We left Sarajevo in a small shuttle van, and wound our way through mountains and ancient forests to the Serbian border. From there it was a straight highway to the capital, Belgrade. Originally a fortress at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, Belgrade, named the “white city” for its limestone, has been destroyed and rebuilt no less than 44 times. Unlike its neighbors Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, there is less Austro-Hungarian influence, and more Greek/Russian Orthodox. They use both Cyrillic and Latin letters, which sounds hard, but is actually not too bad because each letter has one and only one sound, no silent letters, no double letters, etc.
While in Belgrade we stayed in a lovely Airbnb (with a much needed washing machine!), visited the Tesla Museum (his personal items were sent to Belgrade, as the capital of Yugoslavia, as he was born in Croatia), went on a 20th century walking tour, and went on another walking tour which focused on older parts of Belgrade’s history and architecture. One of our tour guides was not very knowledgeable about Serbian history, and the other one mentioned the 1999 NATO bombing and how Serbians don’t want to give up their ‘homeland’ of Kosovo, but had little to say about Serbia’s relations with Croatia and Bosnia. Also, the word “vampire” is the main Serbian word they they gave to the world, based on a 1725 news article about a Serbian man with porphyria, who people thought was sucking blood from his townspeople.
I had read an article about the Balkan Express to Montenegro, which sounded amazing, and it was. It’s 12 hours from Belgrade to Bar, and the scenery, tunnels, and bridges are just amazing. We sat with a fun Dutch couple and visited the bar car several times and overall the train was highly recommendable.
We actually wanted to see the tiny capital of Podgorica, so we got off the train there, and spent a day walking around the city. Lots of statues! And that’s all I can really say for Podgorica.
The other part of Montenegro we wanted to see was the Bay of Boka Katorska, so we took a bus to Kotor. We lucked out with a really lovely hotel just on the edge of the walled old town and the beach, a great location. We spent a couple of days visiting the “Adriatic Bride”; in the words of Lord Byron, “Boka looks like a pile of beautiful pearls, except that they are impossible to steal, as they are so big that they cannot be hidden”. Our favorite activity at Kotor was taking a boat ride that visited the old city of Perast, Our Lady of the Rocks Church Island, a 1940s secret Russian submarine base, and the Blue Caves, three beautiful swim-in caves with crystal clear water with 50 m visibility. Definitely worth doing!
Tomorrow we take a bus to Albania, with a stop at Lake Skodar, which straddles the Montenegrin/Albanian border.