Monday, March 19, 2007

At last ... Belgrade gets its own page

Due to Belgrade's key location within the transport network of Southeast Europe, I've passed through the city on a number of occasions in my wanderings around the region. I'm always pleased to arrive there, and sorry to leave: Serbia's capital may not be a conventionally beautiful city, but it is one of only a handful of Balkan cities to offer a truly urban experience.

Not before time, I have finally got around to creating a Belgrade page on Balkanology. I've also expanded the Vojvodina page to include a number of places that I visited last autumn.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

An interactive map of the Balkans

European Stability Initiative (ESI) is a research institute working in Southeast Europe. There is a wealth of material on their web site for anyone looking for some in-depth analysis of issues currently facing the Balkans.

Recently they added a new feature to the site. "Return to Europe: A Balkan Journey" is an interactive map of the Balkans that aims to lead the visitor on a journey of discovery through the region. There are some fascinating quotations from past visitors - did you know that the streets of Sarajevo were once plied by double-decker London buses?

By the way, if you think some of the photos look familiar - yes, they're mine.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A roundup of new guidebooks

In the last couple of months Lonely Planet have published new editions of their regional guides to Eastern Europe, Mediterranean Europe, and Europe on a Shoestring. These editions mark the debut of Serbia and Montenegro as separate countries.

Other new editions appearing in recent months include Lonely Planet Croatia, Rough Guide Slovenia, and The Bradt Guide to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Rough Guide to Slovenia is excellent, but on this occasion the blurb writer has rather let the side down, describing the new edition as a guide to "one of Europe's least discovered countries". That description might apply to Belarus or Albania, but Slovenia??

Lonely Planet have also released a new version of their Eastern Europe Phrasebook. The most obvious change is that the section on Serbian has been omitted - or rather subsumed into the Croatian section. This certainly makes practical sense, and avoids duplicating large amounts of text (although I would have liked to see more examples of Serbian Cyrillic). While I'd like to think that LP have done this as a reflection of linguistic rather than political reality, I can't help suspecting that a desire to save space may have played some part - in keeping with the general trend in LP's guidebooks, this phrasebook is slimmer than its predecessor.

Apart from that, my first impression is that this edition is better organised than the previous edition, with better use of colour coding to make it easier to find the section you want. But if you have an earlier edition, I wouldn't advise rushing out to get the new one, as the content doesn't seem much different. If anything there are more omissions than additions. One that I immediately noticed is the section about how to say "I am English/Australian/whatever". The previous edition included Irish,
Scottish, and Welsh in the list of nationalities, but apparently we Celts are no longer considered part of the English-speaking world by Lonely Planet.

In Your Pocket, in full

The In Your Pocket people have recently started to make full versions of their excellent city guides available for free download. They have been providing condensed "instant guides" in this way for some time, but this new development means that you can get your hands on all the information on the web site in a convenenient format.

Balkan cities for which full downloads are available currently include Tirana, Shkodra, Skopke, Pristina, and Bucharest. Instant guides are also available for Dubrovnik, Osijek, Rijeka, Sofia, and Zagreb.