Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No… it’s a an abandoned monument. In the 1960’s and 1970’s ex-Yugoslavian president Tito decided to build 25 monuments to commemorates the sites of WWII battles. Millions of people visited these monuments, not only to remember their heroes but to also reassure themselves that communism is good, powerful and… big. After the fall of the Yugoslavian Republic these huge monuments were completely abandoned and forgotten.
While driving through the winding mountain roads of Bosnia and Herzegovina we stumbled upon one of these monuments in Tjentište, a village in the municipality of Foča. For a long time we couldn’t understand what this monument was and most importantly why it was in the middle of nowhere. But yeah, there it was. Cold. Abandoned. Communist.
photo by Elizabeth Viatkin
Feel free to visit the Balkans and find all 25 monuments
As I was planning the travels through the Balkans I got this “crazy” idea of hitchhiking all along. Most of my friends and family weren’t aware of my plans. I am sure that if I told people in advance, they would simply try to talk me out of it. “Oh it’s too dangerous”… It’s rather “Oh it’s too adventurous“.
Hitchhiking to Sarajevo
I always wanted to try hitchhiking and as I am not getting any younger, I thought this could be my last opportunity to hitchhike great distances. Before starting this journey I have met quite a few people who had a hitchhiking experience and they all loved it and recommended it. Well, it was my turn to try the good-old-hippy way of traveling.
Why the Balkans?
For some years I’ve been intrigued with the whole ex-Yugoslavia and the Balkan region. I like ćevapi, I wanted to try real rakia and I was curious about turbo-folk. The Balkans are not limited to these three items, however the region is known for it. There are many more obvious reasons to travel the Balkans now. First of all, many of these countries are still underrated and aren’t extremely touristy. The prices are low for the most part, people are friendly, history is rich.
Schengen Area Issue
It’s worth mentioning that one of my main reasons for visiting the Balkans: most Balkan countries are not in the Schengen zone yet! Most European Union countries are part of the Schengen zone. Countries in this zone abolished the borders and passport control between themselves and strengthened the border control with countries excluded from Schengen. All the countries in these zone are now acting as one single country. This poses a problem for many travelers. As a Canadian I don’t need visas to visit most countries however there are some limitation. For example I am only allowed to stay in Schengen zone for a maximum of 90 days within a 180 days period. If you get caught overstaying the allowed period – you become a subject to a hefty fine and a ban from entering the EU for a year or two.
Well, I stayed in Poland for 83 days or so and decided to move on to Ukraine in order to leave the Schengen area. This is when I also decided to travel through the Balkans. Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia are all in the European Union but they haven’t signed the Schengen agreement yet. Yey for me!
So, Let’s Travel!
While in Poland for almost 3 months, I got a chance to live in Warsaw, visit Krakow, Gdansk and Sopot. I also made sure to visit Berlin, Germany for a week or so since it’s so close to Poland. Eventually I decided to go to Ukraine. I was born in Ukraine and I still have many relatives there, including my father. On June 1st I traveled from Warsaw to Lviv and then on to Kyiv. I strayed in Ukraine for a few weeks, awaiting my girlfriend’s arrival while she was finishing up some studies at a university in Poland.
From Kyiv we made it back to Lviv and decided to stay in that amazing city for a week. We met Liliia, an awesome couchsurfer who hosted us and helped us explore the city. Lviv deserves its own blog post, which I will do later. From Lviv we took a train to Solotvyno which is located at the border with Romania. We crossed the Ukrainian/Romanian border by foot and started hitchhiking for the very first time in our lives.
Our Hitchhiking Map for Balkans 2014
It all started at Sighetu Marmației, Romania. Here is a list of some of the cities that we visited on this hitchhiking trip:
- Bucharest, Romania
- Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
- Sofia, Bulgaria
- Belgrade, Serbia
- Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Podgorica, Montenegro
- Budva, Montenegro
- Shkoder, Albania
- Tirana, Albania
- Herceg Novi, Montenegro
- Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Zagreb, Croatia
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
We were dropped off in many other cities however it was more of a transit, not really a visit. The cities I listed are actually the ones we got a chance to stay at. Unfortunately we didn’t stay enough in some of them and some other ones should have been crossed out of the list since they were not worth visiting.
Anyways, in the upcoming months I will be sharing details of the trip, sharing experiences from specific places and sharing tips on visiting the countries listed above.
If you have any questions about these countries, cities, traveling or hitchhiking – please DO comment below 😉