Monday, August 27, 2007

Balkans Peace Park nominated for tourism award

The Balkans Peace Park is a project aimed at creating a transnational park in the remote mountain region where the borders of Montenegro, Kosovo, and Albania come together.

The project has recently been nominated for the British Guild of Travel Writers annual Tourism Awards, in the category "best overseas tourism project". One of the criteria for the prize is that the project should "allow for interested travellers to explores landscapes, communities and cultures which might otherwise be off limits" - which seems to be a perfect description of the Peace Park.

A shortlist of three contenders will be chosen on 12 September, with the winner to be announced on 11 November. Best wishes from Balkanology to everyone involved.

More about the nomination (PDF file)
More about the Balkan Peace Park Project

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Balkans in the travel press

There have been quite a few articles about various parts of the Balkans in the last month or so. Croatia now gets so much press coverage that I won't even bother to list the new articles here, but some newspapers have ventured a bit further.

The New York Times takes a look at the Montenegrin coast in an article entitled "An Adriatic Stretch is Awaiting its Riviera Moment". I was a little surprise to read that "hotel staff members speak perfect English", but perhaps this is explained by the list of hotels at the end of the article, most of which are in the 100 euro per night price bracket.

Even more daringly, the NYT checks out the nightlife in Bulgaria's Studenski Grad in "Partying amid Cold War ruins".

Both The Times and The Independent take advantage of direct British Airways flights from Gatwick to write about Sarajevo as a city break destination. Note that although the Times optimistically says that Sarajevo is a two hour flight from London, the scheduled journey time is almost three hours.

Two pieces in The Observer and The Guardian focus on walking holidays in Montenegro, and in particular in the Bjelasica Mountains around Kolašin. I remember Kolašin as a sleepy mountain town where, several years ago, I endured a fruitless search for a place to stay during a torrential rainstorm; apparently it is now an up-and-coming resort. Frustratingly, the Guardian recommends "a half-decent guidebook" for walking in the region, but gives no clues about where such a book might be found.

Finally, today's Sunday Times heads for Romania, specifically the Danube Delta and Transylvania.

There were no articles in the English-language press about Macedonia. Again.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A slow train through Bulgaria

Regular readers will know that one of my favourite train rides in the Balkans is the narrow-gauge railway from Septemvri to Bansko and Dobrinishte, in the mountains of southwestern Bulgaria. You can find a short description in my page about scenic railways in the Balkans.

I've just come across a much more detailed account of a journey on this line by Andrew Grantham, who did the trip in June 2006. It's a few years now since I was there myself, so I was glad to read that most things remain the same, including the women in brightly-patterned dresses who get on and off at some of the most remote halts.

I hadn't realised until reading this aricle that there was once another narrow-gauge railway connecting Rila monastery with the main Sofia-Thessaloniki line. Apparently it closed in the 1960s. As Andrew says, if it had survived it might now be a popular tourist route.