50 days in the Balkans
Updated: Jan 23, 2020
I’ve visited 8 Balkan states, learned a new alphabet (Cyrillic) and practised charades on a daily basis.
My dairy intolerance has been questioned, my patience pushed to the limit by excessive bureaucratic systems, and my nerves tested by rabid dogs and terrifying taxi drivers.
The Boyfriend and I hired a car in Bosnia and Bulgaria, both times ending up lost on mountain tracks entirely unsuitable for our economy choice.
But even having a rental car just highlights how travel in my 30s differs with that of my 20s. Back then, I was on a much tighter budget when backpacking around SE Asia and Indonesia, visiting New Zealand (twice), as well as living in South Korea, Germany and Spain.
I’m carrying 2kgs more luggage with me this time round, mostly made up my old woman knee brace, a gigantic bag of medicines and a laptop. I’m working one day a week as I travel so I’m much more reliant on wifi than a decade ago.
In fact, did wifi even exist back in the day? I remember using a Lonely Planet guide and visiting internet cafes to email home and back up my camera pictures. Yes camera, not phone.
Twice we’ve been caught out with booking.com when chancers have put up places to stay which don’t actually exist.
My advice here is always to contact the property as soon as you book to say hi and ask for directions before arriving. If you hear nothing back, it’s not a good sign.
The Balkans diet relies heavily on meat, carbs with a token salad.
I have eaten my body weight twice over in breads and cevapis since leaving England and now have a Balkans belly to show for it.
Interestingly, in the UK I have quite a severe allergy to cows’ milk but here I have been able to eat cheese and yoghurt with no ill effects at all. However, this is only in village areas where the hosts or café gets their produce from local farms.
I always thought it was the lactose I reacted to but could it be something else? I will have to look into this when I get home as it’s most bizarre.
The next 50 days bring us to Christmas where, hopefully, we'll be in Sri Lanka on a beach – woohoo. Between now and then, we are heading quickly through Turkey on a train (to avoid any conflict) eastwards to Georgia and Azerbaijan, after which we’ll fly to southern India.