Greece to Italy via Sarajevo


After a month spent packing up and store our belongings, we are finally ready to start our new life as full-timers! Our first stop will be in Italy to attend some family affairs. We decided to avoid the ferry boat and to head north once again, this time passing by Bosnia instead of the usual route via Belgrade. As always, we don’t even touch a highway loyal to our slow travel philosophy…

We start early in the morning from Fokianos, our beloved beach of eastern Peloponnese. According to our travel plans, we are going to wander around Europe for a while. So, this will be our last contact with the greek sea…

Greece, Peloponnese, Fokianos

We arrive late in the evening at Servia, a village next to Kozani, close enough to the borders with FYROM. We start early in the morning with our odometer marking 329154.

FYROM bordersOne hour later we are at the border near Bitola. The checks were a little slow; it take us 40 minutes to pass the passport ad custom controls. Finaly we are on the road again, chosing to follow the road that passes through Prilep to the border with Serbia (direction Nis)

As always we cross the borders of FYROM with our tank as empty as possible in order to fill it up in the first gas station; this time we find it outside Bitola. The price of fuel is fixed, 51 dinars for Eurodiesel, which corresponds to approximately 0.85 Euro. We pay with credit card and we proceed.

The road up to Prilep is in excellent condition with hardly any traffic. From there we continue parallel to the highway until Veles and then we turn right to Sveti Nikolje heading towards Kumanovo. Just before arriving at the borders we stop to fill up again the tank, knowing that in Serbia the prices are higher.

Approaching the borders we see a sign indicating a petrol station of airport customs‘, which we think is the last. Actually it is located on the opposite side of the road and it is quite inconvenient to get there. The worst is that, as we later discovered, a little further on there is another one on our road side.
In less than a quarter of an hour we pass the borders and we head towards Prokuplje where we plan to stay overnight.

For those who, like us, want to avoid taking the highway to get to Prokuplje just follow the instructions of the navigator. Attention: when you come close to Leskovac, be careful to enter the city and follow the signs. Only that way you can cross the railroad tracks and continue towards Prokuplje. The route suggested by our Garminwas forcing’ us to take the highway.

Serbia, ProkupljeWhen we arrive at Prokuplje, we find a very convenient parking  behind the town’s Sports Center [43.23726,21.60511] and we take a walk in the town (which is nothing special). We change 20 € at an exchange office that we find across the street, at 119 Serbian dinars per euro (no commision or charges). They had the same rates that we had seen at the border and more or less in all other exchange offices or ‘Menjacnica’ as they call them there. With our serbian money we are going to do some shopping. For the record: a two-liter beer (the excellent Jelen), in the classic plastic bottle, costed us 230 dinars from a kiosk in the street. Compared to the beer, the mineral water is quite expensive: 55 dinars for a bottle of one liter and a half.

Serbia, Prokuplje
Murals on the streets of Prokuplje

We sleep well and in the morning we leave for Djavolja Varos; of course first we visit a Pekara (Bakery) to buy some croissants and burek (similar to a type of Greek tiropita of cheese pie) Attention for vegetarians: they use lard (mast in serbian) for frying (!), so it is better to ask if there is mast” If they say to you ne mast”, it is ok :)

Serbia, Djavolja Varos
The peculiar rock formations of Djavolja Varos

After our excursion to Djavolja Varos, (The City of the Devil), to which we will dedicate our next post, we set back on the road making our way to Mokra Gora, a village  known for its narrow gauge railroad. Here the film director Emir Kusturica built his own ‘village’ on a hill close to the train station. We had been there several years ago and we were very curious  to see how it turned out.
Serbia, Mokra GoraThe place was very different from what we remembered and definitely much more touristy.
We stopped in the huge parking lot reserved  for tourist buses [43.79257,19.50966] in front of the new entrance to the train station, which at first glance might easily be mistaken for a Buddhist temple.

Serbia, Mokra Gora
Serbia, Mokra Gora

We discover that Drvengrad, the village of Kusturica is no longer open to the public; the fairy tale hamlet ended up being a luxury hotel! Disappointed we return to the parking of the station where we spend a cool night. The only good thing is the free WiFi offered by the town…  Below a couple of pictures remind us how it was Drvengrad before being sold.

DrvengradDrvengradMP06KULT21

In the morning we visit the Mokra Gora station from where the historic railway starts. Weather permitting, this 8-shaped trail known as Šargan Eight is worth the time and the money. Besides, the cost is not excessive, 600 dinars per person. As we have already did the trail in the past, we prefered to continue in order to arrive at a decent hour in Sarajevo, our next destination.

Serbia, Mokra Gora

Arriving at the borders of Serbia we realize that they charge a fee of 300 dinars for ecological purposes, rounded to 3 € because we had no more local currency. We cross the Bosnian border in a few minutes and we continue along a very scenic road. The traffic of Sarajevo was quite a surprise for us; although it was August, the city was fully alive! With a little of luck and inspiration we find a very central, free of charge parking spot and we start our tour. Walking we locate two other convenient (although with a ticket), parking areas: one along the river [43.85816, 18.43194] where with a little luck you can find a place for one euro per hour and another even more central, secure and with abundant vacancies [43.85947, 18.42286] where the prices weren’t clear.
One of the reasons why the city was so bustling during our visit is probably because of the Inetrnational Film Festival held at that time. In any case both the historic area that the rest of the center is definitely worth a visit. Unfortunately the weather was turning really bad and we prefered to change our program and to shorten our visit.

Bosnia, Sarajevo
Bosnia, SarajevoBosnia, Sarajevo
Bosnia, Sarajevo
Bosnia, Sarajevo

We fill up our tank just outside the city, paying around one euro per liter of  diesel and we drive up to Travnik [44.22470,17.66968], where we decide to stop for the night. The heavy rain that accompanied us for most of the way doesn’t calm down…
Preparing for dinner, we go for shopping to the nearby mini-market, but as they were Muslim they were not selling alcohol. We try another store where we have the opportunity to buy the local beer (excellent!). We also locate the nearest bakery for our next morning breakfast.
The night passes quiet, althought the rain was still falling. In the morning it stops raining, but the sky is black and menacing. So we forget the visit to the castle and we get on the road again this time directly to Basovizza, in Italy.
On the way we pass by another village, Jaice, which certainly deserves a visit, but with better weather. Next time…
We pass the border with Croatia in a quarter of an hour and without any particular control, and finally we cross Rjeka (River) where we take the road leading to the border with Slovenia. We have some minor trouble because there were works in progress, but in the end we made it! We pass the border with Slovenia at Pasjak [45.49188, 14.21351], east of Rupa, and in less than an hour we arrive at our ‘favorite’ parking in Basovizza [45.64077,13.85880]. The odometer was now 330,817. We spent just over 150 € of diesel from the the borders of Greece to those of Italy and we saw a couple of interesting places…

First Time at the "Salone di Camper" of Parma
The Devil's Town
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