Epic Balkan Road Trip

In summer 2011 I decided to go on a road trip in Balkan. By car. Alone. Well, almost alone, I had a few companions, but I started the roadtrip alone. The original idea was to record the entire road trip, for my college degree, which included three cities, Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Budva in Montenegro, Belgrade in Serbia, as well as any intermediate stops.

I booked a hotel online, and totally equipped with books, tour guides, navigation system, and of course, the new Nikon D7000, which I bought for this purpose, because it also has a camera that records in HD quality, I first went to Sarajevo (from Ljubljana, Slovenia).

Let’s go!

It was about 8 hours driving, the highway through Croatia is quite boring, but once I came to Bosnia, I found some nice motives that could be great for a road trip video. Unfortunately, I couldn’t drive and record at the same time, and I kind of didn’t want to stop all the time, I wanted to get to Sarajevo as soon as possible. Too bad that I didn’t have any small camera like GoPro back then, if I planned this trip today I would make everything totaly different.

Anyway, in all the small villages, every other house had a car repair business, or washing machines and dishwasher repair. I could just hear front bearing snapping and popping, which was already a bit worn at that time, but hey, the road trip should be a bit adventurous, and I had a car repair every 20 m 😀

A few km before Sarajevo, there was a road work, I have no idea where exactly this was, it just felt sooo long, because of traffic, the road was so crowded, we drove 20-30 km/h on a long gravel road quite a long time. And when I finally got on highway, at toll I realized I forgot to exchange the currency. Toll collector was a bit rude at first, but I managed to pay in Euros, and in return I got Bosnian Convertible Mark.

Sarajevo

So, I kind of got to Sarajevo, but I had to find the hotel, which is located in Ilidza, this is a city around 12 km out of Sarajevo, and guess what? My navigation system just didn’t cooperate with me and didn’t show me where exactly my hotel is. I got so close to a hotel from two different sides, I mean really close, about 1 km, but I couldn’t see any sings, just bunch of other hotels, but mine was really well hidden behind some trees. Oh god, I was so freaking out, so after 30 minutes I decided to ask for a help. I got a good guidance and calmed down a bit, I had to turn to the other way, so I had to find an appropriate place to turn in this busy three line road, where everyone drives where and how he/she wants. Finally in a small intersection I turned, but I guess didn’t see there were two traffic lights, and I drove through the first light, and waited on the other light 😀 That’s what the police said that stopped me just a second after it 😀 I still don’t know how this happened, maybe they stopped me because they saw I was a foreigner, but I was so tired of driving, hungry and I really felt lost and alone, I just couldn’t think anymore. They said that the penalty costs 50€ and I have to pay it on bank or post office. I replied I will pay if they take me to bank, and than take me to the damn hotel. They didn’t want to tell me where the hotel is, one cop was listening the earbuds, the other one was trying to convince me to pay, the point is actually, to offer them the lower price to pay, so they take it for themselves, but I didn’t want to play that game, and I asked him about the hotel again, and he again began talking about the penalty, and that continued for a few minutes, totally crazy. But then he finally give up and let me go without a penalty, but also didn’t tell me where the hotel is. Oh what a day! Finally I found my hotel, took a shower and fell asleep.

The next four days I spent -peacefully- in Sarajevo, where I met some of the locals that showed me the city, described the history of Sarajevo and showed the greatest sights and attractions. The first day I went to the center of Sarajevo by taxi, just in case. 😀 But the good thing is, taxi is really cheap there. The following days I encouraged myself and went to center with my car, it’s really not a big deal, it’s just a Balkan driving, people were overtaking on all three lanes, but not a single accident happened.

At the time I was in Sarajevo, there was a Sarajevo Film Festival, which is the premier and largest film festival in Southeast Europe, and is one of the largest in Europe. It was founded in Sarajevo in 1995 during the siege of Sarajevo in the Bosnian Independence War, and brings international and local celebrities to Sarajevo every year. It is held in August and showcases an extensive variety of feature and short films from around the world. I went to see couple of movies, I didn’t see Angelina, she was supposed to be there 😀

Sarajevo is the capital and the largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s most famous for its attractions such as Bascarsija, Sebilj Fountain, Eternal flame- Vjecna vatra, Ali Pasha Mosque, Bijela Tabija, Ferhadia Street, Inat Kuca,…
Sarajevo 02Sarajevo 01Sarajevo 03Sarajevo 09Sarajevo 04Sarajevo 12Sarajevo architectureSarajevo artSarajevo 32Sarajevo bosnia Sarajevo buildingSarajevo churchSarajevo city Sarajevo Male daire Sarajevo night view Sarajevo war mark

Baščaršija

Baščaršija is Sarajevo’s old bazaar and the historical and cultural center of the city. It is located on the north bank of the river Miljacka, in the municipality of Stari Grad. It is an oriental bazaar, a maze of narrow streets with small shops where craftsmen make and sell their products. At one time, each street was dedicated to a different kind of craft – metalwork, jewelry, pottery,… Nowadays, many of the old artisan shops have been converted to souvenir shops and cafes.
Sarajevo Bascarsijasarajevo bascarsija sebiljSarajevo bascarsija bullet

Ilidža & Vrelo Bosne

Ilidža is the suburb of Sarajevo, it is surrounded with mountains, a beautiful nature, and it really is a relaxing place. The most beautiful place near is Vrelo Bosne spring, it is quite popular and could be very crowded, but it provides a quiet escape from a city. The park is usually entered by foot or by horse-carriage (fijaker), via the 3 kilometer straight main avenue (Velika Aleja) leading into it. Near Ilidža, not so far from the beginning of river Bosna, is located a Roman Bridge (Rimski most). It is one of the four remaining old bridges in Sarajevo and now it doesn’t have it’s real function because the old road that leads to Roman bridge is not functional now.
Sarajevo Vrelo BosneSarajevo ilidza 39Roman bridge on Ilidza

Here is also a video I made, a really quick montage of some short videos I recorded:

Montenegro

After four great days in Sarajevo, I headed to Montenegro. First I planned to go through Mostar in Bosnia, but since I expected some crowds in the road I headed through the nearest path to Podgorica, where I was going to met with a friend, she was flying from Ljubljana to Podgorica. The route should last around 4 hours, but it took me around 7 hours 😀 This was the closest way, but really not the easiest. Roads were quite worn, leading through small villages, some of them looked totally abandoned. Although it looked really good to make some videos, but again, I couldn’t film all the time driving, and frankly, I was too scared to step out of the car 😀

Around 40 km before the border Bosnia-Montenegro, police check surprised me. This time the cops were more friendly, I just showed my driving license, green card and all the documents, and everything seemed fine, but just in case, they walked around my car, and find out that I don’t have an oval sticker with the Slovenian code on the back of the car. You know what is the biggest irony her? In the last gas station in Slovenia I wanted to stop to buy that f* sticker, but I said ‘no, nothing will happen, I don’t need it’ 😀 Well, the penalty should be 20€, and again, policeman referred me back to the village, 15 km, to pay in the post office. And I remembered this post office, it was the most abandoned building of all the abandoned things back in the village, and by the way, it was Sunday. This time I knew it was necessary to negotiate. After a short negotiation, I gave him 10€, and he said that he’ll pay the penalty for me. 😀 I laughed so hard 😀 I thanked him for his kindness, and then, just in case, he took a sheet of paper from his notebook, and with a pen drew an oval sign of ‘Slo’, and placed it on the inside of the back window. He said: ‘If anyone asks on the border, tell them I made it.’ Ha ha funny guy 😀

In the border Šćepan Polje, luckily, they didn’t noticed my hand drawn oval country sign, it all went well, but the border itself is freaking scary and awesome at the same time. You can find some pictures here.
The road continues through the Piva Canyon and Lake Piva, (Pivsko jezero). Piva is located in the northwestern part of Montenegro at the foot of a high mountain area in the mountain range of Durmitor. It is one of several canyons that surrounds the Durmitor.The lake is in some places deep over 200 meters and is 45 km long.
Piva is extremely clean and the water is constantly drinkable, it is considered the largest reservoir of fresh water in the world.
The color of water looks really beautiful, and it just left me speechless, and all the nature around, and the mountains and the curvy road, the best thing for road trip. This is something I want to see again, next time with a company, not alone. In the end of a video I posted (Trip to Sarajevo) you can see just a little bit of Piva lake from above.

The roads in Montenegro are quite good, it all went well, this is what I call the definition of a road trip, driving for hours with a good view. Large areas of agricultural land and meadows stretching along the slopes, at sunset it looks pretty amazing. During the driving you can see a lot of different animals, like a dead pig next to road, a lot of homeless dogs, and of course, a group of cows walking on one lane of the road for quite a while 😀

driving in montenegro

When I finally came to Podgorica, my friend was already waiting for me at the airport, but I had to get lost a little bit in the center of Podgorica, because if there are two ways to go, I’ll always choose the wrong one first 😀 When I finally picked her up, we had 60 more km to Budva. We arrived there around 10 pm, I was totally tired and so hungry, so we wanted to stop in some bakery first, and then continue to our apartment, which we booked earlier. As I wanted to bite my delicious slice of pizza, I saw a towing truck taking my car away. Really?? Now this?!? I was so pissed off, threw the pizza somewhere and ran after the truck. It was such a traffic, everyone was watching, and I was walking next to towing service, so they could give me my car in the nearest appropriate place. The penalty was 85€, but we negotiate again, even the owner of the apartment came, and in the end I got through with 50€. I got my car immediately, but I had to pay the penalty on the bank next day, and then I got back my documents. What a day, again!

After two penalties in one day, I said I had enough of the police and driving, and I decided to not even touch the car for the whole week. So we spend one week in Budva in the nearest beaches, although I really wanted to go to Kotor and some nearest places. I guess I’ll have to see that some other time.

Budva

Budva is a coastal town, the most popular resort in Montenegro. It’s most famous for its Old town, great architecture and attractions which date to middle century. The roads are tiny, very braided, you can easily get lost with a car, there are lot of squares, and too little place to park. You better walk there 😀 There are some nice beaches, we have spend the most time on Mogren and Kamenovo beach.

In the next days joined us my friend’s friends from Belgrade, and after our vacation in Budva, we continued to Belgrade all together – thanks to them, I didn’t get lost on my way to Belgrade 😀 On the way back we stopped at various interesting locations, we went through Novi Pazar. Fortunately, there was no problems on the road, but with all the stops it last 17 hours.

Belgrade

When I arrived to Belgrade I figured out that I really don’t have that much video material I would want to have, so I kind of give up upon my road trip video project. I decided to film only Belgrade, but that video also isn’t finished yet. Anyway, Belgrade is one of my favourite cities, I’ve beeen here before, and I went there later a few times. My friend and her boyfriend came there at that time so we spend our vacation together, and they also have already been there before.

Belgrade (Beograd) the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Belgrade is adventouros and proud, it’s one of the cities where there is something happening all the time. I really like the contrast of architecture, between socialism, art nouveau and other modern buildings. Knez Mihailova is a pedestrian boulevard, full of shops, coffees, ice creams and nice historical buildings, but my favorite is ancient Kalemegdan Park, which is the oldest of the city parks. I could just spend there hours sitting, reading, watching… There are also lots of other parks, and other great attractions, which you can see on Visit Belgrade, great descriptions and all the information you need.

Belgrade Serbia Belgrade streetskadarlijacross church belgrade dunav sava entrance kalemegdan Jugoexport belgrade kalemegdan on top kalemegdan tvrdjavatvrdjava kalemegdanKalemegdan view Kalemegdan  statue on kalemegdan The horse belgrade  view from kalemegdan

After total of three week traveling I returned home, happy, tired and with new memories. If I planned this trip now, I would have done it completely different, but I’m still happy with how I actually did it. I haven’t seen everything what I wanted, but that just one more reason to do it again 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *