The drive along the Croatian coast is gorgeous and I would love to spend some time in Croatia, exploring. In around an hour were parked on an overlook above Dubrovnik and I must say it’s one of the most idyllic cities I’ve ever seen. Part of it is within what appear to be castle walls and all the houses through the city have orange/red terra cotta roofs, it really is something out of a dream. We drove down and meandered around the outer parts of the city for a bit and enjoyed the views. What a place, I’d love to spend time there but this time it was not to be as our road trip was in full swing. My friend thought it would be a great idea to drive through Bosnia into Kosovo and I loved the idea of knocking off another country so we were off to the border.
The way to the Bosnian border was via a two lane mountain pass that hugged the edge and looked down on the valley below in a treacherous fashion. It was quite a drive and if you don’t like amusement park rides I suggest you find another route. It was beautiful though and after driving through a town called Brgat we were at the border where I learned another valuable lesson.
The border checkpoint is something out of a world war two story with a single drop down pole blocking our way and a very old building the guards stay in. We pulled up and the guard walked to our car. We handed him our passports and he went into the building for a few minutes and came back out. Despite the fact that he couldn’t speak English he managed to convey the fact that we had Kosovo plates and were not coming into Bosnia under any circumstances with our car. In a few minutes his boss came out and motioned us to follow him into the building. We did that and after a few phone calls the result was still the same.
So, for future reference don’t attempt to enter Bosnia with a Kosovo plated vehicle even if you have three types of “Auto Insurance”. At this point I noticed a small store within walking distance and with some gesturing was able to convince the guards to allow me to leave the car and walk to the store. They seemed willing to allow it and I was soon on my way and in the store. I remember seeing pictures of the stores shelves when the Soviet Union existed and this place had the same feeling. Not much on the shelves which really exemplified the economic plight of the region. I walked around the place for a bit, selected some available snacks and tried to communicate with the women working the counter. It was futile but fun and I was out the door with my goods and change in short order. I passed one of the guards on the way back and he waved to us. Everyone was good natured about the whole thing but were still not going to allow us into the country with our car.
So, we waved good by to our border guard friends but not before convincing them to stamp our passports. We retraced our route and upon arrival at the Bay of Kotor (Boka kotorska/Бока которска) decided to shorten our journey by taking the ferry across the bay. This cut our trip in half and in short order we were on our way again, this time heading to Podgorica (Подгорица).
After a short drive we were in Podgorica and at the airport, seems one of my traveling companions had a keen interest in airplanes. Not being able to read any of the sign we drove through a gate and parked near a building where we had just seen a plane land. The plane was parked and my friends went to have a look while I waited in the car. I was sipping on my drink when the two of them came running in my direction, waving their hands, yelling .. Drive, Drive, Drive. I didn’t know what was going on but as soon as they were in I stepped on the gas and made my way to the gate we had entered earlier.
Well, apparently some one noticed our vehicle and the gate was closing to quickly for our exit. We suddenly found ourselves trying to explain why were in a restricted area (or so it seemed). Since no one could speak the other’s language we just kept repeating the word “Lost”. They must have just said the heck with it since it was apparent we were not a threat to anyone. They opened the gate and motioned for us to get out. The guy with the airplane lust was undeterred though and wanted to drive around the airport a bit more.
I brought to his attention that we were almost in the middle of an international incident and it would perhaps be a good idea to leave just in case they got our plate number and were calling the border checkpoints to watch for us. So, we drove through the airport and headed into town, putting the incident in the past. I was quite hungry by this point so we stopped at a little restaurant to grab a bite to eat. I loved every restaurant I ate in while living in the Balkans and this was no different. The place was rustic, and the interior was completely constructed out of wood beams and log cabin style walls. We ordered sandwiches to go and were off in around 15 minutes or so.
It was evening by this time and after a bit of a drive we were at the Montenegro/Albanian border again. Recalling the airport incident we wondered if someone would be waiting for us as we handed our passports over. The guard looked at us for a bit and handed the passports back, “Whew” .. we were out of Montenegro and back in Albania. It was getting late by this time and Pristina was still a few hours away so I drove a bit faster than I probably should have but in short order we were a the Albanian/Kosovo border. Did I mention the Kosovo Albanians and the Albanians in general like Americans? The checkpoint was a breeze and were back in Pristina around midnight. It was a great trip, we knocked off Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, and a bit of Bosnia-Herzegovina but had a great time.
So, if you are driving around the Balkans be sure to take cash for “Insurance” and take along some cans full of gas just in case. Overall, the people were great, helpful, forgiving and easy to get along with. I would definitely return if given the chance.
Here are some videos to watch I took during the trip
I took so many photos you’ll be here for hours just browsing in amazement