Alone in central Balkans [Serbia - Bosnia - Bulgaria]

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Stara Varos, Jul 18, 2019.

  1. Stara Varos

    Stara Varos Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2017
    Oddometer:
    106
    Location:
    Thesaloniki, Greece
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    One of the things I over joy is preparing my motorcycle to hit the road on my own, carrying only essential stuff, having a basic destination idea and, of course, without a specific daily plan. I have come to the conclusion that after a few days of solo riding, you reach a point where you get to know yourself much better, you perceive and overcome your limits. Exiting the personal safety zone that is created by the routine of everyday life, the need for communication and ingenuity is activated, as well as other mechanisms and skills. Those who ride a motorcycle and traveling is their passion, fully understand what I mean. I was in such situation in late November 2015, when I decided to throw two-three necessary things in my side panniers and hit the engine start button.

    Day 1 [20-11-2015]

    My trip started from Thessaloniki, late in the afternoon, so I decided to stay overnight in Skopje. I always treat the miles on the E75 motorway as a necessary evil, so I drive rather mechanically.

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    I have often thought of buying a 650cc bike, such as a Yamaha XT 600 or even better a TTR 600, but such moments I realize that they would not serve my needs, as they don’t have the ability to swallow the indifferent kilometers. Perhaps I will rethink the purchase of a smaller bike when the project «central Asian -stans» matures. A short stop just before the borders, at the Monument to the Fallen of the World War I, near Polykastro city. The recent developments and the overwhelming political atmosphere, make it truly worthy of wonder how diverse forces and people of different background and points of reference have managed to join their forces against a common enemy. Busts of the prime ministers of each country and dedication in the inscription in five languages: «To the heroic children of Greece, France, Great Britain, Italy and Serbia, who, faithful to the demands of their ancestors, struggled in these places and fell for Freedom and World Peace. 1916-1918».

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    Day 2 [21-11-2015]

    After my yesterday's visit to the monument to the Fallen, I had the idea of visiting another one, which I had overtaken in an earlier trip and was just outside Nis. So, I departed from Skopje, heading to Bubanj Park. Its premises are mainly dedicated to the inhabitants of the city of Nis, executed during the Second World War. The number of the victims varies at each source, however, it exceeds 10,000. The wiki mentions «...german execution squads established sites in Bubanj forest to which Serbs, Gypsies and Jews were brought by trucks. Mass exterminations were carried out from February 1942 to September 1944, including about 10,000 inmates and detainees killed by the Special Police and local penal authorities. The entire area is intersected by trenches in which the shooting victims were buried. Before the withdrawal of the Germans as the Red Army advanced into Yugoslavia in 1944, captured Italians were ordered to dig up the trenches and burn the corpses of the victims in order to destroy all traces of the atrocities committed there…». During my visit, I was particularly impressed by the three giant punches that dominated the center of the park. It represents a male, a female and a child, defying the enemy. They are associated with resistance and execution in Bubanj of entire families. For the victims, Ivan Vučković devoted the poem: «From the blood of communists and patriots the fists were born: Fists of rebellion and warning, fists of revolution, fists of freedom. We were shot, but never killed, never subdued. We crushed the darkness and paved the way for the Sun».

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    As the weather got worse, I decided to leave the park shortly and to set sail for Belgrade. Almost every time I am in Belgrade, I pass in front of Hotel Yugoslavia. For some reason, I feel an irresistible attraction and curiosity to explore the site with a local, before the Greek investors who acquired it in 2010, shake off every sign of the remains of the west wing bombing of 7/8 May 1999. For me, the hotel expresses an ex-Yu nostalgia for the lifestyle of that time.

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    Day 3 [22-11-2015]

    The morning wake up in Belgrade was a surprise to me. My bike was decorated with snow, which made me particularly nervous about the continuation of my trip. I had my breakfast and watched the weather forecast. Irony... In Heraklion (Crete island), 20 degrees were expected, while Belgrade was just above 0. I decided to head for Sarajevo. The weather was not good and I spent a while in front of the hotel, by the river, hoping that if I leave later, the temperature would rise.

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    Zemun. A very special area in Belgrade. Preserved buildings in the shadow of giant cement residential blocks.

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    My professor of Serbo-Croatian language, in a lesson, reported that a Greek school was set up and operated in Zemun (or Smelinon, in greek) in the Klisurian community and that in general, the presence of the Greek Vlach merchants in northern Serbia was significant. Another example is the Grckoskolska Street, meaning «Greek school street», in Novi Sad. I started heading for Sabac and then entered the territory of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia. I had a stop on the provincial M19 road, under the shade of Zornik Castle.

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    The signs showed I was close to Srebrenica. Since It was still early, I decided to go to these places, where horror evolved during the Yugoslav War, before I ended up in Sarajevo to spend the night. I also visited Bratunac a memorial of the 2nd World War and then headed to the Potocari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide.

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    Along the way, in various places, I saw posters with the image of V. Putin and written on them: «Istočna alternativa - Republika Srpska». I did not know why those posters appeared, but I think they are related to the court trial and measures against the military commander Nacer Oric or the July, 11th that was the anniversary to of the twentieth anniversary of the genocide of Srebrenica.

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    If anyone wants to know more about the events of 1995, can make a relevant search, as there are infinite sources and references. I continued my course at the M-19 road when, just before Vlasenica, it started to snow and night fell.

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    I usually do not give good advice, and I often do not even follow those that I would give to others. Such was the case. I was in the wrong place, the wrong time, having the wrong equipment. Soon the road was covered with snow and I found myself driving with the dark visor on my helmet fully opened, of course without a pin lock, trying desperately to find where the road was under the snow. Whenever I met a leading vehicle, I remember trying to follow it and driving through the groove that was formed by its tires.

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    Late in the evening and almost frozen, I arrived in Sarajevo. I had a room in the city center, gazing at the snow from the window and making plans for the next day.

    Day 4 [23-11-2015]

    Good morning Sarajevo. Fortunately, the weather made me a big favor and I said goodbye to the city, almost with the sun above my head.

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    I followed the provincial M5 / R448 road and had my first stop at a wonderful spot next to the river Drin. I was thinking that Montenegro and Bosnia excel in natural beauty among the other Balkan countries.

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    When I arrived at Visegrad, I remembered that I had not yet read the relevant novel by the Yugoslav writer Ivo Andric «Na Drini čuprija», for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Immediately after the border, on Serbian terrain, I visited Mokra Gora. It means «wet mountain» and here, with the financial support of Emir Kusturica, was built Drvengrad (also known as Küstendorf or Mećavnik), where his film «Life is a miracle» was shot...

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    After following the Uzice – Cacak route, I arrived and spent a night in Nis.

    Day 5 [24-11-2015]

    In the breakfast room, I was thinking of my route options, as I abstained very little from returning to my hometown Thessaloniki and having a rest. I finally decided to do so, exiting Serbia from the border near Pirot city. Entering Bulgaria I met a monument of the 1889 Serbian-Bulgarian War, at the site of Slivnitsa, also known as the «Battle of the Captains against the Generals».

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    Shortly before the Sofia districts, I remembered the Communist monument on mt. Buzludzha and how much I wanted to enter it all the times I passed through that area. Moreover, it is a monument included into travel plans of motorcyclists who pass through this province of Bulgaria. Οn the E-85 / 5 road, shortly after Kazanlak, I met another of the many monuments that are scattered in the territory of Bulgaria, the one of Dhimitar Blagoev.

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    Born in 1856 in the village of Zagoritsani (today: Vassiliada) of Kastoria, at that time part of the Ottoman Empire. He supported the implementation of socialism in Bulgaria and in July 1891, on his own initiative, a meeting of social-democratic groups was held at the top of mt. Buzludzha and the founding of the Bulgarian Socialist Democratic Party also took place. To honor Blagoev, ninety years later, in 1981, the congenial conference space was built, which I was about to visit a little later, and Upper Tzoumaya was renamed Blagoevgrad. Climbing from Kazanluk, I found dense fog. Was it possible for this gigantic structure to be swollen by the mist?

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    Getting to the top, I noticed that the surrounding area was entirely mine, unlike the previous times I met several visitors. After a short search, I discovered that entering the «spaceship» was only possible by a hole, on the right, just some meters from the main entrance. I climbed to see where it leaded and common sense stopped me before jumping into the dark interior. I did not even have a flashlight, it was almost five in the afternoon and given that no one else was near, I refused to take the risk of exploring, by postponing it for the future.

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    Descending the 1440 meters altitude of the monument's site, I was so impressed by the size of the building and I was thinking of the resources that were needed to build it, in combination with its degree of abandonment. Weather phenomena and time seem to have taken over, playing the last act of the drama, that is, its final dissolution. I do not know why this is the case, but I personally disagree with the destruction of any evidence for the mistakes of the past, since it could be a good basis for not repeating them in the future. Lastly, several attempts have been made to raise money for its restoration. Later, i spent the night at Plovdiv.

    Day 6 [25-11-2015]

    The next day was filled with the boring mileage of returning home. It was not just that I generally do not like big straight roads and highways. It was also that as the mileage dropped, the more I was realizing that my ride was coming to its end. Despite the heavy rain that mutated me to a human fish and escorted me up to the courtyard of my house, my trip has fulfilled its goal. I have driven a total of 2.300 kilometers, mainly on small country roads, I met (and at least tried to communicate with) new people and of course I filled my batteries up to my next ride.

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    Thanks for the read.
    #1
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  2. Amphib

    Amphib A mind is like a parachute....

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2018
    Oddometer:
    3,933
    Location:
    Wnc
    I thoroughly enjoy your reports. You bring so much history complete with the photos and your own experience. Thank you for sharing!
    #2
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  3. Stara Varos

    Stara Varos Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2017
    Oddometer:
    106
    Location:
    Thesaloniki, Greece
    Thanks again! Its nice to have my posts hosted here, between other legendary rides!
    #3
    Amphib likes this.
  4. bomose

    bomose Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4,265
    Location:
    Dixie
    You do have a way with words. " heavy rain that mutated me into a fish":lol3 Thanks for your reports and the history. Man's inhumanity to man always baffles me.
    #4
    eaglescan, Stara Varos and Amphib like this.