Serbia travel blog Day 3: Hello, Sombor

For years, we’ve heard stories about Sombor. For us, it is a faraway land that has that fairy tale essence. It has always seemed like a magical place to me. KK Joker, the local basketball club where Nikola Jokic played when, Jokic’s old school and the concrete court where he grew up playing, the Sombor horse stables and the racetrack are there. We knew these places existed, but we never knew if we could actually do it feel they really

We arrived in Sombor on Sunday afternoon and met up with Jokic’s first coach, Srdjan Stojkov, at KK Joker. Srdjan gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the entire facility, the team’s locker room and offices, and let us into the gym. It was an amazing experience. Mostonga Hall, the facility of KK Joker, is old and was built in 1971. Some parts look very old, while some parts have been redone.

Once through the gates, dim lighting and a pink brick corridor lead to a glittering court with seating for 1,000 fans. We’re told Jokic and his family help run the team and have invested heavily in the facility. They have also recently upgraded the pitch to the standards required to play in Serbia’s top division (KK Joker currently play in the second division). Branislav Jokic, Nikola’s father, is the president. The changing rooms and offices have also been recently renovated. Srdjan shared stories about Jokic that he remembers when he coached him and we got to shoot around the court. It was special.

Then we drove with Srdjan to the stables. Yes, Dreamcatcher Stables. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe how it felt to be there. It felt too perfect, almost fake. But the funny thing is, it’s exactly as you’d imagine. The dogs, the same ones that interrupted his MVP interview on TNT, are still barking. The chair and table he used during that interview are still there, right next to it, against the wall, where they’ve probably been for years. The racetrack is exactly as you imagine it to be. It is located just off the street and behind the stables and a white gate. There is a small stand on one side, and that’s it. Again, it’s perfect. It is simple, authentic, quiet, calm and peaceful. Simply perfect.

Next, Jokic’s old school and its basketball court. It was also so perfect it didn’t feel real. The mural appears more than I expected in person. Surrounded by neutral colors and lush green trees, it stands out, as it should. We played on the court for an hour or so. It felt so special to be there. Following in the footsteps of the best player in the world. Playing on the same concrete he once played on. Like I said, surreal.

Then dinner at Restoran Slon Sombor (Elefant Restaurant). Supposedly, it’s a place Jokic frequents. We ate fish stew, Jokic’s favorite, and other traditional Serbian dishes and lots of Jelen beer, Serbia’s most popular beer. We remembered an incredible day. An incredible day. A day we will talk about forever. Srdjan Vlaskalic, our tour guide in Sombor, also accompanied us to dinner. I’ll talk more about him tomorrow.

This trip has been a whirlwind. It’s been a blur. We have done a lot in such a short time. But I’ve always been able to feel incredibly present during our days here. Maybe it’s because every single moment felt so meaningful. It’s impossible not to be at the time while living this distant land. KK Joker, the horse track, the mural and Sombor have been such powerful places to visit.

One final note: We spent the night at a place in Sombor called The Old Brick Pub. It’s a bar with dorm rooms above. Yes, we slept on top of a bar. Also, a shout out to Miroslav Cuk and Milan Mijalkovic from Serbian Corner and the Nuggets Serbia Podcast who saved our lives and were with us every step of the way and got us to Sombor. The nine of us sitting in a circle outside the Old Brick at 1am passing a bottle of Rakija and reminiscing about what we had just experienced in Sombor is another lightbulb memory that will last forever.

Which day. More from Sombor tomorrow.

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