Eat your way through the Balkan region | Nest Campers

Eat your way through the Balkan region

01. March 2021

A Balkan road trip is not only scenic but also a delicious one.
 

The Balkan peninsula is full of green nature, blue rivers, tall mountains, and windy roadsa perfect destination for a road trip you'll never forget. And the food, oh THE food. Trust us, the food alone will make you want to come back for more.
 

                      Balkan road trip Nestcampers, Lovčen, Boka Kotorska, Kotor, Balkan food

Driving through the Balkans is an epic adventure.
 

There are plenty of camping spots to choose from, but wild camping is also an accepted way of traveling around the Balkan peninsula – just make sure to follow the advice to spend the money in local restaurants.

We love it when our customers design road trips around their interests – be it natural beauty, sports activities, historical landmarks or food. I, personally, best remember places I visited according to the food I ate there, so lots of my roadtrips are based around that.
 

Here are some foods to try and places to visit on your Balkan road trip if great food is a staple of your travels!

Balkan food, like many great world cuisines, is traditionally based on products people were able to grow. There are lots of meat dishes, but back in time, these were only eaten on special occasions. Legumes and vegetables are just as popular in everyday meals and deserts are simple, but super tasty. I hope you’re not hungry reading this – so let’s get into it!
 

Burek, čevapčiči and Baščaršija

Burek, Sarajevo, road trip Nest campers, campervan slovenia, balkan food
The most popular dish across the Balkans is definitely burek.
 

Imagine a sheet of filo pastry, rolled so thin you can read a newspaper through it, filled with meat, cheese, or cabbage, rolled and baked in metal dishes, buried in hot charcoal – or these days, in the oven.

You can find them in city centers, in small shops at the side of a busy road, or made as a part of a family meal. Students enjoy it after a night of partying or as a quick lunch. I’ve eaten them all over the Balkans and made it myself at home, but my favorite one was a meat burek in a small town of Struga, on the northern shore of Lake Ohrid in Northern Macedonia. Look for a small shop called Burek Sarajevo, grab yourself a piece, and head to the beach to enjoy this delicious meal and the views.

If you ask any Slovenian what they associate most with Balkan food, they will probably say čevapčiči. These are a staple of summer grilling hangouts, so I hope you will try them as well! Čevapčiči is basically a small sausage without the casing. A mixture of minced meat with seasoning is shaped in 5-10 cm long “sausages”, grilled and served with some warm bread, called lepinja, chopped onions, and a spoonful of ajvar – a red pepper-based condiment. When visiting Sarajevo, make sure to stop at Čevabdžilnica Željo in old town of Baščaršija. Order a 5 if you’re just looking for a small lunch or a 10 if you’re hungry. You will be served fast, and a metal plate of goodness will be in front of you before you’ll even have the chance to settle in the cozy restaurant. 

čevapčiči, balkan food, road trip nest campers
Čevapčiči - a must for every meat lover. 
 

I’m sure I’m not the only person that ate čevapčiči almost every day of my roadtrip around Bosnia and Herzegovina, so, I have some recommendations for you. If you will visit Mostar, try čevapčiči or other traditional dishes at Hindin Han, close to the famous Old Bridge. Traveling north, stop in Travnik and visit Ćevabdžinica Hari in the old part of the town. These are hands down the best čevapčiči I ever had. Every town has its own best, these places are usually hidden in an alley somewhere, so I always ask the locals (the younger generation has no trouble with speaking English) for tips on where to find the best fare

Sarajevo, balkan food, nest campers road trip

For the lovers of vitamin sea and the seafood …

If you prefer the seaside and you’ll be traveling down the windy roads of the Adriatic Sea, seafood is the logical option for lunch or dinner.

There are many popular fish and seafood dishes, but I was told as a kid, visiting the Croatian seaside with my parents, that grilled or fried sardines are what I should order. Fishermen sold the bigger fish to the hotels and restaurants and kept sardines for themselves. Prepared in a simple way – just grilled or dunked in some semolina flour and fried, with a touch of lemon juice, they simply hit the spot.

Stop at a restaurant that has a lot of people and cars parked outside or ask a lady at a local supermarket for a recommendation.

sea food, croatia, nestcampers balkan road food trip

 

Best vegetable dish of Albania

Tirana, Albania, should be on the list of destinations to visit by every road tripper or traveler alike. It is a place full of interesting history, clashing of old traditions and new, global trends, full of hectic traffic and peaceful cafes in the old part of the town.

No matter if you prefer meat or vegetable dishes, grilled stuffed aubergines at traditional Albanian restaurant Oda were a dish I will never forget. Aubergines are halved, the middle is scooped out and mixed with summer veggies, parsley, and other seasonings, stuffed back and baked. Soft, delicious, sweet – just what the doctor ordered after a long day of road tripping. Highly recommended!

 

Balkans = Bulgaria? 

Many people wouldn’t consider Bulgaria as “Balkans”, but despite being a bit more to the east, it is as Balkan as they come.

Make sure to stop in Sofia for a few days and venture out into the countryside. I spent a week in beautiful Kresna Gorge, which is a biodiversity hotspot of Europe, so if nature and all its creatures are something you love, make sure to visit.

The same rule applies here – stop at any restaurant that has lots of cars parked outside, and you have high chances of scoring a delicious meal. My favorites were stuffed peppers – red banana peppers are stuffed with meat, rice, and seasoning and baked to perfection. Vegetable stuffing is usually also available. Pair the dish with a delicious bowl of Šopska solata – available in the warm part of the year, it’s a mix of diced cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, some olives, and grated young cheese – it is a refreshing and crisp way to cool you down in the hot summer. You can find these dishes at all traditional restaurants, like Hadjidragan’s Cellar in Sofia and in many Bulgarian homes.

 

Always leave some place for the sweets!

When it comes to desserts, Turkish influence is felt thoroughly. The sweet syrup you are familiar with is used in many ways – sometimes mixed with honey and poured over baklava, thinned out, and used to douse simple cookies in to make hurmašnice

 hurmašnice, balkan road trip nestcampers
Delicious hurmašnice. 

 

Sarajevo is full of history but also the place of my favorite baklava spot. A friend, who really loves and knows good food, took me there on a chilly fall afternoon and introduced me to Sarajbosna baklava. We ordered some strong coffee and tried traditional rolled and layered pistachio squares, walnut and chocolate ones and I fell in love with. The amount of flavor combinations and options for not only baklavas but other types of dessert as well will stun you.

Buy some and enjoy them with coffee in your camper, but make sure not to store them in the fridge or someplace cold. 

  
Baklava, balkan road trip nestcampers

Hurmašnice, as baklava and other sweet desserts pair well with strong Bosnian coffee. These are basically simple biscuits, a bit on the harder side, doused with simple syrup and/or honey. Stop in any small town, find a local coffee bar and try them – all the grandmas make them. I tried them in Travnik, after the above-mentioned čevapčiči lunch, and they were just the thing I needed to hop back into the van and carry on driving in the grey fall afternoon.

Another very popular sweet treat often served with coffee is lokum or better known as Turkish delight. These small chewy sweet squares are flavored with rose water and have nuts added – there are many varieties. One of the best ones you can get is found in Kruševo, in Northern Macedonia. This charming town will make sure you slow down, so grab a box of lokum at Tagas – a family owned bakery that has been making it the traditional way for quite some time now! 

Bosnian coffee, road trip around balkans, nest campers
No road trip is complete without s stop at a local coffee shop.
 

Coffee or bust!

No morning in a van is perfect without a cup of freshly brewed coffee. If traveling the Balkans, find a local coffee shop and ask for a bag of their house blend – after trying that out first, of course. Don’t expect a bland drink – Ottoman empire left its marks on coffee preparation as well.

Your Nest campervan has the “džezva” – coffee pot already included, so all you need is finely ground coffee. Add a spoonful of coffee per cup into a boiling pot of water, remove from heat and mix thoroughly, then put back on fire until the foam starts approaching the rim of the pot. Turn off heat, mix well, let it sit for a few minutes, and pour yourself and your traveling buddies a nice hot cup of coffee.

If you managed to save a few baklavas from Sarajbosna, now would be the time to pull them out of the cupboards. Balkan people love their coffee, they meet up with friends, sit down and enjoy every sip of it, accompanied by a good conversation that can go on for hours. Time still knows how to slow down in this part of the world, so make sure to enjoy it. Since love is real when it comes to a cup of coffee, all towns – big and smaller ones have a local spot where you can pick up a bag of freshly ground coffee, so if the local coffee shop doesn’t sell it, ask around, you will not be disappointed.

 

Fresh summer drink to cool off

Late spring brings by flowering elderflowers and making a cordial is just one of many ways you can prepare them. If you’re looking for a refreshing drink during hot summer days, order some elderflower cordial or a fermented elderflower drink called šabesa (in Slovenian). Fizzy or still drink can be served with a slice of lemon and some mint, and if you’re feeling fancy, get a bottle of cordial and mix it with some gin, lemon juice, and mint – and sit down next to your van as the day is coming to an end.

 

Rakija in all its forms – to clean you inside and out 

Rakija, balkan road trip nestcampers

If mornings start with strong coffee, evenings finish with a strong shot of local spirits after dinner. Made from prunes, apples and other fruit, sometimes infused with herbs, mixed with honey or medicinal plants, rakija is found all over the Balkans.

People still make it at home for their own use – not just to drink it and make medicinal tinctures, but also to clean windows, disinfect wounds, bake pies and celebrate with. Ask for a local best after dinner and make sure you’re not driving afterwards.

homa made rakia, making rakija, balkan road trip nestcampers

 

Planning your road trip around the food you are going to eat is a great way to get to know the culture, the place, and the people.

If you are more interested in culture, history, music or natural beauty of the place, well – you still have to eat, so you might as well try some of the local delicacies from this list.
 

Or better yet, go with the flow, ask many questions, don’t be embarrassed about communication with hand gestures and facial expressions only, use the internet and translation apps and enjoy the ride!
When you get back, make sure to let us know where you stopped and what you ate and/or drank, so we can pass on “the insider info” to other budding travelers and spread the good vibes.

Written by: 

Katarina Mulec

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