JEWISH HERITAGE DISCOVERY TOUR OF THE WEST BALKANS
We will travel 6 countries in 14 days through an area rich in Jewish History from Thursday 4th May 2017 visiting Serbia, Macedonia, Albania. Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Day 1 : Arrival Belgrade, Serbia (SERBIA)
Arrive to Nikola Tesla International Airport of Belgrade, and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is free. In the evening we will enjoy dinner in the atmosphere of the local bohemian quarters of Skadarlija with typical national food and music.
Concert of Baruh Brothers Serbian / Jewish Choir
Overnight in Belgrade:
Hotel Majestik 4* (3 nights) (D)
Address: Obilicev Venac 28, Beograd
Tel: (381) (0)11 328 5777
Day 2 : Belgrade full day city tour
Enjoy city tour of Belgrade!!! Explore rich Jewish presence for over 500 years where both rich Sephardic and Ashkenazi traditions found its new home after expulsion of Jews from Iberian peninsula and migration from Central Europe.
Our Belgrde Jewish tour will start with the visit to Jewish Historical Museum and Community Center Dorchol - former Jewish quater with Jevrejska street famous by Oneg Shabbat building, nearby memorial site Menora in Flame dedicated to Holocaust victims located by the Danube river.
Our Jewish tour will include a vist to only active Synagogue in Serbia “Sukkat Shalom” and Old Sephardic and Ashkenazi cemetery. In the vicinity of Jewish quater located in the old part of town we will also visit Kalemegdan park and Belgrade fortress - the symbol of Belgrade rich, vibrant history. We will see elegant Republic Square, where we'll make a close inspection of its architectonic monuments: National Theatre, National Museum. We will stroll along unavoidable Knez Mihajlova Street – the main shopping and meeting place, and we will see near by 'Question mark sign' Inn, Princess Ljubica's Residence , the Patriarchy and the Orthodox Cathedral.
Bus part of our tour will include main historic sites, political and cultural institutions located in the Old Belgrade Terazije square, Parliament, Old and New Royal palaces (now hosting Mayor’s and President’s of state offices, governamental buildings in Princ Milos avenue, Dedinje residental area with the visit to Rose garden (Marshal Tito memorial ground), and nearby Topovske supe memorial ground /former concentracion camp for Jews and Roma/. With the visit to elegant Topcider Park we will compleate the first part of our city tour. Cross over new Ada Bridge cross Sava river we will eneter into New Belgrede booming city with the blend of Communist style buildings intercepted by 21c glass and steel ultramodern constuctions. Drive along boulevards and avenues will pass by state buildings and new corporate international office buildings. Attend Synagogue Services and kosher meal thereafter
Overnight in Belgrade: Hotel Majestik 4* (B, D)
Day 3 : Belgrade – Morning Attend Synagogue services with kosher lunch following Kiddush
Afternoon Zemun - Fruška Gora - Sremski Karlovci – Petrovaradin - Novi Sad – Belgrade
In the afternoon, first we will cross to New Belgrade and we will start our day by visit Staro Sajmiste Holocaust memorial ground of former Juden lager Semlin concentration camp for Jews, Roma and Serbs. Learn about tragic history of Serbian Jews. After the visit, we continue by touring Jewish sites at the nearby Zemun – sometimes ago separate town, now – part of Belgrade.
There, we will see Jewish quarters in Rabbi Yehuda
Alkalai Street, former Ashkenazi Synagogue and Zemun Ashkenazi cemetery with gravestones of Theodor Hertzl’s grandparents.
After Zemun, we will continue our drive by the old road leading north, crossing small villages of the province of Vojvodina and the region of Fruška Gora - the only hill in the entire Panonia Valley. Located on the slopes of this hill are 17 medieval monasteries which, for several centuries represented the spiritual center of the region and are often labeled as the Serbian Mt. Athos. We will visit Krušedol monastery, founded in the 16th century and known for its attractive location, historical importance, and a variety of decorative frescos in its church.
Our next stop will be Sremski Karlovci, a picturesque baroque town which was a Serbian religious and educational center in 18th and 19th century. There, we will enjoy the Baroque-style fountain from 1790 and the Karlovci High School. This site dates from the end of the 19th century and contains decorative elements reminiscent of mediaeval Serbian buildings. We will also visit the Patriarch's Palace, once the most imposing building in the whole region, as well as the Cathedral from the mid-18th century, and many others. Sremski Karlovci is also famous for vine and honey production.
En route to Novi Sad we will see famous fortress of Petrovaradin, built in the 17 and 18th centuries, and once called "Gibraltar on the Danube". This Austrian artillery fortification is situated above the river and represents the second largest structure of its kind preserved in Europe. Built by Austrians at the spot of former Roman, Byzantine and Hungarian settlements, the fortress plays a very important role in life of the town even today, as many cultural events are organized there.
Once across Danube bridge we arrive to Novi Sad, second largest Jewish community in Serbia, visit the Holocaust memorial Synagogue and Jewish community center.
Novi Sad is one of the biggest cities of Serbia and is a capital of the region of Vojvodina. It is a modern, lively city with lot of growing businesses, but, at the same time, with a beautiful taste of the past. We will have a walking tour of the very center of modern Novi Sad historic and religious monuments (Orthodox Cathedral, main Catholic Cathedral) famous Dunavska street. In the evening we will return to Belgrade. Dinner will be in the local restaurant.
Overnight in Belgrade: Hotel Majestik 4* (B, D)
Day 4 : Belgrade – Monastery Manasija- Resava Cave - Niš
We will leave Belgrade in the morning by driving south into the area of central Serbia. Our first stop will be at the Monastery Manasija, founded by Despot Stefan Lazarević in the first half of the 15th century. This monastery has the best preserved medieval fortification in the country and unique fresco decoration.
Our next stop will be at Resava Cave, 4,5 km long, Seribia’s largest and most attractive cave.
We will continue our journey by get to know Niš, the second largest town in Serbia. Before WWII large and important Jewish center. Most of local Jews killed at nearby Crveni krst concentration camp at the very entrance to the city, where we will stop for the visit
Nis, is situated in Nišava valley, near the spot where it joins the Južna Morava River, one of the most important Balkan and European traffic lines along which peoples, goods and armies moved.
Known as the 'Via Militaris' in Roman and Byzantine periods and the 'Constantinople road' in the period of Turkish rule, these roads still represent major European traffic arteries. Niš is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans, and has from ancient times been considered a gateway between the East and the West. There is abundant archaeological evidence that Niš was inhabited even in prehistoric times. On our city tour, we will vist Niš Fortress from 18c, a complex and very important cultural and historical monument that dominates the urban nucleus of the city. Next, we will visit to Sephardic synagogue (currently gallery) and XVII century Jewish cemetery (located in Roma mahala). Optional visit to local Jewish community.
Dinner will be in the local restaurant.
Overnight in Niš: Hotel Regent Club 4* (B, D)
Address: Generala Milojka Lesjanina 7a, Nis
Tel: (381) (0)18 524 924
Day 5 : Niš – Skopje (MACEDONIA)
After breakfast visit Mediana, a royal property with a luxurious residence, placed in the suburb of the antique Niš, known as Naissus. Constantine the Great (280 - 337 AD) was born and raised in Naissus. He ruled the Eastern Roman Empire from 306 to 337 and he consolidated the frontiers of the Empire by imposing a firm organization on the Army and the civil administration. As a powerful emperor, Constantine erected a majestic residence in one of the luxurious suburbs of ancient Niš in Mediana, where he often resided and attended to state affairs.
We will also visit famous Skull Tower build after the battle between Serbian and Ottoman army on Čegar Hill in the 19c (made out of the skulls of the dead Serbian uprisers)
From Nis we continue our journey south, cross the border into Macedonia. Jews lived here in ancient Roman times. Few Jewish communities existed before and during the Middle Ages. Larger influx of Jews came in the 16c after their expulsion from Spain. They lived in three main communities Monastir (today called Bitola) Stip and Skopje. On the eve of Holocaust 8.000 Jews lived in Macedonia. On March 11, 1943 nearly all Jews were deported to Treblinka. Nowdays, community in Skopje consists of roughtly 200 people. Few Jewish heritage sites remain. We will visit Community center and little synagogue.
Worth visit is recently founded Holocaust memorial center
located in the section of old Skopje by the river Vardar.
Our tour of Skopje will also include important cultural and historic sites of Macedonian capital: Old Bazaar, Fortress Kale whose first walls date to the 6th century, Mustapha Pasha Mosque – one of the most beautiful objects of Ottoman architecture erected in 1492 with the earliest wall paintings, Daut Pasha Bath, a masterpiece of Islamic civil architecture from the second half of 15th century.
Dinner will be in the local restaurant.
Overnight in Skopje: Hotel Duvet 4* (2 nights) (B, D)
Address: Naum Naumovski Borce 40, Skopje
Tel: (389) (0)2 322 7945
Day 6: Skopje – Pristina (KOSOVO) - Monastery Gracanica (UNESCO) – Skopje (MACEDONIA)
In the morning we will drive north into Kosovo, directly in the capital city of Pristina. We will visit rare remains of Jewish presence in the city - Jewish cemetery 19 c. and Holocaust memorial
We will stroll along its streets and the main square located right in the heart of the Kosovo capital. Next visit will be the Monastery of Gracanica (UNESCO WHS) located in suburb of Pristina where we see the church devoted to Annunciation. The monastery was an endowment of King Milutin and was built in the early 14th century. Its architectural structure represents the apex of Serbian building that followed in the spirit of Byzantine tradition. However, this monastery also stands apart as a work of harmonious proportions and extraordinary beauty. Late afternoon we will return to Macedonia and Skopje. Dinner will be in the local restaurant.
Overnight in Skopje: Hotel Duvet 4* (B, D)
Day 7: Skopje – Stobi – Bitola – Ohrid
In the morning we will leave Skopje and drive south. First, we will visit the ruins of one of the largest ancient town in Macedonia - Stobi. It was built just before the rule of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great in the early Hellenic period. It had beautiful basilicas and palaces, and many wonderful mosaics still can be seen. We will see Roman remains there including traces of two ancient synagogues dated II and III century. Direct evidence of Jewish settlement in the region was discovered in 1930 by a Yugoslav archeologist, Joso Petrovic, who found at nearby Stobi a column from a 3rd century CE synagogue donated by one Claudius Tiberius Polycharmos, Pater Synagogae ("Father of the Synagogue") the Chief Parnas. The scholar Marmorstein presumes that the ancestors of Polycharmos were freemen of the emperor Claudius who had left Rome for Macedonia around the middle of the First Century CE.
Our next stop will be Bitola. Know as Monastir - “City of the Consuls” as it used to be called. This town is an extraordinary mixture of old and new, a meeting point of different cultures and civilizations, where for centuries Christians, Muslims and Jews lived side by side.
From the 12c till Holocaust, Bitola was a major spiritual center of the Sephardic Jews, second only after Salonika. Except from the 15c old cemetery no remains remain in this once important community that had over 7000 people.
Aside to Jewish site we will see the church of St. Dimitrius, one of the biggest Orthodox temples in Macedonia, and we will enjoy the Old Bazaar, which is among best preserved in the country.
On the outskirts of the town we will find the very famous and very important Roman town of Heraclea Lyncestis. The founding of this town is linked to Phillip II in the middle of the 6th century BC. Later it become a Roman military base and important urban center, and we can still see today the Episcopal residence, basilicas, a theater, and many floor mosaics.
We will end our day in Ohrid. Dinner will be in the local restaurant.
Overnight in Ohrid: Hotel Lebed 4* (B, D)
Address: Kej Makedonija 127, Ohrid
Tel: (389) (0)46 250 004
Day 8: Ohrid – Berat (ALBANIA)
In the morning, we will enjoy a walking tour around the old town-museum of Ohrid (UNESCO cite), located on the shore of Lake Ohrid, which lays at 695m above sea level. The town is known in prehistoric and classical times under the name of Lychnidos - the City of Lights. Slavs gave it the name of Arida in 10th century, and it became a major center of culture and art for this area. It is the cradle of Slavic written language and literature, from where the alphabet called Cyrillic was created by brothers Cyril and Methody and then spread all over the Slavic world.
No Jewish heritage found in Ohrid at present but data recorded by 1382 confirm that Jewish community existed in Ohrid. In 1453, when Mehmed II took over Constantinople, many notable Jews from Ohrid moved to Constantinople, but the Ohrid synagogue existed up to the 19th century. Some prominent Ohrid Jews gave contribution to Macedonian culture.
Leon Mung, the Philosopher, converted to Christianity and succeeded Theophilactus of Ohrid as the archbishop of Ohrid from 1108 to 1120.
Leading Jewish scholar, Judah Leon Mosconi, born in Ohrid in 1328, wrote commentaries stating that incorrect interpretations of scripture often resulted from neglect of grammar. He later became the physician of the king of Majorca, where he assembled a vast library that was used by scholars for centuries.
Out of endless number of monuments and churches – Ohrid is also known as “City of 365 churches“, we will visit the most important ones such as Tsar Smuili fortress from 10th century, St. Kliment church from 13th century.
We will leave Ohrid and Macedonia and cross the border to Albania. Our first stop would be town of Elbasan where we will have a short break and then we will continue our drive to Berat, known as a “city of one thousand windows”, and is a declared as a museum city.
The old name of the city was Antipatrea. It is built on the slopes of mountain Timori, with a castle dominating over the city. Within its walls there are dwelling houses and the Onufri Museum, where we will see paintings by this outstanding painter from the 16th century, as well as paintings from his son Nikola. In the old part of the town we will also see several Byzantine churches. Dinner will be in the local restaurant.
Overnight in Berat: Hotel Grand White City 4* (B, D)
Address: Rruga Antipatrea, Berat
Tel: (355) (0)42 236 869
Day 9: Berat – Durres - Tirana – Kruja
In the morning, after a short drive, we will have a tour of Durres, Albania’s second largest city. Durres, formerly Durrazzo, is one of the oldest towns in Albania. We will visit the Roman amphitheatre and the archaeological museum (time permitted), situated near the sea and rich in objects excavated in Durres. We also visit the Roman Baths behind the Aleksandër Moisiu Theatre on the central square.
Our next visit, will be Tirana, the Albanian capital. It is a relatively new town, founded in 1614, and is located on the site of a Byzantine fortress. Today we visit Jewish community and get introduced to their life. A community leader in the capital city of Tirana estimates that there are about 40 to 50 remaining Albanian Jews, including about 20 children, mostly living in the capital. In 2010, Chabad opened the Hechal Shlomo Synagogue in Tirana and appointed Rabbi Yoel Kaplan, who is actually based in Greece, as the unofficial chief rabbi of Albania. Kaplan estimates the number of Albanian Jews to be closer to 200 with several hundred more having "Jewish connections."
Our visit will include Skanderbeg Square in the centre of the town, the old Mosque of Et’hem Bey built in 1789, the Clock Tower from 1830, and the Palace of Culture housing the Opera.
We will finish our day today in the charming small town of Kruja. Dinner will be in the local restaurant.
Overnight in Kruja : Hotel Panorama 4* (B, D) Where we will conduct own Shabbat service
Address: Rruga Kala, Kruje
Tel: (355) (0)511 23 092
Day 10: Kruja – Shkodra – Ulcinj (MONTENEGRO) – Kotor
Our first visit today will be to the charming little town of Kruja, perched high on the face of a hill. Kruja was the centre of the 15th century Albanian resistance to the Ottoman Turks under the national hero, Skanderbeg. We will visit the unique Skanderbeg Museum inside the restored castle. The street leading up to the castle is built in the style of a Turkish bazaar. The next town we will see will be Shkodra, in Illyrian times known as Scodra. It is situated near the lake sharing the same name. Shkodra is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and the traditional centre of the Gheg cultural region. Shkodra is rich with historical monuments, including the old Illyrian Rozafa Castle built on the rocky hill, and the Mesi Bridge built on the river Kiri.
Latter today we will cross the border into Montenegro. First we will visit the small town of Ulcinj, where we will visit the tomb of false Messiah Shabbertai Zevi from XVII century.
We will continue to our final destination of the day – town of Kotor. Dinner will be in the local restaurant.
Overnight in Kotor : Hotel Marija 3* (B, D)
Address: Stari Grad Kotor 449, Kotor
Tel: (382) (0)32 325 062
Day 11: Kotor - Budva – Cetinje – Duvrovnik (CROATIA)
In the morning we will first explore Kotor - the World Heritage Site - a town museum which was inhabited from the times of the Illyrians and the Romans. Our walk through the city takes us back to
medieval times, as most of the monuments we observe are from the 14th to 18th C’s. We vist Jewish section at the local cemetery, the Cathedral of St. Tryphon, St. Luka Church, St. Mihail Church, amongst other sites.
A scenic drive up the mountain gets us to Cetinje, capital of Montenegro during the Njegos era. It doesn’t have a strong fort, like many other important capitals from its time as nature blessed this place with natural stone protections. The town was founded in 1482, when Ivan Crnojevic, the last ruler of the medieval country of Zeta, built here a palace and church. Cetinje remained as the heart and soul of Montenegro up to WW1. We visit the royal palace of King Nikola II, last King of Montenegro.
Late afternoon we continue on a spectacular drive to Dubrovnik. This drive will be witnessing beautiful Boka Kotorska Bay and many old fishing villages, churches, monasteries, marinas and beaches. We cross the border into Croatia before arriving Dubrovnik.
Dinner will be in the local restaurant.
Overnight in Dubrovnik: Hotel Lero 3* (B, D)
Address: Ul. Iva Vojnovica 14, Dubrovnik tel: (355)(0)20 341333 http://www.hotel-lero.hr
Day 12: Dubrovnik – Stolac (BOSNA & HERZEGOVINA) - Mostar
This morning we will have a walking tour of Dubrovnik. We will visit Old Jewish street – Zudioska St. with community center and synagogue established in XV century as well as Jewish cemetery.
We will see Franciscan Monastery, housing one of the world's oldest pharmacies, the old harbor, St Laurence Fortress, the Sponza and Rector's Palaces and other points of interest in this best preserved European walled city.
Afternoon, we will drive through wonderful scenery following the Dalmatian coast up to the delta of river Neretva where we will turn inland and cross the Bosnian border.
First we will stop in Stolac to visit the tomb of XIX century chief rabbi of Sarajevo, Moche Danon which is a pilgrimage site.
Rabbi Moshe Danon tomb
No visit of Bosnia & Herzegovina is complete without a visit to Mostar. We tour Mostar, a picturesque town, more than 5 centuries old and made famous by the old Turkish bridge that once was the only means uniting the city over the emerald waters of the Neretva River. The bridge always played a central role in lives of its inhabitants. The original bridge was wooden, built at the beginning of the 15th century, and it was a very important link of the two parts of Herzegovina, not only strategically but also in respect of trade linking the sea to the interior. This soon brought the urgent need to replace the old unsafe wooden chain bridge with a new which could meet the growing requirements. The construction of the bridge began in 1557 and continued for nine years making it the masterpiece of Hajrudin, and under the close observation of the Caliph, Suleyman the Magnificent (builder). We stroll through medieval style old bazaar with astounding Ottoman Islamic architecture. We will also visit Jewish cemetery and Holocaust memorial. Dinner will be in the local restaurant.
Overnight in Mostar: Hotel Ero 4* (B, D)
Address: Dr. Ante Starcevica 66, Mostar
Tel: (387) (0)36 386 777
Day 13: Mostar – Sarajevo
After breakfast, we will leave Mostar. Our drive north will take us along the river Neretva, through its breathtaking canyon. After arrival to Sarajevo – we will enjoy tour of the city. We will see Ashkenazi Synagogue, ll Kal Vijezu – Old Synagogue in Jewish quarter, Jewish museum, Old Jewish cemetery from XVII century and special treat would be Sarajevo Haggadah from XIV century.
This magical town with all its charms also takes us instantly back to the Ottoman day as we visit beautiful Ottoman mosques, old quarters and the authentic Turkish “carsija”, with its oriental sweets shops, cafes and traditional Bosnian food. Sarajevo is also a town in which for more than 400 years mosques, orthodox churches, roman-catholic churches and synagogues have been standing together. In the evening we will have our farewell dinner in a local restaurant.
Overnight in Sarajevo: Hotel Astra Garni 3* (B, D)
Address: Kundardziluk 2, Sarajevo
Tel: (387) (0)33 475 100
Day 14 : Sarajevo departure
Today we will have transfer to the airport for our flight home (B)
B - Breakfast L – Lunch D – Dinner
The history of Jewish community of Serbia goes back about two thousand years. Jews first arrived in what is now Serbia in Roman times. The Jewish communities of the Balkans remained small until the late 15th century, when Jews fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions found refuge in Ottoman-ruled areas, including Serbia. Jewish communities flourished in the Balkans until the turmoil of World War I. Prior to 1941 around 30.000 Jews lived in Serbia The surviving communities, including that of Serbia, were almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust during World War II (86%) Estimate number of Jews in Serbia living to day in Serbia is around 2.500. Jews live in 9 communities : Belgrade (1500), Novi Sad (600), Subotica (250), Niš, Zrenjanin, Pančevo, Sombor, Zemun, Kikinda.
The history of the Jews in the Republic of Macedonia stretches back two thousand years. It began during Roman antiquity, when Jews first arrived in the region. Largest communities established were in Skopje (3000), Monastir, Bitola (8000), Stip (500). Today, following the Holocaust and immigration to Israel, around 200 Jews reside in the Republic of Macedonia, mostly in the capital, Skopje.
First reports of Jews living in Albania date from the 70 CE. By the early 16th century, there were Jewish settlements in most of major cities of Albania such as Berat, Elbasan, Vlorë, Durrës and also they are reported as well in Kosovo region. These Jewish families were mainly of Sephardic origin and descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled from Iberia in the end of 15th century CE.
Albania had about 200 Jews at the beginning of the WW II.Today, there are around 40 to 50 Jews living, most in the capital, Tirana.
There is a small organized Jewish community in Montenegro. There is little evidence of a significant historic Jewish presence in the country in the Middle Ages ( Duklja, Kotor ). Today in Montenegro live about 300 Jews mainly in Podgorica, Budva, Kotor.
The Jewish community of Croatia dates back to at least the 3rd century, although little is known of the community until the 10th and 15th centuries. By the outbreak of World War II, the community numbered approximately 20,000 members, most of whom were killed during the Holocaust that took place on the territory of the nazi puppet state so-called Independent State of Croatia. After World War II, half of the survivors chose to settle in Israel, while an estimated 2,500 members continued to live in Croatia. According to the 2011 census, there were 509 Jews living in Croatia, but that number is believed to exclude those born of mixed marriages or those married to non-Jews.
Today, Croatia is home to eight communities located in:
Zagreb, Rijeka, Osijek, Split,Dubrovnik, Čakovec, Daruvar, Slavonski Brod, out of which Zagreb community is the largest and most active..
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Jewish communities of Bosnia and Herzegovina were established 15th century, when Jews fleeing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions found refuge in Ottoman-ruled areas.
At its peak, the Jewish community of Bosnia and Herzegovina numbered between 14,000 and 22,000 members in 1941. Of those, 12,000 to 14,000 lived in Sarajevo, comprising 20% of the city's population. The community today is home to between around 1,000 and 1,500 Bosnian Jews, with around 700 living in and around Sarajevo, with the rest in Banja Luka, Mostar, Doboj , Zenica
Sharing a double /twin room is £1,695 that covers all land costs on the trip Hotels, breakfasts and evening meals on a half board basis [vegetarian and permissible fish options with all meals – lunches own choice with free time] all transportation guides and museum fees included
Single supplement £395
Above costs are based on 8 people [when trip confirmed] in the event we reach 17 people the cost reduces by £200 to £1,494 per person sharing – single supplement same at £395
Deposit of £200 per person required with completed booking form to secure places on this trip
Not included are flights, insurance, tips, drinks other than water except on Shabbat. It is vital that you travel with holiday insurance
Do not book your flights until trip is confirmed when we will advise on the best flights to take. It is likely we will alter agenda dependent on return flights so possibly we will conclude trip in Dubrovnik where there is a direct flight to the UK.