FOREIGN TRAVEL

CHALKIDIKI FEVER

Every year, come a long weekend and the start of the holiday season, the Bulgarian media focus on this nation's border crossings with Greece, and start counting the cars in the queues. Ordinary Bulgarians, for their part, start filling their Facebook and Instagram pages with photos of beaches, ice coffee and tables groaning under the weight of plates of Kalamari and Horiatiki salad, and glasses of Ouzo and Retsina.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

ROUND BLACK SEA IN 3 VAGABONDS PART 2: THE NATURE

What do you need to make a sea? In the case of the Black Sea, you take three tectonic plates between Europe and Asia that clash, divide and subside under the pressure of volcanic activity for several million years, and let rivers and rains fill the gaps. You then add a narrow strait to connect the water basin to the Mediterranean. The end result is a sea with low salinity whose shores and currents still reflect its geological past: on maps and in aerial photographs the two ancient basins that made the current Black Sea are still clearly discernible, divided by a pointy end: the Crimea.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

ROUND BLACK SEA IN 3 VAGABONDS. PART 1: THE HISTORY

It encompasses six countries, with wide rivers, majestic mountains and splendid beaches, and the remains of ancient civilisations and modern developments. Peopled with adherents of the three Abrahamic religions, and redolent of times of splendour, confrontation and tragedy, the shores of the Black Sea combine different nations, geographic and climatic features, and history. In a series of three articles, we will cover the most exiting sites in a region that is still underexplored by Western travellers. We begin with the history of the Black Sea.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

NORTH MACEDONIA

The Balkans are associated in the common imagination with bloody conflicts, but in recent months a series of events challenged this notion. After years of grandstanding and disputes two Balkan countries finally agreed on... a name. Greece accepted to stop referring to its northwestern neighbour as Skopje, the name of its capital city. Said neighbour, for its part, agreed to stop calling itself Macedonia, recognising that there is a Macedonia in Greece, too. Thus, the republic of North Macedonia was born.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

SPELL OF SPETSES SURVIVES

The villa on the hill looks as un-Greek as I expected from the quote of its most famous guest, an English author once declared to be one of the most important writers in the English language. The building is too far from the road to see in detail, yet I find myself trying to discern the distant music of a virginal coming from the abode of a mysterious man who seemingly posses inner knowledge of and power over humanity's dark side.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

THESSALONIKI WINTER BLISS

Winter with its cold, ice and smog can be overwhelming in Bulgaria. Thankfully, there is a quick solution: Thessaloniki.

The second largest city in Greece is a five-hour drive from Sofia, and has everything you might crave in the harsh Balkan winter. The weather is balmier. There is no ice. The sea breeze wafts in fresh air and the ideal conditions to relax, unbutton your coat and breathe freely.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

CORFU DREAMS

Greece has thousands of islands and each of them has its own identity, even those that belong to the same archipelago. In this highly competitive crowd, however, Corfu – or Kerkyra – stands out.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

UNKNOWN ALBANIA

For millennia, Albania was a country impenetrable to outsiders. Guarded by steep and menacing mountains, it allowed Romans and Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans, Fascist Italians and Nazi Germans to colonise and properly rule only its thin strip of coast and a handful of cities. The rest of the country, hidden behind rising peaks crisscrossed by narrow and dangerous roads, remained isolated, independent, ruled by its own tribes and codes. Communist dictator Enver Hoxha brought his country's isolation to a whole new level.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

LOST CITY OF ANI

Burdened with the robotic directions of Satnav devices, we have lost the ability to feel like explorers. Yet, there are places that, though identifiable on Satnav, still convey the feeling that they are at the edge of the known world.
Ani on the Turkish-Armenian frontier is one such place.

Scattered on the steep bank of the border-defining Arpa Chai river, Ani is what remains of the once populous capital of Armenia. Domed churches of dark grey and red stones sprout from heaps of debris among a barren landscape: otherworldly, surreal, dreamlike.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

FAR FROM SUMMER CROWDS IN GREECE

While you speed westwards on the Egnatia Odos highway in Greece towards the port of Igoumenitsa with its ferries, you are passing by places that deserve more than just reading their names on the roadsigns and then forgetting them.

North of the highway you will find several towns deserving of a detour because of their situation and interesting history.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

FROM VENDETTAS TO HEAVEN

Bees are buzzing around the dragon flowers sprouting from the stone walls of a three-storey tower. Old and weathered, the tower rises amid quiet lanes scorched by the sun. A couple of elderly men are eyeing us from the shadows of the nearby tavern.

"Orea," say the men.

"Einai para poli orea," we answer. Indeed, the tower is beautiful. There are several more around, remains from the days when exploring the Mani, the middle leg of the Peloponnese Peninsula, was not that easy.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

IRON CHURCH ON ISTANBUL'S GOLDEN HORN

With its mixture of Byzantine, Ottoman and fin-de-siècle heritage, Istanbul is never short of sights to visit, explore and marvel at. Among its lesser known treasures, one stands out. It is both a curiosity and a place with an intriguing history, strongly connected to Bulgaria.

The Church of St Stefan on the banks of the Golden Horn is made entirely of iron. It belongs to the city's Bulgarian community and played a crucial part in 19th century Bulgarian history.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

OUR MEN IN VIENNA

More than 10,000 Bulgarians live in Vienna today, a community with its own life, cultural centres and even a newspaper. Most arrived after 1989, although the Bulgarian presence in the Austrian capital is much older. It stretches back to Ottoman times, when Bulgarians lived, studied and traded in the capital of the then Habsburg Empire. This trend intensified after the Bulgarian state was restored, in 1878. Vienna was then the cosmopolitan heart of Central Europe: a place of wealth, culture, political thought, science and innovations that poured into Bulgarian lands via the Danube.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

THE LAND OF DRACULA

Dracula, Bram Stoker's notorious creation, is one of Romania's most recognisable symbols and, since the 2000s, the country has been liberally cashing in on this. Most of the visitors obviously flock to the atmospheric Bran Castle, in Transylvania, the supposed lair of the vampire.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

TIRANA, ALBANIA'S CAPITAL, IS NO LONGER ONE OF THE MOST ISOLATED PLACES IN EUROPE

Albania and its capital are shrouded in the atmosphere of a little-known, little-visited, isolated and poor country haunted by the memories of Europe's last dictatorship.

Between 1944 and 1991 Tirana was the capital of Communist Albania. Most of those years were spent under the Stalinist Enver Hoxha, who imposed total isolation on the nation. Albania was a North Korea in southern Europe. Add this to Albania's late start as a nation state, in 1912, and its troubled transition to democracy in the 1990s, and you end up with a destination that simultaneously fascinates and frightens.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

ROMANIA'S FORTIFIED CHURCHES

They define the Transylvanian landscape as much as the thick forests of the Carpathians, and are so ubiquitous that one stops paying particular attention to them after visiting the most popular ones, including the supposed Dracula haunt at Bran Castle and atmospheric Sighişoara.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

¿HAVANA, SI?

I had a moral dilemma whether I should be visiting Cuba at all. All my friends, who'd been there in recent years, had been urging me: "Go! Go! Go before it changes forever! Go now, because in a couple of years' time Starbucks and McDonald's will be all over the place!"

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment

GUČA MADNESS

At the Guča Trumpet Festival, exaggeration is the norm. Every August this sleepy town in southern Serbia attracts thousands of people from all over the Balkans – and increasingly beyond – for several days of traditional brass music unleashed by dozens of bands, large and small, of dancing and singing, of overeating and overdrinking, of behaving as if there is no tomorrow, when life is to be lived to the full.

Comments: 0

Read more Add new comment