It has been a while since I last published an article because I was consumed by so many things. Usually, the best way to keep updated as to my whereabouts is on Instagram - You can find me there under the pseudo nouche.life..In other news, I know I tend to make references to football events but this one was dear to me. In 1998, there was an amazing football team made up of legends such as Mihajlović, Stanković or Kovačević, and today, the name Yugoslavia is only a thing of the past, sadly. I am such a big fan of unity, it always breaks my heart to see a separation of any kind (war is the devil!). Thankfully, it is not all gone as the breakup of that great nation has led to the formation of other republics in the Balkan region. Now let's visit this beautiful part of Europe!
On our journey today (I will pretend you are with me on these trips going forward), we will be visiting the mighty cities of Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Podgorica (Montenegro), and Shkoder (Albania). It is so sad that I have lost so much data from this road trip that ended in Pristina (Kosovo) but I guess I can share my experience and whatever leftovers I have managed to recover. Anyway... Done with the mourning of my lost photos and videos.
To get to Mostar, one must fly to Sarajevo (Bosnia) or Dubrovnik (Croatia). The fun fact is that the southern part of Croatia is separated from the rest of the country by a piece of the Bosnian land. Flights to Sarajevo, from London, cost around £210 and flights to Dubrovnik, £50 - I think the choice is made quite quickly. But on the other hand, driving to Mostar from Dubrovnik is much shorter.
PS: Do note that in some of these countries, your internet will simply not work, so all the planning is to be done prior to crossing the border. How is that for just seizing the day?
Where to stay?
I was the closest to being homeless than a voyageur as I literally would not know where to sleep the next day. I basically had little over a week, with a list of places to visit and no time allocation. There was simply not a lot of information available online so I could not tell which city I would like the most. I relied heavily on AirBnB's, The only hotel I booked was Eco Villas Merak, the going rate was around £40/night and the views were just out of this world!
Credit: Eco Villas Merak
So we started from Dubrovnik and set our sights on Mostar before heading to Podgorica, Shkoder then Prishtina. The rental was less than £100 for the whole time I was there. Again no plan for how long I spend in each of these cities.
Mostar is the 6th biggest city in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Located in the southern part of the country and chilling quietly by the Neretva River. It’s known for its waterfalls and dramatic sceneries. - I think you can say as much about the whole Balkans.
This place almost looks unreal. I did not think much of Kravica before getting to Mostar and had seen just a few reviews about the place. Thankfully, had my itinerary all downloaded before crossing the Croatian border. All of a sudden, I disappeared from the radar on my way to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area.
Aside from the winter months (Nov to Feb), the average temperature is 20-25°C throughout the year. Even the lowest temperatures rarely hit 3°C.
There are also a few small shops on the lower tier and kayaks can be rented for the equivalent of 16KM/hour (£7/€8/$9) - Perfect for a day trip.
This litterally transalates to heaven in Arabic. It just could not more right after a long walk under 30°C.
How is that for views?
Fees: Admission - 10KM (£4/€5/$6)
Parking - 4€
Podgorica is the capital city of Montenegro. It has a long and diversified heritage from the Ottoman empire, the world war, and the former Socialist Republic Yugoslavia.
The mosque was built in the 17th century and located in the old town of Podgorica. It also serves as the tomb of hajji Mehmet-Pasha Osmanagic, who was credited with building the mosque, and also the Sahat Kula Clock Tower, another landmark of the city.
I could not get in on the day I went there so settled with an outside photo.
The mosque was built in the late 15th century. It was the only mosque in the town until 1582. Today, its courtyard houses the Mesihats of the Islamic Community of Montenegro and other Islamic institutions.
Yes, you did read it right. Not only Canada has Niagara falls, the other ones are in the mighty city of Podgorica. There was also a rather cozy restaurant overlooking the stream.
Unfortunately, the falls dried up upon my visit but you can see in the far end when the falls actually take place...
This is what I missed. I took this photo from freepik.
But the water was still beautiful and the food, great.
Fee: Nil - I just spent quite some time at the restaurant, enjoying the view.
The restaurant sits right next to the falls and the best view to it is hiking around the falls - The name of the place, Restoran Niagara
Skadar lake national park
Probably one of the most impressive display of nature's beauty, the national park spans across the borders of Montenegro and Albania. It is the largest lake in the Balkans and it’s one of the largest in all of Europe. The park is also the largest bird reserve in Europe.
If serenity was a place...
Fees: 8KM (£3/€4/$5)
Historically known as Scodra or Scutari, Shkodër is the 5th biggest city in Albania. If I was describe it to you, I would just let you think of a city between Albanian Alps and the lake Skadar - Amazing views!.
Ebu Bekr mosque
The mosque was bulit in 1995 on the site of the Fushë Çela Mosque (an old hub of scholars and theologians) which was destroyed during the communist era. The site covers 622.72 m2 of space and boasts a 41m minaret.
The Ottoman build reminded me of the blue mosque in Istanbul...
I loved the surroundings of the mosque, a nice medevial garden with loads of greenery and a fountain right at the heart of it...
The Castle boasts all of its mightiness sitting on a rocky hill, 130 metres above sea level and right between the Buna and Drin rivers. The beautiful story story behind the Castle is that three brothers have tried multiple times to build the monument of the hill and everyday they come back, to pick up from where their left off, they will find just a pile of rocks. One day, they met an old man, who was actually the devil, who told them they had to make a sacrifice...
The sacrifice was this "simple". Once the brothers got to work, whoever passes the gate's entrance will be the sacrifice and have to be buried where the castlle walls were meant to be built. The brothers swore on oath not to promised, for the good of the castle and town, not to say anything about the sacrifice to their wives. The two older brothers told their wives about their encounter while the youngest brother said nothing to his wife, Rozafa. She turned up the next day with luch for her hubby only to learn about her fate...
Rozafa’s husband explained to her the story the old man told them and she accepted without objection but with conditions:
A hole is to be left inside the wall for her right breast so her newborn son could feed
Another hole for her right hand to caress him
A third hole for her right foot to move his cradle
Since then, the castle never collapsed - Who lead the world?
Prishtina is the capital city of Kosovo and the biggest trade center of the country, partly thanks to its central location. Unfortunately, the most we'e heard in the media is about the war in the regio but Kosovo is a lot more than that. On this trip that could not last a day, because I realised my internet would not work and both my camera batteries were dead. I only followed the signs leading to the internet zone, in Croatia.
The only place I visited (and cannot even show for it) while in Prishtina. The park is in the midst of the Rhodope Mountains, a series of mountains with heights varying between 660m and 1050m above sea level.
I hope you enjoyed the road and am exciting to share my next destination. In the meantime, let's keep in touch on Instagram.
Until next time...