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Vojvodina is famous for its rich agricultural soil and proud history of farming, among other things. What happens when you mix this rural tradition with a little bit of that fantastic Serbian hospitality? In a word, salaš. Who, what, why, where or when is a salaš? It is something you absolutely must experience, for starters.
Stripped down to the bare bones, a salaš is a traditional farm in this part of the world. They are dotted all over Vojvodina, with plenty also found in the Croatian region of Slavonia, but the basic premise is pretty much the same all over. They are a major part of the tourist infrastructure in the modern age, but things weren’t always so developed and prosperous.
In the very beginning, a salaš was little more than a mud hut, usually fashioned out of local materials and built in a rushed and crude manner. It was a home for the farming family, and all it had to do was shelter and keep the family safe throughout whichever season before being rebuilt and re-established with the turning weather. At some point in history, humans realised that one size could fit all in this regard. Thus, the homestead was born.
A salaš in the modern age will have everything that a contemporary farm homestead requires. As well as lodgings for the various family members, there will usually be a barn, some stables, somewhere to store excess food and a whole lot of beautiful, rich, highly arable Vojvodina land. More often than not it will be owned and inhabited by a single family, with the deeds being handed down from generation to generation.
The homesteads have become an integral part of the tourist offer in Vojvodina. Many tours of Novi Sad and the area will involve stopping at a salaš for lunch or even a rakija (or three), offering visitors the chance to see and experience a more stripped back way of life as opposed to the chaotic one lived in Serbia’s bigger towns and cities.
There are many reasons to visit a salaš when in Vojvodina, but even more reasons to organise an overnight stay. Visiting one for lunch will give you a glimpse into traditional ways of life in this part of the world, but it will ultimately be too short a time to get any real idea of the culture and traditions. An overnight stay certainly won’t make you an expert, but it will absolutely enhance your understanding of Serbia’s northern province.
But there is more to it than just clearer cultural appreciation. The bright lights of Belgrade are magnificent, but there is a lot to be said for the simple existence out on the farm. Tranquility and tradition live hand in hand here on the ranches, and the neurosis and pressure of the capital feels a million miles away.
Cultural appreciation and spiritual tranquility are fine enough, but there is one very important reason to make the trip to a salaš. Well, that should be two very important reasons, but both are under the same umbrella. The food at the farms is absolutely unbeatable in this part of the world, and you are absolutely guaranteed to sample some of the finest rakija on the planet.
The ingredients used in both are as fresh as it gets, and even the most urbanised cynic will be converted to the culinary ways of the farm after a night at a salaš. Everything will be grown on the farm or locally sourced, and the proof is in the pudding (or the gulaš, or the rakija, etc). This is the place to indulge, the place to visit if the world has become a little bit heavy on your shoulders.
Will you wake up with a hangover? There is a good chance, but the call of the rooster and the quality of the drink will likely make it a little easier to deal with. Besides, what better way to send a morning than with a piping hot cup of coffee and Vojvodina spreading out in front of you?