Balkans in a Week



The Balkans, or the Balkan Peninsula, is a cultural area in Eastern and Southeastern Europe with various and disputed borders. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea on the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala 2,925 metres (9,596 ft) in the Rila mountain range.
The abstract term "The Balkans", unlike the geographical borders of the Peninsula, is defined by the political borders of the states composing it. The term is used to describe areas beyond the Balkan Peninsula, or inversely[clarification needed] in the case of the part of Italy in the Peninsula, which is always excluded from the Balkans and as a totality is generally accepted as part of Western Europe and the Apennines.
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the Balkans are usually said to comprise AlbaniaBosnia and HerzegovinaBulgariaCroatiaKosovo,[a] the Republic of MacedoniaMontenegroRomaniaSerbiaSlovenia, while Greece and Turkey are often excluded (depending on the definition), and its total area is usually given as 666,700 square km (257,400 square miles) and the population as 59,297,000 (est. 2002).[28]
According to an earlier version of the Britannica, the Balkans comprise the territories of the states of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo,[a] the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and the European part of Turkey; it notes Turkey as a non-Balkan state and the inclusion of Slovenia and the Transylvanianpart of Romania in the region as dubious. (Wiki)

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Where to Stay?

Cinema View House
If there was an open cinema, you will get to see it as the window of the rooms (except for one) faces the open air cinema (otherwise, you can use the lobby and they have chairs).  Audio is obviously not that good since you are up there.
Be ready to take a flight of stairs (2 storeys) and there are no easy way to go up so pack your bags light.

What to see?

Funicular



Game of Thrones - it is a replica.


Walking Tours?
Lots of Walking tours including Game of Thrones.  I tried the Dubrovnik Walking History Tour and it was OK.  Can't really hear the guide since her voice was soft and the place was too crowded.  Might just be good to get a book and read it yourself or do an audio tour guide of Dubrovnik


Where to drink and hang out?

Poco Loco
They have live music in the evenings and interesting cocktails.  They have a twist of old fashioned which they call "SMOKY old fashion.  I tried the Hot Passion (which they kinda use fire to caramelize the top). It was tad sweet but some folks might like it if you like it fruity.



Where to eat?
Soul Caffee

  • I like the buzz of the place. It is just in a small alley and with a musician playing music.

toll - 21 + 7

Cafe Presa

This is just cheap and good.  I ordered their Fried "Breaded" Crepes which reminded me of something o

Barba

Another cheap place and tried the Octopus burger which kinda tasted like a mashed octopus for me so it wasn't that interesting for me.   Fried fish and calamari seems to be popular as well.

Love the place that you can sign on a wooden spoon and hang it there.

Lucin Kantun

More on the high end but I love this place as it is like eating at someone else's kitchen.  The chefs are visibly doing the work as the kitchen is just beside the dining tables.  The food was quite good, from the octopus, risotto, to fish.  Didn't like the appetizer (bacon wrapped monk fish) though.  Would have been better if the bacon was a bit crispy.  It felt a bit chewy and the monk fish was kinda bit chewy too.



Nin, Croatia

Couldn't find a Wikipedia entry for this beautiful place but looks really pretty on the picture
Credits: https://www.nin.hr/en
  • The best beach there is just beside the vantage point and demos Hydra drinks place
  • "According to the choice of the American Travel Channel, the Queen's Beach is at the top of the most beautiful beaches in the world" (https://www.nin.hr/en)
  • "Medicinal mud -  Health coming from nature Among the gifts of Nature, in which Nin abounds, ceratainly one of the most valuable is the medicinal mud (peloid), located near the long, sandy Queen's Beach. Its effectiveness has been tested by thousands of people, who organised and supervised by a Zadar Health Institution, have used the mud to treat various ailments such as rheumatic diseases, spinal deformities, muscular and the skeletal system problems, female infertility and various skin diseases for decades. The therapy, which usually lasts from ten to twenty days, involves covering the body with the mud, then sunbathing on the sandy beach, then rinsing off the mud with warm sea water. This is done in the morning during July and August. It is useful and pleasant at the same time. Additional swimming and bathing in the warm shallow sea water really works." (https://www.nin.hr/en/natural-heritage/medicinal-mud)

Zadar, Croatia

This does not look as amazing as the old towns in Kotor or Dubrovnik, as it looks kinda bit modern (and prolly just older due to some towers and churches) but there are Roman Ruins around and a Beautiful sunset.

"Zadar (pronounced [zâdar]; see other names) is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia. It is situated on the Adriatic Sea, at the northwestern part of Ravni Kotari region. Zadar serves as the seat of Zadar County and the wider northern Dalmatian region. The city proper covers 25 km2 (9.7 sq mi) with a population of 75,082 in 2011, making it the fifth-largest city in the nation. (Wiki)"

















Plitvice Lake (Plitvička Jazera)
One of the UNESCO World Heritage which has a series of lakes.  The lakes and falls are very clears and there are wooden planks that you can walk around them.  There are ferries and bus stations that brings you from one station to another.  Ticket was around 180 Kunas (30 Euros) plus parking fees.

Tips:

  • Take a lot of water.  It can be very hot especially during summer.
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Plan your trip - you can do the 2 or 5-6 hour hike.  Also the P2 to P3 ferry, you can only take once.













Where to stay?

There are a bunch of hotels near the Plitvice Lake but are more expensive.  We stayed at Hotel Rustico which was more of a cabin and was just 7 minutes away from the lakes. It only costed 63 Euros for 2 persons.









Kotor, Montenegro


Where to Stay?

Date: August 26-27, 2017






Cattaro Lux Apartment in Kotor Montenegro 
Feedback:
  • I was WOW-ed with this apartment - a bit hard to find but you can call the guy if you. 
  • It is in the OLD town of Kotor (so a great location). 
  •  It has a bit of steps to go up, not much prolly just one flight of stairs.  
  • It has two bedrooms and one bedroom was interesting because it has a water bed and a BATH tub in the room itself. It kinda look a bit of sleazy because of the lights. Was too much but overall good. It is tagged as Cattaro Royale Apartment in Booking.com 
  • Aircon, washing, TV in each bedroom
  • The owner seemed that he was "stoned" when we talk to him but he was really a chill / cool guy!

Address: Ul. 29 Novembra 409, Kotor Stari Grad, 85330 Kotor, Crna Gora


Where to eat?

Bastion III (3)  (Just outside the gate (like 50 meters away)
Website: http://restoranbastion.com/en/0/53/
Rating: 4 out of 5
Feedback:
  • Really cheap - it was like around 6 euros per meal
  • As our apartment owner said "Everything in the old town is 2x as expensive, so might as well just walk out of the gate and it is just around 50 meters from there" and it is really good and local.
  • We ordered the Beef Goulash and Cevapi (Minced Meat Skinless Sausage) and it felt like a home-cooked meal which I like.
Cevapi

Beef Goulash


You see this just right outside the gate




Montenegro


Lake Skadar

Looks like the HorseShoe Bend in Arizona but the Green Version
Famous viewpoint is the Pavlova Strana Viewpoint





Restaurant Poslednja luka
They only serve fish but they seem fresh as they seem to have a carp farm. (7 Euros for Small fresh carp - 300g)
Cabbage and the salad was good too


Cabbage Salad










Tara Canyon

The Tara River Canyon (Montenegrin: Кањон ријеке Таре / Kanjon rijeke Tare, pronounced [kǎɲɔːn târɛː]), also known as the Tara River Gorge, is a canyon on the Tara River in Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Wiki)









Where to stay?
Rafting, Zip Line and Accommodation Kljajevića Luka Luka (here)
There are a couple of accommodations. We stayed in a wooden house around there for 10 euros per person. They also do the rafting and zip line (20 Euros per person).  Note: Toilet and Shower is separate.  The toilet was squat bowl and shower had hot showers but hard to wiggle around as there was no where to put your stuff.  But then again, this is more of a camp.  The restaurant closes around 7 pm too. Apparently, they have good grilled trouts which we didn't get to try.

The toilet and shower room

Small Wooden House

This is 5 Euros per person
It is just a bed that can fit two people I was surprise how small it is.

Big Wooden House

This is 10 Euros per person and has 3 beds.






What to do?
Zip Line the deepest canyon in Europe!


Serbia


Lake Uvac
Vantage Point here.
My friend, Adam, calls this the "Snake River" because it looks like a long giant snake of water.

The Uvac (Serbian Cyrillic: Увац) is an international trans-boundary river, rising under Golija mountain and Pešter plateau, then flowing through southwestern Serbia and cross into eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina where, after 119 km, finally meets the Lim river from the right, however, before it empties into the Lim, for a 10 kilometers Uvac forms the border between two countries. Also, while meandering through Serbia, Uvac loosely makes the northern border of the Raška region too. (Wiki)







Bosnia and Herzegovina


Medjugorje
Međugorje, or Medjugorje,[note 1] (Croatian pronunciation: [medʑuɡoːrje]) is a town located in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 25 km (16 mi) southwest of Mostar and close to the border of Croatia. The town is part of the municipality of Čitluk. Since 1981, it has become a popular site of Catholic pilgrimage due to reports of alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local children.[2] (Wiki)

Make sure you see the various places for Apparitions:

  • The Hill where the Mary Statue is
    • might be good to plan this from day to Sunset (too bad we missed the sunset here as it would have been beautiful
  • St. James Church
    • The Mary Statue 
    • Risen Christ at the back
    • You can also attend a mass here and you can use a radio (they have translations in different languages)
    • Apparently there were two apparitions where the status was - in the hill and in front of the church.  The Risen Christ also had miracles where water dripped from it. I have seen a line and people wiping some prayers/ cloth on it's knees.






The Church down at the bottom of the Hill

Some folks attending a mass down near the bottom of the hill


St James Church
around 7 minutes away from the Hill

Outdoor Mass





Mostar

Mostar (Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: [mǒstaːr]) is a city and municipality in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Inhabited by 105,797 people, it is the most important city in the Herzegovina region, its cultural capital, and the center of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton of the Federation. Mostar is situated on the Neretva River and is the fifth-largest city in the country. Mostar was named after the bridge keepers (mostari) who in the medieval times guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva. The Old Bridge, built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina's most recognizable landmarks, and is considered one of the most exemplary pieces of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. (Wiki)



Stari most
It's a UNESCO Heritage



They seem to have a lot of those Turkish Lamps



What to eat?

Sadrvan

We orderd a national plate good for 2, Bey Soup (Chicken Soup), and Trout (they served two).



Restoran Sadrvan
Prolly one of the more popular restaurant in Mostar

National Plate (around 15 Euros)
It's a plate of everything for 2 person with Cevapi (minced meat), rice/meat wrapped in a cabbage

Grilled Trout ("Try this" Version)
around 8 Euros
very fresh trout and just grilled



Cafe Alma

If you want real good Bosnia Coffee.  We met the mom of the owner, Alma.  The cafe was named after her (very sweet of the son).
This was 5 euros for 2 juices and 2 Bosnian Coffee.  Tried the Rose petal juice which was just tad sweet and another one was a Wild Cherry juice - too sweet for me though.
The Highlight here was Alma showed the process of enjoy the coffee. See the video.
Such a small place snucked and hidden in a corner. Not too crowded when we got there around 10 am.  Also, they only do coffee and juices, they don't seem to serve any food or pastries.



Here's a YouTube Video of Alma explaining how to enjoy the coffee


Lake Bled, Slovenia

No much for a town, but Lake Bled has a spectacular view.   You can get a boat to to go the small island and check out the church or just walk around. Be sure to try out the "Original Bled Cream Cake", it has creamy paste in the middle and top is that of kinda similar to "Turkish" delights. We went to Park Cafe and paid 3.9Euros for a slice of it.










Where to eat? Sova







Grill platter

Pork





Park Kavarna Cafe 
try the original Bled Cream Cake










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