For years, we have been hearing stories about Sombor. For us, it is a distant land that has this fairy tale essence. It always seems like a magical place. KK Joker, the local basketball club that Nikola Jokic played for way back, Jokic’s former school and the concrete courts he grew up playing on, the Sombor horse stables and the race track are all there. We knew these places existed, but we never knew if we would actually be able to feel For real them.
We arrived in Sombor on Sunday afternoon and met Serjan Stojkov, Jokic’s first coach 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 a wonderful experience. Mostonga Hall, KK Joker facility is old and was built in 1971. Some parts of it look very old school while some have been redone.
Once you walk through the doors, a dimly lit and pink brick hallway leads to a glittering palace 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 recently upgraded the court to the standards required to play in Serbia’s top division (KK Joker currently plays in the second division.) Branislav Jokic, Nikola’s father, is the president. Locker rooms and offices have been recently redone. Srdjan shared stories about Jokic that he remembers from coaching and we got to shoot around the court. It was special.
Then we went to the stables with Srijan. Yes, Dream Catcher Stables. Unreal doesn’t begin to describe how it felt there. It felt so right, almost fake. But the funny thing is how you portray it. The dogs — the same ones that interrupted his MVP interview on TNT — are still barking. The chair and table he used in that interview are still there, against the wall where they’ve probably been for years. The race track is exactly as you picture it. It sits by the side of the road and behind the stables and white gate. There’s a small grandstand on one side, and that’s it. Again, this is perfect. It is simple, authentic, quiet, calm and peaceful. Just perfect.
Next, Jokic’s old school and its basketball court. It was also so perfect that it didn’t seem real. The graffiti pops more than I personally thought it would. Surrounded by neutral colors and lush green trees, it stands out, as it should. We played on the court for an hour. Staying there felt very special. Following in the footsteps of the world’s greatest players. Playing on the same concrete as once played. Like I said, surreal.
Then, dinner at Restoran Slon Sombor (Elephant Restaurant). Reportedly, this is a place Jokic frequents. We had fish stew, Jokic’s favorite, and other traditional Serbian dishes as well as Jelen beer, Serbia’s most popular beer. We had an incredible day to remember. An incredible day. One day we will talk forever. Joining us for dinner was Srdjan Vlaskalic, our tour guide in Sombor. I will talk more about her tomorrow.
This journey has been a whirlwind. Blurred. 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 each individual moment feels so important. It is impossible not to in the moment While experiencing this distant land. KK clowns, horse tracks, graffiti and sombor are such powerful places to visit.
One final note: we stayed overnight at a place called the Old Brick Pub in Sombor. It’s a bar with dormitory-style rooms above. Yes, we slept on top of the fence. Also, shoutout to Miroslav Cook and Milan Mijalkovic from The Serbian Corner and the Nuggets Serbia Podcast for saving lives and being with us every step of the way and getting us to Sombor. The nine of us sitting in a circle outside the old brick at 1am are passing around a bottle of rakija and reminiscing about what we just experienced in Sombor is another flashbulb memory that will stick forever.
what a day More from Sombor tomorrow.