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  • Writer's pictureMatthias

Serbia's most beautiful town?

Bold words, I am very well aware of that. But that is actually what many locals and surroundals claim. And even international friends of mine have passionately presented that opinion to me. Frankly speaking, one thing is definitely true: measured against the population of a little below 9,000 Sremski Karlovci certainly has the most numerous magnificent buildings in Serbia per capita – first and foremost the country's oldest high school (Karlovačka gimnazija) which can even be sightseen and the Patriarchate Court (Patrijaršijski dvor) featuring some splendid baroque architecture combined with a touch of renaissance.

Photo by Sanja Kostić

With over 60 wineries in its vicinity Sremski Karlovci is practically Serbia's 'wine capital' while the nearby Fruška Gora National Park (Nacionalni park Fruška gora) provides the necessary ingredients. It was supposedly Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus who had the first vines planted there – an unnecessary drudgery in times of peace that apparently led his soldiers into mutiny. And even if none of the town's pretty structures require to put on beer goggles – or wine goggles, respectively – you should try the local specialties, especially the traditional dessert wine Bermet. Made according to ancient secret recipes it can contain up to 27 different ingredients, including raisins, vanilla, dried figs, carob beans, mustard and nuts. Definitely leave space in your luggage for one bottle at least!

Legend says the population of the 18th and 19th centuries even used the flavourful and multifaceted Bermet politically and sent it to their Austro-Hungarian monarchs when the town was in need of something. And according to some sources the also internationally appreciated wine was even served on the Titanic. It's unrecorded whether Bermet also played a role in the historic peace agreement that took place here, the Treaty of Karlowitz (Karlovački mir) which ended the Great Turkish War in 1699. Today at the spot where the Holy League and the Ottoman Empire concluded their treaty – for the first time in the history of world diplomacy at a round negotiating table – you can find the Peace Chapel (Kapela mira), built in 1817.

Photo by Sanja Kostić

Besides the alcohol and the architecture there are also three quite extraordinary museums that make the touristic trip to Sremski Karlovci worthwile. The family business behind the Museum of Beekeeping and Wine Cellar Živanović (Muzej Pčelarstva i Vinarstva Živanović) is actually an award-winning winery, but beekeeping and honey are passion and additional income. That's how this small combo museum came into being, named after a famous ancestor and professor at the municipal grammar school who in 1875 brought the basics for modern beekeeping to Serbia. On the tour you can see personal items, modern beehives as well as a traditional honey extractor and you can try some homemade wine. Obviously.

Just 2-4 walking minutes away (depending on the amount of tasted wine) a special little gem deals with the fact that somehow lighters have never completely replaced the classic matches that in turn have been an integral part of human culture for over 200 years. Long enough for an exhibition, is what Croatian Jasna Novak must have thought in the 1960s when she began collecting boxes, stickers and whatever else matchstick-related. Jovan Benišek expanded this collection in the early 2000s to currently over 25,000 exhibits from different countries and continents that even illustrate a timeline of social change and can be admired at the Matchstick museum (Muzej šibica).

Photo by Sanja Kostić

And say, do you know where the bundt cake originally came from? Germany, France, Italy and Austria actually all claim its creation for themselves while quite similar baking tins were even used in ancient Rome already. Fact is that once upon a time only the richest and most royal could afford this pastry pleasure. Thank goodness we live in different times today, so go ahead and head to the Bundt cake museum Gea (Muzej Kuglofa Gea). That is actually just an extremely cute café that celebrates the Serbian bundt cake version in countless variations and for stomach-friendly prices.

Photo by Sanja Kostić

In case you're not feeling up for travelling much after all this wine and cake (not to mention the architectureseeing) just enjoy some Serbian family time. There is two delightful accommodations in Sremski Karlovci that even offer the family experience to people in lack of Serbian relatives. Somin Lagum is located in a 200-year-old house with a barn where the owner has set up a small private museum featuring his uncle's old belongings. And at Sobe Gajić you're being welcomed by sweet old Milka, a true Empress of the kitchen who considers breakfast the most important meal (my kinda gal!). And in the evening you can sit in the garden, chatting over homemade rakija and homegrown kiwis or pondering about how beautiful Sremksi Karlovci really is.

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