Lost in Belgrade

Serbia is a funny country, on our way out of Belgrade we decided to visit the mausoleum of Tito. This beloved father of the country Yugoslavia which is beloved and praised (at least in Serbia) has a mausoleum and you could guess that it would be signs so you could find it, wrong! We found the address on internet and google maps and after we checked both the ordinary map and and configured the GPS we started to drive.  We knew that we were supposed to drive past the Red Star stadium and yes we did. We might be be warned here but even around this big stadium it was no signs what so ever about where to park or anything but we found a parking spot and walked over and took some photos of the stadium.

Back into the car and driving using the GPS and when the GPS we arrived, we were in the middle of residential area, not quite right. Well I thought the GPS freaked out which is not uncommon in big cities where the connection to satellites are blocked but nah, we found a park close by but no mausoleum. We drove around a bit using the ordinary map instead and realized that we actually were on the right address but where the mausoleum is located….we have no idea. Serbia, have you heard about signs?!? Anyway, we gave up and tried to figure out how to find our way out of Belgrade instead. Once again we configured the GPS and this time it took us to a half built resident area, probably the fastest/easiest road out from city once the road is finished and now we were really lost. Luckily for us we met a nice serb who first tried to describe how we should drive to find the highway but after a few minutes he realized that not even him understood how to drive so he took the lead and guided us out.

From that point we drove using both GPS and the old school map and once we got to Nis where we knew that we should turn the GPS said follow road 34, the old school map said follow road 25 and the road signs, they said 14. It kind a felt like Servia does everything to make it impossible to relax. The roads however were in good shape and the border control from Serbia to Kosovo wasn’t any problem at all, almost I got disappointed how easy it was to leave Serbia to a country they don’t recognize as a country.

In Pristina were we are right now the feeling is pretty much the opposite from the rest of the countries we visited. The whole city is breathing change and they are building everywhere. Our hotel is as many other hotels newly built and our neighbor next door is the KFOR base and some embassies. I guess you could say we chose the little nicer area in this city but so far I would dare to say that the feeling I get is everywhere in the city, not just here.


The day started with an early breakfast at the hotel before we walked towards the ministry of interior and the department of Culture, sport and youth. Per had an arranged an interview and myself tagged along pretty much to see what the ministry looked like. It was actually really interesting and I learned some new things but it was obvious that we talked to an politician. All answers was thought-through, impossible to misunderstand and he pointed out both one and two times that everybody had the same value no matter of skin color, race, religion and of course that Kosovo has forgiven Serbia for the cruelties that happened during the war. Well the graffiti on the walls over the city say something different but overall I think he have right and Pristine is not looking in the past, instead its bursting of optimism and a go-ahead spritit I havent noticed in any other country.

In other words it was a really nice start of the day and that we had our first really warm day didn’t it make it worse. We spent a lot of time on the small coffee shops and since they “when in rome, do like the romans do” Ive been drinking a shitload of espressos and smoked way to many cigarettes. I read somewhere that in Kosovo you can buy anything and by some reason I don’t doubt it, if you go for regular wares it really cheap or what about 2 beers, 2 coffees and one bottle of water for €2.50.

Something completely different, Kosovo is the first country i visited where while I sit on the toilet my feets are dingle in the air, what kind of giant are these kosovo-albans?

Goodbye Kosovo, Hello Macedonia

Yesterday we met Durim at the local hotel bar. Took a beer, talked about the past, now and the future and we picture Durim told us wasn’t exactly the same picture as the politician said early during the day and he told us about tensions between Kosovo and Serbia.  After a few beers the question raised if we should move on to next stop and since Pristina skybar is closed because of maintains we went to Germia park. Germia park is really close to the city center but still pretty big for a park, we rented some mountain bikes and started to bike uphill (which was not so fun) to a restaurant. Once we were on top of the hill it was totally worth it though, so quite, calm and not a single car could be heard. The food was really awesome too and as a fun finish you had to bike down the hill to get home. Beside this park it feels like Pristina is a huge construction site and I got  feeling of the “wild west” during the gold rush.

Today we aimed for a new country, Macedonia. This is one of the shorter stages on this trip and is only around 80km between Pristina and Skopje, however it took some time to get there anyway because the roads in Kosovo was jammed with trucks, I lost count of the number of concrete trucks we passed. The border was no problem at all and for the first time on this trip we really got the “eastern Europe-feeling”. The city may have been destroyed in an earthquake during 1960´s but its not an excuse. Its grey, its concrete, its boring and to make the city fun they placed statues, everywhere! It doesn’t work, it just feels weird with statues who often reminds about the Ottoman empire everywhere but the good part is that the food is good, the women are beautiful and its so cheap here, almost impossible to  spend your money. With that in mind, I can agree to live in a concrete city filled with statues.

No pictures today, the wifi here t the hotel is not the fastest one.

Summery of the Balkan express

So this express trip is over and I will try to do an summery of it, country by country. Of course since I spent a couple of days per country I don’t really know what I’m talking about but its an first impression after visited and talked to people. I´ll start with the overall impression and then continue to the country listed by the order we visited them.

In common for all countries I never felt unsafe anywhere or anytime. We tried everything from some tiny gravel roads to wide highway and overall they were really good, the worst roads we actually found in Austria and Germany which was kind a odd. English works overall without any problem even if you of course will find exceptions with the older population (works better in Slovenia/Croatia than in Serbia) and the euro works everywhere, even if the country has its own currency but keep in my that you probably get a better exchange course if you pay in the local currency.

Slovenia is the country which remind me the most of western europe. The infrastructure are in good condition, the houses are in good condition, maybe since they left Yugoslavia with only 10-das or war. They had the best possibilities to to setup a good society but still they fail. According to Robin who we couchsurfed at in Ljubljana we learned that the suicide rate in Slovenia is skyrocketing and the alcoholism is a huge problem which you may see if you visit any gas station or other shop who sells alcohol during the evening/night. The problem might be that they are not western Europe, however they are not really “balkans” either and they doesn’t share the same culture or history like the rest of the Yugoslavian republics which gives them an identity crises and may explain their problems. Their mountains are thought really nice and i would recommend that you go here instead of the alps for your next ski/bike trip, I think it will be awesome!

Serbia is very, russian. Everything from the society, culture to how people behave. Serbia has a collective feeling that western world did them wrong during the war and like someone said, “Serbia never forgets, never forgives” and I think there is really something in this. Serbia hasn’t really forgiven the western world and while the rest of the republics has been closing in to EU Serbia has been running their own race which made them kind a isolated. It has started to change but its a big difference from the other countries. Belgrade is the biggest city in former Yugoslavia and a big city is always a big city, you can always find something for you here and I will return at some day.

Kosovo is the smallest country and not even a country to some (Serbia) which may be a problem if you don’t plan your trip. Its not a problem to go from Serbia to Kosovo however if you try to enter Serbia coming from Kosovo you might end up in problem. Serbia claims that Kosovo still belongs to them they may accuse you form illegal entering the country even if you just been to Kosovo. In this country however the country with the biggest optimism and they are building everywhere without any regulations. Well, the former mayor tried to restrict some but he got shot on the open street. I would say that Kosovo is the closest to the gold rush in the wild west you can come.

Macedonia didn’t showed us its best sides when we were there. Rain, gray weather and the hotel we booked had faked their address on booking.com so it looked like it closer to the city center than what it really was. Not an good start and after that Macedonia had to work in a uphill. That the city was gray and that they places statues all over the city doesn’t help much.  But there is a couple of low cost flight flying to Skopje so at least its easy to get here and you are welcome to prove me wrong.

Albania was probably the country I had the most prejudices about and not a single one was fulfilled during my trip. It may been because of the pope was visiting Tirana but the city was really clean and nice. English worked really good and I was expecting to see old Mercedes cars but I guess it was just my mind playing tricks on me. The road were really good, people were friendly and even if the corruption is supposed to be extreme I never saw anything. My guess is that in a couple of years Albania will be new the nr 1 charter resort, the beaches and sea are beautiful and once the standards gets just a little bit better, in the same class as Greece or Turkey.

In Montenegro we had the opposite experience than Macedonia. The weather couldn’t be better and the hotel was even better than we thought. Podgorica may not be the best or funniest city in the world but who cares then you can sit  on a outdoor seating and drink a cold beer and enjoy life. The country itself reminds pretty much of Serbia with the major difference that they do anything they can to get closer to EU. A big difference and it makes it way much easier to be a tourist here. If you like nature you big mountains and deep valleys you will love Montenegro!

Bosnia Herzegovina:
Bosnia as a country is a dead according to me, it has been forced to one nation and the country is suffering from it. What many people doesn’t know is that Bosnia Herzegovina is an federation, just like Yugoslavia was (and that worked out so well). It contains three large groups of people (Croatians, Bosniaks and Serbs) . The only thing that consistent is that you never, ever see the Bosnian flag, instead its the flag for Republik Srpska or the Croatian flag and its here you really realize that the wounds from the war i still wide open and infected. Each group has its own president and for any decisions all three must agree and how often does that happen do you think? Amira who we met in Sarajevo described it as “we are sitting on a ticking bomb”.

Croatia has two faces, we have the rich part along the coast which every year get plenty of tourism and gets even wealthier from that and we the poor inland where you still find traces from the war. The coastline is pretty much like any other area in western europe around the Mediterranean and you can find everything you want. If you travel inland it gets poorer and poorer and and you will find abandoned villages and other traces from the war. If you go to Croatia I really recommend that you spend a day or two traveling inland, the nature is beautiful and you should have seen both sides before you can say that you been to Croatia.