Inspirations & Aspirations – Subotica: The Destination, Rather Than The Journey (Rendezvous With An Obscure Destiny #16)

It was not about the meal, but the men. It was not about the journey, but the destination. I only realized this after the fact. The meal and the men were in Subotica, that sublime Serbian city which hugs the Hungarian border. The destination was not only Subotica, but also Szeged, Odorheiu Secuiesc and Osijek. I stumbled upon tangible evidence that reconnected me to each of those places by way of Subotica. In a city that I had come to visit for its amazing array of Art Nouveau buildings, I found myself looking back at my previous pasts and finding inspiration for the future. This came to me while looking at photos I took during my time in the city. Most of the photos were of Art Nouveau buildings. These included multiple palaces, a synagogue and town hall covered with lavish decorative elements. Subotica was a place that put the “art” in architecture.

Amid images of one eye popping architectural confection after another, there were a couple of rather simple, elegant, and delicious photos. Delicious may seem the strangest adjective of the three, but it is also the most appropriate. One photo I took in a coffee house, shows a slice of chocolate cake and a small cup of black coffee at my table. Other set pieces in this photo include a glass of water and small fork that sit tantalizingly beside the slice of cake. This is an image that makes me long for the cakes, pastries, and puddings I have so enjoyed in Eastern European patisseries. Yet the photo is more than just a reminder of sugary sweets, it is also a stimulation to the memory of a few men who entered my world one winter morning in Subotica. The other photo shows a series of signs pointing in all directions. They are signposts to my past travels and possibly future ones as well.

Cake & Coffee – Lunch in Subotica

Dropping Off & Dropping In – A Visit With Friends
Arriving in Subotica long before lunchtime presented me with a quandary. I did not want to carry a piece of luggage around the city for several hours while I waited for a 1:00 p.m. check in at my accommodation. Fortunately, I happened upon the city’s main tourist office where the attendant allowed me to drop my bag. Delivered from the shackles of that suitcase, I was now free to roam around Subotica for several hours. I chose to pass the time by wandering around the main town square before slowly branching out beyond it. This offered up plenty of opportunities to take photos of anything that caught my eye. Subotica’s Art Nouveau Architecture was a feast for the eyes. The buildings were coated in an array of radiant colors. The colors did not so much pop, as explode into me. 

Before long I found myself longing for a bite to eat. It was almost lunchtime, so I searched for something on the lighter side. In a matter of minutes, I spied a coffee house. Through the window I could see the usual selection of mouthwatering pastries. The sight of these was magnetic, pulling me inside where I took a small table near the window. I would be able to watch the world go by while I relaxed with coffee and cake. The waiter, an older gentleman who spoke no English, was unfailingly polite as I made my order with hand signs and scattered bits of broken Serbian. While waiting, I could not help but notice the vigorous conversation taking place among three men seated around a corner table in the coziest of confines. By their graying hair and relaxed demeanor, I was able to discern two things. They were pensioners as well as old friends.

The art in architecture – Art Nouveau in Subotica

While I enjoyed a bracing cup of coffee that sent my pulse racing, I watched these men vigorously engage in conversation with one another. Their conversation was animated by kindness, inquisitiveness and understanding. There is something entrancing about listening without comprehension to an unintelligible language being spoken. By carefully listening to the peculiar enunciations and expressions of emotion I could tell how the conversation was going. Words ebbed and flowed between the three men. I had no idea what they were discussing, but for me the topic was really their friendship. I, a loner in a strange city thousands of kilometers from home, was witness to something simple and enchanting. The coming together through conversation of three friends. At that moment, I thought to myself that this is what we should all aspire to in the later years of our lives. A sense of comradery and unity, that kinship with our fellow man that offers us the ultimate opportunity to be ourselves. This was something remarkable that happens every day and yet I have barely taken time to notice. We should all be so lucky as those men in Subotica.

Pointing the way – Signs in Subotica

Signing On – Pointing The Way
Only a few meters from the coffee house were a series of signs that I noticed not long after finishing up at the coffee shop. I had seen such signs before, in other Eastern European cities such as Lviv, Krakow and Belgrade. They point the way to other European cities in a variety of directions. I recall looking at one of these on my first journey to Eastern Europe, thinking how much I would like to visit all the different cities. It had scarcely seemed possible at the time, but after a decade of traveling across the region my perspective was quite different. I was now intimately familiar with several of the cities listed on the signs. I would never have guessed that when I first started my travels.

I could now look at a sign pointing the way to Osijek in Croatia and recall a train journey over the Danube there. Or that Odorheiu Secuiesc would conjure images of fin de siècle architecture in a modest sized city on the edge of southeastern Transylvania. Or that Szeged would evoke images in my mind of its pristinely preserved Belvaros. I was astonished that I had made it to all those cities, but I could not help but aspire to go further. Fortunately, one sign listed a place I had not been or ever heard of, Dunajska Streda in Slovakia. I wondered if I would ever make it there, the same way I wondered if I would make it anywhere in Eastern Europe a decade ago. Somehow, I had found those cities on the signs and now they had found me.  On that day, it was about the destination rather than the journey.

Click here for: From Discovery To Destiny – Konigstein: The Czech Connection (Rendezvous With An Obscure Destiny #17)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s