The Balkans Beckon … Again

 “The Balkan Peninsula is one of the last relatively unexplored corners of Europe.
But with a wealth of history, cultural and culinary treasures and great nightlife,
it won’t be long before the region becomes the next travel hotspot.
—Lonely Planet

This summer has been a joy for us. We moved Basecamp Gallivance from the deep south USA to the lovely bluegrass state. In that time we’ve been having a blast with our families, renovating a townhouse, gardening like fiends (you should see our jalapeños), and we even had time to slip in some soul-satisfying camping.

Now we’re ready to rock and roll again … and we’re thrilled to be heading back to the Balkan Peninsula to continue our exploration of this fascinating region of the world.

The definition of the “Balkans” seems to be fluid, and to some people it’s a point of controversy as to which countries are included. For us, this part of the world has been intriguing to explore, so we’re avoiding the controversy and just telling you where we’ve been and where we’re going. We’ve already had the pleasure of traveling throughout Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Turkey, and Slovenia. This trip we’re going to:

  • Serbia
  • Bulgaria
  • Macedonia
  • Montenegro.

For our trip planning we’ve had some wonderful help from our blogging friends. Their excellent posts about the area, and willingness to answer our questions about these countries has helped immensely. So we’d like to give a big shoutout to Tricia for sharing her vast knowledge and experience of each of the countries we’re visiting, and Kathy for assuring us that reading Cyrillic isn’t as daunting as we’d feared. Thank you all so much. If you haven’t yet discovered these intrepid travelers, please check them out.

And if you’ve traveled to any of these countries please let us know in the comments and give us links to your posts. All of your help is SO appreciated.

Stay tuned and we’ll tell you what we’re looking forward to.
Terri & James

Holy trinity church in Radoviš, Macedonia

Photo Credits
1.  via Wikimedia Commons
2. Stefan Kühn via Wikimedia Commons
3. Athena Lao via Wikimedia Commons
4. Alxadj via Wikimedia Commons
5. Janusz Recław via Wikimedia Commons
6. Irena Jovanovska via Wikimedia Commons


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

54 thoughts

    1. Peggy, a couple of years ago we decided that we wanted to spend some time exploring Eastern Europe, particularly the northeast and the southeast. And even though all these countries are a part of Europe, they really are different. We’re looking forward to some additional time in the Balkans. ~James

    1. Montenegro has always sounded intriguing to us as well. We were on an RTW when we visited the area before so our travel plate was pretty full. So we’re excited that this trip will give us the opportunity to have a casual look around. ~James

    1. The Algarve should be perfect this time of year Jo (which I’m sure was your motivation for a visit). A trip down south gives northern Europeans a bit of an extension on the summer. Enjoy the Algarve. ~James

  1. James and Terri:)
    Have a lovely trip to the Balkans! It is a part of the world I am not too familiar with so I look forward to seeing your pics and posts upon your return!
    I’m glad all is going well with you and bon voyage !

    1. Lia, the Balkans are an area that most people (us included) have heard of, but haven’t spent much time in. Given its history and geography, it’s been a cultural crossroads for centuries, and after visiting Croatia and Bosnia, we couldn’t wait to return. Watch this space. ~James

    1. Thanks Laura. With our cyrillic alphabet cheat sheets in hand, we’re ready to go. One of our first stops is Нови Сад, so you see what one of our challenges will be. The cultural variety and turbulent history of the area will keep us busy, and it should be fun. ~James

  2. I love the Balkans. I have great memories of Croatia and Bosnia. Serbia I didn’t enjoy so much, but I remember a crazy time on the coast of Bulgaria with lots of other young Europeans enjoying ridiculously cheap alcohol… My final attempt to visit this part of the world was foiled by the Icelandic volcano’s eruption a few years ago, so I’ve still to visit Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania. Have a great time!

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. It’s interesting that last autumn’s eruption almost foiled our trip to northern Europe as well. On our previous visit to the area (Croatia and Bosnia) we discovered that traveling between each country isn’t so easy, and takes planning. So we decided to get our act together and return. And this is that trip. BTW, we lived in DC and it’s one of our US favorites. It will be a great place for a British expat to spend some time. Enjoy. ~James

    1. Thanks Virginia. Our previous trip whetted our appetites, and it will be interesting to focus on some new countries. We’re already working on our Cyrillic alphabet to ensure that our bus doesn’t take us to the wrong country. 🙂 ~James

  3. It’s lovely to see such enthusiasm both on your part and on the part of your friends for exploring this region. My husband is Bulgarian and I’m from DC and we’ve always lived either in Sofia or DC – both great cities. I hope you’ll have time to really get to know Bulgaria – urban, village, nature, history, archeology, cuisine, et al.

    1. Thanks for the comment Risa and for dropping by the blog. We’ve been to this area once before, but didn’t have time to see as much as we wanted to. So we’re looking forward to having time to focus on a few more countries, including Bulgaria. At this point, we’ll be spending time in Sofia, and Plovdiv. I’m a big fan of Roman antiquities, and I understand that Plovdiv has lots to see. ~James

    1. Thanks Diana. This area is a bit off the beaten track, and traveling between countries may prove challenging, but we’re looking forward to the trip. This area has been a cultural crossroads for centuries, so there should be lots of cool stuff to see and do. ~James

  4. So excited for you both! Can’t wait to learn about the region through your words and images. The area has been slowly moving up my list of places to visit. Safe travels and happy to hear you’ve had some summer fun in the US, too. 🙂

    1. Kelly, we’ve had lots of non-travel stuff going on, and as always, it’s been fun to have some time off the road to get our basecamp sorted out. But you know how it is, the old travel itch is never very far below the surface. ~James

    1. Sue, from our previous trip to the Balkans we know what a rich (and turbulent) history the area has, and how interesting it can be. The numerous ethnic groups made an impact and the years of communism also left a big footprint. It’s not your typical European feel, and that’s one of the reasons we like it. Watch this space. ~James

    1. As you know well Linda, there’s never a shortage of cheap booze in Eastern Europe. Myself, I’m looking forward to the plum brandy. I still remember the excellent, cheap flavored vodka in Kyiv. ~James

  5. I haven’t visited this area, but it looks fascinating. I look forward to “traveling” with you. A friend’s family is from Montenegro, so I’ll be very interested in what you find there.

    1. Cathy, on our previous trip we couldn’t work out a side trip to Montenegro, but we’re looking forward to spending some time there on this trip. The coast in this part of the world in beautiful, and the mixture of cultures (which caused so much trouble in the Balkans War) is interesting to see. We’ll keep you posted. ~James

  6. Looking forward to your posts from a egion we have high om our list. It will be interesting to see if your travels are affected by the sad migrant traffic in these areas. Travel well!

    1. Thanks for the well wishes. We’ve been doing a lot of research on the Crisis, trying to educate ourselves on all the issues and understand the situations faced by both individuals and the countries involved. It’s a daunting situation that has been faced by many peoples and nations. We’ll let you know what we observe. All the best, Terri

    1. We’re really looking forward to all the new experiences, LuAnn. In addition to the fascinating people and locations the food sounds to-die-for – like that smoked salmon you just enjoyed. You had my mouth watering! I love Washington’s smoked salmon. 🙂 ~Terri

  7. Look forward to seeing this part of Europe. My hair stylist is Croatian-Canadian and she seems to go back at least every 1-2 years. So I have a personal contact.

    1. Jean, It’s great you have a personal contact – that makes such a difference in trying to understand a place. We visited Croatia a few years ago and fell in love with it. Maybe your friend will convince you to join her next time. 🙂 I’m guessing that the cycling must be wonderful. ~Terri

    1. Hi Carol! It’s so great to hear from you. How are things in Dubrovnik? Unfortunately we won’t be able to make it to Croatia this trip, but hope to return in the not-too-distant future. However, we just heard from fellow blogger Mike Lince – he and his wife Florence, lived in Croatia for a while – and he thinks he’s going to be visiting soon. Don’t know if you’ve met him on his blog Applecore ( I know they loved their time in Croatia. All the best, Terri

  8. As always, I love your photos. They remind me of our time in the Balkans. And now it looks like I am heading back to Croatia next summer. I joined a choir that does international cultural exchanges. They went to Romania two years ago, and Croatia is next up. I need to learn some Croatian klapa songs to honor the musical traditions of our hosts. – Mike

    1. That sounds exciting Mike, and it’s impressive that you have a voice that qualifies you for choir. I’m sure that a cultural exchange will provide unique opportunities to make local connections that tourists don’t normally have. It should be fun. ~James

    1. Fi, you’ve picked three great places to start an exploration of the area. Slovenia, and particularly Ljubljana, has a more European feel than Croatian and Slovakia, but all three will be fun. I hope you can make it soon. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. We just arrived Serbia today and are really excited to begin exploring. Thanks for your offer and we’ll let you know if something comes up. ~James

  9. Have a great trip. Have you ever read a book called Balkan Ghosts by Robert Kaplan? It is a fascinating view of history of the Balkans, which gives a beter understanding how they have come to be what they are today. Best wishes for a safe journey. Looking forward to hearing all about it.

    1. No, but thanks for the recommendation Naomi. When we visited the area the first time we struggled to understand the history of the recent war, and it was almost impossible. We’ve making another pass and it’s still tough. Maybe your book idea will shed some light on it. Thx. ~James

    1. Ruth, we’ve moved around a bit, and so far we have three favorites – each for different reasons. Kotor, Montenegro is a charming Medieval village in an incredibly scenic valley on the coast. Skopje, Macedonia was a real surprise and its combination of cultures was a pleasure – its Muslim Bazaar took us back to our Sudan roots. And we’re in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and it’s wonderful. We have a small apartment in a Bohemian neighborhood very near the Old Town. It’s totally pedestrianized, and fabulous for roaming around. When you start planning your trip, get in touch and maybe we can give you a few tips. And watch our posts of course. ~James

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