At the beginning of September, I had two weeks of vacation and a great desire to experience adventure. Pinterest and working in the international environment of RBI inspired me to explore the Balkans. This seems like an ambitious project, since the Balkans encompass up to 12 countries, depending on which source you consult. Of course, that would be too much, which is why the choice ultimately fell on four destinations.
November 30, 2023 3:35 p.m.
By Elisabeth Raschka
Events and lifestyle
My boyfriend and I traveled in a camping van, which served as our mobile home. This allowed us to be very spontaneous and go from point A to point B depending on our mood and the weather. Many interesting camping experiences were included.#1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
The first day was the longest part of the trip: from our house in Vienna through Hungary and Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The capital Sarajevo was our first stop, where we treated ourselves to a late lunch and a walk around the city center which was well worth the detour. We particularly liked Baščaršija – the old bazaar and the historical and cultural center of the city. You should also not miss a Bosnian coffee, traditionally served with sugar, a lokum (oriental dessert) and a glass of water. We were fascinated by the fact that just a nine-hour drive from Vienna, a multicultural city with Ottoman culture, awaited us.
The next stop, Mostar, is not to be missed when visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina. You have probably seen a photo of the famous Stari most bridge, which crosses the Neretva River and serves as a symbolic link between East and West. From the minaret of the Koski Mehmed Pasha mosque, we were able to watch the bridge jumpers cross the 19 meters in exchange for a tip. Our last stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the dervish monastery of Blagaj Tekke, approximately 600 years old. It is located on the cliff above and next to the crystal clear Buna Spring and is worth a visit.
New day, new country. The trip continues to Kotor in Montenegro. Just getting there was an experience, as the town is located on one of the most impressive fjords in Europe – mountains and water as far as the eye can see. The historic old town is surrounded by a city wall and behind it are houses full of history, narrow streets, picturesque squares, as well as hustle and bustle. In the evening, when the day tourists have left, is the best time to sample the many restaurants and bars.
We couldn’t leave Kotor without seeing the city from above. A hike to Sveti Ivan Fortress – or San Giovanni Castle, as the locals call it – should not be missed during a visit to Kotor. Unless you’re not good at walking, as the fortress is located on a steep hill and can only be reached by climbing 1,350 steps. If you make it to the top, you will be rewarded with a phenomenal view of the old town and the fjord.
With the feeling that we definitely wanted to visit Montenegro again in the future, we continued towards Albania, more precisely towards Tirana. The capital first greeted us with traffic jams. However, during a city tour with a local guide, we were able to get an idea of the most beautiful sides of Tirana. We are always grateful for his restaurant recommendation – at Zgara Korcare Liqeni we had an excellent meal and discovered the specialties of Albanian cuisine. Even for me, a vegetarian, there was plenty of choice.
After a night at an idyllic campsite outside Tirana, we continued to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Berat, also known as ‘the city of 1000 windows’. The name is based on the large, closely spaced windows that adorn the white houses with a typical Ottoman architectural style. A must-see in Berat is the Kalaja district, the castle district. The immense castle-fortress is the emblem of the city and can be visited free of charge.
After lots of culture and sightseeing, we were lured further into southern Albania to relax by the sea. Our destination was Himarë, a small town on the coast of the Ionian Sea famous for its beaches of fine sand and turquoise waters. On the beach, you are spoiled for choice between several cool beach bars that attract locals and tourists alike. To summarize: the Albanian Riviera is one of my personal highlights of this trip.
Then came the turn of country number four, Greece. From Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland we took a ferry to the Ionian island of Corfu. The first obligatory stop was the Achilleion, a palace built by the Austrian Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) between 1890 and 1892. The palace itself was closed for renovation, but the palace garden was also very pleasing to the eye.
What should also not be missed during a visit to Corfu is a visit to the capital, Corfu Town. In the east of the island, the former Venetian occupants built many pastel-colored houses, which still recall an old Italian town. If you’re there, be sure to plan a visit to To Tsipouradiko Restaurant to enjoy delicious tapas-style Greek cuisine. Tip: arrive early or reserve a table, otherwise you will have to queue. Then it was time to sail around the island, but that’s another story.
After these two weeks of Balkan experience, saying goodbye was not easy. We saw and experienced so much, but what remained most clearly in my memory, besides the beauty of the landscape, was the kindness and warmth of the people. For me it is therefore certain that I would like to make a trip to the Balkans again, and I can only advise you to do the same. Next time I might allow a little more time.