A Balkan Summer

In Albenia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Slovenia by Richard4 Comments

Magnificent Kotor in Montenegro

Spectacular Kotor in Montenegro

The magnificent rebuilt bridge at Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The magnificent rebuilt bridge at Mostar in Bosnia and Hercegovina

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia

I know: Europe’s Balkan peninsula is hardly a little-known area of the world these days, but it’s definitely one of the earth’s more beautiful corners, and exploring just a few of its countless attractions this year made for an unforgettable summer. Here are pics of few favourite places. Most of these places are written up in plenty of guide books, so I’m not gonna add any more here, but instead simply say that if you get the chance to go – GO! It’s a stunning, stunning region.

MOLDOVA

The beautiful gorge of Orheiul Vechi...

The beautiful gorge of Orheiul Vechi…

...and one of the amazing cave churches hewn out of the cliffs.

…and one of the amazing cave churches hewn out of the cliffs.

ROMANIA

Bran Castle, famous for its association with historical figure Vlad the Impaler (who became the inspiration for Bram Stocker's Dracula)

Bran Castle, famous for its association with historical figure Vlad the Impaler (who became the inspiration for Bram Stocker’s Dracula)

Magnificent Sinaia Castle, 90 minutes from the Romanian capital, Bucharest

Magnificent Sinaia Castle, 90 minutes from the Romanian capital, Bucharest

Brasov, in Transylvania

Brasov, in Transylvania

One of the many beautiful old buildings in Brasov's old center

One of the many beautiful old buildings in Brasov’s old center

Sighisoara, in Transyvania; truly a fairytale setting

Sighisoara, in Transyvania; truly a fairytale setting

Sighisoara and the surrounding area is famed for the slightly spooky 'eye' windows in many buildings' roofs

Sighisoara and the surrounding area is famed for the slightly spooky ‘eye’ windows in many buildings’ roofs

Ceausescu's Palace of Parliament in Bucharest is the second largest building the world, and has to be seen be believed - both inside and out!

Ceausescu’s Palace of Parliament in Bucharest is the second largest building the world, and has to be seen be believed – both inside and out!

BULGARIA

Huge fields of sunflowers are a common sight all across the Balkans during July

Huge fields of sunflowers are a common sight all across the Balkans during July

Storks nesting on the chimneys of buildings are another uniquely Balkan sight. The birds return to the same nest each year to rear their young.

Storks nesting on the chimneys of buildings are another uniquely Balkan sight. The birds return to the same nest each year to rear their young.

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria's most important religious center, is set in a beautiful mountain setting several hours south of the capital, Sofia.

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria’s most important religious center, is set in a beautiful mountain setting several hours south of the capital, Sofia.

The outside wall of Rila Monastery is completely covered with astonishingly beautiful murals

The outside wall of Rila Monastery is completely covered with astonishingly beautiful murals

This anti-government protest, which had been going on each evening for a period of time when we passed through Sofia, was amazingly calm, good natured, and peaceful

This anti-government protest, which had been going on each evening for a period of time when we passed through Sofia, was amazingly calm, good natured, and peaceful

MACEDONIA

On magnificent Lake Ohrid

On magnificent Lake Ohrid

ALBANIA

the old and extremely scenic Ottoman village of Berat clings to a craggy hillside topped by the best and most exciting castle we saw on the entire trip.

the old and extremely scenic Ottoman village of Berat clings to a craggy hillside topped by the best and most exciting castle we saw on the entire trip.

Peeping out the top of the old minaret, inside the castle on the crag above Berat

Peeping out the top of the old minaret, inside the castle on the crag above Berat

Beautiful Berat

Beautiful Berat

MONTENEGRO

Kotor lies on the spectacular Bay of Kotor, often called southern Europe's most spectacular Fjord

Magnificent Kotor lies on the spectacular Bay of Kotor, often called southern Europe’s most spectacular Fjord

In the amazing old walled town of Kotor

In the amazing old walled town of Kotor

A footpath zigzagging up the craggy mountainside provides a far more interesting (and free) alternative entrance to the castle perched spectacularly on the cliffs above Kotor town

A footpath zigzagging up the craggy mountainside provides a far more interesting (and free) alternative entrance to the castle perched spectacularly on the cliffs above Kotor town

An old stone church, hidden in a valley behind the crags on which Kotor Castle stands

An old stone church, hidden in a valley behind the crags on which Kotor Castle stands

Perast, on the banks for the Bay of Kotor not far from Kotor town

Perast, on the banks for the Bay of Kotor not far from Kotor town

The mausoleum of King Njegos crowns the second highest peak in the rocky Montenegro ('black mountains'), after which the country is named

The mausoleum of King Njegos crowns the second highest peak in the rocky Montenegro (‘black mountains’), after which the country is named

The ultra exclusive Aman Sveti Stefan resort charges a cool US$1,500 and up for a night's accommodation. Ordinary folk can go as far as the little causeway linking to the island, and can even use the beach on the mainland side - for a fifty euro fee!

The ultra exclusive Aman Sveti Stefan resort charges a cool US$1,500 and up for a night’s accommodation. Ordinary folk can go as far as the little causeway linking to the island, and can even use the beach on the mainland side – for a fifty euro fee!

CROATIA

Dubrovnik is expensive, commercialized and overrun with tourists these days; however without a doubt it's also one of the world's most beautiful towns

Dubrovnik is expensive, commercialized and overrun with tourists these days; however without a doubt it’s also one of the world’s most beautiful towns

Dubrovnik at night

Dubrovnik at night

The main drag through Dubrovnik's old walled town, the Placa

The main drag through Dubrovnik’s old walled town, the Placa

The best place to see Dubrovnik is from the city walls, regarded as the finest in the world

The best place to see Dubrovnik is from the city walls, regarded as the finest in the world

VIew from the town walls

VIew from the town walls

Kyaking on one of the beautiful islands near Dubrovnik

Kyaking on one of the beautiful islands near Dubrovnik

Sunset in beautiful Zadar

Sunset in beautiful Zadar

The unique Sea Organ at Zadar, where the movement of the waves creates a weird, hypnotically beautiful kind of music by forcing air through a series of pipes and out these holes

The unique Sea Organ at Zadar, where the movement of the waves creates a weird, hypnotically beautiful kind of music by forcing air through a series of pipes and out these holes

No, it's not a disco dance floor, it's the famous Sun Salutation at Zadar. Like the wind organ, this extraordinary thing is the creation of local artist called Nikola Basic, and gathers the sun's energy during the day to create a bizarre, shimmering carpet of (computer controlled) lights after dark.

No, it’s not a disco dance floor, it’s the famous Sun Salutation at Zadar. Like the wind organ, this extraordinary thing is the creation of local artist called Nikola Basic, and gathers the sun’s energy during the day to create a bizarre, shimmering carpet of (computer controlled) lights after dark.

Plitvice Lakes isn't as gobsmacking as the similarly formed but much larger and more spectacular Jiuzaigou in China, but it's still an exquisitely beautiful place

Plitvice Lakes isn’t as gobsmacking as the similarly formed but much larger and more spectacular Jiuzaigou in China, but it’s still an exquisitely beautiful place

The eighteen Plitvice lakes are joined by a series of waterfalls

The eighteen Plitvice lakes are joined by a series of waterfalls

BOSNIA AND HERCEGOVINA

Mostar's famous bridge, rebuilt after it was blown up in 1993, during the war

Mostar’s famous bridge, rebuilt after it was blown up in 1993, during the war

The old fortified town of Pocitelj

The old fortified town of Pocitelj

Mostar's beautiful Stari Most at night

Mostar’s beautiful Stari Most at night

The east bank of Mostar town, with the little Crooked Bridge (a replica of the original, destroyed during the war)

The east bank of Mostar town, with the little Crooked Bridge (a replica of the original, destroyed during the war)

Sarajevo: the spot where Gavrilo Princip shot the Archduke Ferdinand and triggered the First World War

Sarajevo: the spot where Gavrilo Princip shot the Archduke Ferdinand and triggered the First World War

Cemetery in Mostar - note all the tombstones read '1993', during the horrific 18-month siege, during which the town was bombarded by Bosnians from the east and Croats from the west

Cemetery in Mostar – note all the tombstones read ‘1993’, during the horrific 18-month siege, during which the town was bombarded by Bosnians from the east and Croats from the west

The entrance to Sarajevo's 'Tunnel of Hope,' which was the city's only link with the outside world during the horrific 1992-1996 siege

The entrance to Sarajevo’s ‘Tunnel of Hope,’ which was the city’s only link with the outside world during the horrific 1992-1996 siege

A short surviving section of Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

A short surviving section of Sarajevo’s Tunnel of Hope

SLOVENIA

Beautiful Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital and one of the loveliest European cities I know

Beautiful Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital and one of the loveliest European cities I know

The huge Postjona Caves

The huge Postjona Caves

The small but exquisitely beautiful Lake Bled has a church on an island in the middle, and a tall cliff on the far bank artfully crowned with a castle

The small but exquisitely beautiful Lake Bled has a church on an island in the middle, and a tall cliff on the far bank artfully crowned with a castle

The vast underground canyon inside Skocjan Caves is hard to appreciate from photos - it's awesome!

The vast underground canyon inside Skocjan Caves is hard to appreciate from photos – it’s awesome!

Comments

  1. Great photos, and thanks for posting some from my home country Slovenia.

    There are some Slovenians, who geographically don’t like to be labeled as Balkans (but Central Europe), but I don’t mind. Balkans used to be seen as backwards, conflict-ridden and poor, but it’s really picking up in the past years. I had the pleasure to visit most of the countries you’ve mentioned last year, and it was really a big surprise how much has changed. Btw, how come you didn’t visit Serbia? I love Belgrade, the food is terrific.

  2. Author

    Glad you liked the photos, and thanks for the clarification!
    We didn’t get to Serbia partly because there was no time (we travelled too fast anyway!) and partly because my friend (who’s Taiwanese) would have needed a visa for Serbia (the remaining countries on our trip are visa free for Taiwanese these days). By the way, from the places we saw, Slovenia is a great favourite – Ljubljana is a beautiful city, and the countryside is absolutely stunning. Would love to go back and spend much longer travelling around there!

  3. It’s so interesting that I’m a Taiwanese studying in Czech Republic. I was searching for some info of Adršpach, and then linked to your blog. What’s more, I’m planning to go to Slovenia and the Balkans during August. I’ve been concerning about the safety in the Balkans since I’m gonna go alone. But thanks to your lovely pictures make me more sure that I wanna visit these places.

    1. Author

      Thanks for your message, and very glad you’re heading to Adrspach – it’s an awesome, awesome place for day hikes, and completely unexpected. We had absolutely no trouble during two summers (6 weeks each) exploring the Balkans and the rest of eastern Europe from Romania to Slovania, Hungary and Poland; as long as you take the usual precautions you’ll may well find it your favorite part of Europe. It’s a marvellous part of the world. Have a great trip!

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