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Serbia

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With our whirlwind trip to Nepal taking all our attention for several weeks, pleasant, understated Sofia kind of got lost in the shuffle on our extensive Balkan holiday. That’s the thing about nice, normal cities, they are easy and enjoyable but don’t lend themselves to funny stories and bizarre anecdotes. Basically, Sofia has lots of impressive churches, pretty parks and a cool old tram system that lends the place a classic air. They also really love statues of important military dudes, we had our choice of international foods and I found a great place for a haircut. We really enjoyed just following our homemade list of what to do in Sofia, Bulgaria to wander in a disjointed circuit, picking a new area to focus on each day. It’s a very relaxing, walkable city. First, though, we had to spend a long day on the bus from Belgrade. And, although it…

Belgrade, for confusing linguistic reasons also known as Beograd, is the capital and largest city in Serbia and an essential stop on any Balkan holiday. It is fairly famous for its impressive night life, young population and overall party atmosphere. Of course, as one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, there is plenty more to it than a few trendy night clubs, cool street art and lots of kebab shops. As it turns out, there are far more things to do in Belgrade than we had imagined when we first made plans to pass through on our way from Montenegro to Bulgaria. Enough to make it worth making it on the list of anyone deciding where to go on their visit to the Balkans. Arriving on the fabulous Balkan Express train from Bar just after dark, our first impression mainly involved several well-lit buses and an equal…

Not well known but described by some as the best train trip in Europe, the 11-hour Balkan Express, a Bar to Belgrade train, passes through some of the best scenery in the Balkans on its way from Montenegro to Serbia. It is a great example of Soviet era technology, features some fascinating history and the relaxed comfort that trains offer over somewhat quicker buses and cars. This train ride is a highlight for a trip to the Balkans along with Lake Bled in Slovenia, the Mostar Bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Dubrovnik in Croatia. We actually planned this part of our trip through the Balkans specifically around this train ride. This travel guide post is all about the details and how to best take this train; for a more personal story of our journey you should check out My Day on the Balkan Express. Balkan Express Facts and Figures…

The Balkans are nearly the perfect holiday destination. Wonderfully scenic, with a fascinating (although often brutal) history, this loose collection of countries tucked away in Southeastern Europe are easy to get to, extremely affordable and, for the most part, not nearly as touristy as comparable destinations in Western Europe. They offer extraordinary geographic diversity – from gorgeous Mediterranean beaches to spectacular alpine mountain ranges to lush valleys with crystal clear rivers cascading down the middle. The historical variations are endless, with a rich variety of castles, palaces, forts and bridges to explore. Culturally, this broadly defined region offers a diversity that seems almost implausible at times, with stark societal, political, religious and linguistical differences not only between nations, but often even neighbouring villages. So, the hard part isn’t deciding on a Balkan holiday for your next trip. It is deciding exactly where to go and what to do. Alexander Nevsky…

We came around the corner and suddenly saw this huge, tall bridge kind of off in the distance. Not big, like, wide, or anything like that, though, just really tall and skinny, the kind of bridge that didn’t look like it should be able to hold an entire train. Maybe one of those little kid’s trains or, you know, a place where a group of shifty young kids might wander in the 1950’s, just looking for trouble, but not a whole train. But from what I could tell, we were heading straight for it. On a train. Not the biggest train around, but big enough. And old, so it seemed maybe heavier than new trains because, you know, everything is metal. Even the buttons on the doors between cars. Even the toilet. Then it took longer than I expected for us to make it around another hill and through another…

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