I’ve never written a year in review article before, but for some reason I’m driven to do so this year, and when I counted up I was shocked to see that I visited 19 countries in 2015! What’s even more amazing is that I did that in just seven months, because I stayed with my father in Illinois during the final months of his life and didn’t hit the road permanently until May 19th (I did manage to sneak away for a week earlier in the year for a long dreamed of visit to Cuba with Discover Corps).
My travels began in earnest when I flew over the pond to join Viking River’s Grand European Tour. For 15 days we cruised on rivers and canals through Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and into Hungary, sailing into Budapest after dark, with its exquisite panoply of illuminated bridges, palaces, and statues spread before us. At the end of the cruise, I stayed in Budapest for several weeks before visiting friends in far Eastern Hungary, who took me on a fascinating day trip to western Ukraine.
In mid-July, I embarked on a journey through the ex-Yugoslavian countries of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although it was never part of Yugoslavia, I included Albania, as doing so meant I would have visited every country in Eastern Europe. This had been high on my travel wish list for a long time, as it is a region that is little known and even less understood, especially for most Americans, and I felt certain it would offer up surprises. I was not disappointed. More than surprising, it was fascinating. Though the convoluted history made my head hurt, I found kind and generous people, a region that has not been ruined by tourism, and prices that were astonishingly affordable. Read More
Click on title of post to view photo in large format: Statue of Pope John Paul II stands in front of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The cathedral is located in the old town area of the city, literally steps from the iconic Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque, which is often pointed to as proof that Sarajevo has historically been a city where all religions and Read More
Click on title of post to view photo in large format: Typical street in the old Turkish Bazaar in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Miris Dunja became my preferred place to have coffee or tea each day, along with dessert. Bosnians take numerous breaks each day to sip tiny cups of Read More
Do you Blab? Do you even know what Blab is? It’s a live-casting video program that features real-time interviews, and I just did my first one.
Earlier this morning I was interviewed by The Expat Chat about why I think Eastern Europe is the next hot travel destination. Over the past couple of years, I’ve visited every country in Eastern Europe, so I have a lot to say on the subject.
If you have a fascination for Eastern Europe, as I do, you’ll want to listen to my 52 minute interview. The session was recorded live and after it concluded, Blab uploaded it to YouTube, where it’s now available for everyone to see. Read More
Click on title of post to view photo in large format: The spectacular Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque in the old town part of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, is most spectacular at night. It is considered one of the world’s best examples of Ottoman architecture and is the most important Read More
Miran, owner of Miran Hostel, is an angry man. “I am not politically correct and you will not like a lot of what I say,” he announced as we climbed into his van for a tour of Mostar and southwest Bosnia-Herzegovina. He slammed the sliding door shut and popped a Bosnian folk rock DVD into the stereo, cranking up the volume as high as it would go. Shouting to be heard, he launched into a tirade about the evils of fascism, capitalism, Obama, Putin, war, and the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
Not far from Mostar, he turned onto a weed-choked strip of concrete that doglegged to the right between two rocky cliffs. The road ended at a gaping concrete hangar that had been carved into the hillside. Armed with flashlights, we walked around the nuclear-proof door that today hangs partially open and followed Miran into murky depths. He led us past abandoned toilets and bunk rooms to a wide concrete strip at the other end of the hangar that had once been used for takeoffs and landings. “This was a secret air base for many years; not even the people from the town that sits atop the hangar knew it existed and soldiers had permission to shoot intruders on sight. The hangar could hold more than 20 planes, along with all the equipment and personnel to service them. I’ve been trying to open a museum here; my friends and I even have some of the planes that were kept here, but we can’t get the permits because our government is so corrupt.” Read More