Each year I look forward to our end of summer break when we usually take one of our biggest trips of the year.
Last year we headed to the Balkans. It was the first time for us visiting this region of the world and we enjoyed our trip very much. We visited 4 countries (although one of them is a disputed territory)- Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania.
After the trip, I knew that I wanted to go back to the area at some point. While considering places to go this year I kept thinking about last summer’s trip. I decided to look into the possibility of seeing 2-3 more of these interesting countries.
When I started to look into some ideas, I was happily surprised to find flights available using my AAdvantage miles to exactly where I wanted to go, although not on the exact dates. Continue reading Trip Planning: Back to The Balkans
During our flight to the Balkans, I was disappointed with the amenity kit that we received in Lufthansa Business Class. However, they more than made up for it during our flight home.
Kim, Lucas and I spent a chunk of our time, during an 8 hour layover in Frankfurt shopping for tracht (traditional German clothing). We were buying the tracht for our recent trip to Germany. The main purpose of our trip was to experience Oktoberfest in Munich. (I’ve been a little behind on posting about our trip but will get to that soon.)
Once we took our seats, Kim and I reached back to get our amenity kits. I expected the same, junky plastic case that we received during our flight to Serbia but it was different and an awesome surprise.
Continue reading Lufthansa’s Awesome Oktoberfest Inspired Amenity Kit
We’re heading to Germany in a couple of hours. Here is a post about one way we got prepared for Oktoberfest while still on another trip.
On the way home from the Balkans we had an eight-hour layover in Frankfurt. We planned to head into the city to kill a little time since neither of us had every been to the city before.
Kim and I did some reading about Frankfurt and neither of us came up with much to do. We figured at worst we could just wander around the city center and grab something to eat before heading back to the airport for our flight home.
Soon after, we came up with a plan- the perfect way to make good use of our time rather than just wander around.
Continue reading What We Did During An 8 Hour Layover In Frankfurt
Our last day of our trip to the Balkans was spent checking out Albania’s capital- Tirana.
While the city doesn’t have what I’d call must-see sites, we enjoyed the time we spent checking it out. Our original plan was to visit a couple of museums but timing was not on our side. We happened to be there on a Monday when most of the museums were closed.
There were a bunch of things that we had planned to visit, so we took our time walking around and seeing them.
Here is what we saw:
- Piramida- (previously a museum dedicated to the former dictator)
- The Mosaic on top of the National History Museum
- Climbed up the Clock Tower
- Searched for Soviet style statues behind the art museum
- Checked out The Block
Continue reading The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 15: Tirana, Albania
Day 14 of our trip brought us to a few different cities/ towns where we got to see some very interesting and ancient sites. We also stopped at a restaurant (Hotel Panorama in Kruja) which had amazing views and some pretty solid food too. Lucas loved the restaurant due to all of the taxidermy animals, some of which we decided to play with. At first I was worried that Lucas would break something but there were other kids also checking out the restaurant’s collection so I figured it was ok for us too. The staff didn’t mind and we had a lot of fun.
Here are some of the places we visited:
- Durres Amphitheater
- Kruja Old Bazaar & Fortress
- George Bush statue in Fushe Kruja
Continue reading The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 14: Durres & Kruja, Albania
With just a few days left to our trip to the Balkans, it was nice to have a day filled with some great sight-seeing but not so much driving. We left Vlora after breakfast and drove about a half hour to our first stop, the ruins of an ancient Greek city of which very little has been uncovered. After our visit we drove around an hour to our next and final stop of the day, Berat whose old town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.
While visiting both of these sites were really great, another highlight of our day occurred during lunch. A family was seated close to us and with them was their daugher, about a month or two younger than Lucas. Lucas decided to go over to say hi and he had a blast playing with her for the next hour or so!
Here are the places we visited:
- Apollonia Archaeological Park
- A fun lunch for Lucas
- Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Continue reading The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 13: Apollonia & Berat, Albania
While driving along the coast we started off the day by visiting a place that seems to be around in just about every area in the Balkans- a castle/ fort. After a quick visit we drove further along, passing lots of beaches before settling on one to stop at for a few hours. From there we drove through the mountains, seeing some amazing views of the coast before getting to our destination for the evening.
Here are some of the things we did:
- Castle of Ali Pasha
- Dhermi Beach
- Llogara Pass Viewing Area
- Night time in Vlora
Continue reading The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 12: Driving Along the Albanian Riviera
During our third day in Albania we continued our visit to Gjirokaster and then, later in the day moved on to another UNESCO World Heritage Site. In between, we visited an amazing natural site.
We stopped for lunch (and spent the night) in Saranda, a small, beach town along the Albanian Riviera. During lunch the beaches seemed pretty busy but the restaurants were relatively quiet. At night the area came alive. People were out and about, walking along the pedestrian area near the beach and filling up the restaurants.
Here is what we did during the day:
- Checked out Gjirokaster in the morning
- Visited the Blue Eye Spring
- Saw amazing ruins at Butrint, a UNESCO WHS
Continue reading The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 11: Gjirokaster to Butrint, Albania
Our second day in Albania was a very long travel day but we managed to do some fun thing along the way. We started out with visiting a site in Korca before heading off on our long drive through the mountains.
The mountains were interesting to see, and we saw some amazing views along the way. We saw bunkers left over from the cold war as well as many areas containing boxes for bee keepers. The roads we drove along were definitely not up to the standards back at home in any way. Fo the most part they were narrow and in very poor shape (some sections of the road were made up of dirt & rock) although a little better than I had expected. There wasn’t much of a guard rail and if you got too close to the edge, it could be a very far drop to the bottom. All along the way there were memorials to victims that had lost their lives along the road.
Our destination was Gjirokaster, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Albania “inscribed as rare examples of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period.”
Here are some of the things we did:
To start off Day 9 of our trip to the Balkans we were picked up at our guesthouse in Ohrid by our driver (that we pre-arranged) to take us around Albania. Before heading over the border we had one last stop to make at a site in Macedonia.
From our last stop in Macedonia, the border was a mere 15 minutes drive away. We got through border control in about 20 minutes which was great. It was nice not having to wait for long but I was a little annoyed once we got into Albania. After getting our passports back, we eagerly looked inside to see what the Albania stamp looked like. Kim and I both looked through our passports multiple times but neither of us could find it anywhere. We were stamped out of Macedonia but got nothing for entering Albania. I am hoping that when we fly home from Tirana (Albania’s capital), we’ll at least get stamped out of the country.
Our day was pretty long but pretty uneventful but we did a few things along the way.
Here are some of the things we did: