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THE JEWISH HERITAGE OF THE BALKANS

Montenegro-Croatia-Bosnia-Serbia

13-24 June 2018

This tour, rich in history, culture and landscape, takes us to four Balkan countries: we travel from Montenegro to Croatia, then to Bosnia Herzegovina and finally to Serbia. From the beautiful Adriatic coast in Tivat we follow the coast to the sparkling ramparts of Dubrovnik. Then the scenery changes to high mountain peaks, deep river canyons and green water lakes as we drive through Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia.

davorDavor Salom, who leads the group throughout, is one of those remarkable personalities JR Tours are now famous for, as steeped in their region's culture as they are in its Jewish history, as enthusiastic in communicating it as they are in looking after their groups. Davor lectures on the Jewish history and herritage of the communities of ex-Yugoslavia and is very much involved in the Jewish community in Belgrade.

As we go Davor tells us about the 2,000-year turbulent history of this crossroads of Europe, where Celts and Romans, Huns, Visigoths and Crusaders were followed by the super powers of France, Turkey, Russia and Austro-Hungary, all jostling for influence and power. During periods of peace, cities with rich culture and beautiful architecture were established. We visit Mostar, Sarajevo, Belgrade and Novi Sad. In all of these we find a Jewish presence. Sephardim arrived after expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula, Ashkenazim after fleeing the pogroms of Central and Eastern Europe. Despite being devastated by the Holocaust and then the tragic interstate warfare of the 1990s, communities still live. We will see the reminders of the sad past: cemeteries and memorials. But we also join the current communities, not only in their synagogues, but also in their cultural centres where we listen to their music and savour specialties from their rich Ashkenazi-Sephardi cuisine.


ITINERARY

Day 1: Wednesday 13 June
We leave Stansted airport on Flight No FR7961 (£47 in Nov 2017) at 6.55, landing at Podgorica in Montenegro at 10.45. We have a two-hour drive to enjoy the Montenegrian landscape close to lake Skadar and then reach the coast where we drive through world famous resorts including Sveti Stefan (below) and Budva, stopping to enjoy the beautiful views. Our Hotel Pine is located right near the beach at port of Tivat where we spend a relaxing afternoon.

Sveti Stefan

Day 2: Thursday 14 June
We leave the hotel to drive around Boka Kotorska Bay and pass the Herceg Novi spa resort (above) and cross into Croatia before arriving in Dubrovnik. There our walking tour includes Zudioska St, with its Jewish community centre and 15th century synagogue, the old city square, old harbour, Sponza and Rector's Palaces. Late afternoon we drive to Neum in Bosnia where we dine and spend the night at the hotel Grand.

Day 3: Friday 15 June
Our drive takes us along the river Neretva and through its breathtaking canyon. In Mostar we tour the city with its famed Turkish bridge (below) and oriental market and hear about the small Jewish community. After lunch we continue to Sarajevo. We check in to the Europa Hotel and go to a Shabbat service, followed by a kiddush and dinner with members of Sarajevo Jewish community in the community centre.

Turkish Bridge, Mostar

Day 4: Saturday 16 June
Those who wish attend a Shabbat service. Then a half day tour of Sarajevo reveals its rich and turbulent Muslim, Christian and Jewish history. We visit the Jewish Museum in the Old Synagogue (below) and hear the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah; the Ashkenazi synagogue and the 17th century Jewish cemetery. If time permits, after lunch we drive to the mountain resorts that hosted the Winter Olympic games in 1985. Dinner in a local national restaurant.

Old Synagogue, Mostar

Day 5: Sunday 17 June
We drive through the picturesqus landscape and villages of Eastern Bosnia to arrive at Visegrad, located on the river Drina, the town of the Nobel prize-winner Ivo Andric (author of Bridge on the Drina). We visit the city and take a boat ride on the Drina. We stay overnight and dine in the Ethno Village of Mecavnik.

Day 6: Monday 18 June
We ride on the Sarganska Osmica train and visit Stopica Cave followed by a visit to the Ethno Village of Sirogojno (below). We dine and stay overnight in Kragujevac - hotel tbc. 

Sirogojno Cave Ethno Village

Day 7 Tuesday 19 June
We drive through the Djerdap National Park, stopping to see the 14th century Golubac Fortress and the Captain Misha ethno-village where we stop for lunch. Our drive continues through the fascinating scenery of the Iron Gates to Tekija where we take a boat trip on the Danube. We drive on to our hotel in Kladovo.

Day 8: Wednesday 20 June
We visit the remains of the famous Trajan’s Bridge, the Archeological Museum and the monument to Jewish refugees on the escape route to Palestine in 1939. We drive to Lepenski Vir, a 7,000-year -old archeaological site on the Danube, and lunch at Silver Lake. We arrive at our hotel Majestic in Belgrade in the evening.

Day 9: Thursday 21 June
We take a city tour of Belgrade and explore its rich Sephardic and Ashkenazi presence. The visit includes the Jewish Historical Museum and Community Centre; Dorchol, the former Jewish quarter and the Holocaust memorial by the Danube.

We visit Sukkat Shalom, the only active synagogue in Serbia, the Sephardi and Ashkenazi cemetery, Kalemegdan Park, Belgrade fortress; the elegant Republic Square, National Theatre and National Museum. We stroll along Knez Mihajlova Street, the main shopping centre.

Old Belgrade

By bus we visit Old Belgrade (above): Terazije Square, Parliament, old and new royal palaces and the former concentration camp Topovske Šupe. Then we cross the new Ada Bridge into New Belgrade, a booming city where Communist style buildings are interspersed with glass and steel ultramodern constuctions.

In the evening we dine in the bohemian Skadarlija with typical national food and music and go on to the first night of the Ethno-Fusion Fest in the synagogue courtyard.

Day 10: Friday 22 June
We visit the Staro Sajmiste Holocaust memorial on the site of the former Juden Lager Semlin concentration camp and learn the tragic history of Serbian Jews. We visit Zemum's Jewish quarter – Rabbi Yehuda Alkalai Street, the former Ashkenazi Synagogue and cemetery where we see the graves of Theodor Hertzl’s grandparents.

Then we drive to Novi Sad on the way stopping at the baroque town of Sremski Karlovci, seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church under the Habsburg Monarchy, and visit a local winery for wine and honey tasting. We enjoy the view of Novi Sad from Petrovaradin, a fortress constructed during Austro-Hungarian empire, and then tour Novi Sad, visiting the Holocaust memorial (below), the Synagogue and the baroque city centre.

balkans 06

After lunch we return to Belgrade for a Shabbat service with the Belgrade Jewish community followed by a kosher Shabbat dinner.

Day 11: Saturday 23 June
Those who wish, attend a Shabbat service. We visit the House of Flowers, the resting place of Marshal Tito and Museum of Yugoslav History as well as the Karadjordjevic Royal family compound in the smart area of Belgrade. Then we drive to nearby Mt Avala with its Monument to an Unknown Hero (below) and TV tower. The afternoon is free and after dinner we return to the EthnoFest.

Mt Avala, Belgrade

Day 12 Sunday 24 June
The tour ends. Morning free for last minute shopping or sight-seeing. At noon we drive to Belgrade airport where we leave at 16.00 on Air Serbia JU386 (£199 in Nov 2017) for London Heathrow where we arrive 18.05.


 COST
The cost is £1,965 per person sharing a double or twin room – single supplement £395. This includes: hotel accommodation (all 4-star except Sarajevo which is 5 star), evening meals (excluding drinks), all land and river transport, guides, entrance tickets (excluding those to the EthnoFest).  Travellers are responsible for all other personal expenses (including tips) and arrange their own flights. Those we recommend are included in the itinerary above.
Note that kosher food is not available except in Belgrade but there will always be vegetarian or permitted fish options.
Please do not book flights until you have confirmation that the trip will proceed.
If you are interested in joining this trip please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a booking form.This trip is for Jewish Renaissance subscribers only.It is organised in association with West End Travel.