For years, we have heard tales about Sombor. To us, it is a faraway land that has this fairytale essence to it. It has at all times appeared like a magical place. KK Joker, the native basketball membership that Nikola Jokic performed for approach again when, Jokic’s former college and the concrete courtroom he grew up enjoying on, the Sombor horse stables and race observe are all there. We knew these locations existed, however we by no means knew if we might truly have the ability to really feel them for actual.
We arrived in Sombor 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 complete facility, the group’s locker room and places of work, and allow us to into the fitness center. It was an superior expertise. Mostonga Hall, the KK Joker facility, is outdated and was inbuilt 1971. Certain components of it look very old style whereas a few of it has been re-done.
Once you stroll by the doorways, dim lighting and a pink brick hallway result in a glowing courtroom that has seating for 1,000 followers. We have been instructed that Jokic and his household assist run the group and have invested closely within the facility. They’ve additionally just lately upgraded the courtroom to the requirements which might be wanted to play in Serbia’s high division (KK Joker at present performs within the second division.) Branislav Jokic, Nikola’s father, is the president. The locker rooms and places of work have been just lately re-done too. Srdjan shared tales about Jokic that he remembers from teaching him and we obtained to shoot round on the courtroom. It was particular.
We then drove with Srdjan to the stables. Yes, Dream Catcher Stables. Surreal would not even start to explain the way it felt to be there. It felt too good, like nearly pretend. But the humorous factor is it is precisely the way you’d image it. The canine — the identical ones that interrupted his MVP interview on TNT — are nonetheless barking. The chair and desk that he used throughout that interview are nonetheless there, simply off to the facet in opposition to the wall the place they’ve in all probability been for years. The race observe is strictly the way you’d image it too. It sits simply off the road and behind the stables and a white gate. There’s a small grandstand on one facet, and that is it. Again, it is good. It’s easy, genuine, quiet, tranquil and peaceable. Just good.
Next, Jokic’s old style and its basketball courtroom. It was additionally so good that it did not really feel actual. The mural pops greater than I anticipated in individual. Surrounded by impartial colours and plush inexperienced timber, it stands out, because it ought to. We performed on the courtroom for an hour or so. It simply felt so particular being there. Walking within the footsteps of the best participant on this planet. Playing on the identical concrete that he as soon as performed on. Like I’ve mentioned, surreal.
Then, dinner at Restoran Slon Sombor (Elephant Restaurant). Allegedly, it is a spot Jokic frequents. We had fish stew, Jokic’s favourite, and different conventional Serbian dishes plus loads of Jelen beer, the preferred beer in Serbia. We reminisced on an unimaginable day. An unbelievable day. A day we’ll be speaking about endlessly. Also becoming a member of us at dinner was Srdjan Vlaskalic, our tour information in Sombor. I’ll speak extra about him tomorrow.
This journey has been a whirlwind. It’s been a blur. We’ve achieved a lot in such a brief period of time. But I’ve at all times been in a position to really feel extremely current all through our days right here. Maybe it is as a result of each particular person second has felt so vital. It’s not possible to not be within the second whereas experiencing this distant land. KK Joker, the horse observe, the mural and Sombor have been such highly effective locations to go to.
One remaining be aware: We stayed in a single day at a spot in Sombor known as The Old Brick Pub. It’s a bar with dorm-style rooms above it. Yes, we slip above a bar. Also, Shoutout to Miroslav Cuk and Milan Mijalkovic from Serbian Corner and the Nuggets Serbia Podcast who’ve been lifesavers and with us each step of the way in which and drove us as much as Sombor. The 9 of us sitting in a circle exterior of the Old Brick at 1 am passing round a bottle of Rakija and reminiscing about what we had simply skilled in Sombor is one other flashbulb reminiscence that can stick endlessly.
What a day. More from Sombor tomorrow.