Traveling through the Balkans with my Grandmother has been a fun and memorable experience. She joined my family in Austria on March 12 and backpacked with us around the Balkans( Southern Europe) for one month.
All I can say is that she is one hardy Grandma! Imagine 5 people with a small bag in the front and a large backpack in the back, seasoned backpackers fully prepared to travel for one year. Put the intimidating row of backpackers with a 73 year old grandma pulling her suitcase in the scene, go Grandma! With her, we covered 10 countries in the Balkans in 1 month! We went to Austria, Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. How did we manage to backpack through all these countries without driving Grandma bananas? A combination of trains, buses, and excellent home cooked food. Most of the Balkans are much more cheaper than Western Europe, a great way to travel with 6 people is to use Airbnb ( people who rent out their houses through a website for a few days) and trains, that way you can have a private apartment which you can cook your own food and a butt that’s not too sore:) it was pretty cool to travel through the Balkans, even they are 10 countries with different ethnic groups, they share a common culture of language, cuisine, and a communist past.
A quick/long highlights of the 10 countries: Austria- watching an opera at the Vienna opera house with a standing ticket, Serbia- having fun with the whole family at an escape room( chain stores of the real life versions of the escape room game) at Belgrade, Hungary- enjoying Hungarian culture and dance during its Independence Day and staying with friends at Budapest, Bulgaria- the free food tour at Sofia( the food version of free walking tours) Balkan Bites, excellent soup and yogurt! Greece- a lovely journey at Athens visiting the ancient Parthenon and driving through the mainland of Greece with my Father’s friend. I also love Greece’s hills and mountains with sudden heights magical beaches( love Greek salad!!), Macedonia- a breathtaking scenery of a lake that will make your heart melt, and great memories of one to one date with family at Ohrid, Albania- watching one of the oldest classical ballet The Sylphe at the national theater in the capital Tirana( ballet is so fun to watch!), Montenegro- an impressive fortress taken straight out of Lord of the Rings with rising from the sea to the mountain peak( love the seafood!), Bosnia and Herzegovina- an enchanting ancient town of Mostar with an 800 year old 10 story bridge which people jump off and the center of ethnic conflict in the 1990s( the river flows through the town), and Croatia-the museum of broken relationships( really interesting) and saying farewell to Grandma.
I really enjoyed the Balkans, I think what made it different from my other legs on this trip was traveling with my Grandma for one month, a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to know her better and spend more time with her. I really like my Grandma, I realized over the years the more she ages the more open she becomes, becoming a cute and funny Grandma, a side of her I never knew before.