As much as we are not aware of the richness of the region we live in, so many visitors can be delighted with what the Balkans has to offer in every sense. Nevertheless, few visitors were so fascinated that they recorded a song and a video about their experiences. Hardwired magazine had the opportunity to meet such a guest, a Belgian globetrotter Nico, who after two cycling adventures across the Balkans has recorded it all in a unique way, through a song and video about famous Balkans drink – Rakija (check out the video here)! If you ask Nico what he likes the most about the Balkans, he will say: “Rock’n’Roll attitude and rakija!”
The first trip took place in mid-2016. Nico and his friends crossed more than 4000 km on their bicycles and traveled through Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia. The road through Serbia started from the north, through Vojvodina and down the Danube. The first big stop was Novi Sad, where they had the opportunity to meet local musicians from the bands Killo Killo Banda and Proleće. “Killo Killo and his friends from the band Proleće took us to Karlovci where we enjoyed local wine, lamb meat, and above all, rakija!”, says Nico. It was their first encounter with one of the most popular and most famous drinks from Serbia, but definitely not the last.
They also experienced a unique night life of Belgrade, the Serbian capital. “We visited a very strange site that used to be a slaughterhouse. It was full of pale people who made some very strange dance moves. The music without some real rhythm was played for hours,” Nico told us. After Belgrade, they went on visiting many smaller places across Serbia. They visited the brewery Kabinet in Sopot, as well as many smaller towns and villages where they were constantly offered by hosts with, what other, than rakija. And not just that. Since it was October, they were also introduced to the complete process of making this magical drink.
Of all that they visited, Nico remembers Kuršumlija the most: “Kuršumlija has remained in my memory as an unforgettable experience. It is simply filled with life and some of the nicest people we met on the road. It was our last stop in Serbia, what we celebrated in a perfect way with the gig that was held in one of the local bars. “
When he returned home from this trip, Nico was simply delighted. Soon he decided to transfer his experiences to the song, because besides travelling, Nico equally or even more adores music. He grew up listening to rock music of the 90’s, especially punk rock and ska. He played trombone for 7 years in the local Belgian punk band, but he never considered himself as a professional musician, but always looked at music as a hobby and pure love. Once when he wrote a song about Rakija he gather his friends from the band Bad Habits in Dublin, where he currently lives and where they quickly recorded a song in a ska punk style, with a pinch of Balkan rhythms. He admits that the recording conditions were not ideal to make it sound crystal clear but anyway it was worth doing it.
The first part of the job was done, now video was supposed to be recorded. With a rakija song in his pocket, Nico went on a new trip to the Balkans with his friend Cedric. This time he went on a different route and with the goal of shooting as many interesting scenes as possible for the accompanying video. They started filming in the Serbian part of Bosnia with locals near Nova Topola. It’s exactly where they shot frames that perfectly fit with lyrics of the song. There they met Bogdan and his father Peter, who were willing to take part in filming, so they soon became one of the actors of the same.
In Šipovo they encountered with Ana, an old lady that invated Nico and Cedric for some coffee rakija where some good footage was done including the wheelbarrow one, having the authentic roster sound in the background and the pigs. Sometimes they had to react very quickly as a filming opportunity would appear and last for a couple of minutes before being gone forever. Like the scene on the bridge with the 2 Serbian girls dressed up in traditional clothes for a photoshoot next to the Krupa waterfalls. They agreed on taking part in the project even though they were about to leave the spot.
But the best of all was still to come. When Nico and Cedric were cycling in a very remote area, close to a tiny village called Strojice. While climbing up a steep forest road, the rain invited itself to play a role in where the next footage would take place. Forced to stop, the 2 guys found shelter in a little hut next to the road. This is where they met Rade. They still don’t know if Rade was living or working there as a ranger due to language barrier. But, the obvious thing is that Rade had an extensive stock of rakija and would be more than happy to share it with his visitors! This one hour spent in the hut had consequences on both the video and the livers and will certainly be kept as the best and most authentic moment of the trip.
Parts of the video were recorded on the island of Vis during the Goulash Disco Festival. The last day before the flight to Barcelona (from where Nico and Cedrik continued their biking adventure to the south of Morocco) they spent in Zadar where they recorded one of the most important scenes. Nico with a trombone recorded a solo part during the beautiful sunset to ensure that every second of the track is recorded in the Balkans.
Real rakija was provided during the shooting of all scenes, including those shot in the morning, because in the end, it’s all Rock’n’Roll!
Finally, here are the song and video. Tell us what you think about the song and the story.