The most efficient way to describe my experience in the Balkans is by compartmentalizing my reactions.
While I consider myself well versed in world history I found I had much to learn about this region. Our guides and lecturers did an excellent job of informing us of the evolution, geographically and historically (and even geodesic)of the land masses, the peoples,the empires, the religions and the conflicts. Viewing it all in an historic context was enlightening but the account of the recent hostilities was heartbreaking, made more-so by the abundant evidence of warfare, the bullet holes, red memorials of death spots, ruined buildings and escape tunnels through which we trudged. The museum and film documenting the atrocities at Srebeniza was almost unbearable yet necessary.
All of the states are set in or surrounded by high alpine peaks that vary from verdant green to gray-blue marble. The towns and villages are climbing the slopes or are tucked into fertile valleys. Eventually, the land masses cede to the sea and the climate accommodates. Our bus wove through spectacular passes, on winding switchbacks that were breathtaking both for their beauty and seeming peril(our driver’s skill was reassuring). The trip’s high point for me was the time spent in the national park with its cascading waterfalls, wooden walkways through fish filled pools and leisurely boat ride to a relaxing finish.
My experience has taught me that almost any trip’s success turns on the chemistry and compatibility between group members. In that respect, we were most fortunate. The group was unique in its shared values, sense of humor and interests and the caring concern one for another.
Joining an unknown travel group is always a crap shoot; this one had a big payoff.