Having had the honour of being invited to a christening in Mileševa Monastery, outside Prijepolje, on Thursday and having spent a night in an almost inaccessible village, reached via a one hour 4x4 ride up and down a dirt track, we sped across country on Friday to stay in Kopaonik; a mountain resort best known as the centre of winter sports in Serbia and, as is always the case with such places, a rather drab and untidy building site in summer.
After a short pitstop in the city of Niš we saw out our last weekend of the road trip walking in the Balkan Mountains.
You may not have heard much about the Balkan Mountains or Stara Planina (Old Mountain) as the areas is known in Serbian, but this range stretches from the south eastern corner of Serbia, spanning Bulgaria, to the Black Sea.
Hiking Up Midžor (2169 metres).
On the Serbian side the range includes the highest peak in Serbia (outside of Kosovo) which is Midžor, at 2169 metres above sea level (7116 feet) and Babin Zub (Grandma's Tooth) at 1758 metres (5768 feet).
Incidentally the other day I was told I couldn't climb Midžor - it was too far, to high and anyway it was not interesting. Well, below I have evidence of me proving the critics wrong. In a gruelling, mind shattering and muscle tearing... ahem... four hour stroll, I made it up, around, down and back from the highest mountain in Serbia.
Here is a video I shot of the walk up - it's a bit longer again than some of my earlier videos, as I do a bit more talking. Enjoy!
We stayed in Hotel Stara Planina although an interesting (and cheaper) alternative would be to stay in the nearby mountain hut; Planinarski Dom Babin Zub, however trying to communicate in the latter was difficult, especially as I was attempting to talk to them about map scales. It didn't work. But the guys in the hut did make me a coffee and smile and you can't ask for that much more in the end.
As a base either is a great spot to explore a pretty large expanse of wilderness. It is also pretty remote and you won't find places to eat outside of these establishments, so come prepared. I hope to add more in some reports which I will publish soon in my articles section. For now, that is the end of our road trip and this particular adventure... although I might get some urban pack rafting in Belgrade.
It has been an amazing experience. To see a nation away from its capital city or any large metropolis is to understand and appreciate something of its true essence. For this I am grateful. Thank you to the people of Serbia, Montenegro and especially thank you to Ivan Kovačević for helping to plan and execute.
Oh, and I should probably thank my wife and daughter for going along with the whole thing :) Now, where to for next summer's road trip? South America? Scanidnavia?...