Mordor of the Balkans

Heading into the ninth and final country on our Balkan tour, we’ve seen some common themes emerge. Just like much of Europe, kebaps are very popular, but they prepare them totally different in the Balkans (they look like little breakfast sausages). Gelato presentation is elevated to a high art in order to draw your gaze. There is an “old town” every few kilometers, and every one of them is the best anywhere. They love hatchbacks, especially the VW Golf, in the Balkans possibly more than anywhere else in the world, and they keep the models from the 70s and 80s running strong. Oh yeah, and almost every car is diesel or LPG. Let’s see, what else… ah yes, the war a couple decades ago that tore the region apart. Continue reading Mordor of the Balkans

The Free Anarchist State of Metelkova

Ljubljana might just be the busiest city we’ve visited on this trip so far. My first impression of Slovenia is that it fits in far better with Austria and Hungary and Czech Republic than it does with Bosnia and Croatia. There are certainly remnants of communism in the architecture and urban design. Culturally, there are similarities with the other Balkan states, but the city mostly feels like the rest of Western Europe. Continue reading The Free Anarchist State of Metelkova

La Mordida en Bosnia

We picked up our rental car in Dubrovnik and headed northwest towards Bosnia. Our plan was to visit Medugorje for a few hours and continue on and overnight in Mostar. A word of caution: Do not trust Google maps in the Balkans. Seriously, our running joke now is to point at the most impossibly inclined rock-strewn dirt roads leading to dead ends and bordered by razor wire and say “Google Maps Road.”  Luckily, Martha insisted beforehand on going ultra old-school and getting a proper paper road atlas for the region. The first time Google tried to do us in, Map Lady had us going through a shortcut up a mountain that led to a “restricted” border crossing to Bosnia. Continue reading La Mordida en Bosnia

Dubrovnik Has Their Tourism Game On Point

Unlike some destinations that are flush with foreign visitors, Dubrovnik is absolutely ready to accommodate the traffic. There are plenty of comfortable places to stay inside or right outside of old town, ranging from cheap hostels to high-end hotels. The place has so many densely concentrated tourist attractions, it’s easy to forget that it is a functioning city with regular residents. Continue reading Dubrovnik Has Their Tourism Game On Point

Montenegro: Albania’s Wealthy Neighbor

After heading west from Shkoder, the landscape begins to change a bit. The countryside gets a little rougher, the small towns a little poorer. Dark mountains begin to rim the horizon. At the Albanian border crossing, big posters are plastered everywhere condemning corruption and bribery while a border guard goes car to car not-so-subtly shaking people down . Continue reading Montenegro: Albania’s Wealthy Neighbor

And Albania Makes 50!

According to one of our guides in Bulgaria, once you get past 50 countries visited, you’re an “intermediate” traveler. On that same scale, respectively, 100 & 200 countries make you “advanced” and “expert”. Yeah, tough scale. Well, we’ve picked up the pace on our traveling these past few years and now, by that metric, we’re no longer “beginner” travelers…. arriving in Albania by bus, we both hit the 50 mark together. It was a nice milestone for both of us. Continue reading And Albania Makes 50!

Macedonia The Country

Before visiting Macedonia, I had a rough understanding that there is a bit of an issue between them and Greece. I think I’ve got a slightly better handle on one of the main contentious topics, although I’m probably a little biased hearing it from the Macedonian perspective. Anyhow, as briefly as I’m able, here’s why Macedonia and Greece don’t play nice in the sandbox together…

Once upon a time, there was a land called Macedon. Continue reading Macedonia The Country

Soviet Army Monument Skate Park

We touched down in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, after a couple of uneventful connections. Thus begins a tour of nine countries in a little over three weeks. The airport in Sofia is small and a short drive from the center of town. We booked a cab at the airport counter and weren’t far outside the airport before our driver got into a road-rage cursing match with a guy in an SUV through open windows. This was quickly followed by an additional taxi getting the rundown from our driver and then speeding off in pursuit of the SUV. Word on the street is you don’t want to mess with Bulgarian taxi drivers. Continue reading Soviet Army Monument Skate Park

Here, There, and (hopefully) Back