A short post today since we didn't do very much in the end. After oversleeping due to Lucy waking us up with teething pain at 4am and taking some time to get back to sleep, we left Skopje later than planned about 10.30am. This wasn't ideal since there was 5 hours of driving to do to Belgrade, and that was if the border between North Macedonia and Serbia was to have minimal queues. Unfortunately that wasn't the case, and it took a fairly boring 1 hour to get through the busy border. Turns out this is quite a major tourist route, with lots of German cars in particular, presumably coming back from summer holidays in Greece where I know a lot of Germans like to go. First it took about 20 minutes to get through the North Macedonian side, which barely felt worth it given they don't stamp passports out, didn't check the car papers, and handed us the passport back within about 30 seconds. We also didn't get asked anything by their customs, so it felt like they could probably have saved everyone some time by simply letting us through and doing some kind of ANPR or random checks on the occasional car, a bit like the borders Switzerland has with its neighbours which are mostly free-flow. The Serbian side was a bit different though, since we needed to have our passports properly scanned and stamped. Given the number of cars, it took over 30 minutes to get through the queue, and a bit like at the Turkey/Bulgaria border, we got very unlucky with the queue we chose. Given how many cars there were, the Serbian customs officers weren't stopping every car, but the occasional one randomly a bit like at the Eurotunnel. Luckily we were positively profiled and got waved straight through without even stopping the car. Overall this border felt much less exotic than the ones further East, with quite a few British cars around, no insurance to purchase, no car paperwork check, and the officials speaking good English.
Once through to the other side we could finally say we have been to every ex-Yugoslav country, and completed the Balkan region with Serbia now on our list of visited countries. Our first stop in the country was the 3rd largest city of Niš which we had originally intended to stop for a few hours in for a leisurely lunch and walk around the sites, but due to running rather late at this point, we cut it down to a simple 30 minute break. This meant we had to choose one area to look at, and we chose the Ottoman fortress which sits on one side of the river and is now converted into a lovely park within the fortress walls. The fortress is huge, and not just a fortification building like other fortresses we have seen this trip, but more like a city wall which would have housed a small city within it. The park wasn't too busy and had lots of open space so we let Summer off the lead as we explored and saw an old Ottoman mosque, as well as older remains of buildings from the Roman and Byzantine times when they had their own fortresses on the same site. As for the rest of Niš, it wasn't overly picturesque except for a nice riverside area and a small square leading to the main downtown area with shops and restaurants. The city's main claim to fame is that a number of Roman emperors were born here, including Constantine who then went on to found Constantinople (Istanbul). It was a shame we only spent a short time here, though it was enough to get a small flavour of the place.
After Niš, it was a simple 2 and a half hour drive up to Belgrade. As for the roads overall from Skopje to Belgrade, it was two lane motorway the whole way running mostly through rural areas with rolling hills in the distance. The driving at this point in the trip is much more about getting from place to place rather than anything scenic, though we knew that would be the case once we got back to this part of Europe. As we approached Belgrade it turned very gloomy and the temperature dropped to about 18 degrees. There is a storm coming tomorrow and it is starting to feel like summer is ending and we are getting a taste of what to expect when we get back to the UK. Due to the gloom we didn't do much this evening other than a quick bite to eat near our hotel on the edge of the city centre. First impressions of Belgrade are that it feels much more like a major European capital than anywhere else we have been so far this trip, and it isn't a particularly fun drive with tramlines and lots of complicated intersections. Tomorrow we will learn more about the city and its history on a walking tour weather permitting.
No checks at all on Summer at the North Macedonia/Serbia border, and either way, neither country has particularly strict rules and neither are high risk rabies countries.
This evening I took Summer for a walk around some of Belgrade city centre and she got a lot of attention from people, some of whom gave her very long strokes and didn't even look me in the eye or say thank you before walking off. They seem very dog friendly here with lots of pet shops and other pet dogs around. There are no strays around and it feels much more like being back home at this point.
Today we got some of the best and the worst of the EV experience. First was the bad experience, when we arrived at a Charge&Go charger at a service station just south of Niš. Unfortunately when I tried to sign up it wouldn't accept my credit card, simply showing an error. I then tried to do a much more expensive pay-as-you-go charging session with them and it still wouldn't take my card. I tried two other cards before it finally accepted my regular debit card which annoyingly charges commission on foreign transactions. Even worse is that they charge by time rather than KW, so even though it was a 150KW charger, the car was only drawing between 60-90KW because of the high temperature outside. It was still a fast charge, but due to the expensive per minute cost, and the commission on my debit card it worked out to a shocking 81p per KW, being the highest priced charge of the trip to date, even more than what I thought would be the highest of the trip in Switzerland previously. At this kind of price you'd probably be doing the same price per mile (26p) in a sports car at £2/litre petrol prices, and it certainly isn't worth having an EV. Luckily electricity prices this high are something we have managed to avoid all trip, and in general it is much cheaper running on electricity than petrol or diesel.
Luckily after this negative experience we got to the hotel and when I asked if they knew of any chargers nearby they said I was more than welcome to plug in in the garage. This means we are now charging completely for free while in Belgrade, which is quite the contrast to our most expensive charge of the trip on the very same day and a nice way for it to have ended. Having an EV is still a highly variable experience when it comes to the price per KW!