If you read my last blog post you’ll notice that I set a very important goal for myself – to travel somewhere completely out of my comfort zone in 2014. To that end, I booked a trip this summer that will hopefully be the trip of a lifetime.
In May, I’m traveling to the Balkan region with two of my favorite travel bloggers – Larissa from Blonde Gypsy and Nate from Yomadic. After following Larissa and Nate’s adventures across the globe for the past year, I jumped at the chance to participate in their very first group trip to the Western Balkans.
What’s so unique about this trip?
I’ll be traveling with a group of 15 like-minded people from all over the world; on a group tour that will by no means be rushed or superficial. As Larissa and Nate have both spent a lot of time in the Balkans, they have connections all over the region and plan to show us the hot spots that will be on next year’s tourism lists.
The first two nights of our journey will be spent in Belgrade, Serbia, which is the largest city in the Balkans and the former capital of Yugoslavia. After the communist victory in World War II, Yugoslavia was set up as a federation of six republics: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Macedonia. After the death of the socialist dictator Marshall Josep Tito and the fall of communism in 1992, the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia crumbled and the republics became independent countries, with Serbia being one of them.
In Belgrade, we’ll explore communist architecture by day and hopefully immerse ourselves in the vibrant club scene at night. After a quick two days in Belgrade, we’ll travel by bus through the southeastern Europe countryside to Sarajevo, the cozy capital city of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, many ethnic conflicts sparked up in the region leading to the Yugoslav Wars in the mid ’90s. One of the biggest conflicts was the Bosnian war, in which the city of Sarajevo was under siege for four long years. During our two day stay in Sarajevo, we’ll explore underground tunnels and hang with locals in eclectic cafés. Although most of the city has been reconstructed, there is still evidence of the city’s war-torn past in bullet holes and mortar damage on the city’s buildings and sidewalks.
Our next stop will be Mostar, the cultural capital of the Herzegovina region and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We will most surely take a scenic tour of the quaint city’s most famous landmark, the Stari Most (Old Bridge) that was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century. Unfortunately this bridge has a sober history – it was destroyed during the Bosnian war but since has been rebuilt. I’m hoping to check out the old bazaar for some shopping or take a stroll by the Neretva River.
Next up we’ll spend a few days in Kotor, Montenegro, a charming city with dramatic views of the Bay of Kotor. Built between the 12th and 14th centuries, Kotor is famous for its medieval architecture and historic sites. We’ll check out the cobblestoned piazzas in Old Town and explore the steep city walls. On the final day of the trip, our group will travel from Bar, Montenegro back to Belgrade via train.
But this isn’t your average train ride. Because Larissa and Nate have some awesome connections, we’ll be traveling from Bar back to Belgrade on Marshal Josep Tito’s infamous Blue Train, a palace on wheels in which Tito entertained dignitaries from all over the world. Built in 1959, it was used regularly by Tito until his death in 1980. Unlike the rigid communist rule in Russia, the Yugoslavian era in which Tito reigned was prosperous and he was hailed by many as a great leader. I can’t wait to hear stories about his legendary rule of socialist Yugoslavia from the train operators that interacted with Tito himself.
After 10 incredible days of sightseeing and chilling with locals, we will all sadly depart and go our separate ways. I hope you’ll join me this summer as I live-tweet (where WiFi permits) and Instagram pictures from my journey. And of course you can expect many blog posts when I return (I know you can hardly contain your excitement!)