Saturday, August 15, 2009

What's new in Lonely Planet's "Western Balkans"?

Judging by the clicks through to Amazon from the links on this site, Lonely Planet's "Western Balkans" is the single most popular guidebook among readers of Balkanology. I mentioned the imminent publication of a second edition back in March, but I had few details at that stage. Now that I have my own copy, I thought some readers might be interested in a comparison with the first edition.

The most obvious change is that the chapter on Slovenia has been quietly dropped, presumably for not being Balkan enough. Along with an increase of 44 pages in the total size of the book, this has allowed quite a lot of extra material to be included in the individual country chapters, which have been completely rewritten. The following countries are now covered: Albania (53 pages), Bosnia (68), Croatia (92), Kosovo (12), Macedonia (52), Montenegro (40), and Serbia (51). There are also more than 100 pages of general material about the region as a whole.

I was pleased to find that much of the extra space has been used to write about less well-known regions. Eastern Bosnia, for example, was ignored in the first guide but now gets four pages, including details of accommodation and transport (details notably lacking in the rather confused coverage of this region in the Bradt guide to Bosnia). Theth (Albania), Biogradska Gora (Montenegro), and Krushevo (Macedonia) are similar examples of destinations that have been added in the new edition.

It's impossible to thoroughly judge a guidebook without using it on the ground, which I haven't yet had the chance to do. But leafing through the new edition of Western Balkans certainly prompted me to daydream about another visit to the region, taking in places I haven't yet seen - which has to be a good thing.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Escape from British tourists in the Balkans

The Independent recently published a list of the "Ten best destinations to escape the British crowds this summer". Not necessarily free of tourist crowds in general, it seems - just British crowds. Destinations in Southeast Europe make up half the list: Sarajevo, Montenegro, Slovenia, the Romanian Black Sea coast, and (rather surprisingly) Croatia. Nice to see getting a mention on the Sarajevo page, even if they didn't quite get the spelling right.

Balkan destinations have also popped up in several of the Independent's other "Ten best" features. Dubrovnik gets a mention as one of the "Ten best city beach breaks". Croatian's Motovun Film Festival features as one of the "Best alternative festivals" (Motovun is in Istria, not Central Croatia as stated in the article). And Romania is one of the "Best Harry Potter landmarks". Something to do with dragons, apparently.