Advice for travel in Eastern Europe
March 20, 2017 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Hi Metafilter! I'm asking this for my niece. She has a chance to visit two of the following countries and asked me for advice, but I have not been to any of them! I thought that maybe some of you can help with suggestions. The countries are: Albania, Bosnia & Hersegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia

Here is her question:
"I'm applying for a travel writing scholarship in the Balkans and have to choose two countries out of the following list to explore and write about: Albania, Bosnia & Hersegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia.

I love natural wonders and landmarks in particular and would love to choose a destination which has both. Does anyone have any recommendations of which countries I should choose?"
posted by catrae to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Croatia is the only country in this list I've visited, but I'd say it has a strong case.

- Geographically, it's extremely diverse. The Dalmatian coast is utterly beautiful, and stands in stark contrast with the karst mountain ranges and plateaus. Istria and Slavonia are different again.
- Zagreb and Split are fascinating places. The former is a large, bustling city with plenty of excellent galleries and some lovely architecture. It's also within two hours' train ride to Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana. Split is well situated for Hvar and the other islands, and has a bona fide Roman palace for its historical centre.
- It's within the EU, which might be of some help from a logistical viewpoint.
posted by mushhushshu at 12:23 PM on March 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

It depends on her goal: Croatia has a large tourism industry, reflecting both its attractive sites and nature and its well-developed tourist infrastructure. That would make it easier to travel and write about than the other countries, but harder to find something new to write about.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:52 PM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Montenegro has some pretty great things (Kotor bay, Ostrog monastery), and is safe and cheap. I definitely recommend it from that point of view, but I don't know any of the other options especially well.
posted by ambrosen at 12:52 PM on March 20, 2017

My votes would be Croatia and Serbia. As already stated, the geographical diversity in Croatia is probably greater than anywhere else in the Balkans, so the number of potential subjects is greater. Serbia, for the Iron Gates and the Danube in general.

Bosnia would have a lot more history (e.g. Srebernica), but I personally would find it a bit depressing.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:55 PM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've spent time in all of these countries except Macedonia. If she plans to write about recent history I'd encourage her to visit two sides of a conflict so that she can get a fuller picture (for instance, if she picks Kosovo she should probably also pick Serbia). Albania is really great for general adventure, anecdotes and just a really different feel from the other countries (it was isolated for a long time and you can still very much tell). Croatia is much more touristed for a reason, but as a travel writer she may want to go somewhere less traveled. Bosnia and Serbia would be a really good choice and personally when I think back on my travels in the region I think of those two countries the most... but then I'm interested in the recent history side of things. I wouldn't choose Montenegro just because I think there's less to do and write about.
posted by acidic at 1:04 PM on March 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I traveled through a number of these places (some of them very briefly) plus Slovenia a couple of summers back.

Croatia was beautiful; Split and especially Dubrovnik (despite the tourist saturation) were astonishing and well worth the time, both in terms of the coast and the history of place & built environment.

I'll also put in a good word for Albania. It's rougher around the edges, sketchier at times, and clearly less developed than most places I've been. People were really good to us, food was amazing, and I find myself thinking about the experience a lot. It was a good place to have a local connection - I wouldn't attempt to drive by myself there for love or money, and I do not doubt that it's a country where you could find ways to have a Real Bad Time. I think it's a lot less on the tourist / backpacker radar than much of Europe, but I expect that will change with time.
posted by brennen at 1:59 PM on March 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

With the exception of Montenegro which is smaller and doesn't have much to see/do compared to the other listed countries, I'd recommend any combination of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. Croatia is beautiful, and she'll have a lot to write about in terms of travel, food, etc. Bosnia and Serbia are also beautiful but I would think that to ignore writing about the historical significance of these two countries wouldn't be ideal.

Perhaps it could come down to what she's interested in writing about, and she could choose from there.
posted by Everydayville at 12:18 PM on March 21, 2017

I recommend going to Sarajevo, Bosnia. I went in August 2014, where I also got the chance to attend some of the film festival. Sarajevo as a city is beautiful and surrounded by mountains. It is pock-marked from war, and that is such a tragic part of its recent history, but Sarajevo is so much more than that; it was friendly and lively to me. As well it is an interesting city from a religious standpoint.
posted by radiocontrolled at 3:41 PM on March 21, 2017

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