I'm flying into and out of Sofia, but have the flexibility to go anywhere in the region while I'm there.
I'd particularly appreciate recommendations on what's best to see and do regarding the medieval towns and countrysides of Romania and Bulgaria, nightlife in Sofia and Belgrade, and of course, any tips or tales on train travel between the Balkan countries and the usual where-to-stay where-to-eat etc...
Thanks so much,
Belgrade - the nightlife would be worth 10 points IF it wasnt for one thing. The non-stop hardcore smoking and lousy ventilation. I usually cant stay indoors with locals for more than 3 hours - my eyes just want to pop out and lungs can hardly find any oxygen. I would suggest the places at the river - either on the rafts or in Zemun on the coast (Kajak and Kruis come to mind as nice places). You probably get some live music and great energy there. Another peculiarity is the local music that they call turbofolk, which can be frustrating, but I dont mind it every now and then.
The sightseeing here is medicore at its best. Its a city for living, not for tourism.
Feel free to visit www.pbase.com/jyri There are galleries about Pirin Mountains in Bulgaria, Belgrade, Adriatic Coast (Montenegro, Dalamatia), Istia, Albania, Macedonia, Northern-Greece. Quite a few pictures also have further comments.
If you are interested in those places on the Balkans, drop a note.
Yes, Belgrade night life is fantastic. I would agree with previous post about smoking, but do not let that worry you. I have been to some places that are equally bad, if not worse, in, say, Paris. I grew up there so I ma used to it but even if you can't bear it it will not spoil your holiday. You will just have to pick right places to go to.
As for sight seeing, I would not agree with jyri. I think there is pleanty to see in Belgrade. There are many pretty buildings and the city reminds me of Lisbon and some parts of Madrid, very much. More in the general feel than anything else, though. National Museum is not as good as museums in western europe, but it has some national art that is well worth seeing. Also, if you get a chance to see a collection of naive art in Serbia, take it up. It's very good and completely refreshing. There is also museum of icons and frescoes that is quintesentially Serbian and if you really want to see authentic Serbian culture go there. Kalemegdan fortress is brilliant. It is a very nice prk for a walk and has perfect view of New Belgrade and river island, as well as cofluence of Sava and Danube. If you like animals, don't go to the zoo which is on kalemegdan, since the conditions in which animals there live are far worse than anywhere I've been to so far. However, do explore the fortress well since I still find something new and enchanting every time I go there. There are two beautiful churches (one of them has magical mosaic wall ornamets) just bellow the fortress (Sv. Petka and I can't remember the name of the other one).
Knez Mihailova St. is just stunning and many streets around it are worth visit during day. it will really show you Belgrade cafe culture. The atmosphere is amazing and this is one thing about Serbia that I really miss in London. Nowhere in the world can you find so many people that simply enjoy life (and, believe me, if they can be so relaxed with such an economic/ political situation, they must know how to enjoy it). Another place to visit is Skadarska ulica or Skadarlija, centre of Belgrade bohemian life. it is worth visiting this street both during the day and night to see both of its faces and to recognise the contrast between its day and night life. i would go for an evening meal to one of the restaurants there and enjoy starogradska music, which, even though it might not be to everyone's taste, shows how cosmopolitan Belgrade was at one point. Zemun was austro-hungarian and this music originates from that part and is very different from southern music (also worth hearing if you have a chance). Aforementioned turbofolk has its "charms", but I do not consider it essential by any means.
Finally do visit New Belgrade. It has blocks of flats that are typical of social realism architecture, but unlike such places in, say, Barcelona, is perfectl safe and that's where many citizens of Belgrade live. Zemun also deserves a visit.
I could go on for much longer. If you have any more questions or want more information about other parts of Serbia (I have been to most) send me private mesage or ask question on here and I will do my best to answer it.
Lepo se provedi!
Thanks so much! You've both been so helpful.
I have heard alot about the smokey atmosphere of Belgrade's nightlife. Hopefully as a smoker myself I'll adjust easily, though even here in the US most of our public establishments are smoke-free, so maybe I will be a wee bit shocked.
I won't have more than a day or so in Serbia, so I'll probably only see a very small bit of Belgrade and not much else. But your recommendations have started the ball rolling for another trip next year.
Thanks again, and I may take you both up on your offers to contact you further as I get closer to my departure.