|From one former country called Yugoslavia seven new nations were created!|
|Two years ago I wouldn't have been able find the Balkans on the map.|
|This is a beautiful part of the world - Montenegro is fast becoming a popular tourist destination on the Adriatic coast!|
The Balkans refers to a very large peninsula just a boat ride across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. The region is made up of thirteen individual countries, although it wasn't always that way since most of those countries formed what was Yugoslavia up until 1989-92. Here is a short recap from Michael.
From 1945 - 1991 six of the Balkan countries were united as one country called Yugoslavia under the leadership of Josip Tito. They were: Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovnia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Now they are all independent countries plus, Serbia was forced to give-up the southern part of their country to create a new country called Kosovo, which is recognized by 108 countries but not by Serbia.
All this is either confusing or fascinating. I don't think you will be surprised to learn that Michael finds it all very much in the fascinating column and I can tell you that after visiting every single one of these countries, I too have been caught up in the inner-workings of these brand new nations and how each of them has chosen to govern and present themselves on the world stage. And I also became a bit protective of them since Russia is just a stone's throw away and seems to feel a recent need to grab back some lost territory.
|This truly is a sentiment amongst people who can remember being under Soviet rule.|
|Just when I thought we'd seen all the churches we'll ever need to see. Along came the Catherdral in Cologne.|
|Just one of the details in the entry way to this breathtaking cathedral.|
|Alexander the great's connection to Skopje is tenious - but he and his kin make great statues|
|A collection of bronze communists depicting a typical day at the office.|
|One of thirty statues spanning the "Bridge of Artists".|
We found what looked like a great free walking tour online, so to warm up we walked a mile to the meeting point. We waited under a blazing sun until well after the start time along with a few other would be walkers, but the guide never showed. Frustrated, we went across the street to the tourism office and asked the person behind the desk to call the number on the website. Eventually he found the guide (fresh out of the shower) who said "he just wasn't feeling it lately." What? The least he could do was take down his website! Good news, we found another tour the following day with a more than willing guide (maybe even over zealous) who took us on a four hour march in 90 degree heat, but helped tell the tale behind this enigmatic place. Luckily the statues were so huge you could find a little shade and if you stood in just the right place you caught some spray from the fountains. We had a fine lunch in the old town - grilled Kebabs, beans baked in a casserole and a fresh cabbage salad, all washed down with a frosty local beer.
|Our guide pointing out another massive statue. This on sits in front of the 1950's Parliament building.|
|A delicious lunch of grilled kebab and bubbling casseroles filled with smoky beans.|
We took a break from the oppressive heat and spent the next day on the water in nearby Marta Canyon. The main activity on offer was an hour-long boat ride to the top of the lake to visit a cave. So as the saying goes, at least in Alexander the Greats Skopje "When almost in Rome do as the Romans do". We hopped on one of several rickety tour boats (life jackets optional) and pushed off.
|A straight forward message in a beautiful park, but this sign could work in many place.|
|This could have been the last picture you ever saw of the Campbells alive.|
|Off we go to the Cave of Potential Death.|
|Our ride to Sofia. Nice be be back on a comfortable bus.|
The apartment itself was really very nice and the location was great: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4543540 I was happy to see a big screen TV with tons of English speaking channels - including The Food Network! I was so excited, and it seemed like ages since we'd just plopped on a couch and channel-surfed. There wasn't a button on the remote that listed the stations, so I started flipping through the channels: Eurosport, check. BBC, check. Sky, Fox, E! and CNN, check. This was getting good! Then, just after I whipped past the Disney Channel, National Geographic and Nickelodeon, I landed on a string of stations serving up eye-popping, hard core porn! Luckily we didn't have any grandchildren with us because this stuff was one-click of the remote away from Sponge Bob Square Pants (a kinky show in it's own right). Luckily I had been jotting down the channel numbers of stations we wanted to watch - and anything else became optional.
|I came across Seinfeld reruns and so much more...|
|There were many of these knee-level kiosks in Sofia. You just sort of squatted down and bought what you needed.|
In most cases it was beer and cigarettes.
|The architecture in Sofia was a mix of stunning buildings like this next to concrete postwar monoliths.|
|Ancient ruins dotted the city and were open for exploration.|
|Our new friend of friends, Ivo - we spent a great afternoon together.|
See you there for Blazing Through the Balkans II in Romania and Moldova, and thanks again for following along.
Debbie and Michael,
The Senior Nomads
P.S. During this period of travel we sold our house in Seattle. We are truly nomads now!
The Senior Nomads