The Balkan Way
The Balkans pose a bit of a mystery to most of us western folk. Less chartered than the rest of Europe perhaps thanks to a reputation mired with recent political war horrors.
But the truth is most of us who take the chance to visit are made to feel more humbled and at home than almost anywhere on the continent.
The people here aren’t just tolerant of holidaying tourists & on the road travellers, they’re curious. ‘But what brings you here!?’ Is the usual first question.
Whether you’re in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Montenegro or further south in Macedonia, locals genuinely want to know what made you choose this part of the world.
The next question is always asked with such endearing hope in each face; ‘and do you like it so far?’
They’re never disappointed.
What’s not to love? Of course, no country is perfect, but it’s the warmth of the people who give magic to a place. And even strangers in the Balkans will sweep you away.
There’s the elderly man who takes you by the hand for almost half an hour to help find your car hire place.
The grandmother down the road who delivers you one of her giant jars of beloved homemade Ajvar to demolish.
The couple in the mountains whose house you reach lost on a sunset walk. Without a shred of English, they invite you inside to indulge in some Rakija before setting you safely back on course.
The young entrepreneur who gifts you a pair of woolen socks as he sees your pitiful footwear is no match for the Balkan October chill.
Whilst it can be a little harder to find someone who understands and speaks some English, it’s never a problem. Especially if you know a few local words or are half decent at charades. Those who can speak it are more than keen to practice and share tips about their home land.
Many will tell you that the quality of life for most was actually much better during the communist regime, yet despite the economic hole their country and people are in now, the hospitality they show is unrivaled. A welcome shot of Rakija is custom…. and coffee is encouraged! You won’t reach the bottom of your glass or cup before it’s being refilled again.
The natural beauty across the Balkans, not yet overrun by tourists, will make you wish you’d come sooner. However, it’s local characters you meet who’ll make you wish you could stay longer. Spend some time with them and you’ll soon discover the Balkan way.
Author: Cristy Lee Macqueen