“I guess you’ve already visited most of the interesting places in the world,” said a sedentary acquaintance when I told him my partner Rick and I were embarking on a month-long adventure to the Balkan countries in Southeastern Europe. I confess that his comment did make me pause for a minute, second-guessing our decisions and plans.
But the 32-day sojourn that we took in September 2017 more than confirmed the excellent choice we made for exploring new lands and cultures, through an incredibly rich series of experiences in Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. The Balkan region has always held a fascination for me — crossroads of European and Asian civilizations, fiercely rugged and beautiful terrain, all former Communist-ruled countries, the place where World War I started, the enticing Adriatic Coast.
We met people from cultures different from ours, warm, friendly and welcoming. We saw places foreign to us, rich in history, steeped in tradition. We were awed by dramatic landscapes. And we were exposed to different past and present ways of life and strife, many more challenging than we have experienced.
For the first fifteen days, we traveled in Romania and Bulgaria, assisted by Compass Travel Romania. Company owner Andrei Nicolau Miclea put together an exciting itinerary of unusual and special experiences. Nick Zavada escorted us through the Romanian portion as our guide and driver for the two of us, and Volen Antov, for the Bulgarian part of the trip. (I have no official relationship with Compass. I just want to sing their praises to potential travelers.)
Then we flew from Sofia, Bulgaria to Zagreb, Croatia, where we rented a stick-shift Ford Focus (automatics were twice the price). We headed down the Dalmatian coast and then up through Bosnia-Hercegovina and back to Zagreb for the next two weeks.
Over the next several posts, I’ll write about our travels – four very different countries and four very different experiences. First, off to beautiful Romania (see the image at the top of the page), where we spent eleven days of the journey.