The Balkans is a region formed by countries that are strongly connected with each other both historically and culturally. The Balkan Peninsula includes: Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Greece, Northern Macedonia, Bulgaria and partly Serbia, the southeastern edge of Romania and the European part of Turkey. In the Balkans you will find the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in all of Europe. They delight us with sea, mountains and delicious cuisine. They encompass a huge region that surrounds as many as five seas!
The Balkan adventure begins with a meeting with a guide/guardian at the airport and departure to Europe.
ARRIVAL IN BELGRADE
Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Messages about it can be found in ancient Greek myths, including in the myth of the expedition of the Argonauts. Belgrade is located at the junction of two rivers – Sava and Danube, but also at the junction of cultures – Balkan exuberance and Central European melancholy. In the capital of Serbia and the former Yugoslavia, we will see many traces of a turbulent past interspersed with the golden years of rising and prosperity. We will start the tour from the new, yet maintained in the canon of Serbian sacral architecture, the shrine of St. Sava – “father of the Serbian nation”. From the temple, we will go to the city center, where on the way, we will see the traces of damage caused by NATO air raids in 1999, the building of the former Yugoslavia’s parliament, now the Republic of Serbia, and the Presidential Palace. An obligatory point on the map of the city is its very center with such attractions as: a walk along the representative Knez Mikhailova Street – the main pedestrian street of Belgrade, experiencing an authentic Balkan kafana (tavern and meeting place) with the enigmatic name “?” and visiting the fortress, the foundations of which remember the times of the ancient Romans and Celts. We will also visit the Museum of Nikola Tesla, the famous and mysterious Serbian-American inventor. Next, we will go to the Austrian district of Zemun, where we will look at the panorama of the city from the Millennium Tower. We will finish the day in the bohemian district of Belgrade and there we will taste the Balkan revelry with music and wine.
GOLUBAC - LEPENSKI VIR – NIS
We will leave Belgrade and go east to the 14th-century fortress of Golubac on the Danube, where the most famous Polish knight, Zawisza Czarny, died in the fight against the Turks. From there we will go to Lepenski Vir, located in one of the five national parks of Serbia. The route runs along the border with Romania, and the area is considered one of the most beautiful in terms of nature and landscape in Serbia. There we will visit an archaeological park with a Neolithic site, recognized by researchers as the cradle of European civilization in its earliest phase. From Lepenski Vir we will go to the culinary capital of Serbia, that is, to the city of Nis. In Nis, we will taste traditional Serbian cuisine in kafana (naturally!).
SKOPJE – OHRID
In the morning we will visit the Skull Tower (Ćele Kula). There, we will learn about the tragic and heroic history of Serbian insurgents from the 19th century who challenged the Turkish oppressors. The next point on the map of our journey will be Mediana, a place associated with the figure of the Roman emperor who introduced Christianity to the Roman Empire – Constantine the Great. After saying goodbye to Nis, we will go south, cross the border with North Macedonia and visit Skopje – the capital of this small but extremely hospitable country. In Skopje, we will try to understand the state’s historical policy, highlighted by the program of erecting hundreds of monuments and rebuilding the city in the “antique” fashion – “Skopje 2014”. In addition to the monuments of kings, chieftains and philosophers, we will also visit the house-museum of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who came from these areas. We will experience the contrasts of the left and right banks of the Vardar River, along which the informal border of the Albanian and Macedonian parts of the city runs. The next destination will be the picturesque Lake Ohrid – a favorite vacation spot for the inhabitants of Macedonia.
THE MONASTERY OF ST. NAUMA – BERAT
From Lake Ohrid we will go to the monastery founded by a student of the Sołuński Brothers – St. Naum from the 9th century, from where the Orthodox religion was spread among the South Slavs. We will cross the border with Albania, heading towards the “city of a thousand windows” and the capital of Albanian wine and olive oil – Berat. This area will delight us with its unique Balkan climate and distinctive architecture. Walking through the streets of the town, we will see how many nations and religions can co-create one community. We will visit, among others the castle towering over the city and the Onufri Iconographic Museum.
TIRANA – DURRES
Today we will visit the capital of Albania – chic and dynamically developing Tirana. In the city center, we will learn the story of the national hero of the Albanians – Skanderbeg, as well as the communist dictator-megalomaniac – Enver Hoxha. At Skanderbeg Square, designed by the main architects of Mussolini, we will see the opera house, the historical museum, and the Ethem-bey mosque, which in the honor of atheization of society, remained inaccessible for many years by Hoxha’s totalitarian rule. From the capital, we will go to the sea, to the largest Albanian port and resort – Durres. There, we will visit the Roman amphitheater from the reign of Emperor Trajan.
OLD BAR - ST. JAN WŁODZIMIERZ COUNCIL – BUDVA
Today we will cross the Albanian-Montenegrin border and go to the city of Old Bar. There we will see “Montenegrin’s Pompeii”, that is, the ruins of an unlucky city, destroyed during the 19th-century war of independence, for liberation from the domination of the Ottoman Empire and as a result of an earthquake. We will visit the beautiful St. Jan Włodzimierz council, delightful with frescoes, even though it is a work from the 21st century. Leaving Old Bar, we will go to the Adriatic coast, watching seaside villages and towns. A special place which deserves attention is a fully built-up peninsula of Saint Stephen, also called the “Adriatic pearl” and “hero of Montenegrin postcards”. Next, we will go to Budva – the capital of Montenegrin tourism and – as the legend says about the Phoenician founders of the city – one of the oldest cities in all of Europe. We will discover the baroque charm of the old town, built during the reign of the Venetian Republic.
ROUTE THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS - NJEGUSZY - KOTOR - PERAST - HERCEG NOVI
On this day we will travel a breathtaking route through the Lovćen Mountains. After numerous breaks to take pictures of landscapes, we will stop for a moment in the village of Njeguszy, where we will try local meat products and the famous, throat-burning Montenegrin rakija. Going down serpentines, among beautiful views, we will reach the UNESCO-listed city of Kotor. In Kotor, we will see the symbol of the city – the Romanesque Catholic Church of St. Tryphon, the “cat square” and stroll through the historic streets of this city. The next stop on our route will be Perast, a Venetian Baroque city that gave the world many outstanding seafarers. On a rented boat we will sail to an artificial island on which the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks was erected. Later we will go to the charming city of Herceg Novi – “guardian of the entrance to the Bay of Kotor”. There, among palm trees and stone buildings, we will spend a relaxing evening after an eventful day.
DUBROVNIK – SPLIT
Having said goodbye to Montenegro, today we enter the southernmost territory of Croatia. There we will visit the city of the former merchant republic – Dubrovnik. Walking through the narrow streets, we will try to recognize the places where “Game of Thrones” and “Star Wars” were filmed. In the port of the city we will feel the fresh sea breeze. From Dubrovnik we will drive north to the ancient city of Split. Once there, we will experience Roman splendor in the palace of Emperor Diocletian. We will walk along the promenade and then visit a small archaeological museum with a rich exhibition of Roman statues. There will be an opportunity to reflect on the mastery of the chisels of old sculptors.
MOSTAR – SARAJEVO
We leave the Adriatic coast, and thus beautiful Croatia, and go to the last country in our Balkan journey – Bosnia and Herzegovina. We will stop in Mostar, where a must see spot is the famous old bridge over the Neretva River. It is the most famous building in the city and at the same time a symbol of the merging of two cultural groups. In the beginning, Christians and Muslims lived on both sides of the Neretva River, and the only connection between them was a small wooden bridge. So much history, and today the old bridge is a favorite place for lovers to take pictures together. Finally, we reach our last point on the map – Sarajevo, the capital of the country, combining Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian influences, and once the host of the Winter Olympics.
Today, Sarajevo is still called the “Balkan Jerusalem”. We will take the gondola lift to the Trebević hill, from which there is a wonderful panorama of Sarajevo. At the Baščaršija bazaar, we will try Sarajevo delicacies, for example the famous ćevapi. We will experience the real cosmopolitanism of this city, where churches, Orthodox churches and mosques stand side by side. We will also see the place where World War I began – the bridge where Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Another mechanism of the war on our trail will be the well-known “Sniper Alley” – the main avenue of the city.
DEPARTURE FROM SARAJEVO
We end our Balkan adventure at the airport in Sarajevo, from which everyone will safely fly back home.
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