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.
Passing through Palić’s Great Park entrance, a heavily-carved wooden arch that resembled reddish-brown lacework, I couldn’t help but imagine who had strolled through the gates a century earlier when this part of northern Serbia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. We continued along on a sidewalk that was covered by a thick canopy of handsome old trees, our sights set on tranquil Lake Palić a few hundred meters off in the distance. White lamp posts framed the walkway, and eventually we reached the water’s edge.
Situated in northern Serbia, the city of Subotica is like a treasure box overflowing with Art Nouveau gems. Most of the buildings were constructed in the early 20th Century, when Serbia and neighboring Hungary were part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
Designers incorporated whimsical details, colorful flourishes, and folk art into Subotica’s City Hall, Synagogue, private homes, and banks, evoking thoughts of Gaudí, fictional Dr. Seuss lands, and fanciful wedding cakes.
Aside from their beautiful charm, what’s remarkable about the structures is that their ceramic work is still as brilliant today as it was one hundred years ago.