Around the Balkans with Nana and Anya
November 19, 2023 || views
“We’’re a couple who love to travel and eat our way around the world!”
Whether you seek thrilling escapades, cultural exploration, or a tranquil retreat, the enchanting landscapes of Boka Bay will leave you with cherished memories that last a lifetime. Visit montenegrowatertours.com or follow @montenegrowatertours for more information and regular updates from this remarkable destination.
We are Nana and Anya, a Filipino couple who have lived and worked in Singapore for the last 15 years and travelling through the Balkans for around 4 months is a journey that left an incredible mark on our soul. The memories of breath-taking landscapes, hearty and flavourful food, welcoming smiles and captivating histories that seemed to come alive in every corner lingered on our minds and reminds us of the richness and diversity that exists in the world.
The Balkans is an enchanting destination that deserves to be on every traveler’s list. We’ve only scratched the surface and will definitely be back to explore the rest as we continue our journey.
“We spent roughly two months in the buzzing city of Belgrade and a week of pure awesomeness in Novi Sad. Serbia totally blew us away with its amazing food, friendly locals, and fascinating history.”
Here’s the lowdown:
First things first, the food scene in Serbia is off the charts! I mean, where do we even begin? Pljeskavica, those massive, juicy burgers stuffed with cheese, became Anya’s daily obsession. And don’t even get us started on the heavenly ćevapi. These grilled meaty delights, served with onions and some flatbread, were like a party in our mouth. We also discovered the wonders of burek, a flaky pastry filled with cheese or meat. Trust me, it’s impossible to resist!
Speaking of irresistible, the locals in Serbia are the friendliest bunch you’ll ever meet. From Belgrade to Novi Sad, people were always ready to help and share their love for their country. I had countless conversations with locals at cafes, and they were eager to recommend the best spots to check out, whether it was hidden street art in Belgrade or the coolest bars in Novi Sad. Their warmth and hospitality made us feel like we were part of the gang!
Now, let’s dive into the history side of things. Serbia has a rich and sometimes tumultuous past, and it’s fascinating to explore. In Belgrade, we couldn’t resist visiting the iconic Belgrade Fortress. It’s like stepping into a time machine and reliving centuries of history. Of course, when in Belgrade, one cannot miss visiting the majestic Saint Sava Temple known as the Eastern Europe’s Sagrada Familia. For foodies, do not miss the hip neighbourhood like Skadarlija, with its bohemian vibes with rows of restaurants serving traditional Serbian cuisine.
And in Novi Sad, we discovered the Petrovaradin Fortress, a gem overlooking the Danube River. The Freedom Square is a perfect place to spend lazy afternoons, people watching while enjoying a perfect cup of coffee. We simply soaked up the vibrant culture and lively atmosphere in both cities.
“When we visited Montenegro for the first time, we were absolutely enchanted by this beautiful country. From the moment we arrived, we were captivated by its rich history, warmhearted locals, and mouthwatering cuisine.”
The first thing that struck us was the incredible variety of flavors and ingredients in Montenegrin cuisine. We indulged in traditional dishes like the famous Njeguški pršut, a delicious dry-cured ham, and Kacamak, a hearty cornmeal dish. The seafood along the Adriatic coast was also exceptional, with fresh fish and mussels that simply melted in our mouths. Every meal was a delightful culinary adventure, and we couldn’t resist trying the local wines and rakija, a traditional fruit brandy.
But it wasn’t just the food that made our trip memorable; it was the warmth and hospitality of the locals. Montenegrins are known for their friendly nature and genuine interest in sharing their culture. Whether we were exploring the medieval streets of Kotor and wandering through the narrow streets of Budva’s old town, strolling along the coastal town of Tivat, marvelling at the super-luxurious and gigantic yachts parked in the marina, gazing with extreme reverence at the holy site of Ostrog Monastery carved into the mountain or hiking in the stunning Durmitor National Park, we were met with smiles and helpful suggestions from the locals.
“Albanians are a kind-hearted people with a rich historical tapestry. The warmth and hospitality of the Albanian people left us speechless. From the moment we set foot in this beautiful country, we were embraced by their genuine kindness and welcoming nature.”
As we immersed ourselves in the history of Albania, we were captivated by its intriguing past. From ancient Illyrian civilizations to the Ottoman Empire and the struggles of the communist era, Albania has witnessed a remarkable journey. The remnants of ancient cities like Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the stunning Gjirokastër and the charming ancient walls of Kruja Castle and Kruja’s old historical bazaar provided glimpses into the country’s rich historical heritage.
Albania’s story of resilience and transformation fascinated us. Exploring the bunkers that once dotted the landscape, remnants of a turbulent past, allowed us to reflect on the country’s journey towards progress and openness.
One of the highlights of our visit to Albania was taking the long and exhilarating ride on the Dajti Ekpress, that seemed to last forever. It took us up the Dajti Mountain, overlooking the entire city of Tiana and neighbouring towns.
Our memorable food experience was inside the Kruja Castle walls serving traditional Albanian cuisine, including grilled meats, stews, grilled vegetables and fresh salad, all made with locally sourced ingredients, with the views of the nearby towns.
Our time in Albania was a remarkable adventure. The fusion of warm hospitality and captivating history made this a journey we will cherish forever. Albania, with its beautiful landscapes and beautiful souls, has left an indelible mark in our hearts. We are certain that we missed a lot more than we saw and did. And we couldn’t wait to be back.
- BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA
“Bosnia & Herzegovina is a fascinating country with an absolute treasure trove of history who has seen it all, from Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian influences, famous sites, and mouth-watering foods that will leave you craving for more”
Sarajevo, the capital city, is a living testament to Bosnia’s multicultural heritage. The Old Town, known as Baščaršija, is a vibrant maze of narrow streets filled with bustling markets, charming cafés, and the lingering aroma of cevapi. This traditional dish of grilled minced meat served in a soft bread called somun is an absolute must-try.
Speaking of culinary delights, Bosnian cuisine is a true gastronomic adventure. We indulged in mouth-watering dishes like burek, a flaky pastry filled with meat or cheese, and dolma, grape leaves stuffed with a savory rice mixture. The cevapi, became our go-to street food obsession. And if you like lamb, you are in for a treat. We found a hidden gem restaurant that serves the best roasted lamb we’ve ever tasted along Jablanica. And let’s not forget about Bosnian coffee, a rich and potent beverage that provides the perfect energy boost to explore the country.
No visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina would be complete without paying respects to the poignant history of the Bosnian War. The Tunnel of Hope, located just outside Sarajevo, served as a lifeline during the siege of the city. Walking through this underground tunnel, which connected the besieged city with the outside world, gave us a profound sense of the resilience and courage of the Bosnian people.
Venturing outside the Sarajevo, one cannot miss exploring the historic and quaint city of Mostar, with its cobbled streets, numerous cafes and restaurants, where the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge) stands tall. This magnificent 16th-century Ottoman bridge is a symbol of unity and resilience, connecting the diverse cultures that make up the country. Walking across it, we could almost feel the weight of history beneath our feet.
Another favourite of ours is the stunning landscapes of the Plitvice Lakes National Park took our breath away with its cascading waterfalls and crystal-clear turquoise lakes.
Our journey through Bosnia and Herzegovina left us with fond memories of its people, cuisine, stunning landscapes and fascinating history. We couldn’t get enough of Bosnia and Herzegovina so we returned the following year and this time, with our families so they could experience exactly what we felt the first time we visited.
- NORTH MACEDONIA
“Our visit to North Macedonia was a delightful adventure, where we discovered a charming Old Town, cozy streets, mouthwatering food, and a warm welcome from the locals. The Old Town of Skopje is a hidden gem, with its narrow-cobbled streets and traditional Ottoman-era architecture. ”
It was a joy to explore the local shops and boutiques, where we found unique handicrafts and traditional Macedonian souvenirs.
North Macedonian cuisine is a true treat for the taste buds. we couldn’t resist indulging in dishes like tavče gravče, a hearty bean stew, and ajvar, a delicious roasted red pepper spread. The famous Shopska salad, with its fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and tangy cheese—was a burst of flavors.
The very first site we visited was the Samuel’s Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that cannot be missed once in Ohrid. Built in the 10th century by Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria, it served as a strategic stronghold despite its eventual decline, the fortress remains an iconic symbol of the region’s rich past.
Our favourite was, by far, our visit to the Church of Saint John the Theologian, situated on a cliff that overlooks Lake Ohrid. As we stood at the viewpoint, taking in the majestic panorama, a wave of tranquillity washed over us. The first thing that struck us was the vastness of the lake itself. Its waters stretched before us, seemingly endless, and merging with the horizon, creating an illusion of infinity.
Our too short a time in North Macedonia was a delightful escape into a world of quaint charm, delicious flavors, and genuine hospitality. And we can’t wait to return to explore more of its hidden treasures.