Our seventeenth month away from home ends, and I find myself in possession of a new passport, even having had the chance to ‘break it in’ over a couple of Balkan border crossings.
Incredibly for the month of November, which now leaves us right on the cusp of the European winter, we’ve had a ridiculous twenty five days of sunshine!
We’ve managed to get around quite a bit of the Balkans in this time, as well as a weekend in Hungary to spend some time with family!
Countries Visited: 8 (Serbia, Hungary, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, FYR Macedonia, Bulgaria)
This month saw us cling to the Balkans, what with the passport in the works we didn’t what it to be too big a mission for me to get back to Belgrade to retrieve it.
That said, there’s plenty enough to do here, that one could easily spend more even more time!
Cheapest Bed(s): Hostel Ljubicica, Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina €8.00 (for two people)
We immediately fell in love with Sarajevo, and this quiet little hostel (I’m sure it’s busier in the summer months) suited us perfectly.
Most Expensive Bed(s): Hotel Palma, Novi Pazar, Serbia €30.00 (for two people)
We struggled to find anything cheap for Novi Pazar online, so with a lead on a hostel (which hadn’t had a new review in three years) we did our best to get to town as early in the day as possible to scout from on the ground.
No surprise, the hostel was seemingly long closed (although the building and signage still stands), and this bland joint was the best we could do…
Highlight: 1984 Winter Olympic Bobsleigh Track
It was a toss up between ruins for the highlight this month.
High above Sarajevo, but certainly not too far, sits Mount Trebevic, which was also one of the locations used during the 1984 Winter Olympics.
In the far south of Albania sits the impressive ruins of Butrint, originally Roman, but also utilised by other peoples including the Venetians.
Also very cool.
In the end, the site that until the 1990’s hosted bobsleigh and luge races, and during the 1990’s provided shelter to Serbians who would snipe the local populace during the longest siege in modern warfare, got the nod…
Lowlight: Sarah’s insect plague
At times, this was a rough old month for my better half.
There was the time she was struggling with both of our large packs towards a railway station in a rural Serbian town when she took a tumble (picture a tortoise stuck on its back)…
Or the moment she almost slipped off the roof of a Tirana building known as ‘The Pyramid’…
But above all, it was the insects that caused her the most distress.
Whilst they paid little heed to me, they simply gorged themselves stupid on Sarah’s soft skin, with bites on all sorts of random places such as her elbow, neck, chin, arse and even eyelid causing no end of grief with both swelling, aching and just general irritation.
The bite on her eyelid was most obvious, as it looked to any interested onlooker as though a fair bit of domestic violence was commonplace in our dorm rooms…
Favourite New Food: Pasul me Mish
On a cold Pristina night we sat down in an eatery recommended by our lodging hosts.
For 5 euros we were both fed two delicious meals, one of which was Gjyveq (also very tasty), the other Pasul me Mish.
Beef in a tasty sauce, chock full of beans.
Was it better than the roasted chestnuts we’d tried early in the day?
Shit yeah, this was delicious!
Best Beer: Kaon
The trend of drinkable, yet nothing all that inspiring Balkan beers continued this month.
One seasonal Cherry flavoured number from Macedonia was really bad, but it aside, Albania’s Kaon was our ultimate pick out of a pretty tight (read un-inspiring) bunch.
Most impressive Church: Studenica Monastery
There were a lot of candidates this month, this part of the world seemingly home to a whole lot of reclusive religious types who liked to spend their days away from the local villages and towns.
True, some of the candidates were also found in the population centres, however it was the more remote monasteries that remained the most memorable.
Insert gorgeous blue skies, a stunning mountain setting, a lovely building and finally some twelth century frescoes, and that leaves us with Studenica Monastery.
Bucket List Items: 0
New Bucket List Items: 0
Highest Elevation: 1,627m Mount Trebevic, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Days in thongs (flip flops): 11 and a half
This number comes as an absolute surprise (and treat)!
Sure, often when we entered the shade it was a little chilly, but get us into the sun and it was bliss.
Again, this was only one month out from the European winter!
UNESCO Sites: 8 (Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar, Stari Ras and Sopoćani, Studenica Monastery, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastra , Butrint, Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region, Boyana Church, Rila Monastery)
A pretty big month this week, especially if your a fan of Orthodox churches/monasteries and their frescoes!
Number of towns: 21
Number of beds: 18
Nights in transit: 0
- We’ve never seen as many ‘SMART’ cars (you know those small, almost Lego like vehicles) anywhere, as we did in Albania!
- The locals in Sofia were very kind in sharing their tram tickets with boarding passengers as they departed.
- The deeper into the Balkans we’ve travelled, the more facial hair we’ve spied on the older women!