Last year we travelled through Serbia at lightning speed. In fact it was all of 24 hours with a quick, but wonderful stay. But we had a taste of Serbia. And this taste of wonderful Serbian hospitality and friendship made us want to come back for more.
So for this reason, we decided to choose Novi Sad Serbia for my 53rd celebration, and my first ever winter Birthday.
When we drove up to the Hotel Garni Gymnas we almost felt we had the wrong place, as I had see photographs of the antiques inside, and so the modern exterior with plush greenery, tables and chairs, and grand pots tricked me. I literally stopped the car in the middle of the street doing a double take to ensure we had the right place, and immediately we were so impressed with how we were welcomed. The receptionist saw us pull up and raced out to direct us where to park.
Then as we entered the lobby we immediately felt the old world charm of this regal hotel. It has a rich and warm feel to it, with a mix of old, eclectic, antiques and a myriad of art that decorates the walls throughout the property.
On entering our suite, we felt really special. There in the corner was an open area with a jacuzzi spa. The room was filled with so many different types of mood lighting too. And of course it was tastefully decorated in the charm we had seen on their Hotel Garni Gymnas website.
Because I had been communicating with the manager about my birthday celebration in Novi Sad, Ana ensured we were in for a treat.
A delicious box of lovely chocolate cream bananas were waiting for us on the bed. Explorason was quick to open and devour the first of these delicacies. Being a large and airy suite, it had all the room we needed to feel like it was a home not just a hotel room for a few days.
It also had another jacuzzi spa bath in the en-suite. There was a full size powerful hairdryer, and a nice basket of toiletries too.
What impressed me was all the power points. In fact, we decided this hotel wins the worldwide award so far for us with the number of electric power point outlets in the suite and hotel. Even downstairs – every table at breakfast had a socket – it was just a great feature, that showed they cared about their customers.
We unpacked and then went out to look around Novi Sad. The staff at Garni Hotel Gymnas had armed me with a map full of places to visit. They had included currency conversion, and places to park. This lovely lady had remembered everything. First stop was the cathedral and square and a walk around town.
We then ventured to the fort area (A really great drive through tunnels) and it was a pretty cloudy wet day, so we chose one of the Danube River Restaurants at the fort that overlook the river, and the city of Novi Sad. It had a lovely warm gas fire heater, so we felt pretty happy and relaxed.
Soon it was dark, so we returned to the Garni Hotel Gymnas lobby where the very friendly barman offered me a choice of seating areas. In fact there are 4 day seating areas, (plus the breakfast room).
I selected one away from the bar (smoking is available at the bar and I don’t smoke).
I unfortunately had a head cold and sore throat, and so it was since to stop and relax with a chilled white wine.
A business corner with computers is set up in a nook area near reception. As we are a one computer family, Explorason loved to retreat here to plan his on-line games, and I could watch him and chat.
The Garni Hotel Gymnas also has not one, but two full sized gymnasium rooms.
These were fully equipped, and I did see a few muscle toned men emerge as I sat and enjoyed my drink.
We headed upstairs to our lovely suite, and as we were at the rear of the building it was so quiet, and the neighbours had pretty birds that woke me with their ‘song’ in the morning. This was my 53rd birthday, and dispute feeling sick with this head cold, I was determined to enjoy the day.
Explorason had made me a card last night with the spirograph set we had bought in Turkey. He woke me to a lovely range of gifts (all things we had bought on our journey as memories, but quite a few he had chosen in secret). My favourite was a tea mug with a ceramic strainer for the herb tea, and a lid – he had selected this gift in Romania, and I loved it!
He then decided I needed a spa bath to start the day, and a nice glass of water.
We were pretty late heading downstairs for breakfast, but it was just fantastic. Typical Serbian food, but with an artistic flair.
It was lunchtime when we emerged and decided to ‘hit the town’. Once again the Hotel Garni Gymnas excelled. They rang and reserved complimentary Cinema tickets for us – these are always available to guests. The receptionist selected a traditional Serbian Restaurant for us for lunch, and another for dinner.
Our first stop was to buy myself a new top, and in the centre of town I found the perfect one – exactly what I was after in the second store. A lovely blue ski jumper / sweater. Explorason also ended up with a nice soft winter sweatshirt too.
One thing we experienced on this day was the joys of parking the car. There are parking stations, or street parking. If you park in the street you need a mobile telephone, and you have to book the parking on your phone. As we didn’t have a Serbian SIM, 3 people throughout the day volunteered to help us. Serbian hospitality again made us feel welcome, and this took the stress out of travelling.
We arrived at the traditional Coyake or Sokace Serbian Restaurant mid afternoon for a late lunch.
By now my head cold had really set in, and I felt more like a red nose clown.
But Explorason really excelled. He chatted in secret to the waiter, and had organised a candle and dessert at the end. Considering there is a language barrier, he did well. The whole restaurant sang “Happy Birthday Dear Lady”. I turned even redder than my nose!
It was late afternoon by the time we finished lunch.
We tried to go ten pin bowling, but even though lanes were free, they only had private lanes for clubs.
We wandered to a shopping mall nearby, and then it was off to the movies to see Night at the Museum – The Final Night and it was in english! I confess I cried. Only because it was also the final movie Robin Williams did before he took his own life. He was probably our favourite actor, and we have talked a lot about his suicide since it occurred. Still it was lovely to see him smile in the movie, and it was great to sit and relax, and even better that the movie tickets were offered free to hotel guests. In fact we were so impressed, we booked for our last night to go again.
When we returned to the Garni Hotel Gymnas, there in the suite was another surprise for me – a lovely gift pack with wine and toiletries. I so needed a new nail varnish, and loved the colour.
We were meant to head downstairs to the sauna, but when I turned on the computer, over 200 Facebook messages greeted me for my birthday.
We popped downstairs for a glass of ice, and I poured myself the wine and sat and read each and everyone, and liked them all. Now I felt teary.
This really was a fantastic birthday.
Three years ago on my 50th Birthday, I was a worn out, stressed, overworked woman – waiting for my house to sell that I no longer could afford to keep, and for us to start our adventure. Now we are on the other side of the world and life has completely changed.
Thank you to all of you who helped me feel special on my 53rd birthday. A special thank you to Garni Hotel Gymnas for helping make this event just wonderful for me, and of course to Explorason, who always makes me feel special.
Accommodation Name: Garni Hotel Gymnas
Location: Teodora Pavlovica 28, Novi Sad, Serbia
Date stayed: January, 2015
Breakfast: Menu choice of hot and cold available
Wi-fi: High speed wifi in the room and all areas
Child friendly: Yes