Hi everyone! Today I want to talk about a vacation that I took with my sister to Balkans, Balkans Tour. Generally we prefer to visit more popular countries for our holidays but believe me, there are lots of things to see in Balkans. There are awesome old historical buildings and structures like bridges, and also touristical places for sunny summer holidays. I’m gonna show all of them with photos and videos to you.
We went there with a tour and our programme was containing 5 Countries for 8 days. These are Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania. I’m gonna tell you my trip day by day! If you ready let’s get it started!
DAY 1 : ISTANBUL – SKOPJE (REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA)
My Balkans tour started with Republic of Macedonia. Our first stop was Skopje. This is the capital and largest city of Republic of Macedonia. The citizens are Muslims and Christians. That’s why you can see mosques and churches together in the city. So it makes you feel very nice to see different cultures and religions can live together in peace. You can see minaret of a mosque near a big sign of cross in one photo shot! I think that, this is the most characteristic feature of the Balkan Countries.
They use Macedonian denar in their daily life. 1 Euro = 61.5 Macedonian denar. That’s why you can eat or buy lots of things for low prices. They speak different languages like: Macedonian, Serbian, Albanian and Croatian. But the citizens can speak English very well so you can communicate with people easily.
If we look the architectural style of Skopje, we can see two different styles. First one shows us the Ottoman Empire. These old, wooden and small buildings are come from Ottoman Empire times. Muslim citizens were living in this part of the city. Besides, the other side of town has modern statues and buildings which are made in 2009 to make the city look much modern and European. These modern buildings are not old but they have built with old architectural styles. Also the statues of Alexander the Great and his father Philip are not old. They try to show their heros and also the history of the country with these statues to us tourists. Additionally, there is a big and very expensive sign of cross on the highest hill of Skopje.
If you want to eat something traditional I can recommend you: Kebab, Shopska salad and haricot beans stew. We ate all of them. Their dishes are very similar with Turkish meals so I liked them very much. Especially the salad is my favorite. It contains tomato and cucumber but they put a special and traditional cheese on it. So, the cheese makes the salad very delicious. By the way, we payed only 280 denars for the kebab, salad, stew and ayran. It equals only 4.5 euros! This price is very less for these delicious meals. As I said before, the restaurants in this city are really cheap.
We stayed at Hotel Bellevue in Skopje. It has 4 stars and a big natural garden. It looks like a good hotel but I must say this the bed was not really comfortable. And also I didn’t like the breakfast in this hotel. I think that they need to give more options to the visitors. That’s why I’m not going to recommend this hotel to you guys!
DAY 2: CANYON MATKA – BELGRADE (SERBIA)
We woke up at 5.50 am to see this natural beauty called Canyon Matka but it is really worth it! You can get a deep breath and feel the nature here. The view is amazing! However, be careful about the weather. It can be colder than the city. When we get there, I wore my pullover and a jean jacket on my t-shirt.
We made a boat trip there to feel the nature better. However, it can be much more cold on the boat, because of the wind. So if you don’t prefer to make a boat trip, you can just drink your coffee in this cute restaurant in Canyon Matka.
Then we left there, to go and see the capital city of Serbia: Belgrade. Serbia is the second country of my Balkans tour. We started to travel this city from Belgrade Fortress and the Kalemegdan Park. This ancient fortress has an amazing view. You can see the intersection point of Danube and Sava rivers from there. Also there are some historical buildings in this area. You should absolutely visit this place!
By the way, if you have enough time, you can visit the largest zoo in Belgrade near this area. After that, we went to Knez Mihailova Street to eat something. This street looks like İstiklal Street in İstanbul. There are lots of showy cafes, shopping centers and souvenirs shops here.
Finally, we went our hotel in the night. Our hotel was Hotel Sumadija. It has four stars and it was pretty comfortable. I can recommend you.
DAY 3: SREBRENICA – SARAJEVO (BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA)
Good morning! It’s the third day of my Balkans tour and our next stop is Bosnia & Herzegovina. We will go Sarajevo which is the capital and largest city of this country. But first, there is an important place to see which is called Srebrenica.
I think that, this is the most sad part of my Balkans tour. However, everyone should go there and see better, what happened in Srebrenica. There was a big and terrible ethnic cleansing in 1995. Actually, when I was 1 years old. It is not an old story, everything has happened very close. 8372 Bosniak (Bosnian muslim) killed by Serbian soldiers in July, 1995.
When we get there I saw that, the number of dead person is still changing. They find new graves every year. There is a Srebrenica Memorial Room in a factory and you can find photos of this ugly process and a video film which made me cry. There are lots of words to say about this terrible process but I just recommend you to go there and think more about the problems and realities in our bad world.
After than that, we took our bus and went to Sarajevo. As I said before this city is the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Sarajevo is one of my favorite city in my Balkans tour. Because you can see different cultures, religions and architecture together in one city. One part of city shows us the Ottoman Empire times. You can see big stone mosques, mausoleums and caravanserai in this part of the city. Besides, you can find a huge church and lots of modern buildings which are made by Austro-Hungarian Empire on the other side. There is a line called ‘Meeting of Cultures’ in the city. This is the spot where two dominant cultures can seen clearly on the left and right side of the line. I haven’t seen something like this before, so it is really interesting!
Furthermore, the meals are really delicious. I ate Bosnian Burek and ayran in Sarajevo and it was really delicious. I want to recommend you to eat it in “Sač”. (Sač, Bravadžiluk mali). As I said before their dishes are really tasty so I want to recommend you to eat traditional apple dessert (Tuhafija) and to drink Bosnian coffee if you go there. By the way, Bosnian coffee is very similar with Turkish coffee. And if you want to buy a gift but something special about this city, you can prefer a Bosnian coffee set! I bought it for my mother.
Finally we stayed in Spa Hotel Terme. It is a good hotel with 4 stars however I should say this, there was a little problem about wifi connection from the rooms.
DAY 4: MOSTAR – BLAGAJ (BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA)
Today our new location is Mostar. Mostar is also one of my favorite city in Balkans tour. Because there is a beautiful stone bridge in Mostar which has a crescent shape. This bridge is called “Mostar Bridge” and it is in Unesco World Heritage List since 2005. Its architect is Hayreddin who was a student of Architect Sinan. As you know that I’m an architect and the first time I saw this bridge was in a lesson in my university, 5 years ago. That’s why I really impressed to see this beautiful bridge.
Additionally, there is an interesting story about this bridge. In 1566, Mostar bridge has built to connect Muslims and Croatian people who were living different sides of it. And it has been a powerful symbol and a tourist center for many years. However, Architect Hayreddin has never seen the complete version of his bridge because he afraid that it couldn’t stand strong. That’s why he told workers how to finish it, and gone before completing his awesome bridge.
Furthermore, this bridge was a symbol of men bravery in the past. Because if they want to get married with a woman, they have to jump from this bridge to show their bravery and love first. You can still see some men waiting around the bridge for jumping. But not for a woman, for tourists and their money of course!
I like this city very much because I adore old narrow stone streets and also old buildings. Besides, their dishes are really good. I ate Turkish Ravioli in “Sadrvan” cafe and I absolutely recommend you to go and eat! If it is summer, you can have your delicious ice cream like me and walk around the Mostar Bridge area.
The sad side of this city is you can still see the traces of war on every corner. The buildings that got bombed, they are still there. The buildings walls have lots of traces of bullets. They don’t prefer to rebuild them, because they don’t want to forget it. It makes you very sad. Additionally, the Mostar bridge also got bombed in this war and it has been rebuilt in 2004.
After travelling Mostar City, we went to Blagaj Tekija. There is a wooden house which lean on huge rocks. Sari Saltik died in 1297 and he lies in this house. Sari Saltik was a 13th-century Aelvi Turkish dervish. “In the course of the 93 years of his life, for sake of service of Islam, he was trying to show people the importance of accuracy, doing favour, and not breaking hearts.” We visited his house and it was really interesting. You can see the shape of rock inside of the house’s walls.
There are some good restaurants and cafes near the Buna River. We ate lamb there and it was really delicious! If you want to eat something there, I absolutely recommend you to eat it with ayran. By the way, it is pretty cheap!
DAY 5: KOTOR – BUDVA (MONTENEGRO)
We woke up very early again because we were going to go another country. Fourth country of my Balkans tour is beautiful Montenegro. But first there is a small village to see before leave Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is Pocitelj.
Pocitelj is a small village which contains lots of cute stone houses, fort and a mosque. Turkish people are living there. We had a coffee break there in the early times of morning. Actually we drank our last Bosnian Coffee. It was really silence and peaceful to be there. Additionally, you can buy something organic from Pocitelj because peasants are selling fruits there. We bought pomegranate and it was really delicious. After that, we took our bus to go Montenegro.
Montenegro is a small country in Southeastern Europe bordered by Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, and the Adriatic Sea. Montenegro has an estimated 2018 population of 629,219. Our first stop in Montenegro was Kotor. This city has an amazing view with huge mountains and Adriatic Sea. If you look at this city from the top of a mountain you will absolutely get impressed. Besides of its natural beauty, it has also an old town which is really nice. You can see stone churches, castles and palaces in old town. We hadn’t got enough time to go to castle but I think it would be very nice to see this city from the top!
If you are looking for a summer holiday I absolutely recommend you to go Kotor or Budva. Because they have beautiful sea with awesome nature and old ancient buildings. I don’t think a place better than that! If I decide to make another Balkans tour, I’ll definitely go to Kotor again! By the way this country has a difference, they use euros in their daily life.
Then we passed to Budva which is known for sandy beaches and nightlife. We visited its old town and drank something in a good cafe in old town. I like the architecture in this city because the buildings made with light white stones and they look very nice with dark palm trees. After than that, we went to Saint Ivan Church. This church is near by the Adriatic Sea with a small square in front of it. There was a boy playing the guitar. So we watched this architectural and natural beauty with this relaxing music. It was really nice!
Furthermore, I want to talk about an luxury island in Budva. It is called ” Sveti Stefan Island”. There are lots of luxury 5 stars hotels and clear sandy beaches here. Famous people like David and Victoria Beckham prefer to spend their summer times in this island. Finally, we stayed at Hotel Oasis in the night. It is a 4 stars hotel in Podgorica and our room was very clean and comfortable.
DAY 6: TIRANA – OHRID (ALBANIA / REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA)
On the sixth day of my Balkans tour we went to Tirana which is the capital city of Albania. Actually, there are some important points to visit like Clock Tower, Ethem Bej Mosque, National History Museum and Skanderbeg Monument however I didn’t really impressed from this city. We just took some photos of Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral and drank coffee in a shopping center. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it very much!
If you looking to eat something traditional they have Elbasan pan. It is a traditional food with lamb, milk and egg. But I don’t like it! This food is too heavy for me! After than that, we took our bus to turn back to Republic of Macedonia. Actually Ohrid was the beginning point of our Balkans tour, however when we got Ohrid we directly went to Skopje. That’s why we turned back to Ohrid and started to travel this cute city.
Ohrid has a different architecture which is very similar with Safranbolu. If you don’t know where is Safranbolu, it is a town in Turkey and it is in Unesco World Heritage List. You can see wooden houses, narrow stone streets and small souvenir shops in Ohrid center like Safranbolu. Furthermore, Ohrid is an important tourist center because of its big and blue lake. Tourists come here every summer to enjoy the lake and town.
Ohrid is famous with its special pearl. However, this pearl is not a real pearl. It is handmade. It is made with mother of pearl and an endemic fish species which lives in lake Ohrid. Its name is aka Ohridski biseri. It only exists in Lake Ohrid. They cover the pearl with the fish scale.That sounds so nice to me and I decided to buy earrings for myself.
We stayed in Hotel Prestol and it was comfortable. It is a little far away from the center but if you have a vehicle like us, it doesn’t matter. Furhermore, it has a beautiful lake view!
DAY 7: MONASTERY OF SAINT NAUM – BITOLA (REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA)
In early times of morning we went to Monastery of Saint Naum and it was totally perfect. The view of lake was amazing. Besides, you should take a cockboat tour there. It was the most peaceful time in my Balkans tour. Think that it is 9 o’clock in the morning and you’re on a cockboat. You’re passing through between green trees on the water. And you can see how wonderful the water is. Because it is totally clear and you can see what is here under the water. I think that it was a perfect relaxing experience and the lake is the most clear one I’ve ever seen. Furthermore, there are beautiful cafes near the lake so you can take your coffee here in silence and peace.
After than Monastery, we went to Resen. This city is famous with its delicious apples. You can see lots of apple fields on the road. I ate it and it was really deicious. Actually, we went there to see the Niyazi Bey’s palace. He made this palace according to a postcard he saw from his friend. That sounds really interesting I think!
After than that, we went to Bitola. This is the city which Mustafa Kemal Atatürk went to high school. We went there to visit his school. Actually it is International Triennial of Graphic Art museum now. We saw his uniforms and some special belongings in the museum. And also there was a wax sculpture of him that shows us how was he look like in his 15s. That was so nice to see it. Furthermore, there is a love story about Atatürk and Eleni Karinte. You can also see the love letter that Eleni wrote to Atatürk, in the museum. After museum, we turned back to Ohrid.
DAY 8: OHRID – ISTANBUL
This is the last day of my Balkans tour. We spent our last few hours in Ohrid center. We drank our coffee near by the Lake Ohrid, than we moved to airport.
It was so nice to travel with a tour. I want to thank all my tour friends and our tour guide. If you have never travelled with a tour, Balkans tour is perfect for trying it! Because there are lots of things to learn and visit so it is very comfortable to travel with a guide. He can show you the important places and tell their story. And you don’t need to think how can I go that place or where I’m going to stay tonight. All you need to do is travel, learn and eat! I’m sure that you’ll love to see different countries and cultures every single day!
See you at the next country guys!