Albania

When I told people I was going to Albania, the common response was, "Really? What for?" Totally understandable; Albania doesn't get nearly as much love and attention from the hoi polloi as its more popular neighbors. 

But now I can say that Albania is one of the most stunning and interesting places I have ever traveled. The beautiful beaches with crystal clear water and the delicious fresh food that costs next to nothing completely ruined me - why vacation anywhere else?? The friendly people and pristine landscapes completed the package. A major highlight for me was the night sky that swept over the sea and mountain range with a bazillion stars. 

Our travels through Albania included the beach towns of Saranda and Dhermi and the posh capital Tirana. While we felt safe and cared for the entire time, it definitely helped that there were several people in our group native to Albania and fluent in the language. I left a piece of my heart in this amazing place.  

Busing the Balkans

The adage "getting there is half the fun" has never been more applicable than our bus trip from Bulgaria to Albania with a stop in Thessaloniki, Greece. The generous libations, 30+ amazing people, breathtaking scenery, and bumping music made the 10 hour trip one of the most fun travel experiences of my life. Though this song is forever stuck in my head....

 

 

Bulgaria

We rarely went to bed before 4am and missed the hotel's free breakfast almost every morning, but I wouldn't trade the late nights of dancing, music, food, and friends for anything. Sofia is a modern city with plenty of history around every corner (hello, Roman ruins!), and the Soviet influence is apparent in a lot of its structures and architecture. Our favorite part was the downtown area - an expansive pedestrian walkway with outdoor bars and cafes. Truly the best people watching! 

The man handing out free promotional beers in the street told us to "please enjoy this moment of pleasure." We definitely enjoyed lots of them.