As of today, we are exactly two months into our Europe trip! It’s hard to believe that just two months ago we were lazing on Puerto Rico’s lovely beaches, and before that, pet-sitting in Barbados and Grenada.
Prior to arriving in Europe, we had spent the past two years travelling and living in tropical countries, including the Caribbean and Latin America. But, it was time for a change, a drastic one.
The explorers in us were craving something new.
We wanted old towns, instead of beach towns. We longed for mountains, not jungles. We craved architecture, rather than archipelagos.
This trip to Europe is proving to be everything that we wanted: a complete contrast to how we had spent the previous two years of our lives in the tropics.
We’ve been to seven countries in Europe so far, and despite the sun not coming out as often as we would like, we’re really enjoying this region. The best part is that this European journey is far from over. So far, the plan is to travel around central / eastern Europe until mid June!
Here are some highlights of two months spent on the road.
Learning To Be Super Aylak in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Like most of the Balkan countries, Bulgaria is a destination that we knew very little about, and even though we only spent seven nights in the country, we’re so glad that we chose to spend five of those nights in the city of Plovdiv!
We learned the term “aylak” and embodied it throughout our time in the city. The art of being aylak is something that only Plovdivians know – it means to be super chilled out / relaxed. It’s sort of like “limin’” in the Caribbean!
All of the people we met were very friendly, and the overall vibe of Plovdiv seemed very relaxed. We loved it.
Read More About Bulgaria:
Skiing and Snowboarding at Mavrovo National Park, Macedonia
Nick and I have been together for quite a few years now (nine to be exact), and due to the fact that seven of those years have been spent travelling, side-by-side, 24/7, there simply aren’t many things that we haven’t done together!
When we were in Macedonia, we decided to hit the slopes, something that both of us had done in the past in Canada, but something that we had never experienced together. It had been 15 years since either of us had skied or snowboarded, and it was a lot of fun (even though we spent much of the time horizontal!)
Attending the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul, Turkey
We were invited to speak at this prestigious conference about travel blogging as a business, and how bloggers can work with brands to market their companies. The event was incredible and we had so much fun meeting up with other travel bloggers and attending some pretty awesome events!
Witnessing the Epiphany Celebrations at Lake Ohrid, Macedonia
Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest lakes in Europe and it was one of the places that we were the most excited to visit. Luckily for us, we (randomly) arrived during the Epiphany celebrations! This is a festival that is celebrated by Christians around the world – complete with freezing cold lake swims, drinking hot homemade brandy, and feasting on traditional foods.
Driving the Coastal Road and Llogara Pass, Albania
This is quite possibly the most scenic drive we’ve ever been on! We rented a car for 10 days during our trip in Albania and for the most part, our travel days were stressful due to crazy drivers, bad roads, and lack of any good GPS / maps of the country.
Our last drive in Albania brought us from Saranda on the coast to Tirana, via the Llogara Pass. The sea, mountains and villages were breathtaking. The scenery was absolutely stunning! We stopped often for photos, and even flew the drone over the highway.
We passed by quaint little villages, and beautiful countryside. We zigged and zagged up and up until reaching the pass, and descended down through a lush forest.
This drive is a must do in Albania.
Read More: Acclimatizing to Albania: A 10 Day Road Trip
Walking the City Walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia
We’ve always loved visiting old towns, and we have a love for narrow alleyways, cobblestone streets and historical sites. So far in the Balkans, we’ve been spoiled with architecture and have found ourselves in many ancient Greek, Roman and Ottoman towns.
A favourite experience was visiting the city of Dubrovnik, and in particular, walking on the walls which surround the city. The views of the nearby St. Lawrence Fortress and the red-tiled roofs of the homes down below were incredible.
Being in the old town of Dubrovnik was like being in a fairytale. Although this is a very touristy place, it’s a must-see.
Eating and Drinking…Everything!
Over the past couple of years, we’ve definitely become foodies and self-proclaimed wine connoisseurs!
In the countries we’ve been to so far (Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia (FYROM), Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro), the food has generally revolved around seafood if on the coast, and grilled meats and Mediterranean cuisine if inland. All of these countries (except for Turkey and Bulgaria) offer Italian food as well.
Turkish food is one of our favourites, and we enjoyed kebabs, lentil soup, flatbread with veggies and meat…and many cups of chai (tea).
In Bulgaria, we feasted on grilled meats and vegetables, and found out that we actually liked grilled duck hearts. In Macedonia, we ate Turkish inspired food, international cuisine and Mediterranean delights. The wines from both Bulgaria, Croatia and Macedonia are our favourites, with Mavrud, Melnik, Crljenak and Vranac grapes being our top choices.
Albania had some of the best traditional food that we’ve tried. During our stay in the country, apart from eating one pizza, we ate only local food. Vegetarian dishes were our favourites, with Nick loving some of the lamb meals as well.
The best restaurant in Albania (and possibly all of Europe so far) was definitely Magalemi Hotel in Berat. If you’re ever in Berat, there’s no reason to eat anywhere else!
Read more: 10 Must-Try Meals in Albania
The food in Bosnia was hearty with soup, stew, goulash, grilled meats, and dumpling-type morsels being popular choices. Everything had a dolup (or two) of sour cream on top! The food in Sarajevo was delicious.
We found a fabulous local restaurant in Split, Croatia called Villa Spiza, and spent most of our days eating their soups, pastas, and seafood meals. In Dubrovnik, most restaurants were closed, however, on our second to last day there, a fabulous vegetarian place opened up!
In Montenegro, as we are staying on the Bay of Kotor, most of the meals consist of seafood and fish, with lots of Italian cuisine on offer as well. To our surprise, and delight, we’ve found the most amazing Asian restaurant in the nearby town of Budva. Taste of Asia serves up authentic meals from the Southeastern region.
Not only has the food and wine been delicious here in the Balkans, but in all of the countries except for Croatia and Montenegro, we didn’t even need to look at the prices on the menu, as all meals were an affordable $2 – $5. In Croatia and Montenegro, the prices tend to be between $8 – $15 per meal.
What’s Up Next?
From here in Montenegro, we’re heading back to Split, Croatia before taking a seaplane flight with European Coastal Airlines across the Adriatic Sea to Italy! We’ll spend a couple (or a few) weeks in Italy and after that, we’ll be checking out Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, Romania…and who knows where else 🙂
If you have any tips or advice for our upcoming destinations, leave a comment below!