Trans-Balkan Culinary Journey – A Foodie’s Adventure by Rail

Uncover the vibrant dance of flavors that make up the cuisine of this diverse region. Discover finger-licking grilled meat dishes like cevapcici, the creamy dairy spread kajmak, refreshing ajvar, and the popular burek savory pastry.

During the 2022 Trans Balkan Race, ride through Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, exploring each country through its culinary heritage. Here are some highlights from the trip!


Just like pizza is to Italy and pasta is to Greece, peka is a signature dish for the Balkans. It’s a way of slow-roasting meat and fish and is the oldest cooking technique in the region. Also known as cripnja in Istria and pokrivac in Podravina (northwestern Croatia), this method involves placing an iron lid over a hot coal or wood fire to ensure slow, even cooking. You can try it with lamb, squid, pork, chicken, and more in a variety of flavors including sweet, smoked, or marinated.

Your trip begins in Ljubljana, where you’ll learn all about the city’s treasures and food scene from a local guide who is passionate about this area of the world. Next, you’ll drive to Mostar to get a taste of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here, you’ll take part in a walking tour to soak up the famous city walls and the Turkish influences from the Ottoman Empire. Then, you’ll go on a culinary journey where you’ll sample classic Balkan meat dishes along with finger-licking good grilled vegetables and savory pastries.

Spouses Marija and Zlatko run the restaurant Iris New Balkan Cuisine in Sarajevo. They’re passionate about demonstrating how authentic Balkan food can be made at home, and they’ve worked hard to create a menu that includes ingredients that are in season and available locally. This is how they’re able to keep their food tasting fresh and flavorful.

They’ve got a few tips for you too, like how to make tarator soup. It’s a light, refreshing dish that can be enjoyed year round thanks to its combination of cucumber and natural yogurt—an ingredient that scientists once attributed to Bulgarians’ long lives. Plus, it’s full of antioxidants! You can find more tasty Balkan foods like this in Serbia, the final stop on your trip. You’ll enjoy everything from a range of finger-licking grilled meats to the savory spread kajmak, and the refreshing condiment called ajvar. Plus, the famous burek that everyone craves!

Grilled Fish

A popular summer dish across the Balkans is grilled fish dressed in domestic olive oil, lemon, and herbs. The type of fish varies by region; along the coast, you might find sea bass and monk fish. As you head inland, look for trout and freshwater fish such as goby or mackarel.

Cevapcici are delightful rolls of minced meat grilled to perfection, a favourite throughout Serbia and the western Balkans. Served as a centrepiece at significant feasts and celebrations, this dish radiates grand taste and festivity.

In North Macedonia, you’ll come across tulumba, which is the closest thing to churros in this part of the world. These fried doughnuts are often covered in sugar and cinamon and can be found at most bakeries or cafes.

Tulumba is one of many desserts you’ll encounter on your culinary journey through the Balkans. You can also try baklava, which is a flaky filo pastry filled with diverse ingredients such as walnuts or honey, and pita, which is a versatile and delicious dish that can be enjoyed as a starter, main course, or desert.

A trip to the Balkans wouldn’t be complete without a serving of kajmak, a spreadable fermented cheese that has a tangy and sour flavour. This cheese is a staple in the Balkans and the Middle East and can be enjoyed on its own or used as a topping or condiment.

The founders of Iris New Balkan Cuisine, located in Belgrade’s bohemian Zemun neighborhood, are passionate about demonstrating the essence of the Balkans through food. They are dedicated to transforming local, seasonal products into something unique and unforgettable. The restaurant’s interior is pure and minimalist, leaning toward an ascetic design that lets the cuisine shine through.

While the term “Balkans” is sometimes controversial, if you’re looking for a region that unites its historical influences from the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires with its own unique identity, this is the place to be. The food here is a major part of its charm, and the best way to experience it is by joining us on a Trans-Balkan Culinary Journey.

Grilled Vegetables

The Balkans love their meat, and grilled meat is one of the staples of the region. You’ll find kebabs, cevapi, and so much more on the menus of these Balkan countries. But don’t worry vegetarians, the Balkans are not just a meat-lover’s paradise. There are plenty of veggies, too! Grilled vegetables are often served as a side dish, but you can also get them on the main course menu. The best way to enjoy them is paired with a grain like quinoa or brown rice. This provides a delicious contrast of textures and helps balance the flavors of the savory vegetables.

Another great accompaniment to grilled veggies is a salad or risotto. Ajvar, a spicy relish, and various types of dressings are also popular condiments to serve with your meal. You can even add a bit of crunch to the meal by adding roasted nuts or seeds.

If you are looking for something sweet, a tulumba is the closest thing you’ll find to churros in the Balkans. It’s a popular treat in North Macedonia, where it dates back to the Ottoman Empire. You can purchase it at most bakeries and cafes in the country.

A popular summertime dish throughout the Balkans is tarator, a refreshing soup made from cucumbers and natural yogurt. This dish is believed to contribute to the long lives of Bulgarians, which is why many locals enjoy it as a light summer lunch.

Peka is one of the most iconic dishes in the Balkans, and is found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Serbia, and beyond. The dish is cooked in a large bell-shaped metal pot called a “konoba.” You can choose from lamb, veal, venison, or octopus, and the meat is then grilled to perfection over an open flame.

The last stop on our culinary journey will be Serbia, where you’ll try a wide range of finger-licking dishes. You’ll find the region’s best cevapi, a scrumptious dairy spread named kajmak, and the comforting bean dish prebranac. Plus, the country is home to some of the most refreshing wines in the world.


Known as borek in Turkey, byrek or boureki in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro, burek, burek or placinta in Croatia, and as avluk or avluk in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this pastry is the most popular street food in the Balkans. It consists of layers of thin phyllo dough filled with a variety of toppings including meat, cheese, spinach or jam. You can order it rolled into a crescent shape (that doesn’t look very appetising!) or by the piece – they usually cost less than 1EUR and eating one while sitting on a bench looking at the city of your choice is a lovely experience.

Typical Balkan cuisine is associated with minced and cured meat, domestic cheese, stew and lots of red peppers. The dishes are often very simple in their ingredients, but they are packed with flavor. The meals are also often served family style which makes them ideal for large groups of friends and families sharing a meal together.

While the region is bursting with meat-based cuisine, don’t worry vegetarians and vegans; the Balkans have plenty of delicious veggie options to satisfy your cravings. You can try vegetable risotto, grilled vegetables and a wide variety of salads. You can also opt for a dish that is not necessarily from the Balkans, such as a vegetarian couscous or a vegan pizza.

If you want to learn more about the Balkan cuisine on your next trip to this fascinating part of Europe, join a Royal Footprints tour. For example, on our Taste of Serbia Tour, you can try rare, indigenous wines in the country’s top wineries along with other fantastic local delicacies. Our tours are the perfect way to discover a little bit of everything that the Balkans has to offer. For more information, head over to our website. Alternatively, why not get in touch and chat to our team today? We are always happy to discuss our tours in further detail and answer any questions you may have. We can’t wait to see you on your next adventure!

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