Sunday, November 29, 2009

Other people's journeys: Balkan travelogues 2009

Apart from a short trip to Romania I haven't had the chance to visit the Balkans this year, so I've been travelling vicariously by reading other people's online travelogues. In this post I list a selection of trip reports that may prove useful or interesting to readers planning a trip to the region. All of them date from 2009 or the second half of 2008 so the information should be up to date.

Most of the travelogues I've come across are about multi-country trips through Southeast Europe. A good example is "Traveling the Balkans", an account of a trip through Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece in May 2009. The site features detailed descriptions of some of the trickier cross-border transport connections in the region, including a bus from Venice to Ljubljana and a taxi-plus-minibus combination from Bar to Tirana. The author's overall conclusion: "I recommend this trip to anyone who has not spent time in this seriously awesome region".

The author of "Balkans2009's Great Adventure" reaches a similar conclusion: "All in all our trip to the Balkans was tremendously fun. We saw amazing sites, ate great food, and met some wonderful people. We'd strongly urge anyone who has a lust for off-the-beaten-path travel to consider visiting this part of the world". Craig and Efren also travelled by public transport, starting in Sarajevo and taking in the Croatian and Montenegrin coasts. They then headed further off the beaten path, flying from Tivat to Pristina in a plane with a total of just four passengers, exploring Pristina, Gjakova, and Prizren, before heading to Macedonia and finally Athens.

If you're thinking of taking a car to the Western Balkans, check out "Chokk's Road Trip", which describes a drive from Belgium to Albania and back again, with stops in Bosnia, Croatia, and Montenegro along the way. As well as descriptions of the sights and sounds of the journey, the blog includes descriptions of driving conditions on the E65 (Adriatic Highway), the Mostar-Metkovic road, and two border crossings between Albania and Montenegro.

"Travelvice" blogger Craig Heimburger chose a much slower approach to travelling in Southeast Europe in late 2008, spending about two months in Romania and a month in Bulgaria. If you are interested in the possibilities of CouchSurfing in the region this blog should be of interest, as Craig managed to rack up more than 100 consecutive nights staying in this form of accommodation (at the cost of what sounds like a frightening amount of time spent at a computer chasing up invitations). This method of travel brought him to a variety of places rarely visited by foreign tourists. To be honest, I suspect some of these place are rarely visited for a very good reason. Much as I love both countries, I can see how a tour of grey, run-down provincial towns in the depths of winter might not leave a very good impression, so I wasn't too suprised that Craig seemed generally underwhelmed by both countries.

Also travelling through Southeast Europe on a low budget was Wade at "Vagabond Journey", who visited Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia. He seems to have had less luck than Travelvice in finding Couchsurfing hosts, and concludes that "Europe is expensive to travel in winter". In line with the site's overall theme of Budget Travel, several posts list the costs of basics such as bread, water, and cheese.

After all those multi-country itineraries, I'd like to mention two blogs that stick (mainly) to one country:

"Nothing Against Serbia" is the blog of a Swiss architect married to a Serbian. As well as many travel tips drawn from the writer's travels around Serbia, the blog features photos and descriptions of many aspects of Serbian architecture and design.

Finally, ""Ellis and Jodie's Bulgarian Adventure is a blog by a couple who moved to Sofia from Israel in January 2009, covering the highs and lows of adapting to life in a new country - including the challenges of learning Bulgarian and the unpredictable results of using GPS to navigate Bulgaria's road network.

1 comment:

Izabella said...

i am writing also a blog about travel in the balkans! take a look,