Serbia, the real Serbia

Today we arrived in Serbia, the real Serbia. The trip here went surprisingly easy and the roads are in really good condition however Im not jelous of the people who tried to get into Croatia from Serbia. I guess the border control into EU is a bit tougher than getting out of EU. Once we were closing in to Serbia we had a minor discussion, I guess its a generation question, google maps VS old school map. After our discussion we decided to give google maps a try and now looking back at it worked awesome. To get to Serbia we choose the “fast route”, that means drive back to Croatia from Banja Luka and then just head east through Croatia and into Serbia to get to Belgrade. If we had drove this way to Banja Luka it would be much faster but in other hand, we would have missed a lot of the countryside of Croatia.

Once inside Belgrade google maps showed us the way to hotel Moscow and even if its way over our budget we just had to stay at this classic hotel in the middle of the city. The evening was spent walking around in the city and you can really feel that its an bigger city than those we visited earlier on this trip. But even so we found some traces from the war even here, a huge hole in the former military headquarter (Thank you NATO) and you should be kind a careful what you order for dinner, in some way we succeed to order food for the whole hotel and even if its cheap it feels bad to throw away really good food.

I also have to kill one myth, the roads so far while we been driving in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia is way better than you can expect, actually way better than what I am used to and the worst roads so far has been the smaller roads in Germany, I guess that will change once we get to Albania.

Tomorrow we head for Pristine in Kosovo, it kind a sucks to doing a balkan express tour like this because I feel i’m not done with Belgrade yet but with limited vacation you have to what you have to do, one thing is sure, I will come back to Belgrade.

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?

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 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.