Sitting in a dentist’s chair half-way around the world from ‘home’, I was told the disappointing news: I had my first, albeit tiny, cavity. Shawn and I had come to Subotica, Serbia to devour its delightful Art Nouveau architecture, but I hadn’t imagined that one of my teeth would be wearing a porcelain souvenir upon our departure from the historic city. While we’d read about Subotica’s gorgeous architecture and promising wine in a New York Times article dubbing it one of 52 Places to Go in 2014, we had only learned about the northern Serbian city’s well-respected dental tourism by chance, once we’d arrived there. Long curious about the medical tourism phenomenon, we sandwiched routine dental check-ups in between a Subotica walking tour, market visit, and leisurely strolls.
As the dentist and her assistant initiated the drilling on my hitherto pristine tooth, they spoke in their native tongue, alternating to English whenever walking me through the procedure. The television monitor before me was there to distract and comfort patients, but a Nirvana video featuring Kurt Cobain violently thrashing a guitar did nothing of the sort, especially as the buzzing began and nervousness set in.
A few minutes later, with a successful and painless filling under my belt and pearly whites to boot, Shawn and I left the modern clinic. My bill had only come to about 35 Euros (roughly $40 USD)! With those prices, it was no wonder that the waiting room of this clinic had been filled with patients from Scandinavia awaiting dental implants and advanced dental procedures.
A spontaneous stop into Subotica’s tourist office earlier in the week had introduced us to staff member, Homolya ‘Levy’ Levente. Levy’s background, it turned out, was about as diverse as Subotica’s and the Balkans: he speaks Serbian, Hungarian, English, and a smattering of German, and has a mother that comes from Bosnia-Herzegovina and a father from Subotica. Just kilometers from Hungary, and once part of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, Subotica’s population is today divided between ethnic Hungarians, Serbians, Croats, and Bunjevci people. It is one of Serbia’s largest cities.
With Levy having enthusiastically taken us under his wing, we embarked on a walking tour of the city, which was heavily focused upon its Art Nouveau architecture. On the way, we learned that the buildings’ designs had been largely influenced by folk art-motifs and that the area was once at the heart of a cultural crossroad.
At times, I imagined that the elaborate structures had spilled out from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book, because of their colorful, whimsical nature. I loved the colorful ceramic tiles adorning select rooftops, the curved gables and symbolism galore – everything from beehives to hearts and gargoyles to flowers.
Indeed, we will return to Subotica someday. And, I won’t be surprised if we spend some planned time in the dentist’s chair the next time we return!
Video of this Experience:
Where in the World?
Subotica (also known as Суботица and Szabadka) is located in northern Serbia, in the country’s Vojvodina region. The city is roughly 10 km (6 miles) from the Hungarian border. See Subotica‘s or Vojvodina‘s websites for details.
We stayed in the family-owned Stara Breza Apartments (affiliate link) in the nearby town of Palić. We enjoyed the establishment’s quiet atmosphere, made even more picturesque by its small fishpond and pleasing garden. It’s about a five-minute walk from the Stara Breza to a bus stop, and the bus there can take you to Subotica in about 15-20 minutes. As of May 2014, the bus-fare for one adult was 86 Serbian Dinar, about $1 USD each way. Palić has a lovely lake and was a popular resort town in the early 20th century.
When we toured Subotica and learned about its dental tourism, we spontaneously decided to have routine check-ups and cleanings done at the NorDent Dental Center. We were pleased with the level of care there, as well as the very reasonable price of our bill!
Need more trip-planning inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Serbia.
A big thank you to Levy for spontaneously taking the time to show us around this lovely corner of Serbia!
Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene.
A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia.
Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.
View more posts
26 thoughts on “Sinking My Teeth into Subotica, Serbia: A Tale of Art Nouveau & Dental Tourism”
This place looks beautiful! I love traveling. Thank you for sharing this experience :)
Jess, Subotica’s architecture and the area’s natural beauty do make this part of Serbia a worthwhile place to visit. It’s also a good selling point that the city is not so far away from Budapest and Belgrade.
Thanks for reading, and wish you happy travels ahead!
What a unique place. You two tend to find the most interesting places that many never even think of. A good deal on the dental work too!
Darlene, we’d been curious about Serbia for some time before this trip, and were prompted to go there as our Schengen visa was expiring. We ended up enjoying Subotica, Novi Sad, and Belgrade so much that we came back again a few months later. We’re still in Malta, and this visit was actually about 2 years ago, but as spring returned here, we thought it was time to finally share our impressions of this pretty architecture and the nice people who welcomed us in Serbia.
Are tbose pink flowers peonies? What a gorgeous city! The city hall roof reminds me of a gingerbread house!
I can’t say for sure, Halee, but I think they may be roses. I’m with you, though – I loved the floral motifs to be found in Subotica’s architecture, as well as its gingerbread-like nature. I also thought some of the buildings looked as though a pastry artist had piped on rich swirls of frosting on them. :)
What a nice town! It reminds me a bit of the town where I lived in the Czech Republic, which also had a statue holding up a building like in one of your photos above. I’d love to visit Serbia one day.
Jenna, I wonder if the architectural similarities might be because both countries were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? I’d also like to explore ‘your’ part of the Czech Republic some day. I hear Moravia has some very pretty wine country, and I recently discovered that a branch of our family comes from there. Very distant, nevertheless it adds a nice personal touch to a place.
Here’s hoping you and your family will get to Serbia someday soon. I imagine your boys would love the fortresses there. We’ve only seen a few, but some look quite dramatic!
What a beautiful city Subotica is. I really love the architecture of the city hall and the synagogue — it looks elegant and playful at the same time. Speaking of dental tourism, it reminds me of this Canadian woman I met in Bangkok a few years ago who always returned to the city every year to get a dental care.
“Elegant and playful” – a fitting way to describe the architecture, Bama!
From the sound of it, Bangkok is a popular dental tourism destination too. With elevated prices in many countries, I can see why people marry a vacation with medical care.
Hope your week is off to a wonderful start! I imagine it’s sizzling hot there now? We’re preparing for a very warm (and our first) summer here in Malta.
The decorations on the buildings are so pretty. It was interesting to read about the dental reputation of this place. Many people from Australia go to Thailand for major dental work because it is so much cheaper there.
Carol, it’s been two years since Shawn and I were in Subotica, but as I rounded up the photographs for this piece, and as Shawn created his video, we said how much we would like to return. Between the fairy tale-like architecture and the peace and calm of Palić Lake, this trip was especially relaxing (even though a trip to the dentist was involved). :) Hope you had a wonderful weekend!
One of the things I enjoy about writing a travel blog is revisiting our favourite places through our photos. Enjoy your week.
Great post, sorry about the tooth.
Thank you, Mark! And the cavity was so minute, the procedure was painless. With us having been on the road so much during this time period (about 2 years ago) I just feel lucky to have been near a good dental clinic though.
Hope you’re well and enjoying your maritime adventures.
Magnificent reportage. The city owes you! Very interesting city.
Ciao Vera, I’m glad you enjoyed this glimpse of Subotica. Mille grazie for your thoughtful words. :)
Hi Denis, seeing that you are a talented artist, I suspect you’d find some inspiration among Subotica’s intricate and imaginative architecture!
Thank you for your compliment – and I think thats a great idea!
What a great post!!!!
Glad you enjoyed it, Elly. As a dental student, you’d probably have fun networking with the Serbian dentists we met in Subotica too. :)
Yes, I am sure that I would.