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Travelling through the Balkans - extra long blog

First of all, we travel through Slovenia. We often travel through this from A to B, but if all goes well we will also take a good look at the country on the way back. For now, it's another transit country on its way to Zagreb. At Camp Zagreb we stay three nights. It is a lovely place on a large lake, near the motorway. But with so much greenery and tranquillity around you that it is pleasant to stay there.


Zagreb

At the campsite reception we receive a booklet from Zagreb, which is so handy because we actually don't know anything about the city. It was also not the intention to really visit it, but as is often the case when travelling, new possibilities arise.

First we go to the largest cemetery in the city. Cemetery?? Yes it is a park with a 500 metre Neo-Renaissance wall/facade and it is the largest memorial monument in Croatia. The facade is really amazingly beautiful. It is a pity that fences are in front of a renovation, but there are many beautiful memorial plaques to be seen. It turns out that all the religions are mixed up here and that makes it a beautiful tolerance place. Beautiful graves and beautiful tombs in the central location near the main entrance. There are also several well-known Croats here, such as the former Croatian president. Further back and to the side you can see the slightly more normal graves, which resemble the Dutch



While we walk back we see another funeral, which starts at the main building. Feels a bit weird. They are sad and we admire the beautiful buildings that are there. So we wait quietly until the procession has passed.


You can very well drive into Zagreb and park by car, although the parking spaces are a bit small and narrow. It's busy because it's a big city, but it's doable. Just make sure you don't drive up the tram tracks spontaneously, right Rudolf 😉?


Samobor

A small town west of Zagreb and only a 15 minute drive from our campsite. It seems to be 1000 years old and it is located on the hills of the Sumberak Mountains. (I think more hills haha) Because the town belongs to the Habsburg Empire, you can still see a number of beautiful baroque buildings in the centre. Especially on the Tamislav square there are several terraces and you can view the buildings well. We do that.


It is recommended to take a Kremschnita. Can be ordered at almost any restaurant/café in Samobor. But confectionery U Prolazu seems to have the tastiest. No idea what we order, the menu looks a bit different from the one in Italy, for example. We get a wonderfully large dutch tompoes, at least that's how I would describe it. However, the cream is much fluffier and the dough is also a bit fluffier. So a good chunk of sugar, but very tasty haha.


We also drove back 2 x 20 minutes (due to a road closure) to see the ruin of Samobor Castle. To get there you have to walk up the last part via a pendulum path. Unfortunately, that is not possible with my bruised ankle. Good mountain boots are advisable and we didn't have them with us.


Serbia

Travelling through a country we've never been to. At the border there is old-fashioned passport control and also a customs check. If we indicate that we are travelling to Greece, we can continue in no time. Rudolf is very happy with that, because there are too many bottles of wine in the caravan compared to what we are allowed to import.


Under Belgrade we take a campsite. Actually we wanted to visit the city, but it turns out to be a 45 minute drive. As a result of which Misty should be alone for too long and take her into such a busy city, we don't really find it useful either. We decide to drive on to southern Serbia, there is also a campsite open and can grab some peace there. In addition to Serbs, we mainly see Turks, Germans and Bulgarians along the way. At the city of Nis, they all turn to Bulgaria - Turkey and the road becomes even quieter than it already was. By the way, the highways in Serbia are very good. That is, no holes and bumps in the way and all pretty new.


We don't have 4/5G, so at the campsite in Belgrade we test the follow-up address once and Google maps remember that. Now I also have a road/map book, but it turns out to be more difficult to read it in Serbia. The exits on the highway are not on it, the names along the road are in Serbian and Cyrillic. This is occasionally puzzling, but makes it more fun.


Good cars run on the highway, but if you leave the highway you will see many more older cars. Even the Zastava's (old Yugoslav car brand). Also mopeds that you didn't see in the Netherlands in the 80s just drive around here. And especially small tractors or those small engines / large lawn mowers with a body behind them (photo) Along the way we didn't see large tractors on land either, as we know them in the Netherlands, only small outdated models. Furthermore, a lot is worked by hand, shovel and hand plought.



Camping Enigma Vranje

In south Serbia we stop in Vranje and stand at camping Enigma. We are kindly welcomed by a young man (Nikola) who speaks fluent English. We are welcome but know there is a party today with music in the restaurant. Still neat that he reports it in advance.


We go straight past the Lidl. Of course the decor is the same, but the prices are not. These are in Serbian dinars. Convert blown - see vlog - and we haven't had to do that for a long time.



The same evening we have dinner in the restaurant and the party is already busy. They have Serbian live music and dance in their own style. That goes on all night. Inside there is also just smoking we don't really know whether or not it is officially allowed here. A schnapps is offered after dinner. Rudolf gets slivovich from 50% alcohol and I do something with cherries with 30%. When we leave I get the bottle, Nikola insists. The locals don't drink that much sweet, so the bottle was just there. Tasty cherry drink with ‘curds’ in it, I used to drink in the past.


We sleep fine that night, while our clothes hang outside to get the smell of smoke out just like we used to in the past.


Vranje

A nice city in the south of Serbia. Lots of eateries, newspaper stalls, new buildings, old buildings, and also some cafe/drink terraces. We visited two museums, including the home of the famous writer Borislav Stankovic. Then we drove up to hotel Przar to enjoy the view over Vranje. You have a beautiful view of the city here. We meet a lady who was born here but has been living in Germany for 30 years now. She gives us a few more tips for Vranje.



On the way back we stop at the Roma neighbourhood. There stands the statue of legendary trumpet player Bakija Bakic. However, our license plate stands out and we are the tourist attraction ourselves at that moment. The square is and is full of men / gypsies (as they told them themselves). I ask if I can take a picture of the statue because they are all facing it. They go right on the side. Before I know it, they are all around us, do we even know who this statue belongs to? I show them the travel booklet of Serbia referring to this famous musician and they absolutely love that.


When we walk through the neighbourhood we are not as generous with filming and taking photos as usual, we are well looked at ourselves. Another man from the square meets us and says this is the Zigeunerstrasse, Nur Zigeuner. With a big smile.


On Saturday we are unexpectedly invited by Alexander (also works daily at the campsite) to his birthday party. He turned 36. Fortunately, we still have our RuLian sunglasses and Dutch keychains with clogs attached, so that can we give the host and his family. Rudolf also has some bottles of wine in the caravan, one of which we can give away to the birthday boy. When we enter, Nikola's parents stand up, we get a hand, an arm and a big smile.


In Serbia they start with schnapps (rakia) before eating and not after it! So that starts right away haha. There is a variety of food on the table; salad, various hams, cheese, bread, lettuce, fried cheese and squid. Then there will be the cooked pork with vegetables in a kind of stew as a main course. Which can perhaps best be described as Dutch wire meat. For dessert we still get delicious chocolate/hazelnut cake. Every time the birthday boy takes a schnapps, he toasts with everyone at the table. Although we don't understand the language, it's great to experience. We felt very welcome and really enjoyed it


Monastery of Saint Prohor or Pcinja

On Sunday we will drive a bit inland. Also on Sundays there is just work on land. By hand, with the small tractor that we also encounter a lot along the way. We are now also seeing more older cars in the villages. The houses aren't all finished, but that doesn't mean you couldn't live in them. Plastering will come later.



After a 45 minute drive through the hills and villages we arrive at a beautiful monastery. One of the monks warmly welcomes us in German language. We see a completely different church than what we are used to be in Italy. Not even mention the serene environment. We sit down for coffee / tea and get cake with this. For paying you can put money in a pot, you decide self how much. By the way, the coffee is a kind of instant coffee here, and not very tasty according to Rudolf. South Serbia has pleasantly surprised us. It is a region that may be a bit poorer, but so welcoming. The people are friendly, curious, invite you, tell you everything and that is wonderful to experience. The area has more to offer than you think and they are very proud of their heritage and traditions.

We stayed longer than we thought and we don't regret that. So you are in Vranje, stop at camping Enigma, relax and enjoy. Nikola (and his father) and Alexander thank you for your hospitality! Greetings from Kavala Greece.


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