On the road – day 23: Brčko – Bijeljina (38,8 km)

Listen to the travelogue (in Italian): http://radiofrancigena.com/podcast/da-aquileia-a-belgrado-sara-zanni/

This day was the longest by now, and possibly the longest of the whole journey. Even if this was not the longest distance I’ve ever walked, I must say it was probably the hardest one.

We left Brčko on the M-14-1, which we have followed from Gradiska Dubica across Bosnia.

We’ve been walking on it for the whole day and I must say that I was not much focused on the trail: in part because I knew that I only needed to follow the road to get to the destination. In part because I was anticipating the next days and our arrival in Sremska Mitrovica. In the end, I got my first blister of this journey: let’s admit it… my head wasn’t there, and here is the reward.


On the road – day 22: Županja – Bršcko (29 km)

Listen to the travelogue (in Italian): http://radiofrancigena.com/podcast/da-aquileia-a-belgrado-sara-zanni/

Today it was a day full of surprises. We left after a good night of sleep, a homemade dinner and an homemade breakfast, well rested and fed, with some rays of sunshine in front of us. Soon after leaving Županja, a nice man called us inside his mechanics workshop to offer us a coffee and a sip of homemade rakija. Then, after a short walk on a dirty – and quite muddy – path, we took the main road. We spent some 40 minutes trying to save an abandoned puppy in the woods: we could hear it whimpering and sometimes see it, but it didn’t let us come closer without running away in the underbrush. We had lunch, waiting for it to come closer, but we gave up and left it a can of chicken pašteta.

Soon after, we took a dirty road cutting across a curve of the main road. But the path died in the bushes. So we cut into the fields, drawing a geography of scratches on our legs. When we came to the main road again, a kind woman saw our conditions and offered us a coffee. We were in the city is Gunja, which coat of arms bears Saint James dressed like a pilgrim.

After only 3km, we crossed the Sava river and border and arrived in Bosnia i Herzegovina again, in Brčko. Now I’m going to sleep dreaming of the učtipsi that I’m going to order for breakfast!

On the road – day 21: Novi Grad – Županja (35,5 km)

Listen to the travelogue (in Italian): http://radiofrancigena.com/podcast/da-aquileia-a-belgrado-sara-zanni/

This morning we had quite a difficult start: in the hotel there was no water at all and toilets were pretty much useless. So, no water, no breakfast and some rain just to begin. But soon the morning improved a little when the rain stopped and after 10km we found an open bar to have a cappuccino. We spent most of the morning walking on dirty and muddy roads. It was a bit engaging because the mud was sticky and we were walking with an increased weight on our feet and on a slippery surface. But it was a diversion from the continuous rain of the last days, so we didn’t complain and enjoyed the change, taking pictures. The dirty roads brought us in the middle of the corn fields and of the woods, where many small eagles were flying in circles, hunting: the countryside is full of small country mussels.

After some 30km, we crossed the Canal Bosut, that gave the name to the Roman station Ad Basante, which location is still unknown. We entered the city of Županja following the bike path on the levee of the Sava, with the welcome of some sun rays coming down from the clouds on the river.

On the road – day 20: Slavonski Brod – Novi Grad (33 km)

Listen to the travelogue (in Italian): http://radiofrancigena.com/podcast/da-aquileia-a-belgrado-sara-zanni/

Today it was a hard day for me, not in terms of legs, but mainly of head. And the head makes the 90% of the job. We left Slavonski Brod after breakfast, talking about the Roman station of Marsonia, that must occupy part of the modern city’s area. An excavation in the main square investigated a Roman cemetery, while archaeologists suppose that the Roman camp was under the fortress.

It was not raining, but it’s been a cloudy and windy day, closer to 10 degrees than to 15. I spent the whole morning wearing and pulling off my shell, then I decided to keep it anyway. I was really hoping to find an average toilet for lunch, but all the bars we found in Oprisavci were closed and we decided to have lunch on the table outside one of them, where, at least, there was no wind.

Walking fast helped me getting a bit warmer and we managed to avoid walking on the main road, taking the sidewalks and the levee of the Sava river. It was a pleasant and silent afternoon, that helped meditation and some reflections on the meaning and results of this journey.

As soon as we arrived in Novi Grad, the rain started pouring again. But we were under cover. I had some problems getting warmer tonight, but a hot mushrooms’ soup and sleeping in the sleeping bag under the duvet are doing the job!

On the road – day 19: Bosanska Duboćac – Slavonski Brod (25 km)

Listen to the travelogue (in Italian): http://radiofrancigena.com/podcast/da-aquileia-a-belgrado-sara-zanni/

Another day of never ending rain for us! We left the mosque of Bosanska Duboćac and we walked only for a while on the main road, then we left it for a track into the woods that gave us many surprises. The woods all around us were mined, so we payed a lot of attention not to leave the trail. After a couple of km, the wood finished and we arrived in small hamlet where the abandoned and destroyed houses were the majority. There we met some new friends: despite the isolation, some people are coming back and reconstructing their houses and they all welcomed us with great warmth. The first was Luka with his wife, who saw us passing and laughed a lot to know what we were up to. They offered us some hruškovec homemade and a flask to take away with us. After a while, we were stopped by Nikola and his wife, who invited us for a coffee and tea and, of course, slivovica and hrušcovec. We chatted with them for a while and invited them to the presentation.

It is always very touching for me to be part of these manifestations of the ancient habit of hospitality, that was sacred in the Roman times and still is in these countries. I’m very grateful for all of this and for the simplicity of sharing experiences and lives with the people who live along this ancient road.

We continued the walk along the main road under the rain and we arrived in Slavonski Brod after crossing the Sava, where the municipality hosts us kindly for tonight. The presentation at the Musej Brodskog Posavlja was very nice and I am very grateful to the director and to the curator of the Roman collection for organizing this event and for their enthusiasm in this project.

On the road – day 18: Srbac-Bosanska Duboćac (33 km)

Listen to the travelogue (in Italian): http://radiofrancigena.com/podcast/da-aquileia-a-belgrado-sara-zanni/

Today we had another rainy and a long walk on the main road. At the exit of Srbac, we managed to find a couple of km on a dirty path that was very nice. After that, we started walking on M-14-1 along the Sava river.

The rain fell pretty much for the whole day, softly and not continuously in the morning, pouring and abundant during the afternoon. We had lunch in a bar in Bosanska Kobas and it was a very nice time, when we could listen to some Balkan pop music and relax a little bit.

At 1 p.m. we left under a strong rain and we still had 13km to go: in the last days, we established a regular rhythm, having lunch after the first 20km and then completing the daily task. We got some showers from the passing by trucks and cars but everything went smoothly and we finished walking in front of the mosque of Bosanski Duboćac, where the rain stopped and sun came suddenly out.

On the road – day 17: Bosanska Gradiska-Srbac (35,3 km)

Listen to the travelogue (in Italian): http://radiofrancigena.com/podcast/da-aquileia-a-belgrado-sara-zanni/

Today we broke the wall of the first 500km of walk, and it’s saying something! It was a nice day to be a hiker: we started walking through a cool mist, in the early morning, and it kept our ears cold until 11 o’ clock. At that time, the sun was shining upon our heads and it got instantly hot.

Several things happened today: first, I stopped at a grocery and the woman was impressed by the fact that we were walking to Belgrade so, since I didn’t have coins but only bills, she told me that she wanted to offer us the bananas I was buying. We hugged and she wished me sretan pot.

Just in front of her shop, my friends had been stopped by two policemen: the checked our documents and had a nice laugh about our funny idea of walking to Belgrade. This happened often today: we are becoming popular and spreading good humor!

After some hours of quiet walking

the unexpected happened: I didn’t notice that we were going in the wrong direction and, when we went back to take the right one, we took another wrong direction. Quickly, we ended on another dead track: in the middle of a small jungle. We kept going for a while, enough to get our arms and legs quite scratched. Then we realized that we were on the opposite shore of a small lake, right in front of the track we should have been following. Shame on me, but Dan was happy: only yesterday at dinner he was complaining that we never have misadventures to make his movie a little spicier! We are such an obedient team!

After the Tarzan moment, we had lunch under a tree, pod lipo, to say it in Slovenian. Then, we crossed the Vrbas river and it took us a couple more hours to get in Srbac, where we ended the day.

On the road – day 16: Bosanska Dubica-Bosanska Gradiska (36,5 km)

Listen to the travelogue (in Italian and today partially in English): http://radiofrancigena.com/podcast/da-aquileia-a-belgrado-sara-zanni/

Today it was a long, rainy day. When we got up this morning, it was already raining. So we had breakfast and got ready without hurry, hoping that the rain would ease a little bit. When we started walking, it was a little better and the best thing was that today it is Sunday and there were much fewer trucks than yesterday afternoon.

After three hours of walking, we were soaked wet. It looked like it was going to stop but a thunderstorm broke and the rain got even stronger. We arrived in Orahova, where there is a small and cosy bar. We found refuge inside of the bar and we were welcomed by the curious but benevolent looks of the clients, who freed a table for us. We asked for a green tea, while small ponds formed around our shoes. The bartender, a smiling woman, brought everything and was so kind to understand our non-existent Bosnian. After the tea, we asked for a rakija and this request was received with a surprised smile. Someone behind me asked her what we had ordered and she gave him the list. When I got up to pay the bill, she told me that I couldn’t because a man had paid for us. I was surprised, moved, by this gesture. We all were. We could than him only with a warm handshake and then he was gone. He got dressed and wore our backpacks again. After saying goodbye to the bartender, we left, receiving a warm Sretan Put from all the clients.

We still had 20km to go. We arrived in Bosanska Gradiska at 4.30 p.m., after several more hours of rain and a couple of sunshine. A police car stopped to ask us what we were doing. Dan was the nearest: he explained that we were walking from Aquileia to Belgrade. They replied: “Ok, ok! Ahahahah!” And left.

This was a long day, but full of nice surprises!

On the road – day 15: Gornji Hrastovac – Bosanska Dubica (35 km)

Listen to the travelogue (in Italian): http://radiofrancigena.com/podcast/da-aquileia-a-belgrado-sara-zanni/

Today we left Gornji Hrastovac after reading the forecasts that said it was going to be sunny. And, quite obviously, it started raining after only a few minutes. We decided that Dan mounting his camera’s microphone is a bad omen for the weather. It rained only for the time necessary to wear our cloaks and get them wet. Then it stopped. In the meanwhile, we were walking amidst very beautiful and silent woods, on a comfortable dirty road.

After 5 km it ended on the asphalt and we kept walking, reaching a straight segment that continued towards the horizon, apparently endlessly, with a row of houses on each side of it. It was long 12 km, without any real shadow but a lot of fruit trees. On such a road, the mind gets a bit tired but we took a little time picking up fruits and eating them: September is a great time for such an activity and we found figs, apples, pears, peaches and a lot of walnuts together with grapes.

We had a quick lunch on a bench and then went on to pass the border between Croatia and Bosnia i Herzegovina on the bridge linking Hrvatska Dubica and Bosanska Dubica across the river Una. We kept walking for a little longer and then we finally reached our resting place. We ended the walk at the 35th km and tomorrow we will have to cover the same distance to reach Bosanska Gradiska.

On the road – day 14: Sisak – Gornji Hrastovac (33,5km)

Listen to the travelogue (in Italian): http://radiofrancigena.com/podcast/da-aquileia-a-belgrado-sara-zanni/Today we left Sisak, one of the most important historical sites we are going to meet. Segestica became a very important emporium between the II and the Ist century BC. In the 35 AD, the legions sent by Octavian to stop the disorders in Pannonia, conquered the city after 30 days of siege. The Roman city was consequently named Siscia and it became Colonia Flavia Siscia under Vespasian. This city and its fortress had a major role also in the resistance of Croatians against the Franks and later against the Otomans.Regarding our walk, it took us 10km to leave Sisak under the pouring rain. Then, we entered the countryside, where we noticed many abandoned houses, at least one monument dedicated to the deads during the last war against the Serbs and many signs of gunshots. It was a little unreal but very quiet. We arrived at the end of the walk after 33 km. Now we are in Hrvatska Kostanijca but tomorrow we will leave again fron Gornij Hrastovac and continue to Bosanska Dubica.