Just a few months ago I posted a blog about a Topdeck Trip I did in 2016, Now in 2017 I was lucky enough to be able to once again do another one.
My tour this year was called Balkan Explorer which focused on the Balkan region in Eastern Europe. The tour was one of Topdeck’s Explorer tour which gives passengers more free time, lots of history, hotel accommodation and of course an awesome trip leader that knows the area well and speaks the language.
The trip is a 15-day tour which starts and ends in Budapest, Hungary and goes to the following destinations: Belgrade, Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, Budva, Zadar, Plitvice Lakes & Ljubljana. The trip is hotel accommodation at a range of 3-4 star hotels, there is options for single room supplement or shared room.
The tour started at 4pm and I arrived in Budapest at 12:30pm giving me enough time to check-in and explore my surroundings. Hotels change all the time but this time around we were staying at the Hotel Hungaria City Center.
Once it was 4:00pm we went down to the lobby to meet our trip leader who was Lana, she briefly introduced herself and explain the required documents she needed to finalise the tour. Afterwards we started our driving tour around the city and got to meet our coach driver Damien, they took us around all the main attractions of the city which included: Parliament House, Heroes Square, Citadella on top of Gellért Hill and the Liberty Bridge.
Our first group dinner was at a traditional Hungarian restaurant called Mesterek Konyhája which we were served goulash and apple strudel, then we headed to a famous ruin bar which Budapest is known for called Szimpla Kert – an old house complex turned into a bar. Budapest has many of these bars which have all different genres of music.
The next day was our free day which means we could do what we wanted around the city, as I have never been to the city before I decided to do Free Walking Tour which is ran by volunteers to provide tourist a taste of the what the city offers.
Free Walking Tours go for about 2-4 hrs depending how often the leader needs to count people; the tour was interesting and provided me so much knowledge on Hungarian history and culture. The city was busy and so energetic as it was a national holiday – St Stephen’s Day. Our trip leader organised an optional dinner cruise which we saw fireworks at 9pm from the boat, so many colourful fireworks and the show went for about 15mins.
It was time to say goodbye to Budapest, Hungary today as we headed towards Belgrade in Serbia – Ex Capital of Yugoslavia. The drive into the city was quite unexpected, this city has survived many wars and is not as glittering as Budapest but still has some amazing views from Belgrade Fortress. Serbia is known by many for its food, it’s a meat lover paradise! Everywhere you go you’ll smell beautiful Serbian cuisine and of course see meat dishes.
We were lucky enough to have been provided an included walking tour of Belgrade from a local who has grown up here, he took us to some amazing places like St Sava’s Serbian Orthodox Church which is still getting build after 82 years! It is one of the largest orthodox churches in the world. Lastly, we stopped at Republic Square which is near the main shopping district and many great restaurants.
Tonight, we went to a traditional Serbian restaurant called Zavicaj around the corner from our hotel – Belgrade City Hotel. The food was delicious and had a massive menu of different types of meat dishes, pasta dishes and of course dessert dishes. People in Belgrade love to party and drink, so that’s exactly what we all did tonight by heading to Belgrade waterfront to party it up.
Our free day in Belgrade was exploring the city centre and checking out all the markets, shops and a restaurant with traditional Balkan food called Manufaktura. The food was tasty and the restaurants décor was beautiful.
Another city ticked off the itinerary and next was Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovia. Unfortunately, a little incident occurred and I needed to head back to Belgrade for the night and meet with the tour the follow day but that is a story for another blog.
Once I arrived in Sarajevo I instantly knew I was in a different country, the surroundings and people were beautiful and I couldn’t help but look at the green mountains that surround the city. Bosnia has a large Islamic culture then Serbia and Croatia due to its Turkish influence back during the Ottoman Empire.
The Sarajevo tunnel is a perfect place to see how people survived during the Bosnian war, it was built by Bosnian army to access the city which was inhabited by Serbian troops. Another famous attraction is the Latin bridge built in Ottoman Empire become the act of war during World War 1.
Perhaps my favourite bit was the Sarajevo Meeting of Culture Line, this shows the area where East meets West. As the Bosnia has both Islamic and Christian cultures this line breaks the two cultures. The building structures are completed different on either side of these, From Arabian style building on one side to roman style buildings on the other.
My time in Sarajevo may have been short but I was lucky enough to see so much in the 1 day I had. I look forward to returning here in the future.
The next day was really exciting for me because we were heading to a city I have been so excited to visit, Dubrovnik Croatia.
On the way to the city we made a stop in the Bosnian town of Mostar, famous for its bridge that many people jump off. But the thing to take notice of the most is the two sides either side of the river. One being Islamic and the other Roman Catholic, each side has different churches and mosques and its quite pretty when you side on the bridge and take note of the difference of either side.
We finally made it to Dubrovnik after a lot of curved roads, once I took notice of the beautiful beaches of the Adriatic Sea I knew it was going to be paradise. We had our first group at a nearby restaurant from our hotel before heading into the city for a walking tour. Our guide was informative and showed us many of Dubrovnik’s attractions such as The Walls of Dubrovnik, St Blaise’s Church, Dubrovnik Cable Car and the streets of Old Town Dubrovnik.
Many tourists love to come here due to American TV Show Game of Thrones being filmed in the area. Tonight, was hitting the town for clubbing at Culture Club Revelin a club built inside the old towns walls, each summer heaps of international DJ’s come and play here and it gets insane!
After a night big, we finally had a free day to explore the city more. During the morning till mid-afternoon I did an optional tour to sea kayak, our group had a leader which took us around the walls, Lokrum Island and of course a private beach for us to relax. After we docked back I then went up on the Dubrovnik Cable Cars to get a better view of the city from above. It is a great place to view the sunset and of course enjoy a meal with a view! The city walls were another thing I went to explore, you can get great pictures from different angles.
For dinner I went to a cute little seafood restaurant called Moby Dick, great selections of beautifully cooked Croatian seafood caught daily.
Stay tuned for Part 2 coming on soon!