Balkans Tour 2017

I am writing this sat in Ryanair seat 23C – a bargain aisle seat costing just €4 to reserve. As the usual boarding chaos goes on around me it is time to reflect on another hugely enjoyable tour in the east of Europe taken together with my regular travel buddy Hamish.

Blue Eye in Southern Albania

Blue Eye in Southern Albania

Having regenerated the spirit of inter-rail in 2006 and taken similar tours several times in the intervening years, it was inevitable that we would be revisiting some former haunts. We were to find vastly changed cities in Skopje (previous visit ’06) and Tirana (’07), whilst unsurprisingly Belgrade had changed little in the 3 years since our first visit.

Change however is not always for the better as you will see when I blog in more detail about each place we visited.

We started and ended our journey in the EU sunshine (Corfu & Timisoara) with ferries, buses, trains & taxis taking us from C to T. Things did not go entirely to plan with some trains no longer running, a bus breaking down and an unscrupulous Airbnb apartment owner cancelling on on us two days before we were due to arrive.

However, there is always a way in the Balkans, so turning up at border train stations with a connecting service unexpectedly unavailable, just meant we had to find and negotiate with taxi drivers – one a bona fide licenced taxi, another an enterprising car owner, in each case they did the business for us.

I would imagine that arriving by train at say Liverpool to find that the train to Manchester had been cancelled and that no replacement bus service had been laid on would be a far more stressful and confrontational experience than we encountered in Hani I Elezit in Kosovo or Vrsac in Serbia.

Kosovo Train

Our train at the Kosovo-Macedonian border. Not budging for a while!

Kosovo was a new country for us (if we choose to ignore the feelings of Serbia and one or two other nations). Our two days in Prizren and day in Pristina were fabulous, despite the constant drizzle that we encountered.

We played the usual game at the conclusion of our trip, best hotel being Titania in Saranda, best cafes & restaurants in Timisoara, worst experience the bus journey between Saranda & Tirana, best attraction BunkArt in Tirana, best beer Silva Dark in Romania, friendliest people Kosovo, prettiest city Timisoara, ugliest Skopje.

IMG_5543

Saranda Bad – the bus to Tirana

IMG_5519

Saranda Good – hotel breakfast with a view

I look forward to writing up our experiences and sharing them on this blog and it’s sister site Wilbur’s Travels. I also have an idea for a new book and we have some loose plans for a future rail tour of Romania. You will hopefully read about them here at some stage.

Wilbur.

3 comments

  1. Travelled from Vlore to Sarande back in 2013 with broken roads and a driver with a serious case of leadfoot. Terrifying! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Was Vlore worth the effort and terror?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Like a lot of Albania these days it’s basically a construction site. Lots of new developments down by the harbour area, a litter strewn beach (such is the Albanian way) and a couple of sites worth seeing like the Independence monument. Quite westernised now with all the big fashion stores etc on the main street leading from the harbour towards the park, mosqure and monumnet area but all in all not much to write home about…

        Liked by 1 person

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