Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Balkans

At the end of the week, I'm headed back to the Balkans for a week-long holiday. The region gets its name from the Balkan Mountains. The Balkans is a cultural and geopolitical region of Southeast Europe with over 50 million people. When most people think of the Balkans they think of Yugoslavia and ethnic fighting.

There tends to be some debate as to which countries actually make up the Balkans. Everyone pretty much agrees that this includes Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Most people also agree that Romania makes the list too. There is some debate as to whether Moldova, Greece and Turkey (the European part) should be included. Sometimes Slovenia gets included only because it used to be part of Yugoslavia but Slovenia is actually more central Europe.

Every Summer, about 10% of the Czech population heads to the Balkans, mostly to Croatia, for sunny vacations at the sea. The funny thing is that I've heard Czechs say "To je hotový Balkán" which is the Balkan way of doing things. But it is always said when something is either messed up, corrupt, or chaotic.

Here's my upcoming Balkan adventure...
On Friday morning I have a 3:20 AM bus from Brno to the Vienna Airport. Then an Airberlin flight to Sofia, Bulgaria. I'll spend one night in Sofia and then head to Skopje, Macedonia.

From there I'm off to Prishtina, Kosovo. If I have time I may try to squeeze in a visit to Prizren before heading on to Tirana, Albania. In Albania, I'll try to fit in a day trip to Shkodër, Berat or Durrës.

Then it is off to visit Lake Ohrid in southeast Macedonia. Then I'll make my way back to Sofia for a final day in Bulgaria before flying back to Vienna.

Western and Central Europe are known for the efficient train service. That's not really the case in the Balkans. Bus service is more frequent and cheaper. As soon as I hit Bulgaria I'm going to try to do all of my traveling by bus. Considering that I can't speak any of the local languages and they each have their own currencies, this should be a right proper little adventure. Wish me luck!

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