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The Brotherhood and Unity Highway (Croatian: Autocesta "Bratstvo i jedinstvo"; Macedonian: Автопат „Братство и единство“; Slovene: Cesta bratstva in enotnosti or Avtocesta bratstva in enotnosti, Serbian: Autoput "Bratstvo i jedinstvo", Аутопут "Братство и јединство") - and generally referred to just as "the Autoput" by non Yungoslavs driving on it - is a highway stretching the length of Yugoslavia from the border with Austria in the north to the border with Greece in the south. While Yugoslavia has ceased to exist as a country, the road doesn't carry the same number all the way and it's Yugoslavian-era name has fallen out of use, the road still exists as a major thoroughfare through four countries and their capital cities – much improved since the Yugoslavian era.

Understand[edit]

On Croatian highway A3 towards Slovenia

The highway project was initiated by the long-time Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito to improve road transport and unify the country according to the Communist Party motto "Brotherhood and Unity" which would also become the name for the highway. The road had a length of 1,182 km (734 mi) and work was begun in 1947. It was built in parts, and was intended to become a divided highway/motorway throughout but come 1991 and the beginning of the Yugoslavian wars only half of it was built to that standard (the rest as two-lane undivided highway). Unsurprisingly the highway was numbered 1 in the Yugoslavian road network, today the routing is made up of highways A2 in Slovenia, A3 in Croatia, A3 and A1 in Serbia, and A1 in North Macedonia. In addition, since 1975 the whole road is part of the European highway network, and signposted as E61 from the Austrian border to Ljubljana, as E70 to Belgrade, and as E75 to the Greek border.

During the Cold War the road indeed became an important route, perhaps even the route between Western and Southeastern Europe, for example for so called "guest workers" traveling between West Germany and Turkey, which made this road (simply referred to as "The Autoput") a part of the Gastarbeiterroute. As there was plenty of traffic and it was common to drive long distances with little sleep, accidents were common and it earned a reputation as one of the most dangerous roads in Europe. The cars of both locals and visitors were often not up to the latest standards and - especially those of so called guest workers - overloaded with all sorts of things that were carried from the old home to the new or vice versa. The road became legendary for its abysmal quality (which certainly grew in the telling) and the sheer never-ending drives experienced by a generation on the back seats who, when they got old enough to drive themselves, avoided (former) Yugoslavia due to the wars and later preferred flying as low cost airlines had made air travel the cheaper option unless one overloads the car with all sorts of things to bring from Germany to Turkey or the other way round. As such, the generation which got to know "The Autoput" only from the warped perspective of a child have never had the opportunity to experience the real thing in the 21st century, keeping the myth alive even if it is now much divorced from reality.

The Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s broke up the country, and did the same to sections of the highway. Now the damage has long been repaired and in 2019 the last section in Serbia was upgraded to four-lane divided highway.

Go[edit]

Map of Brotherhood and Unity Highway

Slovenia[edit]

The Slovenian section is 174.5 km long and follows highway A2. It begins at the 7.864 km long Karawanks tunnel connecting to the Austrian highway A11.

Croatia[edit]

The Croatian section follows the A3 highway and has a length of 306.5 km.

The highway doesn't pass through Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the latter half of the Croatian section follows the border closely (it's about 1 km away at one point) and there are many border crossings so you can easily visit also that country.

Serbia[edit]

The Serbian section goes along two highways, A3 for 92.5 km to Belgrade and the A1 for 364 km to the border with North Macedonia.

Towards the end of the Serbian section, the border to Kosovo is less than 10 km away so you can make a visit there too. Be aware that Serbia doesn't recognize Kosovo as an independent state and you may run into trouble if you try to get to Serbia through Kosovo. Read more at Kosovo#Get in.

North Macedonia[edit]

The North Macedonian section is 173 km long and follows the A1 highway.

  • 18 Kumanovo (Куманово)
  • 19 Skopje (Скопје) — the national capital; a truly multicultural city with just about any ethnicity in Balkans present, and almost innumerable sights from Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and modern times. The highway doesn't go through Skopje but nearby
  • 20 Veles (Велес) — town on the valley of Vardar River with a rich cultural heritage and centuries-old churches
  • 1 Stobi (Стоби) — the most famous archaeological site in the country, Stobi has some well-preserved ruins from both pre-Roman (Paeonian and Ancient Macedonian) and Roman periods
  • 21 Negotino (Неготино) — some of the best wine and rakija in the country, the town is easily accessible by Skopje-Greece highway and railway
  • 22 Demir Kapija (Демир Капија) — home to former royal wineries, ancient ruins, and hub for surrounding mountains which offer a wide range of outdoor sports, and last but not the least mighty "Iron Gate" Canyon
  • 23 Gevgelija (Гевгелија)

Go next[edit]

  • Thessaloniki is the obvious choice for going next if you've ended the trip at the southern end. From there you can explore the rest of Greece or head to Istanbul.
  • In the northern end, cross the Karawanks tunnel to Austria. Villach is the nearest major city and Central Europe is ahead of you.
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