Tag Archives: Balkans

The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 15: Tirana, Albania

balkansOur 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 

IMG_6697 Continue reading The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 15: Tirana, Albania

The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 14: Durres & Kruja, Albania

balkansDay 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.

IMG_6484Here are some of the places we visited:

  • Durres Amphitheater
  • Kruja Old Bazaar & Fortress
  • George Bush statue in Fushe Kruja

IMG_6478 Continue reading The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 14: Durres & Kruja, Albania

The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 13: Apollonia & Berat, Albania

balkansWith 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

IMG_6271 Continue reading The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 13: Apollonia & Berat, Albania

The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 12: Driving Along the Albanian Riviera

balkansWhile 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

IMG_6126 Continue reading The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 12: Driving Along the Albanian Riviera

The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 11: Gjirokaster to Butrint, Albania

balkansDuring 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

The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 10: Korca to Gjirokaster, Albania

balkansOur 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.


IMG_5833Our 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:

The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 9: Next Stop: Albania

balkansTo 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:

The Balkans Trip Recap- Days 7 & 8: Ohrid, Macedonia

balkansWhile reading about the places we would be visiting during our trip to the Balkans, Ohrid in Macedonia really stood out. It seemed to have many of the things we like in a city and it didn’t disappoint. Most of the main sites are walkable (not so easy though due to the hills) and the area is filled with lots of things to do.

Ohrid is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the beautiful Lake Ohrid and for it’s ancient churches, icons and well preserved achitecture and streets.

We had a great time exploring the area and it has probably been our favorite part of the trip so far.

Here are some of the things we did:

Balkans Trip: Some Local Menu Items At McDonald’s In Serbia

IMG_4481At home, Kim and I rarely visit McDonald’s but when traveling sometimes it’s nice to eat something that reminds you of home. We also like to stop by for the free WiFi! However, the best part of visiting McDonald’s in a foreign country is to check out what locally-inspired menu items are offered.

During our current trip to the Balkans, I had to visit McDonald’s in Serbia. We had checked in advance and found out that McDonald’s didn’t have stores in the other countries we would be visiting.

In Serbia we saw quite a few McDonald’s and most of them were located in beautiful, old buildings. The one shown in the photo above was the first location to open in the country.

IMG_4421We found a few items on the menu that are not available in the U.S.:

The Balkans Trip Recap- Day 6: Kosovo


So far our time in the  Balkans has been very interesting. Kosovo is pretty much in the center of all the other countries we are visiting this trip. After researching buses and playing with the itinerary, we decided to visit as a day trip from Skopje, Macedonia since it is only about an hour and a half away. (Keep reading to find out how long it really took us!) I would’ve liked an extra day to visit a couple of other areas in the country but unfortunately it just wasn’t in the cards.

Kosovo is an interesting place. One of the first thing I’ve wondered was if Kosovo is a country or still a part of Serbia? Kosovo is not a UN member state so it doesn’t fully count as a country but it did declare independence in 2008. It is recognized by around 100 UN states and is a member of the IMF and World Bank. What do you think?

Our day started off with a little hiccup. We had bought tickets for an 8:00AM bus from Skopje to Pristina, Kosovo and arrived at the station at 7:45. We were told to go to lane 1 for our bus. The area was very busy and no bus was there yet. The sign said Pristina so there didn’t seem to be a reason to worry. We even asked some locals and thought they said that they were also going to Pristina. The area was very chaotic and we starting hearing people mentioning Deutschland. After a few minutes we began to worry that we had somehow missed our bus. At around 8:15 Kim went inside and asked the rep who sold us our tickets what was going on. She told Kim that the bus (actually a mini-van) had left on time from lane 2. My thoughts were WTF! It wasn’t such a big deal in the end and we caught the next bus at 9:00AM.

We were told the bus ride to Kosovo took around 1.5 hours but when you add in border crossings and our bus driver needing to make numerous stops for himself, the ride took over an hour longer.

Kim and I were surprised by Pristina. The city seems to be a huge construction site with new buildings going up all around. Most of the sites we visited were walkable from the main square and it seemed like just about everyone spoke English. It was also nice to hear how genuinely thankful the people were for America’s help in gaining independence. A few people let us know how gracious they were to our country and there are even some streets named after US presidents!

Here are some of the things we did during our visit: