Sweltering Balkans

Gepubliceerd op 22 juni 2023 om 14:15

normally it’s dry and hot in June

this year it is 10 degrees colder

in the afternoon sweltering, a thunderstorm and rain


in one day we passed through Slovenia

the industrial city of Koper

along a via verde

the tent in the olive grove of a very nice young Slovenian couple

the border with the Balkans


the coast is beautiful, mountains, blue see, white house’s, red roofs

making altimeters

Novigrad and Porec are old and have character

but we drive through one big tourist area

hotels and resorts

the most expensive country so far

since 1 January 2023 the euro is legal tender

supermarkets still display prices in Kuna

we meet our neighbours in Vrsar

we shelter from the wind for 3 days in Kraljevica

gusts of 50 to 100 km/h

so we take the bus to Dubrovnik 

where we relax for a few days

pigs and sheep on spits by the side of the road

we head inland to Bosnia-Herzegovina 


endless rocky mountains

all models of the Golf can be found here

much poorer than Croatia

animated conservations along the way

we can’t use our mobile network here for the first time

and then we notice how our lives are still dominated by the phone


similar to Croatia but tourism on the rise

Russians invest black money in appartement complexes, hotels and resorts

Ukrainian SUV’s and Russian Range Rovers stand side by side in the car park

Lada, Yugo and Zastava

tourists from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria 

eat out together for € 10

imports like coffee and olive oil are expensive

the internal switching wire of Wen’s Rohloff hub is broken

you can’t get this at any bicycle shop in the Balkans

in the end it is fixed at a car garage


the poorest country in the Balkans

there is begging

plastic waste is a big problem

a moslim-oriented culture, mosques, street vending, markets and men together

in Shkodër everyone cycles on too small bikes with half flat tyres 

they are proud of their country


in Koman we sleep on a ferry

from Koman to Fierzë is a beautiful trip

in Fierzë we pitch our tent where the ferry arrives

we have a dog guarding our territory


many cementeries of honour and flying Albanian flags on cars and motorbikes

the struggle for independence is most tangible here

many political refugees who fled to Italy, Belgium and Switzerland in 1995

that’s why the pizza’s here are so good

the most friendly people

on the road we get bottles of water

we have to go to a restaurant for coffee

before we realise it, pizza is served

‘we received benefits in Europe and we haven’t forgotten’



busy city, honking, impatient

tugging at tourists, jockeying for prices

the clock has stopped at 17.17, the time of the 1963 earthquake

unusual buildings were erected under Tito’s rule

mother Theresa was born here

it is also sweltering in the Balkans in another way

everyone has a different story about the war (1991-2001)

'where the Americans are, they make war'

the US embassy in Skopje is immense and has 3 floors underground

the Russians benefit from turmoil in the Balkans, distraction from Ukraine

in Kosovo, Serbian name signs are underpainted

Kosovo Albanians find Albanians drug dealers and thieves

Macedonians prefer not to sit with Albanians and Turks in Skopje's old Bazar

the border between Kosovo and Serbia is unsettled because of the position of Serbs living in Kosovo

combined with a violent past

too complicated for us to comprehend

from Skopje we fly home

for Marcel and Anne's wedding

and to make sense of all the impressions of the past six months

our bicycles can stay at Predrag for as long as it takes

September we will fly back to Skopje to continue our journey

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