If you are searching for inspiration for a trip in summer 2008, perhaps one of the articles about the Balkans published recently in the English-language press will help you make a decision.
Albania made one of its rare appearances in the travel pages in March. In an article called "Once and future glories" in the Telegraph, Jeremy Seal focuses on the country's archaeological attractions, from the well-known (by Albanian standards) ruins of Butrint to less visited sites such as Byliss and Hadrianapolis. Albania's infrastructural shortcomings get several mentions, but overall the tone is positive. In "The ups and downs of Albanian tourism" the Southeast European Times also notes that tourism in Albania is being held back by the undeveloped infrastructure. The authorities are making all the right noises about developing a broad range of tourism rather than simply building bigger coastal resorts.
Bosnia, like Albania, sometimes struggles to convince outsiders of its merits as a tourist destination - and especially to persuade visitors to go anywhere other than Sarajevo and Mostar. In "Peace dividend: unspoiled hiking in the Balkans", the New York Times looks at so-called adventure tourism, following a group of American hikers on a guided tour through the Bosnian
mountains. At a price of US$3,000 for a 10 day tour (airfare not included), there doesn't seem to be much danger that these organised trips will lead to the Bosnian landscape being swamped by mass tourism.
Bulgaria doesn't seem to be getting a lot of a attention at the moment, perhaps because its tourism boom has been rather too closely linked to property investments that don't look too appealing in the current economic climate. I've already mentioned the Guardian article "I am starting to love this dirty town" in an earlier post. It's worth keeping an eye on the series "Across the Map of Bulgaria" published by Radio Bulgaria, which often focuses on less well-known aspects of Bulgarian tourism. Recent topics include wine tourism and the monasteries of the Central Balkan mountains.
Croatia continues to feature in many travel articles, many of which are interchangeable and not worth specific mention. The Guardian goes a little way beyond the usual destinations in choosing the "Top 10 Croatian islands" - in fact they go almost half way to Italy in recommending Palagruza as the best island for extreme isolation. Their other choices include Murter for learning to sail, Pag for partying, and Bol for water sports.
Romania is represented by two articles about Transylvania published in different newspapers on the same day. The Times concentrates on the region's Hungarian heritage in "The perfect budget eco break?", concluding that Transylvania is an ideal location for a family holiday. Meanwhile the Guardian looks at the Saxon (German-speaking) influences to be found in "the villages
where time has stood still". In an earlier post I remarked that it is apparently compulsory for British newspapers to refer to Prince Charles when writing about Transylvania; apparently this decree is still in force, and both articles duly comply. A less rural side of Romania, which I am fairly sure would be less appealing to the Prince of Wales, is featured in the Observer's guide to an "Instant Weekend in Bucharest".
The staging of the 2008 Eurovision song contest in Belgrade prompted a couple of articles about Serbia. The Independent aims for the city break tourist with "48 hours in Belgrade". The Telegraph also concentrates on Belgrade in "Serbia: a side we haven't seen", but ventures out of the city as far as the Vojvodina region. To prove that there is cultural life after
the Eurovision, the TravelConnect website lists a range of musical and theatrical events taking place in Serbia in summer 2008.
Finally, the Independent covers two of Southeast Europe's largest cities, Athens and Istanbul.