Bosnia’s dramatic north: Jajce, the Vrbas River Canyon and Banja Luka

For most people, tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina is synonymous with visiting Sarajevo and Mostar, and perhaps Trebinje, Medjugorje and the Sutjeska national park. This, however is unfair to the rest of this stunning country, which does not only offer a lot of wonderful unspoilt nature throughout, but also ancient fortresses, churches and mosques, which have persevered through its turbulent past. Last week I went on a … Continue reading Bosnia’s dramatic north: Jajce, the Vrbas River Canyon and Banja Luka

Hidden Belgrade (19): Doppelgängers

Cities like to show their friendship by sharing the same monuments. New York and Paris share the Statue of Liberty (although the one in Paris is considerably smaller), while copies of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid are everywhere from Romania to Korea. Belgrade is no exception and there are (at least) four monuments which tie it to other places. Their stories feature old friendships, sunken ships and … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (19): Doppelgängers

Hidden Belgrade (17): Belgrade’s Bavarian Protectress

From its beginnings, Belgrade was a multi-confessional city, due to its the location at crossroads or major trade routs and the borders of major empires, from the Romans to the Habsburgs. Although the city’s location brought diversity and rich history, it often proved disastrous. The city was burnt to ashes many times by defenders and conquerors alike, and its citizens were too often forced to … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (17): Belgrade’s Bavarian Protectress

Hidden Belgrade (16): The Forgotten Feminist Palace

If you pass through a hallway of an unassuming building with a blackened facade in Resavska 11, you will find yourself staring at a graceful jewel box of a building which currently houses Serbia’s leading folklore dance society AKUD “Lola”. Its pink and white facade, hides behind it one of the prettiest halls in Belgrade, decorated with wonderful chandeliers and elegant art-nouveau ornaments. This hall, … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (16): The Forgotten Feminist Palace

Hidden Belgrade (12): Konjarnik: Buddhism, Brutalism and rap

As you approach Belgrade by highway from the East, you will pass a hill from which you will be able to see the whole city in front of you, but the view will be dominated by three massive stepped concrete buildings. Officially called Rudo, after a city in Bosnia, the complex is known as the Eastern Gate, in parrallel with another brutalist masterpiece that is … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (12): Konjarnik: Buddhism, Brutalism and rap

Bač: fortress in the plains

Bač’s medieval heritage juts out awkwardly from the tree lined streets of this quiet town. The remaining fortress tower overlooks one story homes where elderly ladies snooping on visitors, probably with the same passion of medieval guards.  A wonderful gothic gate protects an unremarkable concrete bridge over Mostonga. Honey-coloured tower of the monastery, dating from the crusades, pierces the endless Pannonian sky. This quiet town … Continue reading Bač: fortress in the plains

Day 4-7: The Bulgarian Riviera, from Varna to Rezovo

There might something in the mix of testosterone and sea air, or the fumes from sun-screen lotions, that makes men of all ages behave like they are teenagers whenever they approach the coast. This strange effect descended on us as soon as we entered Varna’s brutalist suburbs, and started discussing horrid facial hair experiments and buying fake Adidas tracksuits. It was the air, and definitely … Continue reading Day 4-7: The Bulgarian Riviera, from Varna to Rezovo

Day 3-4: The Balkans, Veliko Tarnovo and Zheravna

From Sofia we drove north-east towards the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo and its impressive UNESCO-protected citadel Tsarevets. We were going deeper into the Stara Planina (Old Mountain) and the scenery was lovely. It was this mountain range’s Turkish name, Balkan, meaning “a wooded mountain”, that gave our peculiar region its name. In the early 19th century a German geographer Zeune, wanted to find … Continue reading Day 3-4: The Balkans, Veliko Tarnovo and Zheravna

Guča: Serbia’s Dionysian spectacle of trumpets, cabbage and beer

Originally conceived as a festival to promote the fledgling institution of a brass band 1961, Guča Trumpet Festival (aka Dragačevo Fair) evolved in the past two decades into one of the most popular festivals in Serbia and a somewhat divisive cultural institution. For all but the musical purists, Guča is much much more than an ethno-music festival. Although the festival is devoted to preserving this … Continue reading Guča: Serbia’s Dionysian spectacle of trumpets, cabbage and beer