So during day 70 we moved from Sarajevo with the aim of pushing towards the Serbian border. Conducted a little research into the best way to cover the distance. The ideal would be to do it through a combination of hiking and hitchhiking but all of the info said this could be a very hit, but most likely miss affair, due to the slim number of people who actually travel this route . This doesn’t present a problem when your travelling the world and have all the time you need but Andrea has to be flying out of Bucharest on the 10th and would like to see a bit more than 1 road, so a bus decision was made.
Really nice trip from the capital to a town called Zvornik, which sits right on the border with Serbia (the border being the river Drina). Not sure if I’ve mentioned how much war damage is still visible on so many of the structures in Bosnia, but every third or fourth building still has bullet and shrapnel holes over it just to remind you of the dark times of not so long ago.
About 20-30 km short of Zvornik the road starts to follow the river which is the most stunning Jade colour you can Imagine. Andrea told me how it was some of the most beautiful glacial melt water she had seen (she has spent a lot of time in Alaska, so has seen plenty) and I told her that it would be if there was actually any glaciers within 1000 miles that it could have come from. 25 minutes silence and an unmentioned promise of a thick lip later we arrived in Zvornik, much to the amusement of all the towns folk sat watching us go sweating past as they sat drinking coffee and enjoying the gloriously warm evening. We eventually joined them in watching the world and the river go by, during which I occasionally remarked at the size of the imaginary iceberg floating by and how far it must have come from the glacier.
The next day I had an interview to do with Casey & Jay for the ‘Big Show’ on Forces Radio BFBS and we booked a bus to take us to a town called Banja Koviljaca over the border in Serbia. The interview seemed to go well and I feel I’m starting to relax a bit more and actually say something interesting (which helps I suppose).
How Many Times Must I Learn This Lesson.
I have travelled quite extensively so far in my deranged life and one of my favourite sayings when telling everyone how brilliant & worldly I am is that, no matter where you go people are inherently nice and you should not judge a person or country from the crap you have peddled at you on the Tel-lie-vision. Despite this I still had a few little reservations about Serbia and how I / we would be received.
Now thankfully karma is a clever soul and know’s exactly how to deal with fools like myself, who really should know better. I can say beyond all doubt that the warmth and generosity we have received during our first 24 hours in Serbia has been the greatest I have ever experienced anywhere (so that’s me told!).
It started whilst in Zvornik as firstly we met a young Serbian who started chatting to us and was a really friendly guy (going to train to be a physiotherapist). Then at the bus station a guy saw us and came over to say hello, as we looked like foreigners and he didn’t want us getting lost ….sound suspicious?…… not at all, he lives in Australia (works as a nurse), back to visit family for a month. He got us to the correct bus stop and said bye….5 minutes later he reappeared saying he felt responsible for us and that they had moved the stop to another one (we would have missed it). We then crossed into Serbia.
We were dropped about 2km from the town, as the bus takes the ring road around it! There is a small café on the corner and as we disembarked the bus 3 older guys were sat having dinner. One guy said hello and when we replied in obvious English accents he came over and said we must have a beer with him and saying it was on him! Ok ..never turn down free beer. He also fed us then drove us into town and waved goodbye not wanting a penny!!
We then met ‘Mikey’, who is a lovely lady who has been a top level classical violinist (but wanted to travel) and also bursar for a airline, but has recently quit the job after 20 years and returned home to Serbia to start her own tourism business. She is a very intelligent and interesting lady and you can feel the energy and drive she has which, I have no doubt, will also make her as successful in her new project as it has in the others. Over 24 hours Mikey took us to all the sites in the area, told us all about The Serbian Phsycie and just treated us as if we were Royal Guests in her country!
Banja Koviljaca is a spa town (Banja=Spa), and has a hospital (which has a really nice relaxing park built around it), which is one of two in the world which specialises in a very advanced ligament damage treatment, which is popular with high level sports players particularly from Golf, basketball, football and American football.
We met her Brother in law, Marius, who is Dutch and has a passion for renewable green energy and is starting a biomass business in Serbia. Another clever guy who was a high power businessman in Holland and again just left everything (including his wife) and went travelling. He eventually settled in Serbia and is building another business empire.
I did like his thoughts on Serbian hospitality :-
“They are the nicest and most hospitable people you will ever meet…after being your friend for
5 years, they will try to kill you”
I can only attest to the first part, they have been so kind and have just welcomed us with open arms (so we have 4 years 364 days and counting left!).
Ladies and gentlemen Serbia is a forgotten treasure of a country…it is due to join the EU around 2020 and I really hope it this brings prosperity to the region, whilst still letting it keep what has made it what it already is.
We have been in the capital city of Belgrade for 24 hours and sat and drank beer at the point where the Sava river feeds into The Danube, we have been high in the hills above Banja Koviljaca, we have driven across the flatlands of the eastern part of the country and then stared at Vrsac mountain which was an island millions of years ago whilst the plains were the sea bed. Added to that I’ve seen Nikolai Teslas inventions working in his Belgrade museum, which amazingly also contains the great mans ashes (history is only just bestowing the accolades he so richly deserves).
If you want beauty, culture and history…consider Serbia and as a major bonus, at present, you will get sooo much more for your money than you do in other countries
As I type I’m sat in Timisoara in Romania having crossed the border this morning….well this is a bit Nice too!!.
We are of to visit the home of someone who sucks the life out of you (add whichever joke your own perverted, twisted, shady or down right sick brain comes up with there).. we are heading to Transylvania...
(To see Mickey’s facebook page for touring Serbia search ‘Banja Spar’ )
In the City square in Timisoara, Romania 🇷🇴