My Top 15 Travel Pleasures – 6 to 4

6. Stumbling Across Something Great But Unexpected

This can be a sporting occasion (European cup match in Budapest), a celebration (Armenian Independence Day in Yerevan) or a momentous event (being in Beirut on the day Israel pulled out of Lebanon for the last time).


Flags In Yerevan

My favourite however was the time my mate and I went to Sevastopol. Having endured an awful time travelling there by bus from Odessa and then struggling to find a hotel, we eventually found a delightful play to stay that let has have a reviving breakfast at 11. This was not however the fabulous surprise.

The hotel owner mentioned that the former nuclear submarine maintenance base at nearby Balaklava had just opened as a museum. So recent and understated was the the museum opening that the Internet had no word of it. This was less tourist attraction, more local education establishment.Track1

We soon found ourselves in a taxi bound for the site. Sure enough we were the only non ex-Soviet national in attendance and were more than happy to part with a tiny sum of cash and to follow the path cut into the cliff face and deep inside the rock.


The inner chambers were where all the action would have taken place. The submarine would float along the narrow channel part submerged, for the workers to climb on board and do whatever was necessary.Bala3

The place was straight out of a James Bond movie and it was easy to imagine a sub gliding into view as sirens sounded and the engineers, mechanics and scientists waited for the moment they would go about carrying out their orders.

A fantastic place to visit.Bala2

5. Discovering The Local Dark Beer
This became a passion for me and my regular travel buddy Hamish following our Eastern European train tour in 2006.

In Serbia, we sampled our first ever Nikšićko porter, a wonderful brew from neighbouring Montenegro.

Over the next nine years we sampled dark beers all over the region, with over twenty different ones tried in total and ranked in my book ‘On The Beaten Track’.

After all those years of trying the best of each country, Nikšićko has never been beaten.

The two each we quaffed at Bar (Bar in Montenegro) station cafe as we waited for our train to Podgerica, being rated as the best dark beer experience ever.

The scores on the doors are as follows:

# Name Country Score
1 Nikšićko Montenegro 10
2 Alvaria Belarus 9.5
3 Korça Albania 9
4 Sarajevska Pivara Bosnia 9
5 Žatecký Gus Russia 9
6 Stolichno Bulgaria 8
7 Silva Romania 8
8 Velebitsko Croatia 8
9 Lvivske Ukraine 8
10 Ursus Romania 8
11 Mirzaani Georgia 7.5
12 Fix Greece 7
13 Ariana Bulgaria 7
14 Zywiec Poland 7
15 Beer House Dark Moldova 7
16 Vilkmerges Lithuania 7
17 Ksiazece Poland 7
18 Budvar Budweis Dark Czech Republic 7
19 EFES Turkey 7
20 Lidskoe Porter Belarus 6.5
21 Tomislav Croatia 6
22 Kozel Armenia 6


Wilbur Enjoys A Korca Too Many In Tirana


Hamish Does Likewise, Beer House, Chisinau


4. Meeting A Character

I have to admit that I often keep myself to myself when travelling, relying on my companion for interaction. Part of this is built on suspicion that you are never far from a scam or some uncomfortable request in exchange for connecting and is partly due to shyness.

This is a great shame because whenever I have let my guard down and struck up a conversation, my travelling experience has been enhanced.

Whether this has been sharing a train carriage in Eastern Europe with an elderly passenger full of tales of living with the former regime, a German with very tall tales of his time as WWII fighter pilot and TV personality, regaled in a bar in Bulgaria, a Californian aiming to sleep around Europe or paddy field worker in Vietnam recalling the horrid war and his hard existence since, meeting a local with a tale to tell or a fellow traveller with experiences to share is a most pleasurable experience.

Note to self – engage more often!


  1. Wonderful and entertaining post. Happy new year to you.

    1. Happy New Year to you too.

  2. Impressive research on the beer!

  3. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

    1. Thanks – same to you.

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