It’s been rainy in Novi Sad this week, with temperatures in the mid-40s to low-60s (7ºC – 17ºC). I’m enjoying the cooler weather, but the rain has been too severe for outside activities. I’m not complaining, but performing arts venues are fewer than I had hoped, with most of them in Belgrade. A local international short film festival is scheduled later in October. Novi Sad is also known for its animation festival.
On the very rainy days, I walked to nearby cinemas and saw the new Clint Eastwood film, Cry Macho, and of course, Daniel Craig in the latest 007 movie, No Time to Die. Both were excellent and thoroughly enjoyed!
Thankfully, my sprained ankle is its normal size again. When the rain subsides, I’m ready for hiking at Fruska Gora National Park. There really isn’t any viable way of getting there except via auto, so I’m checking into renting a car. The Park is a short 30-minute drive.
Fruska Gora National Park
Fruska Gora, “once an island and now a mountain,” is Serbia’s oldest national park and home to sixteen spectacular orthodox monasteries built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Positioned between the Danube and Sava Rivers, the Park exhibits indigenous flora, fauna, and geology, protected species, and “natural rarities“.
There should be several winter hikes to enjoy. Fruska Gora climate is “sub continental,” and winter temperatures get as low as 30ºF or colder. The area is popular for outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and camping.
I decided to book a spa day at Atrium Hamam, a few blocks from my apartment. It was an incredible experience! The hamam is more Arabic than Turkish, so it was different than those I’ve experienced in Turkey and Bosnia. Water and exotic herbal teas were available throughout the visit.
Arabian Versus Turkish Hamam
The main difference between Arabian and Turkish hamams is the use of steam rather than water. I spent extended time in the intense but soothing heat of the marble steam room. That was only possible by repeatedly dunking myself in the cold-water pool, which, at first, felt like hot water! Every pore in my body was opened and cleansed. It was fantastic! The steam room was followed by an equally intense body scrub and a 60-minute deep-relaxation massage.
I’ve exalted my hamam experiences in blog posts from Sarajevo, Istanbul, and Cappadocia. I loved them all! They leave you feeling calm, clean, and rejuvenated! Historically, hamams are a social place. While enjoying the spa and improving their health, friends get caught up on each other’s lives.
Whether they’re Arabian, Roman, or Turkish, hamams “detoxify the body, cleanse the skin and airways, and have a positive effect on the nervous system”. The marble hamam steam room has heated benches, floors, and walls, with an air temperature of about 50ºC (122ºF), and humidity of almost 100%. Many “find the hamam more pleasant than a sauna, where on the average, the temperature is a scorching 80ºC (176ºF), and humidity is below 30%.
Hamam heat “has a calming and relaxing effect on the body and mind and can improve sleep disorders, fatigue, and stress”. Hamam treatments “help you regain the positive energy needed to cope with everyday life”. Alternating between steam heat and a cold-water pool dilates and shrinks blood vessels, increasing circulation.
Cleansing and Pain Relieving
The “pores expand in the heat, softening the superficial layer of skin cells”. When followed by a thorough scrubbing, the “process enables a complete skin cleansing”. Hamams help relieve pain in joints and muscles by elevating the oxygen supply to affected areas. Steam heat increases the blood supply to respiratory tract mucous membranes, making breathing easier.
Atrium Restaurant and Owner
After my hamam, I spoke briefly with the owner, Mariana Čuljak. Mariana “spent much of her life in the pharmaceutical industry”. Later, she renovated the building over a period of several years, creating a phenomenal hamam, salon, and restaurant. Her goal was “making Novi Sad a little more pleasant for her fellow citizens”. She took me upstairs to see the Atrium Restaurant. Food on the mostly Mediterranean menu looks divine, and I’ll be returning for a meal!
The cuisine is a “mixture of traditional tastes from countries of the Arab and Persian worlds, and the Middle East”. The tagines looked especially delicious! I first enjoyed tagines many years ago, during a trip to Morocco to hike in the Atlas Mountains. The intense spices in Moroccan tagines are magnificent!
So far, my time in Novi Sad has been peaceful and laid back.