A Balkans Bucket-List for the New Year

From Greece to Serbia, Slovenia to Albania, I’ve come to understand that the countries that make up the Balkan Peninsula offer exceptional scenery, great food, a complex and fascinating history, and wonderfully hospitable people. As I look forward to the coming year, here is my Balkans Bucket-List for 2015 (in the arbitrarily chosen order of South to North). My 2015 Balkan Bucket-List 1. Hike the Vikos Gorge (Greece) Some Polish travelers who stayed with me[…]

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The Town Hall Christmas Tree, decorated with painted cups and bottles in Ljubljana Slovenia

How do you say Merry Christmas?

Merry Christmas from the road! I am spending Christmas in beautiful Zagreb as I travel down the Balkan peninsula back to Tirana. Here’s how the different Balkan countries say Merry Christmas: in Albanian: Gëzuar Krishtlindjet In Bosnian: Cestit Bozic in Bulgarian: Весела Коледа (Vesela Koleda) In Croatian: Sretan Božić in Macedonian: Среќен Божик (sreken Bozheek) or Христос се роди! (Hristoc se rodi!) – Christ is born. In Montenegrin: (Hristos se rodi) – Christ is Born, although[…]

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Station Master on the Bansko - Septemvri Narrow Gauge Railway

Septemvri-Dobrinishte: Bulgaria’s Last Narrow Gauge Train

Locals call the Narrow Gauge train service that runs from Septemvri to Bansko and Dobrinishte “the tourist train.” When I rode it in September, however, most of the passengers were locals. Teenagers, farmers, families, and yes – a few backpackers and tourists – made up the passengers on the 3:30pm train from Bansko. Finding the Station in Bansko: Finding the station in Bansko was, in itself, an adventure. Actually, finding it was easy. It was figuring[…]

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en route to the Tevno Ezero hut in the Pirin Mountains

Photogallery: Hiking in Bulgaria’s Rila and Pirin Mountains

Bulgaria’s Rila and Pirin Mountains offer a lot for the lover of natural beauty.  Crisscrossed with waymarked hiking trails and dotted with mountain huts, these beautiful mountains are a destination for walkers, hikers and backpackers from all over the world. A word of caution: mountain trails in the Rila and Pirin mountains are waymarked, but not groomed. Sometimes they are roads, sometimes well-trodden paths, and other times just marks across boulder fields that turn into[…]

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Graffiti in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Bulgaria: My Plovdiv Top 5

Plovdiv is “Bulgaria’s Second City” and will be the European Cultural Capital in 2019. That Plovdiv won this honor is not surprising given this city’s wealth of cultural resources. Regardless of why you choose to visit Plovdiv, you will undoubtedly find yourself steeped in Bulgarian culture, both old and new. What follows is a list of the 5 things I absolutely loved about Plovdiv during my sojourn in that town.  Unsurprisingly, the list leans pretty[…]

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Woman with umbrella in Plovdiv

Bulgaria: Impressions of Plovdiv in the Rain

Part I: First Impressions on a rainy night It was almost 10 pm before my train pulled into the Plovdiv station. It was pouring rain and sheets of water cascaded down the train car windows obscuring any view. As I stepped down to the platform I realized that while there were support columns for a shelter, most of the roof was gone except for the small section over the stairs.  Even at that spot, the[…]

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Great old trees in Sandanski's Sveti Vrach Park

Bulgaria: Relaxing in Sandanski

Situated at the southern foot of Bulgaria’s Pirin mountains and a mere 20 kilometers from the Greek border, Sandanski’s warm climate and abundant mineral springs has long made it one of Bulgaria’s centers of recreation.  The town was called Sveti Vrach until it was renamed in honor of the revolutionary figure Yane Sandanski (claimed as a national hero by both Bulgaria and Macedonia-FYROM) in 1949. The heart of Sandanski is Macedonia street or Ulitsa Makedonia.[…]

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