Aug 30

SKOPJE, THE INCREDIBLE BLEND OF CULTURES AND FLAVORS (SKOPJE)

Skopje, Macedonia’s capital has experienced the devastating earthquake of 1963 that destroyed many beautiful buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries After subsequent reconstruction, it resulted a concrete landscape that many have associated with the image of the former communist countries. Those who have visited Skopje recently were disappointed to see many of the buildings in the center covered by scaffolding, following extensive reconstruction programs of the city, but now things are coming together and Skopje is regaining its old charm.

In any case, a trip to these places reveals a fascinating destination, which abounds in culture and hospitality, making up for the lack of aesthetics, compared to other cities and places of the former Yugoslavia. The urban identity is given by the mixture of apartment blocks, mosques, minarets and Orthodox churches on the majestic background of the mountains all of these being an eloquent evidence of the cultural historical heritage loaded.

Spread on the banks of the Vardar River, visitors have to head north to take a look at the old Turkish part of town, Carsija. Here, cobblestone streets and bazaars are full of shops selling everything from clothes to glittering jewelry. These streets are full of bustle and are the perfect location to make a stop for eating and drinking; the place is practically “invaded” by Turkish restaurants serving mouthwatering dishes.

The sky of Carsija is dominated by Kale Fortress, which is dating from the 10th century. This sight is a mixture of ruins which have existed for only 600 years, but the place preserves artifacts and archeological remains from edifices built in the sixth century A.D. The view the Skopje that you can see from the fortress, above the Vardar River is beyond impressive.

A walk downhill, taking Carsija as a starting point, will lead to Kamen Most, a 15th-century stone bridge which links the surroundings to Makedoniki Polstad Market, located in the south of the river. Marsal Tito is perfect to relax in a café or bar or for shopping in the elegant shops nearby.

Music is an integral part of the rich culture of Macedonia, strongly influenced by the gypsy communities in the area. Suto Orizari, located on the outskirts of Skopje, known under the name of Shutka is the largest community of gypsies and first place belonging to this ethnic group, with independent governance. This place is more of a point of interest to those fascinated by gypsy culture than a tourist attraction in itself.

Makedoniki Polstad Market is reputed to be one of the best places in the Balkans where you can bargain, and if you’re a fan of gypsy music, there are plenty of street vendors who will sell you CDs of local artists. Nearby, there are several parks and recreation points rather than places of conventional beauty. Architecture is a multicolored puzzle that includes everything from shacks to the most elaborate and best looking houses (belonging to the rich people, of course).

If you get here during the summer, you might be a witness to the wedding party taking place just down the street. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the warmth and charm of locals and many people mention a visit in this area as having a special status and being a landmark of their journey in Macedonia.

Photo source:

Picture 1: mcgroup.com ; Picture 2: wowcher.co.uk; Picture 3: blog.hostelite.com; Picture 4: themisanthropesjournal.blogspot.ro; Picture 5: stophavingaboringlife.com; Picture 6: kairosphotos.photoshelter.com
Jul 26

MONTENEGRO – THE UNKNOWN JEWEL OF THE BALKANS

Nestled in the heart of the Western Balkans, Montenegro enjoys a mysterious reputation gathered over the years in which tourism has been neglected, adding to the problems in the region. Meanwhile, Montenegro has gained a certain opening, mainly through the recent massive investment from Russia.

For those who want to fly directly into the heart of the country and explore the mountains first, the country capital Podgorica is the best choice. Besides the capital city, you can go to Tivat, which is situated on the coast and offers the great option to enjoy the Adriatic Sea; you can start by sinking your feet in the shallow waves and breathe the fresh air of the surroundings. If you want to make Montenegro a part of a circuit through several countries, then, for more adventure, you can fly to Bosnia, Sarajevo and then go towards the south; or if you want to go through Croatia, discover the charming Croatian coast town, Dubrovnik before everything.

The tip we want to offer you is to make sure you find a taxi driver who speaks English well while at the airport. If you grant a better price, then he will give you a discount and will take you to all the interesting places that are not entirely known.

Another tip we must give you is to avoid the busy season. This is a very important issue in order to have a successful vacation in Montenegro because this country is known to have the particularity of being a paradise for lovers of the summer sun who arrive all the way from Russia, Ukraine, Serbia and other countries. The season between July and August make locations like Costa del Sol, the Canary Islands and the Greek islands seem deserted. If you do not want your elbows scuffing on a bumpy shore, and if you are looking for more silence, then May, June and September are a much better option. This thing goes for resorts inside the country as well, although the scenery provided by a ski holiday is a cheap and pleasant alternative for the winter months.

Signs of recovery in Montenegro. Given the historical alignment with Russia, it was only a matter of time before the little Orthodox country was noticed by the Russian oligarchs. Previously, in Montenegro there had been an influx of Irish investments before the economic downturn of Ireland; afterwards there was a free way for people like Roman Abramovich, who pumped a lot of money to revive the dormant coast.

Enjoy the delights of the coast. There is something for everyone on the road located on the southern border with Croatia, where the town of Herceg Novi exerts influence over a significant number of Montenegrin traditional towns in the south. Once you get in the old town, you are taken down to the Bay of Kotor which makes its way around towering steep but beautiful cliffs. Perast is worth a stop, while Kotor itself is a haven for seafaring community, often hosting  extravagant yachts during the summer months in the port. Tivat is known primarily for its airport and therefore the next valuable destination is Budva, despite the incredible boom of the buildings and real estate, which captured the hills behind. If you can see beyond them, you can even hear the echo of old Dubrovnik with its streets of marble, and before the next stop, there is Sveti Stefan, which is located five kilometers south and attracts the admiration of tourists and locals alike.

If you want to know the charming hospitality of Montenegrins then look for Petrovac town, where you can roam around. And also Lucice beach, located a few minutes away, by foot – an idyllic place where you can enjoy the sun and crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea, the last important tourist location before arriving in Bar a nice little town known for its industrial port, Ulcinj – which was mostly Albanian than Montenegrin.

Our little piece of advice is to watch the price grammage in restaurants, which proves to be quite high. Ask the price of each plate when you order, especially when it’s over, otherwise you will be surprised to pay more than you originally planned.

Lovcen National Park makes up the perfect scenery for the Adriatic Sea glitter, but once you start to climb the hills, you will feel like you have arrived in another country. Quite sparsely populated, their peaks seem to be a mirror that reflects the spirit of the coastline. Mount Lovcen watching over the ancient capital Cetinje from above – a peculiar blend of royal splendor and rural life. Moving towards the east, you will find Lake Skadar National Park, which is a paradise of birds that stretches almost to Albania. If you have more time available, there is a small town on the way that suddenly takes you back in time.

The capital city Podgorica is emerging fro between the mountains, passing through a vast plain; from the outside it looks very picturesque due to the tree-lined streets and rivers that cross this place. From a cultural standpoint there is not much to see here, so you can relax in one of the cafes in the area, you can hang out in the main square or you see a football game on the national stadium, in exchange for a pound.

The local bus lines are cheap and run regularly in Montenegro. Enquire at the reception, or looking for the central station, where daily circulation schedules are displayed at hand.

Once you see the coast and central region, you can venture up north to the Ostrog Monastery, sheltered by cliffs above the Zeta Valley – a place to be seen because otherwise you can’t immagine so much beauty. After that, it’s time to pay a visit to Durmitor National Park, where you can unleash your adventurous spirit, surrounding the 18 glacial lakes scattered in the area. Whether you crave for rafting on the Tara River’s white waters, or after skiing in the cold, here’s everything you need. Walking and tracking in this area is wonderful if you take into account the amazing wildlife.

The Biogradska Gora National Park offers a great variety of amazing touristic opportunities for the active ones, which include the challenge provided by the town of Kolasin and the local skiing offers granted by a country which has finally entered with boldness into a new travel light.

Hurry up and discover Montenegro abd the wonders that you can find here before it gets too crowded!

Photo source:

Picture 1: vjv.com; Picture 2: kingofwallpapers.com; Picture 3: pinterest.com; Picture 4: item-voyage.fr; Picture 5: charterworld.com; Picture 6: morepep.com; Picture 7: bespokeyachtcharter.com
Apr 12

BELGRADE – THE CAPITAL OF WHITE NIGHTS

Here we are, back to the Balkans, in the capital city of Serbia, Belgrade. Why Belgrade? Because rumor has it that this it the IT place of nightlife in all Europe, at the moment. Seems more like a piece of info pour les connaisseurs, as most folks still prefer to enroach upon the more “certificated”spots on the west side of the Old Continent, such as Paris, Barcelona, Milan or Berlin.

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http://www.teamsdesign.com/

Most of us cannot forget the painful yesterdays of Belgrade and former Yugoslavia, but things are settling down little by little. Probably as a revenge for all the anguish of the last decade of the previous century, Belgrade is trying to move on and switch to a different demeanor that would remind us of the famous “seize the day” adage.

Little is known of this corner of the world, still, but it seems that the impetuous temperament of the locals is beginning to reverberate and catch the eye of the inquisitive adventurers.

Before you decide to pay a visit , you must get an idea about the cultural background of Belgrade and the entire country – a tremendously vast mosaic of influences, which merged into the original shape and singularity that Serbia is today.

A Slavic nation with a strong sense of identity, the Serbs have dealt with centuries of political and cultural influences coming from the Ottomans, the Byzantine Empire, Russia, the Vatican, contemporary Western powers and so on, but not only they haven’t lost their essence, on the contrary, they have enriched it and solidified it into a new status worthy of recognition.

belgrade5

http://belgradecat.com/

Since the 19th century, the Serbs have known a continuous age of cultural evolvement, generated by the Habsburg Dinasty that established several superior educational centers, such as faculties and colleges, yielded throughout time mainly by religious figures who have imposed a strict demeanor on society. Speaking of which, do not miss the church of Saint Peter near Novi Pazar, the oldest in Serbia; it is very well-preserved and offers a vivid lesson of historic endurance.

The educational boost has proven great achievements in fields such as philosophy, science, economy, arts, literature and architecture. On the background of a flourishing culture, the scholars agreed on the necessity of creating a typical alphabet, known as Serbian Cyrillic, used only in this particular part of the Slavic world, which distinguishes itself from the classic one, as we now it to be in Russia, Bulgaria etc.

Nevertheless, this cultural complexity thoroughly reflects on people’s attitude and way of life, that blend the colourful spirit of the Balkans with the chic of aristocracy.

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http://www.modernwearing.com/

One of the four European capitals placed on the Danube River, Belgrade is also crossed by another river, Sava, and it seems that this very placement amplifies the potential of the the fun you can have. If, so far, the underground or the hights of the sky scrapers were the highlight of worldwide entertainment, Belgrade gives you the chance to float, not only on it’s waters, but on modern beats coming from the splavovi, the emblematic rafts that host insane parties and all sorts of notorious social events. But if you are not accustomed to the splavovi, do not imagine we’re talking about a bunch of logs held together, but right-down floating clubs, all frolicking and glitzing, which might somewhat remind you of them ancient Roman feasts (in the good way, but don’t say you haven’t been warned!). That goes on specifically during summertime, but there are a few reserved for the cold season, as well; and if water-in-winter is too mainstream, you can always relax on the sky slopes nearby Belgrade, that are in great condition and very biding.

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www.beogradnocu.com

Now, if you’re not so much on the wild side and you prefer a more settled, cozy or intellectual atmosphere, there are plenty to choose from, as every month is dedicated to a series of events.

For instance, in May we have the Night of Museums (Noć Muzeja), when over 60 cultural institutions are ready to have you as their guest. August is all about festivals and I would name only a couple: B.E.L.E.F. – Belgrade Summer Festival, where you can enjoy the newest music, dance, theatre, visual arts production that deliver performances around the streets of the Old Town – , and the Beer Festival, where you can see live shows of some of the most prestigious rock groups in Europe and the rest of the world and, of course, drink bear. Loads of beer.

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www.tob.rs

Whether it’s experimental music or a Jazz concert, a film screening or an avant-garde artistic exhibition, a fine meal accompanied by out-of-a-Kusturica-movie Gypsy tunes that you can enjoy in a bohemian and classy place in the quarter of Skadarlija – the Serbian Montmartre – , Belgrade offers you all.   

September hosts events like the Belgrade International Theatre Festival and the International Film Festival in Belgrade so, even if you are exhausted after a full summer – a good play and an exciting movie will definitely put you back on track.

The translation of Belgrade is ”the White City” and we can conclude that, among the many sides of this metaphor, one can reflect the flamboyant and energetic night life of the Serbian capital city.

Don’t miss its vibe!