Balkans - An (off)road trip through lonely nature and impressive cultures
After the 2week trip through Spain and Portugal my 2,5 month tripstarts with the Balkans. On this tour we drove from the stony coasts of Croatia, over the mountains and plateaus of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the communist Montenegro and the quasi EU country Albania. With them was Flo, an old school friend, with his T4 Synchro.
Krk - wild camping between olive groves
With a 4-day delay (Flo's bus we still had to equip with roof racks and boxes) it went via motorway over Austria and Slovenia to Croatia. The trip went smoothly, border controls were fast and cars rolled reliably. Note about the toll: The VW bus does not count as a car anymore, so Flo paid the double toll (!) than I did with my Defender (which is also registered for 9 people and 2.5m high). That added up quite a bit over the whole tour. Slovenia alone costs 30€ instead of 15€.
Rugged rocky coast and sea urchins
For the first night we drove until shortly before the peninsula Krk ( no spelling mistake). There we spent the first night with a view to an oil refinery. During the day we drove to Krk. The island consists only of olive groves with coarse stone soil and rugged stone coasts. The coasts are occupied by sea urchins. The water, however, is crystal clear and invites for a swim. With water shoes the sea urchins are no longer a danger.
Starry sky - as clear as the water
We drove on a narrow gravel road in the middle of an olive grove. There was a small parking lot with a wonderful sea view. The trees protected us from the wind. After a delicious dinner, we could admire the incredible starry sky with very wine light pollution.
My tip: Avoid station 1 and the "Big Waterfall" and start at station 2 where an electric boat goes 30m across the lake. Get out of the boat and walk to station 3, which is less busy and where you will find an intact flora and fauna and several small, beautiful waterfalls. The hike takes about 1-1,5h. A free shuttle bus will take you back.
Split - disappointing excavation site and castle Klis from Game of Thrones
After 2 days stopover at the sea we continued our journey towards Split. There are roman excavation sites there, which are too expensive and disappointing. Besides it is littered.
Above Split is the castle Klis, which became very famous thanks to Game of Thrones. Therefore the entrance is relatively expensive, so we only looked at it from the outside. The view is great and especially at sunset it is worth it.
Stari Most in Mostar
We are now in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Mostar I realized how little I know about the Balkans, history and the Yugoslav wars and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The city is steeped in history and an absolute must-see.
Of course there are many tourists on the Stari Most ( the most famous bridge). Apart from that, there is not much going on. Mostar is a great example that people of all faiths can live absolutely peacefully and in harmony with their religion and respect for the religion of others.
Source Vrelo Bune near Blagaj
Not far from Stari Most there is the enormously powerful spring of Vrelo Bune, which is one of the largest springs in Europe. This is very worth seeing, even if many stands, cafés and restaurants are trying to lure the tourists out of their money.
Offroad driving in the Balkans
Off the motorways, many roads are gravel roads or rough field and mountain roads. It is therefore not difficult to find easy off-road roads or to shorten the route via an off-road track (at least in terms of kilometers). The locals are having a good time with their old VW Golfs, but the own car should stay whole... Mind you, we didn't drive hardcore offroad tracks, but for us the offroad was enough and was fun.
Suicide: Driving in Albania
Hardly over the Albanian border, it is not surprising that here (and in the Balkans in general) the highest mortality rate among motorists is found. Here one overtakes and drives up on devil come out. Road signs, overtaking bans or even oncoming traffic are not taken into consideration. That was - without exaggerating - life threatening . I am glad that we got through without an accident. About 50km behind the border the jostling has fortunately stopped and driving was more comfortable again.
SH8 in Albania: coastal road with view
Due to time constraints we had to cross Albania quickly. The coastal road SH8 is worthwhile. Generally you can stop at many small places in Albania and have a coffee with the locals. In Albania you can feel the connection to the EU and the wish to join the EU.
Conclusion Balkans: Countries with little tourism, untouched nature and fierce people
The still not very strong tourist traffic is good for you and you can (still) see authentic countries ( except Croatia). The infrastructure fortunately does not yet allow mass tourism. But this will not remain so for much longer. The untouched (or little touched) nature will be the first to suffer.
The people have been consistently helpful, friendly and kind. Nowhere have we ever been uncomfortable. We have never experienced crime. You can feel the desire of these countries to be perceived more strongly by the world. These countries definitely deserve to join the EU and would be a great enrichment.
The 2 weeks that we only had time to do it, impressed me very much. I learned a lot and got to know a whole new culture (or cultures). The Balkans offers a lot of adventure on its own almost away from mainstream tourism. Unfortunately, much of the authenticity is inevitably lost. Next year I will try to travel the Balkans, especially Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, for a much longer time.