The Balkan Peninsula, or the Balkans (apparently meaning “a chain of wooded mountains” in Turkish, or “mud” in Persian – we’ll go with the former, a little more romantic…), extending south from central Europe into the Mediterranean Sea includes the countries of Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and reaching into European Turkey. The Balkan Mountains were apparently made when Zeus turned some dude into a hill whom he didn’t like much, charming. Moral – don’t piss the Gods off.
The Balkan Peninsula is surrounded by the Adriatic Sea to the west, the Mediterranean Sea (including the Ionian and Aegean seas) and the Marmara Sea to the south and the Black Sea to the east. A somewhat irrelevant fact for the purposes of this discussion, but that means something important thing to me – seafood, lots of seafood and I can’t wait! They started off farming a long time ago (like 7,000 years before Jesus turned up) so I’m guessing they know how to grow things as well. That may also work in my favour.
They’ve been pretty feisty over the centuries and have either beat the crap out of others, or had the crap beaten, played with Ottomans, the Russians, The Nazi Germans and pissed the US off in the Cold War (bless). But that wasn’t enough – then the Serb’s had a crack at Bosnia (along with other unrest in the region) and Yugoslavia was dismantled like an unwanted Lego house to make the region as it is today. Still with an appetite for war, some dude in Serbia called Slobodan (the communist leader – dodgy name if you ask me) was overthrown by revolution and then tried for some heinous crimes committed during the Yugoslav wars. Apparently then died of a heart attack before a verdict was reached. He sounded like a bit of a shit so I guess that’s justice. Anyway, he appeared to represent well a lot of the other shits that have shaped their history. The region is a melting pot of Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Roman Catholic Christianity – no wonder they fought. Christianity seems to make people trigger happy for some reason?
Okay – all that aside – things sound pretty settled now so we are off. And it sounds amazing. The people have a reputation for being really hospitable and the food sounds legend. We are planning to leave in the middle of the year sometime picking up Gabby in the UK then driving through France, maybe fang down into Spain for a bit, a quick loop through Northern Italy (need an Italian food and wine fix), then up around the top of the Adriatic, down through Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and then into Northern Greece. As to where from there who knows! We will be well positioned to store the Land Rover there for a bit if we want to drive through Turkey, Iran and Pakistan to get to India – but we also might get shot as well… Let’s leave that decision for a while!
Right – that’s a long blog, so enough of the history, let’s get on with planning an adventure.