We knew from the beginning this was going to be an ambitious trip. We just didn’t understand just how ambitious a two-week road trip through the Balkans would actually be. I’m not sure if I would ever recommend anyone travel exactly like we did, but even we knew we didn’t like to travel this fast, yet we did it anyway because we only had two weeks.
One of our biggest annoyances is where we started from. We live in Hamburg; not the easiest European city to travel from because of its location. That in itself adds entire days to this trip and would be much easier beginning somewhere else. We also had friends to visit along the way, probably being the biggest highlight of the trip and also the quickest way to learn about the area, but also creates an additional challenge because of time.
The hardest part of the plan was the itinerary. I started to create a dream list, this list included every country in the Balkans. Yeah yeah, I did a lot of dreaming! We started to narrow down the countries (the closer ones), and then finally the exact locations. Mike printed a map of the region highlighting our desired stops and used cut-out calendar dates to try and fit them in. Our first (I think) ten times, we couldn’t get the pieces to fit. I thought, no way, we can’t do this trip the way we want to, so maybe we should rethink what we want to do with this time. But we cut out a few stops, and days at each stop, and somehow made it work.
We tried to do everything. We tried to learn about the region while we were there. We tried to get our workouts in. We tried to eat the best local food we could. We tried to maximize play time with Jackson. We tried to do this on a budget. We tried to do great photography. The weather was too perfect, I wanted to photograph every sunset. It’s really really hard to try to fit it all in.
This is what we did:
Don't mind the letters not being in order.
Prague (2 nights)
Budapest (1 night)
Belgrade (2 nights)
Sarajevo (1 night)
Dubrovnik (2 nights)
Plitvice Lakes (2 nights)
Rovinj (Istria peninsula) (2 nights)
Lake Bled (3 nights)
Bamburg (1 night)
We made a few longer stops that were not overnight, such as in Brno in the Czech Republic, Mostar in Croatia, and Salzburg in Austria.
I expected the roads to be worse than they were. The worst was in Serbia, especially the drive from Belgrade to Sarajevo. There was no highway, and we tried taking a ‘scenic’ route, which took us 8 hours through curvy, windy, car-sick inducing roads. Poor Jackson threw up for the first time in his life.
Except going in and out of Germany, we had to go through border crossings between every country. We showed our passport, sometimes car registration, and once or twice our car insurance (we had a green paper that listed which countries our insurance was valid in, I didn’t even know we had this!) We never had to wait more than 10 minutes to get through the checkpoint.
Spending this much time on the road was difficult, but we tried keeping the driving time around 5-6 hours every day. On driving days he usually took two naps short together in the car and was fussy the time he was awake, wanting to play and move instead of being still and bored in the car. I kept a bag of his toys with me in the front seat and would give them to him randomly, and each would occupy him for a couple minutes. His favorite toy was a plastic water bottle. Sometimes I would sit in the back with him, but I guess I’m not that entertaining 🙂
Whew! We did it, and we enjoyed it. Now it’s time to catch up on our sleep. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the Balkans with a baby. Unfortunately, I had an SD card failure, and these don’t include Budapest or Belgrade.