From Belgrade to Sofia

Sofia (Bulgaria), 20.04.2013

It was the first time I visited Serbia and Belgrade, Helena already knew the city although from 20 years ago. After a healthy breakfast on the terrace of our Hotel we went for a tour of the city.On saturday morning there was already a lot of action on the streets, including a biker meeting in the city center that later ended with hundreds of bikes driving through the city. We found the Ivo Andric Museum on our way to the Cathedral of Saint Sava, a huge building that is currently being renovated. Walking through the smaller streets I had to think about Athens very often, mixed with post-communist charme I found in East-Berlin. The bohéme district of Skadarlija was the perfect spot for a drink before heading back to the hotel and take off. While Helena met an aunt and cousin, I packed the car. Before leaving the city, we went to see the Tito Museum, or Museum of Yugoslav History. It was not easy to find, but a Police jeep finally escorted us to the place. Set on a hill in a district full of embassies, villas and parks, there are three buildings. We saw one of them, the pavilion with Tito’s tombstone. Unfortunately shortly after us an entire busload of senior tourists flooded the museum and we had to leave.

DSC_0025 DSC_0024 DSC_0015 DSC_0013DSC_0042On our way to Sofia (Bulgaria), we wanted to see the Studenica monastery, but it was already late and it would have taken a 250km detour on small roads. So we skipped it. Tito won over the monastery in the fight for our attention. Until Nis the road was very good, a true motorway. After that it converted into a smaller one-lane road, and we had to slow down. As it became dark we approached the Bulgarian frontier, and found out that we had forgotten our IDs in the hotel in Belgrade. Not good.

We finally reached Sofia at night. Driving through the city (and getting lost a couple of times) we saw many impressive buildings. This time we found a restaurant not too far away from the hotel for a very late night dinner (even for spanish timing), with great food, local beer, and a fantastic dessert that we’re not sure what it was (a mix of cream, nuts, italian style white “torrone” on a soft biscuit). A nice way to close this day.

Trip data (Day/Total)

– Km driven: 473 /3.713

– Hrs driving: 6/-

– Diesel l/100km: 10,6/10,7

From Sarajevo to Belgrade

Belgrade (Serbia), 19.04.2013

After a day of rest it was time to get back on the road. We left Sarajevo on the road into the mountains on the east, driving into a breathtaking alpine landscape. After 2 hours we arrived at Visegrad, to see the famous bridge from Ivo Andric’s novel. The bridge is nice, on a turquoise river. Probably carried away by literary romanticism, we expected a turkish or old village near the bridge. But no, on one side there is the road, and on the other side a cement, socialist village, quite boring actually. The best part was driving down the drina valley, admiring the intense color of the river and the mountains on both sides. Since we didn’t want to cross 3 borders (into Serbia, back to Bosnia, and into Serbia again), we drove back for approx 80km, loosing quite some time.

DSC_0004 DSC_0023DSC_0047DSC_0063DSC_0066After Visegrad the direction was Zvornik, the border town with Serbia. I got the GoPro camera to work and took first videos.We took a detour to see a village that got sadly famous for the biggest ethnic cleansing, or genocide since WWII: Srebrenica. There were no road signs to lead to the town, and it took us 45 mins through bad roads, partially unpaved, passing several valleys. There was a strange atmosphere in the air, we didn’t speak for most of the trip. We finally descended into the town, that looked like a normal Bosnian countryside village. But the destroyed houses on the roadside left us speechless. The next village was Potocari, where we visited the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial. Graveyards are sad places, but in this case the wall of names of the more then 8300 dead adds even more sadness. You can find fathers’ and sons’ names one beside the other, entire families and communities. We have been asking ourselves quite a lot while driving through this beautiful, semi deserted land: how can people, that seem so friendly when you stop on the road to ask for a coffee or directions, commit these atrocities, start this war, make their country deteriorate this way. We have no answer to this question.

DSC_0072DSC_0075 DSC_0077Silently we drove on towards Zvornik, where we met one of Helena’s aunts and cousins. Then we crossed the border to Serbia with no issues, as the night fell. The Bosnian policeman wasn’t really up for any controls. The Serbian one was in good mood, made some jokes and let us through, and the Serbian customs lady was distracted by our Maneki Neko on our car’s dashboard (thanks to the Hamann family!) that she also just let us through. Then came quite a ride on serbian country roads at night, including a 30 minute search for a “autoput” that didn’t want to appear. But finally we made it to Belgrade. We arrived late, tired, with a lot of things to digest from this day. Tomorrow we will discover this city that from the first impressions promises to be quite interesting.

Trip data (Day/Total)

– Km driven: 540/3.240

– Hrs driving: 9/-

– Diesel l/100km: 7,8/10,7

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