Autumn in the Balkans

We’re inveterate shoulder-season travelers, which for us means that at some point in the autumn, we’re on the road – sometimes in the US, sometimes overseas. Last year’s trip was a month-long fall fling in the Balkans.

Autumn, like the other three seasons, has its signature events and activities. And in southeastern Europe it’s a time of colorful leaves, late-blooming flowers, the final fruits of the harvest, as well as the last hurrah for warm-weather lovers.

Chilly evenings in Serbia are a reminder to sun seekers that the cold days are looming, so the parks and cafes are packed. It’s not humanly possible to soak up and store sunshine, but on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, everyone is trying to do just that.

In Bulgaria, trees that have worn respectable green robes for months decide to change into their best gold, orange and scarlet finery to welcome the season.

In Macedonian, as in all other four-season locations around the world, autumn means the harvest. The Skopje Market was flooded with fruits, berries, melons as well as all the makings for ajvar (pronouced eye-var), a deliciously addictive vegetable spread made from roasted red peppers, eggplant, garlic, oil and vinegar.

We’ve spent a lot of time in places that have only two seasons which slowly and monotonously blend into each other. So having four distinct seasons is something that we never take for granted. And even with the leaves to rake, the garden to put to bed, and all the other preparations for winter, autumn is still one of our favorite seasons and we look forward to it every year.

Happy Trails and Enjoy Your Autumn,
James & Terri



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

58 thoughts

  1. You really have captured the best of Autumn in your pics! I agree with you, I love the crisp sunny Autumn days too, also hoping to sit outside having a cuppa when possible. But of the pictures the ones with gloves is my favourite!

    1. Vilma, isn’t that glove photo fun. Don’t tell me that these folks don’t know a thing or two about marketing. 😉 As for an outside cuppa, I love the European custom of warm blankets folded over the backs of cafe chairs, just in case it gets a bit too chilly. We don’t see this is the US, but it’s a cozy custom. ~James

    1. Amit, when we lived in Sudan we missed autumn as well. It’s funny you mention the pumpkin patch. Just yesterday we visited one of the popular nurseries that hosts a big pumpkin patch/fall festival. It was the perfect festive event: petting zoo, hay rides, jams, jellies, and all sorts of pumpkins, gourds and apples for sale. And of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a guy doing Elvis karaoke. ~James

  2. Glorious colors! I especially loved the glowing colors of the canned vegetables. There’s something to be said about changing seasons – perhaps a way to measure time moving forward? Like you, we’ve spent much time in 2-season climates going from hot and humid to hot and rainy. This year, we’re loving the mild seasonal changes in the Algarve part of Portugal and also watching the fall flowers bloom. So lovely to feel a bit of chill in the morning and still have some sun to warm you up during the day! Anita

    1. Thanks Anita. I must admit that winter isn’t one of my favorites, but even it has it seasonal charms. When we moved back to the US from London, we could pretty much live anywhere we wanted. But, at the top of the list, was it had to be a place that had 4 distinct season, none of which were harsh. As it turned out, we ended up in Richmond, Virginia, whose weather is the same as Lexington, KY. I love it that just when I’m tired of any particular season, it’s over and there’s a change just around the corner. I’m glad the Algarve weather suits you. ~James

  3. First of all, the photos are wonderful, bringing that warm glow of all things autumn to us. We wandered around a garden here in DC yesterday and even though fall is not fully here yet, we did revel in the changing colors and fresh air. Second, I remember well your trip last fall; that’s when I first heard of ajvar, which sounds amazing to me. (I need to make a bigger effort to find some.) And finally, it’s now shoulder season! … where are you off to next?

    1. Funny you should ask about our shoulder season travels Lexie. As a matter of fact, we should be in Spain this very day. Our plan was to spend Oct in and around Madrid. But, a medical issue came up that has me staying close to home for a while. It’s probably not serious, but is one of those things that could be very serious if I didn’t take care of it. Anyway, the plan now is for a spring trip. BTW, Trader Joe’s has a product called “Roasted Red Pepper Spread with eggplant and garlic.” It’s not the real Serbian stuff, but it will do until you find the real deal. ~James

      1. James, I really hope your health issue sorts itself out quickly (and positively). I live a block from Trader Joe’s and have a list for this afternoon – that will now go onto it! Thanks!

  4. As someone who lives in a country with only two seasons, seeing autumn colors is one of the things I wish to experience. Last week ago a friend showed me photos of red leaves in Canada against blue skies. Magical! Btw, ajvar sounds delicious! And the bright red color looks very appealing. Nice photos, James & Terri.

    1. Bama, autumn is truly a wonderful time of year. In addition to the cooler temps and bright colors, for most folks it means lower humidity (which helps to create those crystal blue skies). And I’m sure that you can appreciate a bit of lower humidity. ~James

    1. Tess, we experienced three wonderful English autumns, and it was marvelous. It was one of our favorite times of year to go to Victoria Station, randomly pick a city, jump on the train and do a weekend overnighter in a village somewhere. Brilliant. ~James

  5. What a colourful time of the year. You pictures are wonderful as always. Fall here means cooler evenings but still nice warm walks on the beach and dinners on the terrace. It is a nice reprieve from the extreme hot of summer and we love it. Hope you folks are well. Happy Halloween!!

    1. Thanks Darlene. Our late summer was particularly hot, so the cooler temps are a nice change for us as well. We bought a fire pit for our back yard, and it’s finally cool enough to use it. Pyromaniac that I am, this appeals to me for many reasons and is an excellent addition to our autumn activities. On the health side, a medical issue came up that has me staying close to home for a while. It’s probably not serious, but is one of those things that could be very serious if I didn’t take care of it. So I’m hanging around to do just that. Thanks for asking. ~James

  6. Autumn is a tame affair here in Rome, and your pictures bring back the vibrant feeling of the season in change. Orange and pumpkins are so apt this evening 🙂

    1. You are so right Bea. We are gearing up for Trick-or-Treaters. It’s unusually warm here, so I’m sure they will be out in force. I remember that as a kid, one of the worse things that could happen was to have bad weather on Halloween. ~James

  7. That’s a great time of year to travel. We used to go away in October then we moved it to February. Lovely colours there James & Terri.

    1. Thanks Leslie. Autumn is a particularly photogenic time. Whether we travel in autumn or spring usually depends on what part of the world we’re visiting. But just about anywhere in Europe is nice in the autumn, and the seasonal festivals are brilliant. ~James

    1. Terry, anytime we travel in summer, I always feel badly for people who don’t have the option of traveling in the shoulder season. It’s the “we only have a week to have a good time” mentality that leads to so many crowds and stress. Yep, shoulder season is better. ~James

    1. Thanks Christie. I have lots of pleasant memories from all four seasons, but somehow, like the cool nights and crystal blue skies, my autumn memories are crisper. Thanks for your well wishes. ~James

  8. Always love the autumn colors, James. Natures way of saying goodbye to summer and hello to winter. Thanks for bringing a bit of fall to us. Peggy and I are hanging out in Mendocino today. –Curt

    1. Curt, every fall I do my research as to why, when, and how leaves change color. I understand the process, but can never understand why one maple tree is a burning red, and another 20 feet away has a few slightly yellow leaves. This is range of colors amazes me every year. Enjoy your time in Cali. ~James

    1. Thanks Kelly. I’m sure that the autumn must be coming along well in your neck of the woods. Ours has been unusually warm, and while that’s really nice for my morning jogs and it makes for warmer leaf-raking, I’m itching to be using my outdoor fire pit more frequently. ~James

  9. I so enjoyed following this trip last year. I smiled at the sight of your posts and being taken back again. Wonderful colors today as I look outside and our Canadian landscape now monochromatic waiting its snow blanket.

    1. Sue, after a colorful autumn, I can imagine that you aren’t excited about the first snowfall. But, from reading your posts, I know that you and Dave won’t let a little cool weather and frozen precip prevent you from getting out and having fun. Enjoy the rest of your autumn and picture the Baja in your mind. ~James

  10. I love the Autumn colors. Where I live I am surrounded by trees and lush vegetation which have now turned many shades of red, yellow and orange….it is beautiful. The downside of course is that I have to spend every weekend raking up the fallen leafs and it can be very tiring. Your photos are beautiful and I can’t believe it has been a year since your lovely trip in Europe.

    1. Gilda, we’ve spent the last couple of autumns in Eastern Europe, and it’s been delightful. We had planned on being in Spain for October, but had to cancel so we’re spending this season at home, and it’s been very nice. I’m with you on the leaf-raking, but unfortunately, it’s the price we have to pay. I’m a jogger, so I rationalize it by saying that it’s upper body excercise that I need anyway. 🙂 Hopefully, I will be raking for my last time in a few days. ~James

  11. Wonderful colourful post. I hope the medical issue is quickly solved, James.
    All the best!
    Greetings from Norway, we’re awaiting 50 cm snow this weekend … 🙂

    1. Thanks for your well wishes Dina. I’m progressing nicely and plan on continuing my treatments until the issue is solved – hopefully a couple of months. I’m sure that 50cm of snow is no big deal for you there, but it would put the locals here into major panic mode. It’s nice when these big snows happen on a weekend: all of the fun and no obligations. All the best. ~James

    1. Thanks Rusha. We’re spending this fall at home, and taking the opportunity to explore the area around Lexington. After being here as poor college kids, it’s nice to have the chance to really experience the area. ~James

      1. I love Lexington and Louisville both. Love antiques, so there are plenty of spots for me to explore. Also love the Bourbon Trail and horse country. You live in a gorgeous part of the U.S.

  12. Sounds like a terrific trip at a perfect time. Autumn is actually my favorite season, and I was sad to miss it as we left Chicago to head towards starting a new life in Sri Lanka. I love the crisp fresh air in addition to the beautiful fall colors. Your collection of photographs of Fall are beautiful ~ nice job. The market sounds amazing.


    1. Thanks Peta. As I said, we try to travel in the shoulder season, either spring or fall. But I must admit that I prefer autumn, especially in Europe. There’s an energy in Europe in the autumn, particularly in the big cities. People know what’s coming and they’re outside doing everything in their power to soak up what’s left of warm weather. I also love the fall festivals. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment Ainun and for dropping by the blog. We visited in late October and it was perfect autumn weather. The tourist crowds were gone, the weather was cool and mild, and the leaves were beautiful. So yes, it’s a good time to visit. ~James

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