Saturday, April 29, 2006

Dubrovnik: so good they wrote about it twice

The "48 hours in..." series in The Independent regularly explains how to get the most out of a weekend city break. Today's chosen destination is Dubrovnik. Careful readers of Balkanology's "From the Travel Pages" section may experience a sense of deja vu: the same newspaper told us what to do in 48 hours in Dubrovnik only two years ago. The Indy likes to present itself as a supporter of environmental causes - apparently this extends to the recycling of travel articles.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

New photos of Greece



In March I spent 12 days travelling in mainland Greece, from Athens to Thessaloniki with stops in Meteora and Mount Pelion. I've now added photos from that trip to my Greece Galleries.

As a travel destination, Greece is often talked about in the context of the Mediterranean world, but for me part of its fascination lies in its links to its Balkan neighbours - well, what did you expect in a blog called Balkanology? These are especially obvious in the province of Macedonia. The Varosi quarter of Edessa and the Barbouta district of Veria have some great examples of Ottoman-era architecture, although sadly some of it is gradually rotting away.

This was my second visit to Thessaloniki and I was even more impressed than on my first visit. In a way it feels like a Southern Balkan counterpart to Belgrade in the north. Like many large cities in the Balkans, it doesn't immediately impress the visitor with its beauty, initially appearing as a collection of bland modern buildings. But you can spend several enjoyable days seeking out the surviving traces of its complex history - Ottoman and Jewish as well as Byzantine.

My enjoyment of Thessaloniki was greatly enhanced by Mark Mazower's Salonika, a fascinating account of the various communities that thrived in the city for hundreds of years, but failed (except for the Greeks) to survive the 20th century. If you want to know why the New Mosque is decorated with Stars of David, or find the villa where a deposed Sultan once lived, I recommend this book.



Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tirana appears on the UK press radar

The recent launch of flights from London to Tirana seems to have awoken British travel journalists to the existence of Albania. In the last week both The Observer and The Times have published articles about the country.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Turkish Airlines flies to 24 new destinations ... including Dublin

Turkish airlines has announced flights from Istanbul to 24 new destinations, including Ljubljana, Belgrade, Venice, and Dublin.

The last of these touches on a topic particularly close to my heart: getting from Ireland to the Balkans. It seems simple but in practice often turns out to be complicated, expensive, or both. The only direct scheduled flights to the region until now have been to Dubrovnik and Ljubljana - both seasonal services. Alternatives usually seem to involve (a) a painfully early start from Dublin (b) a recklessly tight connection at a hub airport, which you may survive but your bags probably won't, or (c) an overnight stay at an extortionately priced hotel near a London airport. The Istanbul flights on Tuesdays and Fridays are a step in the right direction and the advertised prices seem very reasonable. For some reason it doesn't seem to be possible to book online at the moment - I tried the Turkish Airlines site, Gohop, and EBookers without success. Surely they don't expect us to call an actual real-world travel agency?