This summer we decided to get out of our comfort zones and travel the Balkan countries on low budget, hitchhiking, camping and exploring the beauty of few less popular countries in Europe. Feel free also to check out the first part of our trip here.
Part 2 of our hitchhiking experience in the Balkans was way different. There were less tourists, more authentic experiences and we felt more as travelers than tourists. We crossed the border between Croatia and Bosnia by foot. It was the first time for us to not sit in a car while passing the border control. The officer did not make any troubles, we got our stamps and looked for a ride to Kravice waterfalls. We got lucky and the first car picked us up (a new Audi btw 😉 ). We ended up 2km from the entrance to the falls, hiked for 1 more km, and caught another ride from a local working at the camp close to the falls. Luckily we did not have to pay the entrance fee (which was around 2 euros). The waterfalls in Kravice were my personal highlight of the whole trip. There were far less people than in Krka or Plitivice (Croatia) and you could actually swim, dive, and cliff jump right under the waterfalls. This was an awesome experience and absolutely worth the visit when exploring Bosnia.
After our swim we had to look for a ride to our final destination for the day, Mostar. When we climbed up to the parking spot I went to ask a guy with a van if he happens to go our direction. It turned out that he is going our way as well as that he is the owner of the hostel Savat in Mostar, which came handy since we had not looked for an accommodation yet (btw it was 8eur/night). On the way to Mostar we drove up to the hill over the city (don’t go up there off the path, there are still landmines) from where you can have a great view over Mostar. Here we listened to the bloody history of the city and to the current issues. The hostel crew organizes walking tours and trips to surrounding cities (which are much more expensive than if you do it yourself) but might be an option for you.
The city of Mostar has much to look at, you will see many destroyed buildings, you can even enter some and explore them by yourself. There is a significant difference within the cultures, the mix of population caused to split up the city in two halves. On the one side you will find Christian basilicas, on the other side Islamic mosques. A unique sight of the city is the old bridge which was built by the Ottomans almost 500 years ago, later destroyed during the war and rebuild after the riots. If you get lucky and will be patient you can see locals collecting money (at least 30eur) and jump from the bridge, quite a show. Even Red Bull organized the Cliff Diving competition in Mostar in 2015.
When visiting Mostar you have to visit the Kravice waterfalls but also the dervish house in Blagaj is worth the visit. You can take a cheap local bus from the main bus station to get there. Please don’t do the mistake and drink the water from the spring without filtering it, if you don’t want to have stomachache or even worst.
Our next planned stop was Sarajevo, where we were supposed to connect with our friend Sasa. Originally we wanted to go rafting to the Durmitor NP which we had to skip due to the time resources we had available. On the behalf of the locals’ advices we decided to raft at the Neretva River in Konjic (halfway to Sarajevo). The nature here is beautiful and worth to experience. There are several options to raft in Konjic, for most of the trips you will find online you have to pay 35-45eur. There is one local that does it for 25eur (lunch/breakfast included – not really a good deal), you can only go for rafting which is 15eur and eat somewhere else. The trip takes for about 4h and it is rather for families than people looking for adrenaline.
If you travel in Bosnia you will notice many dogs living in the street, this poppy followed us for about 1km all the way to the bus station where we had to say goodbye. According to the locals the dogs living on the street are not dangerous, so we were not afraid and had also never any troubles with them.
After we have arrived in Sarajevo, we hanged out with our friend Sasa (a professional wine drinker ;)) and explored the city. Similar as Mostar there is also a lot of diversity in the air. The city itself is losing young educated people who seek for a better life elsewhere. We took a free walking tour to get a better overview of the city as well as visited some main points of interests. As you may know the trigger for the First World War was in Sarajevo when Franz Ferdinand (Austro-Hungarian Prince) and his wife Maria were killed. You can find memorials of the people fallen during the war all over the city, which represents the rather sad history of the country.
During our stay in the city we decided to make a trip to Visoko which is about half an hour ride from the city by bus. Here we explored the underground of the tunnels leading to the Bosnian pyramids. This mystique place was supposed to be build 25000 years ago. The atmosphere in the tunnels is supposed to enhance the mood of the visitors. There were several megaliths found in the tunnels (some even with signs on it, we can’t encrypt), the closer to the pyramid, the bigger they become. It is basically a ceramic box with water crystals inside, the megaliths are placed above the intersection of underground water flows. Maybe you know that it’s not good to sleep under floating water due to its negative energy, these crystals are supposed to convert this energy into positive. The energy can be measured in Bovis in case you want to research more in this area. According to the guide there were three civilizations that lived in the area, first found the underground water intersections and put the ceramic boxes with water crystals on top of it. Thousands years later a second civilization found the megaliths under the ground (it was covered due to the tectonic movements) and built the pyramids as well as dig the tunnels in the area. The third civilization years later buried the tunnels so no one can explore it anymore (reason unknown). Now we are the fourth civilization which is digging it out again.
Due to the bad infrastructure of the roads in Bosnia (no highways) we decided to take the bus to Belgrade, Serbia and not waste two rainy days on the road hitchhiking. We were lucky to meet our new friend Stevan who let us stay in his flat and showed us the city. In Belgrade we walked across the city to visit the Fortress from where you have a nice view on the intersection of the two rivers Sava and Danube. We also explored the New Belgrade and the district of Zemun. I think that we would not know what to see if we would not be guided by Stevan. His stories and talks about the country and its uncertain future left us with mixed feelings. When I approached him with the question where he wants to live, he answered “somewhere where I will be treated like a human”.
To hitchhike out of Belgrade towards Budapest turned out to be harder than we thought, we waited at the highway for at least an hour till we got a ride (there are not really good spots to hh). The driver who picked us up was a wealthy Swiss who is living and working in Serbia since he can afford more for his money. After we got out at a gas station before Novi Sad we met Marcell and his family who were heading towards Hungary. This was one of my favorite rides from the trip, Marcell lives in Szeged, close to the Hungarian border (btw. It’s the place where Hungary build the fence against migrants coming to Germany) so he had a very accurate information about the situation with the refugees, which was way over exaggerated by the media as it was in reality. On the border we hitched another car all the way to Budapest.
Since Budapest is not Balkan anymore I will sum up the things we did and you can also do in this Central European metropole in the next post.
One last highlight that ended up our hitchhiking trip was that we hitchhiked a bus full of tourists from Vietnam which were singing all the way to Austria. How? I guess it was a mix between luck, approaching to ask and a somehow decent look.
To finally sum things up. We hitchhiked a net distance of about 2000km on our trip, drove by bus around 500km, drove by bike around 20km, took a ferry to the Krka NP and walked a lot all the time. We spent for about 35eur/day/person included accommodation, food (I eat a lot), transport and all the other expenses such as entrances to the parks etc. . Slovenia and Croatia were the most expensive countries on our trip which increased the average spending a day significantly. It was great to have a valid student ID which gave us a lot of discounts, particularly the entrances. I believe that it is possible to spent even less but I guess it really depends on your travel style, I certainly feel much better to have a shower once a day and a bed to sleep once in a few days.
I am curious to hear about your experiences when hitchhiking the Balkans. If you have any relevant comments feel free to post them below. Happy travels.