By this stage, I was settling into a bit of a rhythm out in the Balkans. Only two protests had threatened to shut down the entire respective cities of Sofia and Istanbul. The Albanian elections had gone relatively smoothly – I stress the word ‘relatively’. Better yet, I hadn’t lost anyone and my groups had been fantastic.
View from the Office Day 51: Part of the ancient Roman stadium, Plovdiv.
Nobody has ever really heard of Plovdiv before, which makes it all the more fun when I take people for a walking tour of the Thracian city. First stop? This ancient Roman stadium, excavated only last year. Only a portion of it has been uncovered; the remaining eighty or so per cent of it is hidden under the city’s main pedestrian shopping strip. There’s no entrance fee and you can climb all over it to your Tomb Raider-heart’s delight.
View from the Office Day 52: Bringing a bit of cassowary love to Istanbul!
One of my best mates, Joel, is also one of the best tour guides I’ve ever met. One of his signature moves is ‘The Cassowary’, where everyone mimics the freaky flightless bird behind Joel on a walking tour, pub crawl or even in the middle of an Oktoberfest beer tent. Two lovely ladies on my tour – Jess and Katie – had also been former passengers of Joel’s, and we paid homage to him and the cassowary outside Istanbul’s Blue Mosque.
View from the Office Day 53: ‘Their name liveth for evermore.’ Lone Pine, Gallipoli.
This memorial at Lone Pine is the main Australian memorial on the Gallipoli Peninsula. As part of the August Offensive of 1915, Australians took this higher ground from the Turkish troops in a three day battle. Though the Allies won the battle they lost the offensive (the situation became a stalemate) and all Allied troops were evacuated from the peninsula that December.
An estimated 7-9,000 Australian and Turkish troops lost their lives in these three days during the Battle of Lone Pine.
View from the Office Day 54: The wide, grand avenues of Thessaloniki, Greece.
Nobody really talks about Thessaloniki, save for the fact that the city’s name is a tongue-twister and it’s Greece’s second-largest city. Maybe it’s the Melburnian in me (Thessaloniki has been Melbourne’s main sister city since 1984) but I like the relaxed, laid-back vibe of Thessaloniki. Some parts are a maze of Ottoman-style laneways, others are stately and important-looking and others are all about looking out to the water, particularly come sunset time.
View from the Office Day 55: The stunning St Stephen’s Monastery, Greece.
This sixteenth century monastery – the easiest to access out of all the monasteries in Meteora – also has its fair share of recent history. During World War II, the Nazis believed that the resident monks were harbouring Jews inside, and bombed the monastery to the point in which it was abandoned. After the war, nuns took over the site and painstakingly restored it to its former glory.
View from the Office Day 56: Who knew Athens had decent beaches?!
I met Paul in Athens, who’d been in town for a few days. I was keen for a bit of R&R while those on my tour had some free time, so on the advice of my hostel we headed down to the beach. A forty minute tram ride from Syntagma Square got us here, a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Athens. You paid to enter the beaches (four euro a person) but for the cleanliness, toilet facilities, deck chairs and table service we couldn’t complain.
View from the Office Day 57: This is what happens when you recommend people buy sandals in Greece.
As I said in the last View from the Office post, I fell in love with the new sandals I bought in Athens. My joy was infectious; about half of those on my tour toddled on down to the same shop and purchased their own favourites. This was to become a common theme throughout the summer.
View from the Office Day 58: The World Heritage-listed town of Gjorkaster, Albania.
Thanks, Taken. Because of you, people get the wrong idea about Albania. Much of it is incredibly beautiful, like the town of Gjirokaster. Here, the town is famous for its seventeenth century fortress homes, where warring families would barricade themselves along with all of their possessions inside. The views are incredible, particularly from the fortress, where I took this photo.
View from the Office Day 59: Just a lazy boat trip along the Montenegrin coast.
Oh, Montenegro. I worry about what you’ll be like in a few years when more people discover you. For now though, you can pay four euro for a ninety minute cruise to two islands (including the famous Sveti Stefan), BYO alcohol. How the hell was I getting paid to do this?
View from the Office Day 60: Words can hardly describe the beauty of Dubrovnik.
Even though I’m one of the world’s laziest people, I had to do Dubrovnik’s city wall walk. It’s absolutely superb, amazing, whatever superlative you want still couldn’t describe what you see both inside the walls and out. Yes, you have to pay to enter the walls (about the equivalent of 13 euro) but by God it’s worth every penny.
Days 61-70 will feature Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece.