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Day 1: Thessaloniki [GR] to Prishtina [RKS]
 
This Balkan ride was a special one, as my team grew bigger by 1 person, my best friend Haralambos. He recently got himself the best present ever, a BMW r 1200 GS. This was his first trip beyond Greek borders, so i wanted him to have a really unique experience. After we met up in Thessaloniki, our way up to Kosovo was a bit indifferent, mostly riding on the E75 highway for some 2h 30m. We crossed the Kosovan borders from «Elez Han», using our passports and we were asked to issue the «local» green card, as the ones we were provided by our insurance companies, were not accepted. If i remember well, the cost was around 15€ per motorcycle.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Personally, i was aware of what i will see entering Kosovo, but still i was impressed by the numerous Albanian flags all the way up to Prishtina, the monuments dedicated to «KLA» (Kosovo Liberation Army, also known as «UCK»), the U.N. vehicles and the ‘undercover’ police cars.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Entering the kosovan capital, the traffic jam was terrible, giving me the chance to notice people. The city has the youngest population in Europe, as the average citizen is around 28 y.o. We reached our day’s destination relatively early, so we had the time to explore the city. Once again, i wasn’t able to locate the statue erected to honor Bill Clinton.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Still to this day, i find the situation in Kosovo way more than just complicated and recently (autumn 2020), was added the prosecution of government’s officials, accused of war crimes [and the possibility of trafficking human body organs, among the other atrocities] against the kosovan Serb population.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
Edited by Stara__Varos

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Day 2: Prishtina [RKS] to Zabljak [MNE]
 
Our day’s goal was to reach Zabljak in Montenegro.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Leaving Prishtina, first we headed west, towards Pec.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
On the provincial road 106 that leads to the Montenegrin borders, two surprises were waiting for us: an excellent twisty uphill road and snow!
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Soon we were to the check point «Kulla» (or «Pikë kufitare Kosovë - Mali i Zi»).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
Edited by Stara__Varos

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When on the motorcycle time flies and before i knew, i was in «Biogradska Gora National Park».
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
We had a stop in Tara canyon, to a monument in honor of a skier, who looked incredibly to Lemmy of Motorhead, the father of the heavy metal Gods. A thousand apologies to the dead guy, but i could not hold myself and i was photographed with him (..again).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
«Đurđevića Tara Bridge».
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
I read somewhere that in WW2 times and Italian occupation of Montenegro, local resistance, in order to delay the Italian army advancing, destroyed the central part of the bridge. This fact really pissed Italians off, so they responded illogically, by searching for the bridge engineer (one of them was Lazar Jauković) and got him executed on the bridge.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
If you are fond of movies, a 1969 Yugoslav film called «Most», depicts these events. The views of the canyon are impressive, as the bridge stands 172 meters (564 ft) above the Tara River.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Zabljak. A small village, a junction would better describe it. I love mountainous scenery, so for me this place stands for all that Montenegro really is.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
Edited by Stara__Varos

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Day 3: Zabljak [MNE] to Sarajevo [BiH]
 
After an excellent breakfast we headed for the glacial «Black Lake» («Crno jezero»), which was just outside the village.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
The view was simply something out of dreams.  At one point, a narrow stretch of land was created, that seemed to divide the lake into two parts.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
One can walk around both, but we did not have enough time and we left soon. It's more than certain that i will visit the lake again, maybe during summer session.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
The small concrete road P14 that leads up to Durmitor’s peak, «Bobotov Kuk», was so beautiful, especially, shortly after Zabljak.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
The bad weather and the strong wind prevented us from enjoying it as much as we wanted, so we shot some pictures and headed for a quick stop to the small city of Pluzine.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
Edited by Stara__Varos

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Following upwards river Piva, next to M18 provincial road, we passed the «Mratinje Dam».
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
I was thinking of Montenegro as my favorite part of the Balkans because of its untouched natural beauty, the «Durmitor National Park» neighbouring with the «National Park Sutjeska», the deep canyons formed by the Tara, Piva, Komarnica and Susica rivers, as we reached the borders with Bosnia and Hercegovina (to be more precise the «Republika Srpska»).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Following M18 provincial road we reached Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, just before the nightfall. We stayed near the historical area of Bascarsija quarter, so we later explored the city’s heart on foot.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Ferhadija pedestrian street is the heart of the whole area, where are located most of the city’s historic monuments like «Gazi Husrev-bey's Mosque», the caravanserai «Tašlihan» and the neo-gothic «Sacred Heart Cathedral» (Katedrala Srca Isusova). West from the Cathedral, the ottoman era traces tend to fade and the city takes on its European guise.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Where Ferhadija and Marsala Tita street meet, we came across the «Eternal Flame» memorial (Vječna vatra), dedicated to the victims of the WW2, during the occupation of Bosnia by Germany and Croatia.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
I closed my day wandering around this unique place, just by enjoying the noisy life of my favorite Sarajevo’s street, Ferhadija.
Edited by Stara__Varos

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Day 4: Sarajevo [BiH] to Kotor [MNE]
 
Dobro jutro Sarajevo.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Wandering around Bascarsija quarter, it’s impossible to miss the bullet holes on the building walls.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
By the river Miljacka is located the «Museum of Sarajevo 1878 – 1918», that holds a collection of items and photographs from the Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just across the street is located the Latin Bridge (Latinska ćuprija / Латинска ћуприја).
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
On June 28, 1914 at the turning from the Right Bank into a street Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. This was the immediate cause for the beginning of the First World War. The bridge was renamed «Princip» (Principov most / Принципов мост) during the Yugoslavian era. The name returned to the Latin Bridge after the Yugoslav Wars.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts

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Riding through the city, i noticed the «Markale Market» (Gradska Tržnica), which was bombed twice and initialized the NATO intervention.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Later, we headed outside Sarajevo, to Butmir area, where the most famous war memorial «Tunnel of Hope» (Tunel Spasa) was located. It was a tunnel that was dug from the garage of a house, under the airport and led to area Dobrinje.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Many Sarajevans may have passed it at some point of their life, so ordinary people may be some good source of getting to know some more about the tunnel, this true «war hero». I quote an informative link «tunelspasa.ba» and some words from Wikipedia: «...The Sarajevo Tunnel (Sarajevski tunel/Сарајевски тунел), also known as Tunel spasa (Тунел спаса, Tunnel of rescue) and Tunnel of Hope, was an underground tunnel constructed between March and June 1993 during the Siege of Sarajevo in the midst of the Bosnian War...».
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
«...It was built by the Bosnian Army in order to link the city of Sarajevo, which was entirely cut off by Serbian forces, with Bosnian-held territory on the other side of the Sarajevo Airport, an area controlled by the United Nations. The tunnel linked the Sarajevo neighborhoods of Dobrinja and Butmir (that's why it's also called "Tunnel D-B"), allowing food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid to come into the city, and allowing people to get out...». 
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
«...The tunnel became a major way of bypassing the international arms embargo and providing the city defenders with weaponry. There were reports of Bosnian civilians being forced to pay up to $120 USD to the Bosniak army for passage for themselves and their families through the tunnel...». 
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Having that last thing on my mind and mixed feelings about the atrocities committed, but also the opportunistic character of people, i was exiting Sarajevo by the Meša Selimović Boulevard/Zmaja od Bosne aka «Sniper Alley» (Snajperska aleja). The name says it all. That boulevard had many high-rising buildings that made it perfect for sniper posts. It is said that, during the war, sniper shooters wounded 1,030 people and killed 225 (60 of whom were children). Holiday Inn hotel in 2014 and its wartime condition, when it was the home for international journalists.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts

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I strongly suggest you to read my extensive post about the city, so you can fully understand why Sarajevo means so much to me:
 

From Niš to Sarajevo: a ride through recent history [Serbia - Bosnia]

 
On the road, heading to Mostar. If im not mistaken, the highway E73 was still under construction and we used a provincial road, maybe the M17.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Arriving Mostar, the Old Bridge dominates the urban landscape and the Ottoman era buildings on both sides of Neretva river, complete the stunning scenery. If someone is unaware of recent history and the wars in former Yugoslavia, is hard to believe that Mostar was «the most heavily destroyed city in Bosnia and Herzegovina».
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Out of numerous available sources, a quote from failedarchitecture.com describes it well:
 
«…Mostar was destroyed and divided in the course of two separate battles during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Hercegovina. This war, which officially began in Sarajevo in April 1992 and officially ended with the signing of the Dayton Agreement in December 1995, was the third in a series of wars that resulted in the break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The first siege of Mostar took place in the spring of 1992 when the city was surrounded and shelled by Bosnian Serb paramilitaries and the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS) and with support from the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). Their heavy artillery attack lasted for 3 months and was successfully defended by the Mostar Battalion of the newly formed and poorly equipped Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina as well as by the Bosnian Croat militia known as the HVO. The second major siege of the city began in May 1993. This time, the city was attacked by the HVO, having military and financial support from the Croatian Army. The HVO first cleansed the western part of the city of non-Croats. Most Muslims and the few remaining Serbs fled to the already severely damaged eastern part of Mostar, which the HVO then began shelling from previously secured positions in the hills around the city. The wartime physical and demographic change was the most visible and dramatic difference after the war; however, the psychological and political division of the city into a Muslim controlled and populated “east Mostar” and a Croat controlled and populated “west Mostar” proved a much deeper and persistent legacy…».
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
«…During the first war of Mostar in 1992 an incredible amount of cultural heritage got deliberately destroyed in just two months. And this was only the beginning. During the second siege, the destruction resumed. The more that got destroyed, the harder it got for the inhabitants to recognize the city that was engraved in their memory. In the end they stopped caring, as long as the Old Bridge would remain. It was the symbol of the city–the symbol of the connection between the two parts of the city; the symbol of tolerance and unity. The city was the bridge, and the bridge was the city. It served as both the symbol of the city and as a public space where people got together. It was a meeting place; for generations it was a spot where couples would plan their first date and where the famous annual diving competitions were held. The attack of this bridge would be an attack at the concept of multi-ethnicity. When the bridge would be gone, Mostar too would cease to exist, and the soul of the city would disappear. This is exactly what happened. When the bridge was destroyed, the city seemed to have taken its last breath. The city turned out to be mortal; the city was dead…».
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
«…The Old Bridge was not only an important symbol for the city of Mostar and for the whole country, but most of all an important public space. Lots of other public spaces have deliberately been destroyed, such as the monument designed by Bogdanović commemorating the Partizans who died in WW II, café Rondo, Hotel Neretva, the Bistol Hotel, the Ruža Hotel, the Razvitak and Hit department stores, the high school and the Palace of Culture. Every single one of these were meaningful public places that made Mostar a vivid, tolerant city where it did not matter what your religion or ethnicity was. One was simply a Mostarac or Mostarka. Each of these meaningful buildings has got a different future. The monument built by Bogdanović was rebuilt and subsequently became the target of heavy vandalism. The ruins of café Rondo have been replaced by a monument for the Croatian defenders. Hotel Neretva and the Razvitak department stores still lie in ruins. The Bristol Hotel, the high school and the Palace of Culture have been rebuilt exactly as they were – even though the Palace of Culture got its name changed into the Palace of Croatians – and the ruin of the Ruža Hotel is currently being rebuilt…».
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
War time Mostar
 
 
 
447A%2BStara%2BVaros%2BBlog.jpg
[source: heritage.sensecentar.org]
 
«Razvitak» shopping center, enduring its crumbling fate.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts

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Heavy thoughts riding westwards and towards the Adriatic Sea. Weather was rather cruel to us, as strong winds decided to tip us over our motorcycles. Worst part was to cross the bridge just north of Dubrovnik, where i thought it could be a great idea to get of the bike and just push it. Dubrovnik by night. Rainy, but still wonderful.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
After a short stop to warm our bodies in Dubrovnik, we set off to exit Croatia and head to Kotor, Montenegro. This small town is located in a strategic spot for our Balkan trips.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
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Day 5: Kotor [MNE] to Thessaloniki [GR]
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Views from Muo, a small fishing village, located at the western shore of the Bay of Kotor.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
The old city. 
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
The day’s goal was to exit Montenegro, cross Albania and return home. Some 650km and maybe around 9-10h of riding (not all from main roads) isn’t a something small, but its achievable. In any case, we have done it again, and I am sure when opportunities for Balkan rides appear again in the future, time and distance are the last thing we are going to take into account.
 
Stara Varos Blog - Roads over traces of conflicts
 
Thanks for the read, 
Safe roads.
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