Balkan Holidays – 10 City Breaks in the Balkans


A city break is an ideal way to learn something of a different culture in a few days. A city break gives you a chance to absorb a new experience. The Balkan region has a diverse mix of geography, history and culture.

City breaks in the Balkans offer something for everyone no matter what your age, taste, or whether you are part of a group or travelling alone.

Here are 10 cities that reflect the character of the Balkans.

1. Belgrade – Serbia

Belgrade is known for being a vibrant and trendy city and has a reputation for offering a vibrant nightlife the best features of which are the barges spread along the banks of the Sava and Danube Rivers.

Belgrade boasts two opera houses, a number of museums, including the National Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. There is also some stunning architecture

A former river island, Ada Ciganlija, on the Sava river, is Belgrade’s biggest sports and recreational complex. It is the most popular destination for Belgraders and visitors alike during the city’s hot summers.

2. Bucharest – Romania

Bucharest is known for its wide, tree-lined boulevards, glorious Belle Epoque buildings and a reputation for the high life, which at one time, earned it the nickname of “Little Paris”.

Bucharest has much historical charm – from the streets of the Old City Centre, which are slowly being restored, to the grand architecture of the Royal Palace and the lush green of Cismigiu Park. The city also claims a large number of museums, art galleries, exquisite Orthodox churches and unique architectural sites.

3. Dubrovnik – Croatia

Dubrovnik is one of the world’s finest and best preserved fortified cities and features two kilometres of walls, some 6 metres thick in places lined with turrets and towers, that run around the city. George Bernard Shaw said in 1929: “If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik”.

4. Ljubljana – Slovenia

Ljubljana is a charming city, the numerous parks and a vibrant cultural scene. There are numerous art galleries and museums and a mediaeval castle located at the summit of the hill that dominates the city centre.

Ljubljana Zoo covers has 152 animal species. An antique flea market takes place every Sunday in the old city. Tivoli Park is the largest park in in the city, has 3 main avenues, planted with chestnut-trees.

5. Sarajevo – Bosnia

Sarajevo is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated around the Miljacka river, commonly known as the Sarajevo River. This river is one of the main features of the city. In December 2009, Lonely Planet listed Sarajevo as one of the top ten cities to visit in 2010

A great way to get around this city is on the electric tram system. Sarajevo was the first city in Europe to have a full-time operational electric tram network running through the city.

6. Skopje – Macedonia

Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, and the Memorial House of Mother Teresa commemorates this. There are many old churches and mosques to visit for those who love history and architecture.

Many famous worldwide artists have attended the music festivals over the years. The Skopje Jazz Festival is part of the European Jazz Network. The Blues and Soul Festival in early July is part of the Skopje Cultural Summer Festival and the May Opera Evenings have been one of the most visited events in Skopje.

The City Park is home to the main museum, several monuments, small lakes, cafes and restaurants. The city Zoo and stadium are also here along with several nightclubs.

7. Sofia – Bulgaria

Sofia is nestled in the foothills of Vitosha Mountain, which makes it an ideal location for hiking and skiing. The city of Sofia is a lively, bustling and cosmopolitan city with many nightclubs, live venues and traditional Bulgarian taverns and restaurants. Many famous musicians have played in Sofia.

Sofia houses numerous museums and art galleries, including the National Historical Museum, the Bulgarian Natural History Museum, the Museum of Earth and Men.

The city has many places of special interest, museums and churches, and has a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Boyana Church

8 Split – Croatia

The city is located on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and offers great links to surrounding seaside towns and to the numerous Adriatic Islands.

The city centre is taken up by the Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian, which is UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Athens – Greece

Athens is home to the world famous Acropolis? The Parthenon and the other main buildings on the Acropolis were built by Pericles in the fifth century BC as a monument to the cultural and political achievements of the inhabitants of Athens. You could spend some days exploring this and it is best to start early on the hot summer days.

The Plaka is the oldest section of Athens. It is now a pedestrian area of restaurants, tourist shops, and cafes and is an enjoyable place to relax.

The National Archaeological Museum ranks among the top ten museums in the world.

10. Istanbul – Turkey

Istanbul, the historic city that stands in Europe and Asia and has the status of 2010 European Capital of Culture is an ideal venue for a city break.

In Istanbul’s steep and bustling streets, and visitors can spend hours buying or viewing the wonderful products on offer in the markets, where bargaining is essential. The Grand Bazaar, has over 4,000 craft shops, selling carpets, pottery, jewels, and antiques in its labyrinths.

There are many monuments and historical sites including the Hagia Sophie and one of the greatest examples of Islamic architecture, the “Blue Mosque”

Be sure to take a ferry along the Bosphorus Strait, and enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the city especially at sunset.

There are many more places in the Balkans that make it ideal for a short city break.


Athens, A Trip To Antiquity


Anyone who studies the classics or has a unique interest in history of philosophy should venture to the great metropolis of  Athens . The first step in planning such an adventure is obtaining a US passport. After that feat is accomplished then  Athens  is only a plane ride away.


Passports have been around for quite a while, they originated in France and then the US picked up on them. They became valid travel documents permitting travel to foreign lands. They are required today in order to travel to another country. They used to be somewhat difficult to obtain, now through technology and the internet they are readily available as well as ll the other passport services that may be needed.


 Athens  is named after the warrior Goddess Athena. She is the patron deity of this ancient thriving metropolis. Greek myths of the clash of the titans versus Olympic Gods have permeated literature and other aspects of world culture. There are very few people who are completely unfamiliar with any Greek myth. History books are full of ancient epic battles involving the Athenians and surrounding ancient peoples.


There are many sites to visit in  Athens , each rich with history and culture. The Parthenon is perhaps the most famous of the Athenian ruins. Its is the temple to Athena that stands on the top of the great hill, or Acropolis. There is also Syntagma Square, The National Archaeological Museum, and Mount Olympus. These are just a few of the many sites that  Athens  has to offer.


The Parthenon is one of the most famous sites of  Athens . It is atop the hill, Acropolis. This structure was built in honor of the great Goddess Athena who was the cities deity. The Parthenon has had many uses since it was temple to Athena. It has been a church, a Muslim mosque, and was even a munitions depot when the Turkish occupied Greece. Through all that it has remained almost in tact.

Syntagma Square

Syntagma Square is the central of the  Athens  business district. Syntagma translated means constitution. So it is constitution square, where government buildings are and fountains and even Greek guards. Syntagma Square is where all major filming and photo shooting is done in Greece.

National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum is the countries largest museum. It was originally constructed to hold the excavated finds from the nineteenth century, but since then it has grown. It now holds over 11,000 exhibits from Ancient  Athens  and beyond. The items featured range from pre-historic collections to the Bronze Age and also feature items from Egypt as well.


3 Star Hotels in Barcelona Centre


Barcelona, as one of Spain’s most important and largest cities, offers the visitor an abundance of cultural things to see and do. Famous sights include the impressive Sagrada Família, the bustling Ramblas, several outstanding Gaudí buildings and a good selection of museums and galleries. Also, a rather unique characteristic of the city is the fact that it also lies on the coast and offers the rarity of sandy beaches and sunbathing; an ideal situation for those looking for culture as well as a bit of sea-side relaxation.

Of course accommodation will play a relatively large part in how much you enjoy your visit. A 3-star hotel will usually provide at least the minimum in the services and amenities expected for a comfortable and relaxing stay. Like many major cities, there is a good choice of 3 star hotels in Barcelona. They can be found all over the city, but for convenience it would probably be best to stay in a hotel in or close to the city centre, so that you can easily discover Barcelona on foot, even though the city’s public transport system is both cheap and efficient.

The centre of Barcelona is quite compact, making it viable to explore on foot. Furthermore, the centre is well connect via the city’s comprehensive metro network. In the centre you will find the Cathedral, Gaudí’s La Pedrera, the main shopping centre, some of the city’s best restaurants and cafes and many of the museums, such as the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Picasso Museum, the Maritime Museum and much more.

The following Barcelona hotels are well located in the city centre, one near Plaza Catalonia, one close to the Sagrada Família and the other directly on the Ramblas.

3-star Hotel Gran Ducat Barcelona: This hotel is a modern place to stay and run by friendly, professional staff. Located just off Plaza Catalonia, you will be close to where the Ramblas begin and where the city’s main shopping area can be found. There are 64 good-sized guest rooms in total, all en suite, air conditioned and well equipped with today’s mod cons.


Athens Concert Hall


Usually people who visit Athens are more impressed with the antiquities and the famous monuments like the Acropolis and the Parthenon and don’t get me wrong I am impressed too… how couldn’t I be, but there are more things to Athens than people think so, theatres, cinemas, shopping malls and the Concert Hall of Athens which is not too far from the center of town and boats state-of-the-art technology and acoustics.

It was designed by a consortium of foreign and Greek consultants to correspond to the stringent demands of contemporary audiences and performers and can be considered one of the finest in the world.

Apart from the main hall Filon tis Mousikis – Friends of Music- which seats an audience of 2.000 it contains a smaller hall seating 500 people, a music library, recording studios, a restaurant and a foyer in which exhibitions of various kinds are held. It also houses an ultramodern conference centre.

The Megaro schedules concerts of all kinds from classical music of all periods to jazz and folk preformed by world class soloists, groups orchestras, operas and ballet companies throughout the year, except in summer.

It started operating in 1991 and it is an important cultural center of the whole Europe. Its superb acoustics have been acclaimed both by the public and by renowned performers of the music and art world.

The Athens Concert Hall has welcomed top class artists, music ensembles, composers, conductors and performers in an artistic trajectory that has left its mark in the country’s culture scene.

It is very easy to reach the Concert Hall of Athens since there is a metro station named after it which is only a few meters away. It is really easy to find it if you have a Metro Map. Buses and taxis are also available in the area.

As far as accommodation is concerned, there are many Concert Hall Hotels, meaning hotels close to “Megaro Mousikis” to choose from. Athens Hotels are among the best of Greece.

I went there many times for several performances and I even got the chance to see a classical concert dedicated to Antonin Dvorak, a famous musician. The Concert Hall of Athens really impressed me so I thought that I should really share this with you. Don’t miss an excellent opportunity to visit a place like this one!


Collecting Ancient Athenian Coins


Coins issued by certain cities or empires took the leading role in dictating which coins were readily acceptable for trade in the Mediterranean lands. One such   city  was  Athens , which established the “Attic standard” that was to be adopted later by Alexander the Great. Silver was used to pay civil servants, soldiers and mercenaries, and it is believed that the latter is the reason that many Greek silver coins were struck in the first place. The non-Greek lands of the Near East issued large quantities of silver coins, most notably the Parthians, Sassanians and Baktrians. These coins vary in style and fabric, the thickness and purity of the planchet on which the coin was struck, and are relatively under valued compared to the more widely collected issues of Greece proper.

In Greek mythology, Athena was the goddess of warfare and wisdom. Later known as Minerva by the Romans, she was the goddess of not only wisdom and battle, but of certain crafts and the protector of all cities and states. At birth, according to one myth, she sprang from the forehead of Zeus, the king of the gods, fully grown and dressed in armor. Athena is usually shown wearing a helmet and a magic shield called the aegis. The goddess Athena was not only wise in war but also in the arts of peace. She supposedly invented the plow and taught men how to yoke oxen. Athena’s chief symbol was the owl and in Greek mythology, the owl is firmly linked with Athena who is usually picture with her owl perched on her shoulder. Some say that is why the owl, in modern times, associated with wisdom.

Athenian coins were used in exchange throughout the Greek world, hoards have been found as far away from  Athens  as Babylon, Afghanistan and Iran. The quantity of Athenian coins minted in last half of the fifth century BC, reflect the changed and powerful position of  Athens  in the eastern Mediterranean, from a small  city-state  defending itself on land against the onslaught of Darius at Marathon,  Athens  grew to be the  center  of an empire whose power was dependent on its control of the sea. From being a partner in and administrative head of the Delian League,  Athens  became its leader and its many  city-state  members paid  Athens  tribute.

Huge sums must have been necessary for the commercial activities of  Athens  port  city , Piraeus, construction atop the Acropolis and in the city, financing of the Athenian fleet, and perennial warfare. The money was derived not only from annual tribute received from the Delian League  city-states , but from rich silver deposits  Athens  owned and mined at Laurium, close to Cape Sunium as well. The mines provide the silver that paid for construction of the fleet that destroyed the Persians at Salamis in 479 BC.

Common to all issues of the coin are the goddess Athena, in profile on the obverse, and the owl, her constant companion, standing on the reverse, a sprig of olive leaves with a berry above its shoulder. Variations in design exist among denominations of the coin.


Athens Holiday – The Greek Capital


This metropolitan capital is also the largest and one of the oldest cities in Greece.  Athens  is rich with ancient history, myths and a contemporary touch of bars, café and restaurants.  Athens  is also the  city  of Olympics, architecture and holiday in  Athens  is nevertheless a complete adventure in itself, with  Athens  offering breathtaking archaeological rich places, beaches and crowded shopping areas.

Following are some of the tourist spots or attractions one must visit when holidaying in  Athens :


Acropolis is one of the major tourist spots as it stands high up on the hills, giving a spectacular view of the Greek capital. The structure is loaded with archaeological values and its origin goes back to 510 BC. The attraction is also worth paying a visit when holidaying in  Athens , due to the amazing temples surrounding it. Every year huge crowd of tourists and visitors come to acropolis when on a holiday in  Athens . Never miss acropolis when in  Athens .

Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon

This tourist spot is a great way to enjoy holiday in  Athens  by viewing sunset, also you get to experience archaeological rich monuments surrounded with striking sea view. The place is a quite a hit among foreign tourist and local visitors.

National Archaeological Museum

This popular tourist spot was structured in year 1889 and is home to some of the most amazing ancient artifacts and proof of really old civilizations. The museum is loved by many who plan a holiday in  Athens  just for its history and archeological richness. The museum has mask of Agamemnon that goes 3,600 years back. Greek sculptures, Cycladic idols, pottery and ancient jewelry, coins as well as a 2000 years old finding of a computer.

The Plaka

Plaka is loved by tourist and visitors and is a major way to wind down when holidaying in  Athens  and experiencing the thick and thin of  Athens’s  archeology. This 19th century narrow streets going down the acropolis is filled with shops, cafes, boutiques and local building. This tourist spot is round the clock surrounded with tourist and local visitors. You can always found good souvenir to take back to your country from souvenir shops on Plaka.


This attraction is found at the suburbs of  Athens  and has tourist and local visitors of  Athens  all dinning at best and sophisticated dine outs, taverns and sea food restaurants. Piraeus is not exactly a part of  Athens , but can be reached by ferries and is worth paying a visit, when relishing an exotic holiday in  Athens .


Maintained and run by a group of monks, the monastery is a regularly visited by tourist holidaying in  Athens , due to its historic and amazing built and background. The building built in 11 century got its mosaics in 16th or 17th century. This orthodox monastery is surrounded with pleasing scenery, flourishing gardens and enjoyable views.

Time to visit or holiday in  Athens 

The best time to holiday in  Athens  would be anytime other than months of summers, which are hot and humid enough to make the holiday a disappointment. Thus, it is better to visit  Athens , for that fun and enjoyment, in the months of March and October. Spring and autumn is always good time to tour  Athens .


Secret Italy – City Breaks On the Road Less Travelled


You probably already know the top five cities of Italy: Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice and Naples. But if you’re looking for a different side of Italy, city breaks in the less visited areas may be just the ticket.

Ranging in size, these places offer a great glimpse into authentic Italian life, perhaps unlike the hurried pace and bustling crowds you’ll find in Rome, Florence or Milan. Here are five other places to consider visiting in Italy – city breaks on the road less travelled!


Also known as Torino, the home of the Fiat automobile plant and the Shroud of Turin is an interesting yet often overlooked area in Italy. City breaks in the Piedmont region can be wonderfully relaxing here, nestled between the foothills of the Alps and the Po River. It’s an excellent base to stay in between exploring the nearby hills and vineyards.

With its Baroque architecture (extending to its elegant bars and cafes), arcaded shopping promenades and smaller museums of Italy, Turin offers a relaxed ambience. You can wander around Piazza Castello and Palazzo Reale, which feature lovely fountains and are ringed by grand buildings. Then, take a walk through Il Quadrilatero – a maze of meandering back streets with wonderful markets and charming churches. You’ll also want to visit the Borgo Mediovale, a recreation of a medieval village by the river, complete with a castle.


Umbria is one of the country’s more overlooked areas, often overshadowed by its more popular neighbour, Tuscany. But if you’re looking for an interesting place to relax without forgoing sophistication in Italy, city breaks in Perugia – Umbria’s largest city, located almost at the very centre of the country – are ideal.

A lively walled medieval hill city with historic buildings, busy squares, and modern shops, Perugia is home to a university as well as an Italian language centre catering to foreigners. From here you can also explore other Umbrian attractions such as Assisi, Spello, and Gubbio.


For many visitors, the Lombardy region usually means Milan, but if you’re looking for something a little quieter, you may want to go east to the small city of Brescia – often overlooked in the excitement over the country’s fashion centre. Located between Lakes Garda and Iseo, Brescia is the gateway to the Valcamonica – a UNESCO site with the largest collection of prehistoric rock art in Europe. This is also the place where the annual Mille Miglia car race begins and ends. Places to see in Brescia include the castle, Roman ruins, Renaissance squares, and a medieval city centre named Piazza della Vittoria – where the famous car race starts.


Also overshadowed by a more popular neighbour, Padua is a wonderful place to spend a more laidback holiday. This small walled city located between Verona and Venice boasts Europe’s first Botanical Gardens – the Orto Botanico – and is also the home of many frescoes by Giotto.


Because of its wealth of Baroque monuments, Lecce is often called the Florence of the south. For those visiting southern Puglia, making Lecce your base offers the advantage of a mild climate, accommodations that is inexpensive compared to other cities, and a -charmingly compact city centre.

There’s definitely more to see than the top four big cities in Italy; the less-visited areas will definitely give you a more complete view of the country in all its beauty.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in a City Center


Some people say that city center is the best place to live. One has an easy access to all the amenities of life. Additionally, city centers are the places where all the business, educational, official and trade activity centers are located. The commuting time is nothing as compared to those living in the suburbs. There are, however, some big disadvantages of living in the city center as well. Following lines would give you a great comparison in this regard.


The biggest advantage of living in a city-center is the easy access to all the business, trade and educational offices. City-centers are planned in such a manner that they become the hub of everything related to commercial, official or educational fields. Most universities and colleges are located in the city-center and students from suburbs have to commute long distances to reach their alma maters. Similarly, professionals have to take public or private transport to reach the city-center. Monthly fares of public transports, despite all the discounts, are quite expensive these days.

On the contrary, people living in the city-center do not have to incur any transportation costs. In most cases, all the famous buildings, business centers and universities are located within a walking distance. There are no expenditures in transportation costs and time wasted in travelling. Additionally, one can save money on dining costs as one can simply head back to home to eat during lunch breaks. People from the suburbs are unfortunate in this regard. They have to eat lunch from the push carts or restaurants and this entails some big spending, even if the rates are affordable. Monthly expenditures on food bills are enough to cause a big dent in your monthly budget.


There are also many disadvantages of living in a city-center. First of all, there is no sense of privacy as the city centre remains active till late night. Secondly, the house rents are sky high in the city-center. Everyone wants to live there and homeowners take full advantage of this phenomenon. Another disadvantage of living in a city-center is the lack of suburban activities and neighbourhood attitude that is prevalent in the suburbs. There are hardly any parks and open spaces where one can breathe fresh air. In most cases, the environment is polluted because of thousands of cars that throng the roads and alleys. Similarly, the proportion of trees and shrubs is far less than a typical suburb that is usually green and pollution free.

The sense of community is also lacking in the city-center as people remain busy in their own affairs and do not pay any attention to their neighbours and friends. Another down point of living in the city center is the higher prices of commodities. As compared to suburbs, that are usually located close to farmer markets; city centers are cramped places with high property rents. Shops often pass on that high price to their customers.


Philadelphia- the New Athens


A city not only known as the city of American freedom or the birthplace of America but also known for the revolutionary role it has played since centuries. Welcome to Philadelphia, a life-size city in Pennsylvania and the birthplace of America. Philadelphia is often referred as the New Athens, the name first suggested for the work done by the famous native of the city Benjamin Franklin. Rightly so as Benjamin Franklin was responsible for the country’s first insurance company, the city’s first public library and the first fire department; Franklin also played a great role in establishing the city’s Postal system as well as inventing new conveniences such as bifocal lenses and the Franklin stove.

Philadelphia or “Philly” best known for its role in the American Revolutionary War saw the convening of the Continental Congress as well as the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. Shortly after the nation’s inception took place in Philadelphia, it was named the nation’s capital between 1790 and 1800 before it was relocated to its present Washington D.C. Philly is now a big metropolitan which accommodates around 6.2 million inhabitants from almost all nationalities.

One of the unique factors about Philadelphia is that it is the most walkable city in the US and this factor is well used for the better part of it. Signs like “Walk! Philadelphia” well compliments the cities uniqueness and at the same time guide visitors toward shopping, dining, gallery perusing, cultural enjoyment, local must-sees and public transportation should it need to be taken. The city has two very walkable shopping districts as well as the walkable Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is home to many museums, including the Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art that was made famous in the Rocky series of movies.

Its geographic location makes Philadelphia accessible by all modes of transport. The Philadelphia International airport is a busy one and you can find regular flights to almost all the locations. You can even enjoy the road trip to Philadelphia. Moreover as a visitor you can find hotels for every budget and if by any chance you are on a tight budget you can definitely find a suitable place in the Philadelphia districts. There is a place for every budget in Philadelphia. Some of the regular facilities offered by the hotels in Philadelphia include air conditioned rooms, car rentals, airport pick and drop facilities, swimming pools, health clubs, spas, restaurants etc. The city provides a unique nightlife to all and that definitely means that you can take a ballet in the nation’s oldest grand opera house as well as knock back a Pabst and a shot of swill for three bucks. In all Philadelphia makes a great city for all and if you haven’t taken a note of that you better mark it in your next holiday destination.


Breathtaking Historical Athens


The history of  Athens  dates back over five millennia and one can therefore imagine the rich culture, art and civilization that it must possess. Tourists like to visit  Athens  for its range of absorbing museums, to explore ruined temples and relish the exquisite Greek cuisine.

On an  Athens  tour one must explore the splendid Parthenon, considered perhaps, to be the finest of all Greek temples. The adjoining area too has a collection of temples which can be explored. Another captivating temple is the Temple of Olympian Zeus built by the Romans.

Being an ancient  city ,  Athens  naturally is home to a number of renowned museums. You would require almost a day to view the famous collection of ancient Greek artifacts on a visit to the National Archaeological Museum. The Theatre Museum and the Numismatic Museum are worth a shot for their fascinating displays.

You will be surprised by the rich cultural life that  Athens  is proud of. You must on a visit to  Athens  see productions of ancient plays in their original settings. It is an experience by itself to explore the many shops and classy restaurants of Kolonaki. A taste of Greek coffee on the streets of Plaka will impress you. One historical site which one must not miss is ‘The Acropolis Hill’ or also called the ‘Sacred Rock’. The area is home to three important temples: the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, and the temple of Nike in honor of the goddess Athena. These and many other  Athens  sites you can take pleasure in while enjoying the hospitality of  Athens  hotels.