausted six-year-old, we followed his recommendation and checked into Hotel Putnik, which retains the state run flavor of Yugoslavia, 1974. (Presumably the last time the room was cleaned.) As anyone who's visited our apartment knows, my housekeeping standards are usually much less exacting than the average American's, but this is the one time in my life when I've felt compelled to protect myself with rubber flip flops. No way did I want the skanky extra blankets touching my children's skin. Also, the door did not seem to lock, so we propped it closed with a bag of toys. The bathroom smelled like after when you throw up, and you're hanging out with your head in the toilet, and suddenly you become aware of everything that goes on it that bowl. It made the Hotel Tibor in Sezana, Slovenia, look like something from a James Bond movie. Inky however, liked the glamorous make up mirror. And their Do Not Disturb sign is the best I have ever seen. I'll see if I can get a photo of it for you.
At midnight, a little Serbian boy spent a half hour or so galloping through the halls, singing, and calling to his unbothered dad. I think he might have been in the room with us. I think he might have been an extra in The Shining.
Then at four am, a party of drunken revelers came reeling up from the casino. I was dying to crack the door to get a look at them. Shouting men, singing women, bottles popping, everybody roaring with laughter and raunchy high spirits. It was like having the entire cast of Underground whooping it up on the other side of the thin walls.
Naturally, this cost much more than any of the lovely apartments in which we stayed. Though I think I'll remember it longer. An anecdote well worth the price. The kids weren't phased at all! As Greg said, this is the real deal.