Life in the east

Yep, it’s that time of year again. Pardon me while I go through the motions again, apologising for my lack of blogging of late. I’ve been working as a tour guide out in the Balkans, guiding groups of people through Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Albania and Montenegro.

These past five weeks have been challenging, to say the least, but probably the most rewarding of my three years of tour guiding. On days like today – I’m currently in Plovdiv, Bulgaria – I don’t see any other tourists at all, except for my own little flock. It is a world away from my Easter adventures in Paris where you couldn’t swing a baguette without hitting a Nikon DSLR.

I have no idea why this little corner of the world is relatively untouched. Of course, we hit a few tourist meccas on the treks – Istanbul, Athens and Dubrovnik are always teeming with the knee-high socks and sandals crew – but the beauty of the Balkans demands more. The rivers and lakes are as blue as in Switzerland, the hills are green and free of development, and you can spot donkeys and horse-and-cart combos semi-daily. English is widely used and wifi coverage is better than Western Europe. What’s not to love?

 Life in the east

A stroll past the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul.

The reputation, I suppose. Current riots in Istanbul and the recent wars in the former Yugoslavia, not to mentionĀ Taken and its portrayal of the Albanian mafia certainly don’t help local tourism boards. It seems like a hard place in which to travel. Paul and I would always label countries in Asia as either ‘Asia for Beginners’ or ‘Asia for the Advanced’ and when applied to Europe, a number of these countries fall into the latter category. That doesn’t mean they’re not worthy, however.

Everything is pretty relaxed out here. We call the timezones out here ‘Balkan Maybe Time (BMT)’ and to be honest, I quite like it. Nobody’s in a rush, particularly in Greece and Montenegro. Their citizens may be the butt of many a European joke but I reckon everyone else is just jealous.

This gig can be lonely, however. That’s always the weird thing about being a tour guide; you’re surrounded by people all the time, but at the end of the day you’re working whilst everyone else is on holiday. I miss Paul, my family and friends all the time – luckily I had Paul come and visit last week and I have my sister Amy joining me on a tour in a month’s time. They’re the things you look forward to.

 Life in the east

Paul relaxing on a boat trip along the Montenegrin coast last week.

So, in case you were wondering if I’d dropped off the face of the earth, not exactly. I’ve been bouncing around the Balkans, with its different languages, alphabets, currencies, religions and geographies. And food… oh, the food.

 Life in the east

Perfection on a plate in Thessaloniki.

So, if you’d excuse me. I’m just about to head off to gorge myself on Bulgarian food, and following it up with a Turkish hammam in Istanbul tomorrow…

6 Responses to Life in the east

  1. Sammi June 12, 2013 at 11:16 PM #

    Hey!

    Definitely the reputation, one of the reasons I booked myself onto a Classic Rhapsody (any chance you’ll be guiding mine? 5/7 depart?) is that I wasn’t sure how safe I’d feel travelling through certain area’s alone, and I don’t think the places we will be going to are particularly unsafe, it’s just, the reputation!

    I totally need to know your Asia for beginners list- I am going to Cambodia next year to visit a friend who will have been living there for a year- and want to travel around a bit but am a bit… scared(?) since i’ll be alone and y’know a beginner in Asia :)

    PS- was that black risotto you posted on facebook actually nice or just…. a novelty? Xxxx

    • Caitlyn June 28, 2013 at 9:04 PM #

      Oh no Sammi! I’m guiding the Bohemian then and the Classic Rhapsody the week after, I’ll miss you by a week! :(

      • Sammi July 1, 2013 at 10:29 AM #

        Oh nooo :(

  2. Magpie Groupie June 13, 2013 at 1:34 AM #

    Oh how we have missed you, ‘Olympic Wanderings!’ Welcome back. Your blog is a little bit convincing- just have to convince your father!
    Not long now till you meet up with Amy
    xx

  3. Jessica of HolaYessica June 15, 2013 at 12:05 AM #

    Damn. That food looks AMAZING. Good to hear your back! Going on some amazing trips is always a good excuse for not blogging. :) Actually, every time my blog gets quiet it’s a pretty good sign I’m spending my time dong fun things in real life haha.

    • Caitlyn July 2, 2013 at 4:07 PM #

      Thanks Jess! I tell myself each year that I’ll blog when working/travelling and it just never happens šŸ˜›

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