Monday, May 09, 2016

New city e-guides: Podgorica, Skopje, Tirana

Bradt Guides have announced a new series of city e-guides that includes three capital cities in the Balkans: Podgorica, Skopje, and Tirana. All the guides can be purchased and downloaded from the Bradt Guides website.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Daytime train from Belgrade to Sofia

Mid December is traditionally the date when European rail operators make significant revisions to their timetables, and 2015 is no exception. The most significant change in the Balkan region is a welcome one: after a gap of several years, there will once again be a daytime service between Belgrade, Niš, and Sofia. The existing overnight service continues, so travellers will have a better choice of departure times. The daytime train (named "Balkan") leaves at 07.35 from Belgrade and 11.30 from Sofia, and the trip takes around 9 hours.

It seems that this train will carry at least one Russian Railways sleeper car from Moscow, probably with extensions to the Black Sea and Adriatic coasts in summer. This is by no means the first time it has been possible to travel directly from Moscow to Serbia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro, but there had been a break in service due to the withdrawal of many services that passed through Ukraine. These sleeper cars will now take a more northerly route via Minsk, Warsaw, and Budapest.

There are few other major changes affecting Southeast Europe. The "Serdica" Budapest-Sofia service introduced last year will continue to operate but with a completely different timetable. It will now leave Budapest in the early morning and Sofia late at night, so the part of the journey through Bulgaria (and probably the crossing of the Danube) will be covered in darkness in both directions. There is also a significant timetable change to the "Citadella" from Budapest to Ljubljana, which now leaves in the morning rather than at lunchtime, allowing a late afternoon arrival in Ljubljana.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

New photos of Kosovo: Prizren

I have added the fourth and final set of photos to my Kosovo Gallery. These photos were taken in and around the city of Prizren.


Prizren by night, from the fortress

Prizren and Pashtrik Mountain

Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš

Sinan Pasha Mosque

View towards the Sharr Mountains from the fortress


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New photos of Kosovo: Prishtina

I have added a third set of photos to my Kosovo Gallery, this time from a very brief visit to the capital Pristina (or Priština or Pristina...). The fourth and final set will be from Prizren.


National Library of Kosovo

Mother Teresa Boulevard

Fatih Mosque

Prishtina by night

Kosovo Museum


Saturday, July 18, 2015

New photos of Kosovo: Peja (Peć) and Rugova

I have uploaded a second set of photos to my Kosovo Gallery. The photos in this set were taken in and around the city of Peja (Peć) in northwest Kosovo, including the mountainous Rugova region to the west of the city.


Peja Centre

Patriarchate of Peć

Rugova Valley road

Drelaj Village, Rugova

Peja Train Station


Friday, July 17, 2015

New photos of Kosovo: Gjakova, Visoki Dečani, Isniq

Following a short visit to Kosovo in late April and early May of this year, I have started uploading photos to my Kosovo Gallery.

The photos in this first set were all taken in Western Kosovo. The majority are from the city of Gjakova (Djakovica), and there are some from Visoki Dečani Monastery and the nearby village of Isniq. Photos of Peja, Rugova, Prizren and Prishtina will be added later.


Monastery Church, Visoki Dečani

Bazaar, Gjakova

Çabrat Hill, Gjakova

Mountains and minaret, Isniq

Hadum Mosque, Gjakova

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Updates to Bradt guidebooks in 2015

Bradt Guides continue to provide more extensive coverage of the Balkans than any other publisher, and have published new editions of four of their country guides so far this year. The guides to Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro all move on to their fifth editions. It seems like only yesterday that I welcomed the first editions of all of these books, at a time when travel information about those countries in English was difficult to come by, and it is great to see that they continue to be updated. Meanwhile the Bulgaria guide, a relative newcomer, is on its second edition. All are available in electronic as well as paperback format.

Monday, July 06, 2015

The trains of Bulgaria - a recent experience

Blogger Jon Worth, who writes about European politics and travel among other topics, travelled across and around Bulgaria by train in June 2015. He entered the country on the international train from Thessaloniki, travelled to Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo and Burgas, and left on the international train to Budapest. His blog post about his experiences is well worth a read for anyone planning a trip to Bulgaria.

It is some years now since I travelled by train in Bulgaria but it doesn't sound like very much has changed. Despite the availability of online ticketing on certain routes on the BDZ website, Jon suggests it is generally easiest to buy tickets in cash at the departure station. His summary is in line with my own experiences: "Bulgarian railways are old style, and generally rather slow ... if you want to see the landscape of the country, meet fascinating people, and feel the wind in your hair through an open window, and all of this on a shoestring budget, then a trip on Bulgarian railways is worth considering".

Friday, December 12, 2014

Air Serbia flies from Belgrade to Zagreb

Today saw the first services on Air Serbia's new route from Belgrade to Zagreb - the first commercial flights between these cities since 1991. Air Serbia plans to operate two return flights daily all year round between the Serbian and Croatian capitals. This should open up new options for travellers from northern Croatia to other Balkan destinations beyond Belgrade itself, with same-day connections possible from Zagreb to cities such as Bucharest, Sofia, and Athens.

For more information including the history of the route see EX-YU Aviation news.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

New international train services December 2014

The second Sunday in December is traditionally the day for rail operators across Europe to reorganise their timetables. The news this year is mostly positive for Southeast Europe, with a few of the connections lost in the last few years being recovered, and in particular a notable improvement in connections from Budapest to the Balkans. International services to and within the region are still greatly reduced compared to just a few years ago, but at least we are seeing some movements in the right direction.

As always information is fragmented, but I believe these are the main changes affecting the Balkans from 14th December 2014:
- There will be a new direct overnight service from Budapest via Romania to Sofia. This crosses from Romania to Bulgaria via the recently opened bridge over the Danube at Vidin, so it is a completely new route. The train departs from Budapest in the evening and passes through Hungary and Western Romania during the night, crosses the Danube in the morning and arrives in Sofia 22 hours after leaving Budapest. In the reverse direction the journey time is a couple of hours faster but but the pattern is similar, with a midday departure from Sofia and a night run through Romania and Hungary. The train has been named the "Serdica", at least in the timetables produced by MAV (Hungarian Railways), who of all European rail operators seem to be the most attached to the tradition of referring to trains by names.
- A new daytime Eurocity service links Vienna and Belgrade via Budapest. Departure time is in the morning in both directions, and journey time is 11 hours.
- Budapest now has 3 direct daily connections to Belgrade, one overnight and two during the day.
- The "Citadella", which had been cut short last year, once again links Budapest to Ljubljana directly, with a journey time of 8 hours. This route offers the appealing possibility of a stopover in the small town of Ptuj in eastern Slovenia.