Filip Jakovac: Well, hahaha, first of all, Balkan Roads is a road trip, a circular road trip on old dusty roads of Balkan peninsula using equally old vehicles preferably of Balkan production (Read: Yugo, Zastava, TAM, TAS, Tomos etc.). Along the way, the guests will use more or less intense adrenaline checkpoints or cultural – traditional ones. We asked ourselves what’s so interesting about Balkans? So at first, we came up with the idea of building an adrenaline platform covering the Balkan peninsula but then we asked ourselves “What the hell are they’re going to do when driving from one checkpoint to another??” It really isn’t that easy to organize a visit to an authentic gypsy village and to feel their lifestyle nor was easy to make an understanding with a local shepherd who doesn’t even hold a cellphone nor is interested in legal matters and he should guide show our guests how to take a herd of sheep on a pasture, milk them, make cheese etc. Finally, we did it and this year is the grand opening for Balkan Roads – a very peculiar, funny and challenging form of traveling. Who said adventure and culture can’t get along?? We prove different!
Really, milk the sheep? I bet some people never saw a sheep ‘in person’. Hahaha. That will be agreat fun. Maybe not for the sheep.Hahahahaha. How did you get to the idea of making it?
Filip Jakovac: Three years ago me and my two friends went to Mongolia and back with my 30-year-old Yugoslavian car, Yugo 55. We saw that the adventurists from the UK organized a trip to Mongolia with tiny cars unfit for the task. So we picked the only national automobile symbol we could think of – A Yugo. As a symbol of a car unfit not only for traveling but for visiting two blocks farther supermarket as well. We decided to wash the stain of its bad reputation and we succeeded in it. When we got back even the prices for Yugo’s jumped. Haha.
I noticed. It’s very hard to get one. Now. Hahahahaha
Filip Jakovac: On the way, we realized that at Balkans we have a true saturated authentic mixture of… Everything! From natural to cultural wealth, all in such a small area. I decided to abandon my law profession and to open a tourist agency. Soon after I met a love of my life who thinks and feels the same we joined forces.
A lawyer? Really. You are a brave man. Congrats.
So, Balkan Roads a personal unique experience?
Filip Jakovac: That’s right. Our friends, or guests how we prefer calling them, are free to tailor their own route. It works like this: We give you a map of all checkpoints, its description, a time to call them in advance and you choose checkpoints according to your personal preferences.
Someone will go hiking, take only adrenaline checkpoints, or cultural – traditional ones, or combine it all in their unique package. They drive from checkpoints using only old roads on the way. Nothing interesting ever happened on a highway. They determine how many days or weeks they want to spend on Balkan Roads. We track them during the way with our Balkan Roads app which has many other features as well. The best thing is that our checkpoints bring 20% – 30% discount to the Balkan Roads guests so by passing them you’re actually saving a fair amount of money.
Thats mine figure of speech. I always say to my husband that we actually save money traveling.
He is not so convinced. Do your guest/friends ever meet, at some checkpoint?
Filip Jakovac: We still ought to bring them together from time to time. On the 3rd of August 2019. there will be an opening party in Rijeka, Croatia they pass through the whole check-in procedure and meet with each other and us. After that, we have two more local and authentic parties along the way and a closing party for the ones who make it at that time. All eating and drinking on these parties are covered by us. Even alcohol, but we strongly advise them not to drive that way or overdo with rakija and wine. 🙂 So they can form groups, caravans, and travel together or completely alone. Our virtual guide whisperers make sure everybody have the same treatment.
A virtual guide whisperer? What’s that?
Filip Jakovac: It’s a personal guide that stays at our company in Rijeka and using the Balkan Roads app she/he sends the most interesting info about the history, culture, nature and similar facts to the guests so they can learn new stuff along the way and make things easier. If they want to shut us off or reduce the coming info, they can. That works both ways if they want to receive more of it. Our guide whisperers also make sure that they’re safe and sound and happy, but not to be their mommy. They have to organize accommodation, their ideal route, activities etc. and to help not to lose points.
Points? Is the journey also a game?
Filip Jakovac: It has some game elements. You can earn points of maybe winning a prize; by successfully passing checkpoints, by fulfilling tasks even by taking an old Yugoslavian car instead of the new one you earn points. You can see the rankings of other guests at any time on Balkan Roads app. Again, this is not a contest but a game is here just to add some extra flavor on the top. The prizes? A drone, a go pro etc. But everybody will get something for us to remember us next time.
What’s the Balkan Roads app?
Filip Jakovac: Balkan Roads app is a new reinforcement in Balkan Roads. It tracks the route of the guests, collects points, their pictures, posts, and videos that are publicly shared. For them it’s a way to communicate with us, serves them as a database for all of the important contacts, as a brief guide for all checkpoints and much more but we can’t tell it all, can we. 😉
Let’s talk about cars. Is a Yugo the only car guests can rent? What if they come with their own car, let’s say… A BMW?
Filip Jakovac: Balkan people are very well known for their unbiased hospitality towards anybody but if they see a Dutchman in an Opel or a Dutchman in a Yugo, you can guess who they’re gonna like more at first sight? Driving a Yugo or a “Stojadin” (Zastava 101) through the Balkans is an adventure itself. They’re old, rusty, no AC, no commodity, no servo wheel, nothing. It beautifully eases the way to get in the hearts of our residents that’s why we reward the ones who decide to use it with extra points. But renting a vehicle from us is not mandatory. Not at all. You can rent any other car or come in your car.
What about Croatia, any special challenging adventure?
Filip Jakovac: In Croatia guests can climb down the Pazin cave and even do a zip line inside, dive in the empty space by bungee jumping on Šibenik bridge, fly above bears on “Beware of the bear” zip line in Lika region, enjoy hair ruffling and sea spraying on speedboats from Split to Blue cave in Omiš, do tours in Dubrovnik, cook their carp and goat near Karlovac on Kupa river and swim with catfishes and even pet them. Jump, dive, fly… With many other activities in Croatia.
So, Balkan Roads in a nutshell: old Yugoslav vehicle, more than 8000 kilometers of old, challenging roads to drive, 15 diverse and crazy countries to pass, more than 100 adventurous checkpoints to use; divided into two groups: adrenaline; such as bungee jumping, scuba diving, paragliding, walking on amber and cultural-traditional; like watching over a herd of sheep during the night on top of a mountain, learning how to cook traditional food, dance traditional dances, knitting and so on…
Filip Jakovac: Just install the Balkan Roads app that tracks your route, and enjoy for how long you want it to last.
Adventure and culture wrapped in a one unique and crazy combo. Have you guys been recognized and supported by Croatian National Tourist Board?
Filip Jakovac: We won the first place in Croatia as the most innovative type of tourism and went into finals on a European level which we could’ve won most probably but we hadn’t had time to be there in person.
Filip, this is just the beginning. The idea is great, and I’m sure that the Blakan Roads will be rewarded by your friends, as you said, and that’s what counts the most.
Looking forward to talk to you again, and can I borrow Yugo for this weekend, I never drove it but it. I promise I’ll give it back. In much better shape then Jeremy Clarkson. Hahahaha….