Monday, February 19, 2007

The pleasures and pitfalls of driving in Bulgaria

If you're considering exploring Bulgaria by car, you'll probably be interested in Driving Bulgaria, an article published in yesterday's Sunday Times.

In a pleasant change from the usual press focus on beaches and skiing, the author visits some of the highlights of Bulgaria's southwest, including Rila and Melnik. Although he does have some troubles with poor maps and poorer roads, his overall impression seems to be positive.

I can't help wondering if the writer really waited until he was actually on the road in Bulgaria before starting to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. A few hours of advance preparation might have made his first day a lot less stressful - but perhaps it wouldn't have made as good a story.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ivan Mestrovic and the 15 euro coin

Anyone who has travelled in the western Balkans is likely to have seen many sculptures by Ivan Meštrović. As well as showpieces like the Victor in Belgrade and Gregory of Nin in Split, smaller works are scattered throughout Croatia and the other former Yugoslav republics.

Since 1965 a design by Meštrović has been used by the Central Bank of Ireland as its official seal. But the design was not intended for this purpose. When the Irish Free State issued its first coinage in 1927, Meštrović submitted a design featuring a woman with a harp. It seems that it arrived too late to be considered.

This week, 80 years on, the Central Bank of Ireland has issued a commemorative 15 euro coin featuring the original design. At the same time the Croatian Central Bank is issuing a 150 kuna coin with a similar design.

Press release

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ryanair flies to Zadar

Ryanair this week announced a new route from London Stansted to Zadar, on the central Croatian coast (news release). There will be three services weekly, starting in April. The airline already flies to Pula in Istria from both Stansted and Dublin.

But it's not all relentless expansion in the world of low-cost airlines. Wizzair have announced the cancellation of their London-Ljubljana flights from March onwards.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

By popular demand: How to Travel from Croatia to Greece

Balkanology has been up and running for about a year now, so I've been able to get a fairly good idea of the kind of thing that most visitors to the site are interested in. There isn't much doubt about the most popular topic: how to travel from Croatia to Greece (and vice versa). This conundrum of Balkan transport clearly troubles a surprising number of people.

Originally my attempt to answer this question was confined to a few paragraphs within the Croatia FAQ. In response to the level of interest, I have now created a completely new page to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about travelling from Croatia to Greece but were afraid to ask. Whether you prefer ferries or flights, buses or trains, I hope you will find a route that suits you.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about all this. In creating this site I was trying to show that the other Balkan countries, the ones that don't appear so often in glossy travel supplements, are just as much worth visiting as Croatia and Greece. So it's a little ironic that so many people seem to want to find out how to zip through the heart of the Balkans as quickly as possible. I hope that just a few people who read the new page will be encourage to slow down on their way through the Balkans, and get to known some of the in-between bits.