Eastern Europe Springtime Travels
Spring in Spain v.2016 + Travels to Eastern Europe
Last year we curated our very own “Spring in Spain Tour”. Our original intention was to repeat this journey and soak up more of our beloved Spain. But, restlessness and wanderlust began to stir up our plans and in the end we decided to expand our spring time tour and explore a portion of Eastern Europe, with a focus on the Balkans.
Spring is a lovely time to travel to Europe (& in general), don’t you think? You may have some rain (we did) but you also get green fields, budding trees and early harvests of local fruits and vegetables. There may be a few places closed for remodeling in preparation for “the season” but as a trade off you get to mostly avoid the crowds and the spiked summer prices. You can take part in the buzz that permeates throughout city centers as people emerge from their winter hibernation to soak up a little sun and enjoy the first warm days of the year. The frequency of buses and trains may be limited as they aren’t yet running on “peak season schedules” but there is still always an option that works and rarely do you have to book ahead like you would in mid-summer. Springtime Perfection!
I hope to do a little storytelling about some of the places we visited and people we met over the coming weeks, but in the meantime, wanted to share a few favorite snaps (according to my Instagram feed.)
Spain is a gem of a destination and a perfect entry point for any trip to Europe. Even more so for us as the best mileage award airfare tickets I can get are on Iberia Airlines, making Madrid a natural point of entry. We enjoyed our “Spring in Spain Tour” from last year so much that we decided to repeat a few favorite locations and check out a few new ones as well.
Istanbul has been of interest to both of us for ages, so we were happy to be able to snag mileage award tickets from Madrid to Istanbul and get an introduction to this unique and mesmerizing city.
Bulgaria started snagging my attention a few years ago when I read a few articles about some of the cities scattered around this country which I knew very little about. A pleasant bus ride from Istanbul and we were in the Balkans region, the focal point for this trip.
After years of war and conflict the former Yugoslavia was carved up into 6-7 nations (Kosovo is a disputed nation and recognized by some but not by others). We wanted to explore as much in these new nations as possible, starting with Belgrade, Serbia
Somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that we just *had* to take the 12 hour scenic train from Belgrade out to the Adriatic Sea. This took us to Montenegro, a country with exceptional scenery and a population that smokes cigarettes like mad!
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
I was most excited about our week in Bosnia & Herzegovina and it did not disappoint. While scars of the Balkans Wars of the ’90s could be seen throughout the former Yugoslavian nations, it was most evident and prominent in this area, so there was much to learn. As the only Muslim country from former Yugoslavia it was also interesting to see how much influence from the East exists here and we were happy to be reunited with some favorite Turkish-inspired foods, or variants of.
We spent the most time in Croatia, a total of 9 days, and while it wasn’t my favorite country from the journey it has many redeeming qualities and so much to explore. Plus, the best food on our journey was found here, in the idyllic Istrian Peninsula
Southern Croatia – Dubrovnik
Zagreb, Capital City
Northern Croatia, Istrian Peninsula
Our final former Yugoslavian country (on this trip, we left Macedonia & Kosovo for another day) was the small nation of Slovenia. One day was spent exploring castles & caves in the interior of the country and then a weekend in capital Ljubljana to round out our visit.
We decided to wrap up our trip with a few of the more classic Eastern/Central European destinations: Budapest & Prague. Budapest ended up being a highlight of the overall journey and is such a likeable & liveable city!
A brief 24 hour stop in Slovakia and we were on our way to our final country on this trip – the Czech Republic. We spent a lovely afternoon & evening checking out the smaller, university town of Brno before making our way to our final stop, Prague!