Touring the Balkans
We had not visited any of the Balkan countries before and we experienced a really nice surprise. People were friendly and honest, and they seemed genuinely pleased to see foreigners around.
The Balkans hasn’t been popular among tourists after the war except Croatia. We fell in love with Montenegro’s beautiful coastal city Ulcinj where we found a hotel with a fabulous view over the Adriatic sea for 10 euro a night. Landlocked Serbia became another favourite of ours. It was harvest time and we had a chance to enjoy plenty of delicious capsicums and grapes.
Although there are not many war remnants in cities, the war has left a big scar in the economics and people. In Serbia for example, the US bombed factories. People have no jobs and they try to get by on very little. A monthly salary can be as little as 200-500 euro a month. Obviously living costs are not high either. You can easily rent a place for 100 euro a month and food is 2-5 times cheaper than in Western Europe.
All Balkan countries have isolated themselves from their neighbours. Everybody still seems to hate each other and especially Albanians. The worst in people’s minds is the UN governed Kosovo where drug and arms trade flourish led by the Albanian mafia. It used to be a holy place for Serbs, but because there was oil and the US needed a permanent military base in the area, it had to be taken away from Serbs and given to Albanians.
Albania ♥ USA
Whereas former Yugoslavian countries lean towards the EU and Serbia to Russia, Albania is very US-friendly, even to the extent that it is often cheaper to buy things in US dollars than in Euro. The upside of the admiration is that many people, both young and old, speak English. Compared to other Balkan countries, Albania was more dirty. There was a lot of trash in the streets and dumpster divers were checking the bins in cities.
We travelled mainly by bus as there are not many train lines available. Locals think trains are slow and unreliable. In some areas travelling was very slow. A 200-kilometre trip could easily take six hours. The roads were winding. Especially impressive was the trip from Bosnia to Montenegro through a canyon area.
The winter caught us at the end of September so we decided to move on but we are sure to return to the Balkans again when the weather is warm and sunny again. So long!