At long last, I’m flying high with Qatar Airways enroute to the fabulous Balkans. My Lonely Planet guide, my Blue Bible, has had quite the workout and while I’m OK with the itinerary I’ve prepared, I know there’s nothing like impulse and travellers’ talk to get me off track.
The Balkans (formerly Yugoslavia) is a magnet that I’ve long been attracted to for its complex and often sad history. This land of ‘bal’ (honey) and ‘kan’ (blood) has been dogged by wars, fervent nationalistic pride and constantly changing borders as empires fell and fledgling nations emerged. Add to the mix; autocratic dictators, brutal regimes, and genocide and this has to be one intriguing region worth exploring.
Over the last 10 years, political stability has returned and tourists have been arriving in good numbers to admire the landscape and architecture, enjoy the food and culture, and soak up the robust politics that’s guiding the Balkans into a future still weighed down by issues of the past and present.
I’m writing this blog in Doha’s Hamad International Airport, nominated by traveller.com as one of the best airports to stop over on flights between Australia and Europe. I agree; it’s pretty impressive. My freshly brewed Qatar coffee is strong, just what I need to keep me going for the next five hours before touchdown in Skopje, capital of the newly named Republic of North Macedonia. The plan is to have a good look around this country, then head into Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina and finish in Croatia. I’ll be blogging along the way, so I can share all the good stuff with you.