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Crisscrossing Serbia

At about midnight on Friday, November 18 I picked up my rental car and took the advice of the rental car agent. This had me head South and then West rather than my intended Eastly drive. I drove for about 2 hours and then pull off on a side trail and parked in a riverbed at about 2 AM to take a nap.

At about 7 AM I awoke and continued my journey South stopping occasionally for pictures. My impression is that Serbia is a beautiful, mountainous country. It is winter here now with some fall color still on the trees, but I expect I didn’t get the full sense of the beauty, but I expect that the other three seasons are quite spectacular.

At around 8:30 AM I reached a holiday town called Zlatibor where I had breakfast. Specifically, I had yogurt and komplet lepinja (thanks again to my rental agent friend’s recommendation). He mentioned a second dish – lambs blanket?, but I didn’t eat again until I arrived back in Amsterdam late morning on Sunday so that will be something saved for the future.

From Zlatibor I headed West to the Tara National Park, specifically to Banjska Stena (view). I hiked about a mile after parking and then had a spectacular view across the Drina River into Bosnia Herzegovina.

After visiting the Zaovine Dam, I noticed a second “stena” (wall) on the map that was in the general direction of where I wanted to go so I had Google map it out for me. The road was fairly steep, zigzagging back and forth until, well, until it simply no longer seemed prudent to continue in my Serbian economy rental car manufactured in Romania. I reluctantly turned around, even abandoning my inclination to hike when I couldn’t drive.

After leaving the Tara National Park I headed to the border with Bosnia Herzegovina. Shortly before reaching the border, I picked up a hitchhiker. He knew the work “Thank you” which was more than I could say, especially since I couldn’t even identify the language he spoke. The border crossing went smoothly, and I proceeded East into Bosnia Herzegovina (stopping briefly to purchase a car charger for my phone). However, it wasn’t long before I realized that my hitchhiker friend was perhaps expecting me to go all the way to Sarajevo, something I just didn’t have time for. Instead, I turned around and took him back to a small village before heading to the only interesting thing within a few miles, the Dobrun Monastery. A beautiful retreat that was seemingly undamaged by the war.

I re-entered into Serbia at the golden hour (just before 3 PM) and you could tell it was going to be dark soon. Figuring my plane didn’t leave until 6 AM the next day, I still had more than 12 hours to explore. I decided to drive back up towards Belgrade and then detour East into Romania, crossing the border at around 11 PM in a thick fog.

At Romanian immigration, the border guard asked me where I was going. I replied that I didn’t know, what would he recommend? After a brief hesitation, he replied, Ukraine! Wait, what? You’re the Romanian border guard and you are suggesting I just cross through Romania and go to Ukraine (about a 16-hour drive)? I’m not sure if he was implying that he didn’t like me and, therefore, didn’t want me to stay in Romania, or that he didn’t think enough of Romania that there would be much for me to see, but I suspect it was the latter.
I drove North along the border, took a picture of a church before evaluating what to do next. It was around this time that my gas light came on and I had to decide whether to venture further into Romania to get gas or turn around and drive back into Serbia even though that was a longer drive. I decided to head further East into Romania. The first gas station I came to was unattended, and I couldn’t get my credit card to work. Ughh!! I continued onto the next town Oravija where I found an open gas station and refilled my tank. Good! (It reminded me of the Blue’s Brother’s quote, “We have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.)

I crossed back into Serbia around midnight and headed for my last destination – Belgrade. Arriving there at 2 AM, I determined I could see some of the highlights before driving back to the airport and for my rental car return appointment at 4:30 AM and my flight out at 6 AM.

By the time I boarded the plane to Amsterdam I had driven 500-600 miles in 28 hours including my 5-hour nap along the river. I was tired and ready to head home but pleased with how much I had seen in my short visit to Serbia.

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