A Travellerspoint blog

Southeast Europe Part 4 - Belgrade

Final part of this bullet trip

sunny 32 °C
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After Montenegro (and after withdrawing quite a few euros before exiting the "eurozone" again), we took the night bus to Belgrade.
After the rough experience on the packed Skopje-Budva bus, this was like flying business class. We had entire rows of seats for us, and the few people traveling on this bus seemed more "normal". So, I dozed through the first hundreds of kilometers (border excluded), then woke up to a beautiful Serbian landscape, as the bus rode along river valleys and endless fields, making me add Serbia to future destinations list.

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The trip took 2 hours longer than we expected and we arrived to a noisy, polluted, crowded and awfully hot Belgrade. The Serbian capital is a very cosmopolitan city and is one of the most import ones in the Balkans. In contrast to both Skopje and Sofia, here I felt more like being in an Italian city than in Serbia. The prices were higher too. We went to the hostel, which was a bit far from the bus station and we got there so tired that we just decided to relax a bit and only went to explore the city after 6pm.

Belgrade is a very lively city and has many cafes, restaurants and discos. People like to go out at night and enjoy themselves, so the city has much to offer to the nightlife aficionados. One of the staff from the hostel recommended the bars by the river Sava as nice place to go out at night, so we headed there. That zone alone has about 30 pubs/clubs, so anyone can find something to their taste. We got lucky and entered a night pub with live music and the band was really good.

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Next day, we went sightseeing, visiting the castle and the old city center. Though there's not so easy to navigate through it, we managed to see the most interesting sights. We hiked to the stadiums (Belgrade is home to both Crvena Zvezda and Partizan, historical European football teams) and to St. Sava Church (a very impressive Eastern Orthodox Church and the biggest in the world).

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After eating a nice dinner near our hostel and as it was my last day in the Balkans, we went for a drink a little dancing in one of the fancy Belgrade's nightclubs. My flight was early in the morning, and it was time to return to Lisbon. It was a bullet trip through some of Europe's less known countries, yet it was good for giving me a picture of this region. I hope to return there soon, with a bit more time.

Posted by danics 05:33 Archived in Serbia Tagged landscape bus river hot serbia belgrade đetinja sava Comments (0)

Southeast Europe Part 3 - Budva and Kotor

How we got into Montenegro

sunny 30 °C
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We finally left Skopje, eager to go to Montenegro. I was really looking forward to see this beautiful country and I must say that I wasn't disappointed.
But first things first: in order to get to Budva, our bus had to drive through Kosovo. We arrived at the border and immediately got alarmed by the Macedonian border officer, who said that my friends wouldn't be allowed to enter Kosovo for sure, with IDs instead of Passports. They began to imagine what would be like to spend the night at the border waiting for a bus to take them back to Skopje and all the implications that this would have on our further travel plans. Arriving at the Kosovo border though, all the bad thoughts were gone in less then one minute, as my friends' IDs were the first documents to be checked and they were allowed a smooth entrance in Kosovo. Victory!

Driving through Kosovo at night is a certainly odd experience. First, I only saw Albanian flags hanging everywhere, which left me puzzled. Then, the landscape by the road consists of mainly petrol stations and motels (I read somewhere that petrol stations in Kosovo are family business, so they have more of them than Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro combined). Adding to this, the roads are hardly illuminated, so it seemed that we were driving in dirt roads in the middle of the woods.

We exited Kosovo and after a big while, we entered Montenegro. After the border crossing, I managed to sleep for 1h, after the guy sitting in front of me "kindly" pushing his chair up and releasing my knees from agony. The sun was starting to rise and the landscape was magnificent as we were driving in the middle of mountains.

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We arrived to Budva in the morning, starving and tired from the trip, but we decided to go to the beach after we checked-in in our hostel. The beach was wonderful!

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In the afternoon we took the bus to Kotor, where there is a beautiful bay. A stunning place where you can hike up the fortress on a hill or visit the old city that is inside the walls. We went all the way up, from where we could see much of the bay and the village.

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Returning to Budva, I went to the beach and after a nice swim in the calm sea, I went back to the hostel to recover my strength with a nice meal. We met some nice people there with whom we spent next day (mostly at the lovely - and hot - beach). But time was hurrying, so we had to leave again at night, this time to Belgrade.

Budva, Kotor and Montenegro in general left me willing to return there and visit this country's beautiful coast and sights, so I think I'll return here soon.

Posted by danics 08:47 Archived in Montenegro Tagged bay border montenegro kotor budva kosovo Comments (0)

Southeast Europe Part 2 - Skopje

Heat and change of plans

storm 30 °C
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I recall crossing closed borders by car since I was of young age to go abroad for the purpose of buying cheaper stuff. This time was a bit different. We took the bus from Sofia to Skopje and arrived at the border in a very short time. The bus driver collected the passports as I went to the WC outside (I still don't know why these buses traveling for more than 3 hours don't have a working WC inside!).
The process was smooth, although it took a while.
Then, off we go. 5 minutes later and we stop again: we are now entering Macedonia and we need to show our passports again. Everything ok, except for my own travel buddies. They don't have passports (only Portuguese ID cards) so they are called to answer a few questions about the purpose of their visit to Macedonia. Green light and we continue our journey to Skopje.
Skopje's first impression: "why is it so bloody hot? it's like almost 9pm and there are 28º". I get the feeling Skopje is really different from Sofia. The architecture is different, there are this London-like red double deckers everywhere and our hostel is in the middle of a former illegal neighborhood. So far, so good :)

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We meet our Macedonian friend who gives a few tips for next day sightseeing. We learn that all this great buildings in Skopje are actually new constructions built in an old style, its purpose unclear, giving the city a fake historical look.

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So, next day we head to the old center and it really is mostly under construction. I imagine that this neat buildings and their surroundings will look really nice in the next year or so, perhaps.

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We explore the bazaar and the walls of the nice (and this time genuinely old) Skopje castle, which we find closed and as we go to get ready to leave Macedonian's capital, as we try to buy our bus tickets to Montenegro, we find out that there is no bus that day (the website was incorrect). So, forced to stay another night in Skopje and to cancel our plans in Bosnia, we call our friend trying to come up with something to do in this odd city. So, a few calls later, a giant burger and a car ride in Skopje's hills, that offer us superb views of the city, we arrive at a big open air night club to watch a musical live performance.
Turns out to be a great "extra-day" in Skopje. The concert and the party last until early morning. Next day, we rest and prepare ourselves to Montenegro.

To be continued...

Posted by danics 08:16 Archived in Macedonia Tagged monument bus square border skopje macedonia doubledeckers Comments (0)

Southeast Europe Part 1 - Sofia

Arriving

sunny 27 °C
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Packed and ready to start my trip, I set off to meet my friends in Sofia. With a quick stop in Charles de Gaulle airport, I arrived in Sofia airport at the late afternoon and headed to the city center. Sofia has a good public transport network and the trip was smooth.
The hostel was really cool too and our room didn't lack space. We had dinner at the hostel (a not so typical pasta, but still good enough) and went out to a park. Sofia's streets with their old building give the city a really old feeling, but the young people on the streets contrast with that in a very fine way, and the liquor shops give a nonstop feeling to the nightlife.

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Next day (after a night which was long) we headed to do some sightseeing. Sofia has many great and beautiful religious places, my personal favorite being the Holy Nedelya Church, a small church. We headed to the mosque (closed and undergoing some remodeling), and entered the tiny Church of St Petka. Through beautiful (and on that day, very sunny) Atanas Burov square and Knyaz Aleksandar Dondukov Boulevard we led ourselves to the most well known sight in Sofia, the impressive Alexander Nevski Cathedral.

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Our short stay in Sofia was coming to an end, so after a stop in a small bazaar, we took the bus to Skopje.

To be continued...

Posted by danics 07:59 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged church airport nightlife sofia cdg nevski Comments (0)

Bullet trip through Southeast Europe

Planning a trip to the Balkans


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Having to deal with all the limitations of my vacation allowance for the year, next week was just too good to let good: June 10th being a national holiday and the 13th a local one, my friends invited me on a trip to "somewhere" in Europe. I immediately asked: but where is "somewhere"? The Balkans, of course.
The plan would be to visit every country, every interesting place, but then again, we only have one week. So we reduced the number of places to a minimum and we'll be starting in Sofia (Bulgaria), then travel to Skopje (Macedonia), then visit the Montenegro coast and through Bosnia go to Belgrade (my friends will continue to Zagreb).
It is not an original plan, not even an "off the beaten track" route, but I hope it will give us at least a scent of what these countries have to offer. Has anyone done the same itinerary? Do you have suggestions of what we should see in these places?

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Posted by danics 07:54 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged serbia montenegro bosnia herzegovina bulgaria macedonia Comments (0)

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