Tag Archive: balkans


In an effort to get my blog up to date, I’m going to do some short synopsis posts of our recent trips since life is about to change drastically in July with the arrival of our first child. The majority of the places we visited over the last 3 months don’t need long overviews anyway, as they were all quite small and pack a quick punch, rather than a 12 rounder. Again, I found a cheap plane ticket, so I figured we might as well take advantage of it….and off to Serbia we went. Not a country where probably 99% of the world would visit, but for any true traveler wanting to see everything the world has to offer, Belgrade is a must city to see.

old streets of Skadarlija

We headed in for a short weekend, which wasn’t too bad as Belgrade, the capital, is not that big. The old town area is quite nice, but is surrounded still of the destruction from the wars and violence in the past few decades. The ride into town is not memorable, and once again made me think “where the hell did I bring my wife this weekend?” But once you get into the city, especially the old town area, things start to turn. We stayed at a nice place right on the edge, called Townhouse 27, and used that as our homebase. The hotel was kind of a shock, as there are not many modern things in Belgrade, but this place was fitted with B&O components in each room, including a TV I had never seen before and the heaviest remote known to man, but let’s say the quality was high (it was). The first day we got there quite late, but we ventured out into town to find the main street where most of the shopping is. It was pretty dead, so we hit a small spot for dinner, and then crashed for the night.

The fortress entrance

Next morning we were up and on our way. Got lucky with great weather, and started on Knez Mihajlova that was dead the night before. Not so much now, with all the shops open, cafe’s packed and street performers everywhere. The street really connects all parts of Belgrade, as from one end is a bustling square, to the other end where the Kalemegdan Fortress is. This area alone will allow you to see most of the main focal points of Belgrade. We also found that the locals like to snack, and snack a lot, on popcorn. There are popcorn stands everywhere, making old style popcorn and filling bag after bag. It’s cheap, it’s salty, and really good. It really looked like the whole town was headed to the movies at times. So we grabbed some popcorn, and headed over to the fortress. It’s huge, and sits right on the Danube, albeit not the prettiest part of the river, or the best view all around. The fortress is pretty intact for being so old, as it was built in 535 AD. They also had some tanks and weapons on display on the perimeter of the fortress which were from the World Wars, which I had no idea Serbia was even involved. You also get to see the monument to “the Victor” while there, which stands on the corner of the fortress, and is the protector of Belgrade. If there was a place to find tourists in this town, it was around this monument.

“The Victor”

From there we actually made the trek to St. Sava Church, which is the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the world. At present time, it’s under mass rehabilitation still on the interior, but should be done quite soon, and will be quite a sight. They don’t make them like this anymore, believe me. We then walked around the rest of the day, as the weather was great, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the day, since all the parks were flooded and the shops were buzzing. We then wanted to end the trip with a great dinner, and read about this place called Public, and it lived up to the hype and the reco. It is shoved back on a tiny, quiet street with a view over the river, is well let’s face it, not much of a view, but it didn’t matter. Had a great meal, with some local wine that was quite peppery, but that’s ok by me.

St. Sava Church

All in all, I’ll be honest, I probably won’t be back to Serbia, but glad we hit Belgrade and saw what it had to offer. From the church to the fortress, to eating popcorn all day, I think it was a weekend well spent.

Advertisements

We want to see every country in the world, so that includes going to some countries that most people I know haven’t been to, or could point out on a map. That for some reason intrigues me more to go there, so of course I booked a trip to go to Bulgaria & Romania for a long weekend…that happend to fall on our 6th wedding anniversary. I wanted to make sure of one thing on this trip and that was it ended up better than Poland, which was also the weekend of Annemaries’ birthday. I was determined not to let that happen again, and I think we made out alright.

Peleş Castle

Another trip, another new airline. This time we flew TAROM, the national airline of Romania. Not bad, the most posture perfect seats I’ve ever sat in, which really aren’t that comfortable, but ok. They also had an interesting meal service, in that the meal was actually wrapped in a serving mat, genius, and came with a bag to put everything in when you’re done for easier cleanup. Not sure why every airline doesn’t do this, but I guess everyone has to be different. So we were off to Romania.

somewhere outside Brasov….our “try to be artsy” photo of the trip

We land in Bucharest, go through the 21 questions at immigration, and find a taxi…which one again we got ripped off by. I won’t get into the story, but Annemarie was right, I was wrong, and once again we got ripped off by a cab driver. It seems pretty par for the course nowadays, but I never seem to get around it. At least it was the only hiccup of the trip. We made our way to the hotel, Hotel Christina, right outside the city center. The rooms had some unique touches such as craftmatic adjustable beds, and sensors on the shower head to let you know if the water was cold or hot. They also had a pretty good restaurant there, and was uber cheap. I said the Baltics were cheap in an earlier post, but this made the Baltics seem like staying at the Ritz. We had 4 course meals for it was incredible. Again, meat is a staple of all meals in Romania, but we didn’t care.

Veliko Tarnova

So we called it a night, seeing our driver was picking us up early to take us down to Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria. This little town, which used to be the capital during the Byzantine Empire, was about 3 hours away from Bucharest. Again, not that much to see between the two towns, except an interesting border crossing where if weren’t with a driver, not sure if we could’ve managed. That being said, we got across ok, and headed down into Bulgaria. The town is quite small, with this fortress overlooking it from all angles. This fortress is massive, and had been around for about 600 years. Bulgaria at one time was the largest country in Europe, and this was the capital. Nowadays, most people can’t point out Bulgaria on a map and it’s one of the smaller, and less established countries in Europe. We spent some time walking around and checking out the views, as this town is right in the middle of a valley. It was pretty incredible, and I think we were the only English speaking people around, as I don’t think this is on the top 10 of anyone’s travel list from the states, but it is quite the destination for people in the Balkans.

the entrance to the fortress in Veliko Tarnovo

We had some time to walk around town as well, which again, wasn’t big, but had quite a few places to eat. Bringing up cheap again, this town was half the cost of Bucharest. Annemarie & I had two small pizza’s, two beers, and an appetizer for The pizzas were the size of small pizzas you’d order in the States, so this was a ton of food as shown below. I couldn’t believe how cheap this stuff was. The beer is actually a half liter as well, so really it’s two beers in one. Let’s just say we left full and felt we ate & drank for free.

We couldn’t find the house!

We headed back to the hotel, and then headed out to a local restaurant in Bucharest before we crashed for the night. The restaurant was Vatra, and was excellent. The only thing we found strange was it wasn’t that busy at 9pm on Friday night, but then we forgot it’s a Romanian restaurant, and mostly non-locals would go there. It was good none the less, and way too much food. We called it a night to get ready for our day trip up to Brasov.

Woke up early, grabbed breakfast, and out the door again for a 2 hour drive up to Brasov. This town was perfect, and right up our alley. It reminded us of Krakow and many other cities, as you’ll see from pictures. We took a tour around the city, and had some lunch before we headed off to see the castles. I’ll just post pictures to describe the places as I can’t do them justice. We did see Bran Castle, which most people know as Dracula’s Castle, even though Dracula has nothing to do with it. It’s a complete tourist trap, but still a sight to see. The area up there is picturesque like no other that we’ve seen, and was totally unexpected. We saw some great sights in the area that most wouldn’t see as our driver was actually from Rusnov, which is the town next to Brasov and knew where everything was. We even stopped by a dirtbike race, that ended up being the practice round for the Romanian Autocross Championships.

a view of Brasov from above

All in all, the trip was great and exceeded our expectations. If we had the chance, we would love to visit Brasov again an spend some time in northern Romania. The food, the wine and the people all made the experience great.

Bran Castle

The next time I update this blog as of now will be in early September, after we get back from Argentina, Chile, Peru & Ecuador….but knowing us we’ll probably hit up a couple more before then. Cheers