I’m starting the last leg of my former Yugoslavia / Balkans trip, and arrived in Belgrade, Serbia yesterday via a lovely roadtrip through the Serbian countryside using the same tour group that brought me from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo – FunkyTours! In fact, it was actually the exact same driver and guide, so it kind of felt like friends meeting up for a roadtrip part two.
This leg of my trip essentially straddled the Bosnia / Serbia border along the River Drina, peeling off towards Belgrade quite late in the evening. The day’s sights were slightly less exciting than those we had visited on the way to Sarajevo, but it was still an interesting trip.
First off, we headed for the Bosnian city of Višegrad, which was home to Bosnia’s only Nobel Prize winner for literature (his childhood home is pictured right below, the pink house at the far left).
It also includes a bridge by the same famed Ottoman architect who designed the bridge at Mostar. Of course, this bridge was also destroyed and rebuilt over time – you can clearly see which arches were original and those which have been rebuilt by the grout used. In the right below photo, you can see how the original almost looks flush, with little space between the stones – in later additions, the grout is much thicker.
There was also a little commemorative plaque from where the river had flooded immensely one year (the white brick on the side of this signpost) – I can’t even imagine the water being that high!
From there, we did a quick ferry ride downriver to a purpose-built attraction which includes a variety of architectural styles, from Ottoman to Austro-Hungarian. Of course, we had good company!
The “attraction” itself was pretty sparse – it almost reminded me of the English village we stumbled upon in South Korea, kind of an eerie uncanny valley feel.
Then, we were off to another purpose built attraction, just across the border in Serbia: the “wooden village” – essentially a traditional Serbian village that was built as part of a movie set. It was definitely an interesting little place to wander around, with a working Serbian Orthodox chapel, a handicrafts market and good views.
We also grabbed lunch – I didn’t realize that in Serbia all kebabs are made with pork by default, so I didn’t love these, but the portion was huge for about $5.
After that, it was onwards to our next stop: the Dobrun Monastery. Nestled up against the mountains, it was less ornate than the monasteries we’d visited in Bosnia, but still had a very lovely chapel.
Most amazing, the monastery had some original frescoes from the fifteenth and sixteenth century, which were faded but beautiful.
Then, it was on to our next event: a train featuring a variety of traditional train cars from over the years. The ride itself passed through some nice mountainsides, although quite a bit of it was through tunnels and the train itself was incredibly loud. Overall a nice experience but not one I’d seek out again.
At the other end, we headed for the Tara National Park, which offers absolutely stunning views of the River Drina. It was slightly foggy when we went, but the views were far better in person than via camera. There are apparently also bears that frequent the forest, so there was a variety of signage related to anti-hunting, as well as feeding the bears.
After that, we essentially made our way through the Serbian countryside (it was quite rural most of the way to Belgrade), occasionally stopping for other points of interest, including a Bosnian medieval kingdom metropolis (the kingdom extended across Bosnia, Serbia and into parts of Montenegro) and a “House on the River” which was, quite literally, just a house on the river.
However, the most interesting part of the trip for me were the little pieces of Serbian culture I could see from our drive through the rural countryside. Every village seemed to have a small chapel, many places were still using an old-school hay collection technique, and the architecture was fascinating. I felt like we had traveled back in time when winding through some of the villages – they looked like living versions of something you’d seen in an ethnography museum. I loved getting to witness such an off-the-beaten-path part of this place before diving into the big city that is Belgrade. Of course, the rural countryside nature views were great, too!
We arrived in Belgrade too late to head out from the hotel, but I’m up bright and early to do more exploration!