A Travellerspoint blog

Nis, Serbia

tower of skulls and a concentration camp

Rode from Macedonia to Nis in Serbia, the roads are slightly better here although they were doing roadworks so only had a single lane. We arrived late afternoon and checked into a hotel in the town centre. No camping here and it felt good to have a nice bed and breakfast and all the mod cons which come with 4 stars!
We then explored the town and its main pedestrian street which also has a street underground with lots of shops, it is a very long underground shopping centre! We then explored the citadel on the other side of the river and had some drinks there and then dinner in town with some comrades!
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First thing in the morning we went to see the tower skulls, there used to be 952 but now are only 50 or so left. still it was impressive and must have been a scary sight when first erected as a warning to the Serbians who had an uprising against the Turks. The Serbs who were out numbered charged the powder supplies of the enemy in a suicidal move, which once ignited killed 4000 serbs and 10 000 Turks. The Turks still won through shear numbers and beheaded the enemies corpses and and erected the tower as a warning. Although the serbs now see it as a sign of Serbian bravery and resistance!
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Next we went to the local Nazi concentration camp, which left an uneasy feeling...although we couldnt understand the language we could tell by the photos and documents and clothing and peoples artwork here that this was hectic..
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In hindsight I do feel I should have maybe had a proper shave before going here?!

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So now we are in Belgrade and the Serbians have just won Wimbledon so are going mental, Big street party last night with bikes doing burnouts and wheeling up and down the main street, cars all hooting and people waving flags and having a good time. Think there is another big celebration this evening so we are off to join them before riding to Romania tomorrow.

  • Wish we could upload more photos and go into more detail but time is precious, especially when you are not at work and having the trip of a lifetime, haha ;-)

Posted by XJR1300 08:21 Archived in Serbia Tagged niš tower_of_skulls Comments (3)

The ancient city of Stobi, Macedonia

The road from Lake Ohrid to our next destination took us over the enormous peaks of the Galičica National Park and through the famous Tikves wine region. Surprisingly, we were not in search of some good wine, but were looking for the ruins of the ancient city of Stobi.

Compared to Butrint in Albania, Stobi is much lower profile and works on a small budget (no UNESCO World Heritage Site status). However, the city of Stobi is much larger and historically probably more important. For more information on Stobi, see STOBI

As it was getting late, we didn't have time to find a hotel, unpack the bike and head back to Stobi so we headed there in the hope we could leave the packed up bike outside. Luckily the site was very quiet and the security guard would watch it for us. We were offered a free guide which was magnificent. Our local guide was very enthusiastic, shared a wealth of interesting information with us, made us laugh with some insider and local jokes, and ignited our imagination as he took us through the site.

From the more usual amphitheatre, Roman houses and churches, Stobi offered more unusual places such as a gambling house, library and different types of baths. We were also shown the beautiful mosaics and frescoes that have been found in different buildings and explained the meaning of the pictures.

Most of this wonderful city is still to be excavated so it is still very much a work in progress. We'd love to see what else they've uncovered in 10 years time as the site is very large but they need to dig up to 5 metres to get to the ruins. It's a time-consuming and costly process, but the rewards are magnificent. Stobi is a true gem in Macedonia...

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Posted by The Minion 07:22 Archived in Macedonia Tagged ruins ancient_city macedonia stobi Comments (2)

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

semi-overcast 27 °C

Rode from Albania to Lake Orhid which is one third in Albania and 2 thirds in Macedonia. Decided to take the scenic route up near the Greek border. It only took about 8 hours to ride maybe 250km! The roads were pretty damn bad but mostly tarred, although with plenty of pot holes and other obstacles...the worst being the Albanian drivers. All along every rode there are little post box size churches or shrines to those who lost their lives on that particular road. There would always be a picture of the deceased in a suit etched onto the grave stone. So sad to waste your life in a car accident, really it is not that difficult to ride on your own side of the road...but these guys insist on over taking on blind corners and in the craziest places that no sober or sane person would attempt. They seek death out, so no sympathy from me, just stay well away from me. anyways survived and made it to Macedonia. Here is a picture from somewhere along the way:
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Again all the Balkan people have been very friendly and always ready to help when they see you looking at a map. Even though we cant speak the same language we usually end up having a laugh and shaking hands. So made it to the lake pretty late and feeling knackered, just wanting a good shower, meal and sleep. Unfortunately the campsite was pretty grim and I had none of these. I knew I was just tired so hoped the morning would improve things. Photo of the lake looking over towards Albania:
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There is a museum of the bay of bones in Gradiste where we camped, they have created some houses on stilts, which is how people used to live here a few hundred/thousands years ago they found evidence of this under the water. It was pretty interesting. You could scuba dive here as well as the water is super clear.P1060038.jpgP1060039.jpgP1060040.jpg
I was distracted by the water snakes which were large and plentiful.
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I managed to spot a guy with a bear in Albania, I couldnt believe it. So i stopped the bike to take a closer look...but then the owner started thrashing it with a stick and his friend started shaking a tambourine and then the bear started dancing on its back legs. I didnt want to encourage this so started up the bike and moved on. It will be a good day when the bear turns on his owner ;-)P1060043.jpg
Here are some of the beaches near our campsite:
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Next we headed into the old town of Orhid and climbed up to the citadel and to the highest part the fort of Samuel
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Next we checked out some old church, of which there are millions in the Balkans, they take this stuff really seriously here...maybe because they know they are going to die young and soon on the roads?
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Next we saw the old theatre and a flower we had not seen before.
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Next we headed back to the campsite for a local bottle of red wine called T'ga Za Jug which translated means longing for the south and is named after a poem. It was very good.P1060073.jpg
I then foolishly drank a few of these 'Party Brandy' bottles...the bottle doesnt lie and soon I was ready to party...but the next day was no party and we decided to move on to Stobi it took a few hours and we eventually found our way with the help of some friendly locals. The map I have is not always that accurate.P1060082.jpg
We drove over the mountain above lake Ohrid, it was pretty high, around 1600 meters and the fresh air soon cleared the remaining party brandy headache.
I should have taken pictures lower down, as the top was just cloud!P1060085.jpg
So we are in Nis, Serbia at the moment and need to go and see the tower of skulls and the Nazi concentration camp here so will have to blog about Stobi and here later. We head up to Belgrade, Serbia tonight.

I just have to mention WORK for all those who are attending tomorrow, I will not be present ;-)

Posted by XJR1300 00:58 Archived in Macedonia Tagged lake_ohrid Comments (4)

Butrint, Albania

sunny

Our last day in Albania we spent exploring the ancient city of Butrint, a stone's throw from the Greek border. An Unesco World Heritage site, Butrint is an intriguing archaeological site on a small peninsula. We spent over two hours viewing the ruins of the city and imagining life back then. I absolutely loved this beautiful place, which is still being excavated for more treasures of the past. For more information on Butrint see http://www.butrint.org/

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Posted by The Minion 00:43 Archived in Albania Tagged unesco albania ruin butrint archeological_site Comments (1)

Dhermi, Albania

sunny

Next stop: Albania! Although being warned for bad road conditions, we were pleasantly surprised when hitting the yet unfinished A1 motorway as soon as we entered Albania. Credit where credit is due: this road is an impressive piece of infrastructural engineering that I had not expected from a country such as Albania. That being said, it was slightly worrying that a small part of this gorgeous, smooth motorway had already collapsed! Unfortunately, we were unable to stop along the way and take some pictures.

Heading towards coastal Durres, we were hoping to avoid the capital Tirana but found ourselves riding right through the thick of it. Unfortunaly, as the new A1 motorway abruptly came to an end, so did the smooth ride and we were introduced to the true Albanian riding experience: pothole after pothole, randomly untarred road, a complete lack of road signs and road markings, pedestrians on the road, etc. We didn't find the campsite we were looking for but were happy to spend the night in a friendly little hotel.

As we were not too impressed with Durres, and had been put off by the advice of bad coastal conditions (overcrowded, littered beaches, muddy water), we decided to head towards the more positive sounding south. And as we conquered the LLogaraja pass, we were not left disappointed as the white crescent beaches and clear blue water tempted us from below.
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We are now spending a second night in a cabin in Dhermi, with views of Corfu. Although the water of the Ionian sea is slightly cooler than the Adriatic, it's wonderfully refreshing to take a dip after soaking up the sun. This place is very relaxing and beautifully scenic. Thankfully, although popular with locals and some Italian tourists, it is not (yet!) a built-up and overcrowded tourist spot.
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Posted by The Minion 11:25 Archived in Albania Tagged albania durres dhermi bunkers Comments (2)

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