For a Bridge on the Drina
“Are you going to cry, Dr. Miškec?”
Would I? I didn’t know. But ten university students were looking at me expectantly, waiting for my answer. I thought for a moment. “I might,” I finally admitted.
It was 2018. We were in Višegrad, Bosnia, childhood home of author Ivo Andrić. My students and I were about to cross THE bridge, the very bridge that inspired Adrić’s Nobel Prize-winning novel, The Bridge on the Drina. Would I cry thinking about the characters who sold coffee here or threw themselves over the parapet there? Would I cry when I looked down into the Drina River or up into the hills or over into the town that played so prominently in the novel? Would I cry because my students and I had studied this book together, had loved this book together, and now we stood together where Andrić had stood?
I did. I cried. My students cried. We held hands, and we sat on the bench, and we were thoughtful and thankful for being right where we were, in that moment, together. We were crying because of this beautiful book and this beautiful bridge. But we were also crying because we were at the end of our study abroad, a three-week program that had taken us from a small town in Virginia through Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Montenegro, and none of us wanted it to be over.
I first fell in love with Serbia in 2013. Desperate to return, I developed a short-term study abroad program to Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Montenegro and started leading students a year later. By 2018, I was tired of handling all of the logistics by myself, and I went in search of a company I could depend on to guide and drive. I happened upon Tours From Belgrade while searching online, and it may have been the most serendipitous moment of my career.
Since 2018, Darko and his Tours From Belgrade team has made moments like that day on the bridge a common occurrence for my students and me. Over the years, we have been able to customize our tours in such a way that we have experienced versions of their sightseeing, wine tasting, and adventure tours (kayaking, hiking, swimming, whitewater rafting) all over Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Croatia. From the mountains to the coast, from the smallest villages to cosmopolitan cities, Darko has led us on cultural experiences that offer a context to the literature that is at the heart of the study abroad course and nurtures our adventurous side, too.
If you ask my students what their favorite moment from study abroad was, there won’t be a single common answer. Some will say they will never forget kayaking on the Drina River, while others say riding bikes through Novi Sad, Serbia. You’ll have your Tara National Park fans, your Kiš winery fans, your House on the Rock fans, your Museum of Beekeeping fans. You’ll even have your straight "all the food and drink" fans.
Me? I’m partial to literary places like the bridge in Andrićtown, and I am eternally thankful for Darko and his team for taking my students and me there year after year. I won't always cry, but I’ll never lose sight of the magic of this place and the access that Tours From Belgrade provides.