Destination Belgrade

Well the last few days of this holiday have been reasonably relaxing. The first day involved a 3 hour drive from Travnik to Tuzla. Once again through tree lined valleys with probably the best fortress of them all at Vranduk. About an hour into the journey. I say about an hour, I missed the turning twice so had to double back a few times, but it was certainly well worth it.

Vranduk is a little village/hamlet set high on a rocky outcrop. It certainly commanded traffic through the valley. Only a small fort but almost impregnable due it’s height. The views through the crenellations and loop holes does focus your view somewhat. With such a narrow view you would spot the slightest movement. I then started to wander around the paths in the village and almost immediately followed the smell of burning wood. Sure enough with a bit of sign language with now a small gathering of locals and a small amount of language I understood they were boiling pears to make a juice. I was even given a ladle full to try. Very tasty, this they understood, so immediately filled up a small plastic bottle for me to take away, marvellous. Not long after, someone produced a baking tray full of pear turnovers. I really could not say no. Harvest time is in full swing, as is preparing/preserving the fruit for the winter. One gentleman then showed me a mass of recently dug potatoes airing in his barn. He then took me on a tour of the village, including showing me the pear trees, apple trees, nectarines, grapes, rose hips, walnuts et al. Finishing with his house balcony that had a stunning view across the valley to the partly wild, partly cultivated opposite side. What an absolute treat.

After consulting the map for a while I decided to head across country to Tuzla. It took a bit of concentration with directions but was well worth it. A little used back road, with small villages with the odd farm house here and there, mainly following the rivers with the odd hill to pass across now and again. As I approached Tuzla it became a little more industrial, a huge coal mine with lots of trucks queuing, a few more industrial units and more late 20th century socialist functional housing. You could tell you were not far from a big city.

I was heading for the airport, not to get a flight home but to drop the hire car off. It has been a real treat to drive through such wondrous natural beauty. Stopping whenever I wanted and taking the odd curious turning every now and again if it looked interesting. There is not as much traffic on the roads and parking is easy enough in towns, so no stress at all. Just sit back and enjoy the view.

When I got to the airport the desk was empty, but hospitality being what it is, the hire company next door called the guy and he came over in about 10 minutes. All sorted, he even offered me a lift into town, that would otherwise have set me back a hefty sum in a taxi. In that 20 minutes we had a very interesting chat about working in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Confirming stories I have been told already about various nefarious groups operations.

Bags dropped off in the Tuzla hotel (no Airbnb) I headed into town. The weather had been wet all day but did not dampen my spirits, a huge ice cream, a few photos of the city and the discovery of the shisha bar. More coffee, music and relaxation, before heading back to the hotel for a well earned dinner and an early night.

The reason for the early night was the 05:15 alarm, as I had a coach to get from Tuzla to Belgrade. Ticket purchased and bags stowed away we drove towards the border. Once again, nature changed. Flatter, more cultivated, corn being the most prevalent, and a bit more of a show of wealth, the houses were bigger more frequent and more plush. However, there were still the quant old cottages now and again that looked hundreds of years old with their small barns and storage for produce.

The border crossing presented no problems and we arrived at the main bus station in Belgrade around 10:30. I have been once before, 9 years ago on my travels through the Balkans. Feel free to reread the adventure. As you would expect at this time, there were signs of tents for those refugees making the journey across Europe. One image that I will not forget was 3 young guys brushing their teeth in the spring water in the park.

My large bag deposited in left luggage of the train station, I walked off around town. I must admit at first, not a lot was familiar. However, when I stopped for a lovely breakfast, memories of the beautiful buildings started to come back. Armed only with Google maps I thought I would try and get to the castle near the river. The last time I was here I sat in the evening sunshine with my feet dangling over the edge of the castle walls looking down on the Roman village remains below and the confluence of 2 big rivers. Sure enough the pedestrianised section was familiar, I found my bearings and got to the exact same spot. Bar for the weather (damp again) it seemed like only yesterday that I was here. As a little treat I had some chocolate cake and a cuba libra on my way back to left luggage. Belgrade is a city with energy, it’s big, noisy and full of cafes, trams, buses, taxis and busy shops. You could forgive yourself for not being in a big western European city. Such is my love of public transport that I even managed to find the local number 72 bus that went straight to the airport, and all for £1.

How to round up and conclude this excellent little adventure. Like most, my only knowledge of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the recent civil war. What I have found, is a country that has so much natural beauty to offer, as well as the cities of Sarajevo and Mostar that are the most visited. Hills, mountains, valleys, rivers and lots and lots of trees. The country is split into regional zones set on religious and political boundaries. But one common factor is the hospitality and friendliness shown to me, in whatever region I have been in. Asking for directions, the accommodation hosts, ordering food and drink (or a shisha) or just being shown around the village. Honest and full of humility, they are proud of their country and where they live in it. Very simple, and I think, a good a place to end this little adventure.

Thank you once again for reading my exploits and the feedback you give me. It is much appreciated. Most of all, thanks to the people I have met along the way that have helped to make my trip as joyous and memorable as it has been. Until the next time folks.

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