So let’s see, I posted about my weekend in Montenegro, since then I’ve done a bunch of different little road trips so instead of posting about each individual one how about I just hit you with the highlights? The Balkans are seriously awesome, I’m 5 hours away from a whole different world in every direction. I’ll do separate posts for my biggest recent trips (my R&R at home, Budapest for training, my friends and their visits, etc. Here’s some weekend recaps in no particular order:
Banja Luka, BiH
We have a branch office in Banja Luka so I needed to head up to the office to check on the phones, radios and general computer systems. It’s a long, boring drive but happily I got to share the road with some other colleagues. We settled in, got a KILLER lunch at Vrbas (I think that was the place?) and then headed to the office. One of my local staff ordered for me, a huge platter of things wrapped in or surrounded by bacon. The. BOMB.
Attended to a little more Embassy business by supporting a friend while he gave a speech about Volunteerism to a group of excited young people at the American Corner. Grabbed some dinner at Kazamat and went back to the hotel. A short and sweet trip, hopefully I can get back up there to explore a little more before this tour is over. They have more to offer than just awesome pork products.
My friend Em and I wanted to explore the nearby city of Belgrade, spent a shocking amount of money on plane tickets (we could have EASILY driven) and picked out a cozy hotel called Hotel Excelsior that just so happened to be hosting a cat show that weekend. Em is deathly allergic to cats so this was an unhappy surprise, but turns out it was a non-issue and I reported zero cat sightings. The hotel was great, an awesome location with fantastic breakfast, I’d happily stay there again.
While the local food in Belgrade was certainly delicious, what we really loved was getting a chance to enjoy some other options. We had Thai at Thai Time, Mexican at Burrito Madre and Brunch at Supermarket. All amazing. We explored the beautiful buildings, churches, and museums. An awesome weekend!
The Embassy CLO organized a trip to tour wineries throughout BiH, and happily I got to attend. We started in Mostar with a lunch at Sadrvan and then made our way from one winery to the next. Our first stop was Andrija, who was chosen to provide the wine for the upcoming Papal visit to Sarajevo. I got a bottle of “pope wine” and enjoyed a tour of the winery. Our next stop was not my favorite, as they are mass-producers and didn’t have that cute rustic feeling the other spots had, so no recap or link necessary. We spent the night at a nice hotel and walked across the street to Brkic, a gorgeous and very interesting winery. “The most interesting wine from this cellar is called Mjesečar, or Sleepwalker. It is the first biodynamic wine produced in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As the name implies, this Žilavka – a Herzegovinian white wine – is seductive, passionate, and mystical. That personality comes from its maker, Josip Brkić.” Enjoyed learning about the process! We stopped briefly (and I do mean briefly) at Medjugorje, where Mary is said to have appeared. Our final stop was my favorite, Keza. This wine is featured heavily at one of my favorite local restaurants in Sarajevo so I loved touring the facility and meeting both the owners and the winemakers. I left with a few bottles and most of my dignity.
The Tara River, Montenegro
A small group of us took a weekend to go rafting in Montenegro (well technically right on the border of Montenegro and Bosnia.) We stayed at Tara Grab in a large bungalow suited for up to 12 people (maybe even more!) Food was incredible, the river was emerald green, and we enjoyed drinks around a campfire. The next day we headed out to the rafting, sporting some incredibly sexy wetsuits, life jackets and helmets. The rapids were a little calmer than they had been a few months prior (when the snow in the mountains is melting) but it was rougher than my last trip on the Neretva in Bosnia. We had quite a full raft, so I was thrown in the middle (zero complaints here as I didn’t have to paddle.) We pulled over to the side for a few cliff jumps, stopping at an amazing waterfall for some beer and rajika, and one rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. (It was the 4th after all.) We got back to the camp, enjoyed more awesome food and a night of card games, bonfires, and catching up with friends.
The next day my car headed out on an adventure, we drove around Durmitor to see some amazing countryside, ended up in Kolasin to visit our favorite restaurant Vodenica (for kacamak!!) and then did an insanely long drive home that evening. Why we felt like driving 10-12 hours on a random Sunday, who can say? But it was a fun adventure with my pals anyway.
If you came to visit me and you don’t see your trip here, don’t worry! I will get to it. Probably by like, uh…December. I’m seriously the worst.