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. Though they are currently nomadic, they look forward to establishing a European home someday.
Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.
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