Skopje – Republic of North Macedonia

“Roman Scupi

Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, March 2015

Another weekend and another two new countries never been before ahead of us. The first of the countries never been before so far this year as all other trips before this have been to countries we’ve been many, many times, although visiting totally different cities totally new to us. Travelling is not just a fact about ticking off countries from the list, but to keep returning to the many other cities and places within those countries. This is the countless list after all, and the most expensive part (as general rule) as having to travel to secondary and tertiary cities not the capital generally cost more.

The Republic of North Macedonia, also known as the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, or under the acronym FYROM, was born in 1991 after the break of Yugoslavia, but of course its history can be traced back thousands of years to what was the Kingdom of Paeonia, inhabited by Thracian people that were a group of Indo-European tribe. Then the Greeks, the Romans, Slavic, Ottoman, Kingdom of Serbia and Yugoslavia; all left their part of history and culture in the region.

Skopje is the capital and largest city in the country. With over half million inhabitants it accounts for more than one quarter of the total country’s population. Despite being a medium size city, the old city center is very small and can be entirely visited in just a few hours. It is centred along what used to be the bazaar during the Ottoman rule, and it is in fact one of the largest outside Turkey nowadays. Across the river and linked by the Stone Bridge, which is the landmark of Skopje; is the new town which highlight is Macedonia Square. Farther beyond there is nothing to see from the tourist point of view. Just ugly commie blocks everywhere. It is for this reason that you can easily include any other city or place coupled with your visit to Skopje. In our case, this was Pristina, capital of Kosovo, just 80 kilometers to the north.


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Pristina – Kosovo

“Capital of the 2nd newest country in the World”

Pristina, Kosovo, March 2015

Squeezed in between the 2 days we were meant to spend in Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia, it has been by all means one of our oddest destinations ever, probably the weirdest so far to this date for sure. The capital city of Kosovo, Pristina. Yet in the other hand we could not resist the temptation of being so near and not going, specially for how convenient it was to move between both countries of Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo by bus. Skopje to Pristina is barely 80 kilometers far from each other, and the border was in fact very straightforward and quick, not even 15 minutes to pass both sides in either direction.

For us, believe it or not, it was very important to do this trip and to tick another country from the list of countries visited, furthermore knowing that we might not even return here (I don’t see a good reason why); or at least, for a long time and probably only to visit the second largest city which in turn, is the most beautiful and historical; Prizren, and where you can also find one of the four monasteries inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as part of the Medieval Monasteries of Kosovo.

Another of such UNESCO monasteries is just 7 kilometers south of Pristina, Gračanica, which was an obvious stop in our journey and one of the highlights in the trip. And with it, another World Heritage Site ticked off the list. (more…)

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Belgrade, (Serbia)

“Beograd”, “The White City”

Belgrade, Serbia, October 2013

Loosing the track on how many new countries I have visited so far during this year alone, this time I land in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, in company of two of my travel friends. Thankfully we managed to find great air fares, although this had to involve travelling there on Friday very early morning and returning Sunday on the very first flight of the morning. Unfortunately, we could not enjoy an extra full day as it could have been the Sunday, but at least, we used it to recover and sleep.

Saying this, 2 days are more than enough for this city. I could not imagine another one unless going somewhere else, so yes, it’s a perfect city size for a cultural weekend trip.

To our surprise, the city has much more to offer than we originally though. Searching for pictures and information over the internet did not give us any greater overall idea and image of what Belgrade really is. This was a great sign as we thought we would become sort of stranded without knowing what else to do after few hours. (more…)

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Budva, (Montenegro)

“The Adriatic Switzerland”

9th of June, 2012

[flickr size=”medium” float=”left”]7657313@N08/7561115078[/flickr]

On our last day of the road tour, we will visit the main tourist destination in Montenegro, Budva.

The reason we decided to leave it for the last is because from Komenari, where our hotel was located, we had access to the ferry crossing almost next to us, and therefore not needing to drive all the way around Kotor lake, which we did the day before. From komenari it’s only 23km away, meaning in little over half an hour, you are there.

Budva is famous for it’s beaches, many of them some kilometres away, but surrounding by spectacular landscape between the mountains and the sea. The city itself, like with any other, has the Old Town (Stari Budva) and the new one. I will stick to the old one as it’s the main sight.

With very similar touches as Dubrovnik, but smaller, it’s like an open museum. The walls, location, port, medieval streets, stone buildings. And of course, great food and great ice creams too! (more…)

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Kotor, Sveti Stefan & Bar, (Montenegro)

“Acruvium”, “Santo Stefano di Pastrovicchio”, “Antivari”

8th and 9th of June, 2012

[flickr size=”medium” float=”left”]7657313@N08/7556818080[/flickr]

On our last stage of the trip, we drive the remaining few kilometres from Dubrovnik to Montenegro, for what once again, we will need to show our ID’s 4 more times! This corresponds to the 20km of coastline that Bosnia and Herzegovina have. So expect your journey to take a little bit longer. And yet again, remember another country border, Croatia-Montenegro.

Also, and around 20km before you enter in Montenegro, there are road works going on for 15km, where the road is unpaved. Although by the time you are reading this, I’m sure the works are long finished.

Once in Montenegro, the landscapes start to change, a lot of forests everywhere, and the mountains only keep getting bigger and bigger. (more…)

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Dubrovnik, (Croatia)

“The Pearl of the Adriatic”, “The Thesaurum Mundi”

7th of June, 2012

[flickr size=”medium” float=”left”]7657313@N08/7556667368[/flickr]

We are on our last part of the trip within Croatia, driving from Ploce for the next 100 km until we reach Dubrovnik. After the great Makarska Riviera, this is a rather quieter and less beautiful section of the road which you can do in less than 2 hours, giving you plenty of time in Dubrovnik upon arrival, basically, the full of the day if you left Ploce after breakfast time. This is good to know in order to calculate and plan how many days you want to stay here.

The old city, which is basically what everyone comes to see, is very small and extremely compact, and follows a pretty much orthogonal grid street plan, with the main street, Stradun, at the heart of it. Surrounding the whole of it are the Venetian walls, which are complete in full and perfectly restored.

A must do, which I recommend to be your first visit before anything else, is walking the whole of the walls. Make a circle, so make sure where you started is where you finish. This will give you the best insight of the city and beyond, while offering the very best views and panorama on every step. You cannot miss the main entrance to the walls, it’s not far from the main gate inside the city. Just buy your ticket and explore  them taking as much time as you like. (more…)

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Mostar, (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

“Its bridge, the most extraordinary piece of Islamic architecture in the Balkans”

6th of June, 2012

[flickr size=”medium” float=”left”]7657313@N08/7556566868[/flickr]

We left Sarajevo for Mostar in the afternoon. The best way to do it is by bus this time, instead of the train. Otherwise, there will be no other option to visit both cities the same day unless spending a night and the following day.

So knowing that there is one train early morning departing Croatia for Mostar, Sarajevo and beyond, and one return train later in the evening, the aim is to catch this return train from Mostar for the last part of the journey returning to Ploce. There are many buses making the route Sarajevo to Mostar. A good time is departing at 15:30pm arriving in Mostar at 18:05pm. That will give you over 2.5 hours in the city before the last train. Yes I agree, not a lot, but I guarantee you it’s enough to see everything in the city.

You just need to be well organised and plan everything in advance. Create the most appropriate route and the sights will come one after another. In any case, the most important to see is grouped around the Old Bridge. (more…)

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Sarajevo, (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

“Damascus of the North”, “The European Jerusalem”

6th of June, 2012

[flickr size=”medium” float=”left”]7657313@N08/7556437178[/flickr]

After an incredible drive from Split to Ploce the day before over the Makarska Riviera, now we take what is described as one of the best train rides in Europe to Sarajevo.

But first, a bit on Ploce. This is really one of the smallest places you can find. There is absolutely nothing worth to see and do. It is just that, the place from where to take the train which runs through Bosnia, then Serbia, before entering back again in Croatia for the last section to Zagreb. This is the main train line and the only one linking Ploce to the capital of Croatia.

We did not plan to sleep here, but instead in Zaostrog. But unfortunately (thankfully in fact), we could not find the apartment we booked. The navigation system or us, street by street, and even we phone them, it happened that they were located in a different location from what they had in their advertised maps. We cancelled it straight away, and phoned who refunded us the full charge.


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