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Silver Travel Book Club - Book of the Month - May 2019

Thanks everyone for the really interesting comments about your own Balkan and Eastern European experiences.

This month’s Silver Travel Book Club (proudly sponsored by Emerald Waterways) choice is the captivating The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe. The story follows its protagonists through the Balkan conflict from 1979 to 1995, old wounds being reopened to tear ‘Yugoslavia’ apart and devastate communities and families.

This is just one of the books I’ll be reading as I drift down the Danube, from Budapest to Bucharest, on board Emerald Waterways ‘Enchantment of Eastern Europe’ cruise, from Hungary to Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.

Which travel memories do you have of this intriguing part of Europe, whether before this most recent Balkan conflict, or since? Which country, region or person has lingered longest in your travelling memory? And why….?

Join this Forum thread or comment on Silver Travel’s Facebook page and the most interesting two entries from Silver Travellers will each win a copy of The People We Were Before.

We traveled to Belgrade last fall, staying at the Belgrade Inn, and we were delighted with every aspect of our vacation:

the convenient airport transfers arranged by the hotel
the five different free walking tours departing at different times every day
the restaurants in Skadarlija Street, the bohemian quarter

Our hotel was a few steps from Republic Square (the departure point for the free walking tours), Knez Mihailova Street (the pedestrian street which leads to the Belgrade Fortress), and the popular restaurants in Skadarlija Street where we ate every night (after our hotel booked a table for us).

Convenience stores and foreign exchange kiosks are located on every street corner.

It looks great

I will seek this book out, sounds very interesting

North Devon

It’s definitely on my list of books to read. I’ve never been to Yugoslavia, but spent a very interesting month in Russia in 1995. The Iron Curtain had been torn down, and Yeltsin was presiding, so it was relatively relaxed and hopeful. I was working for a consultancy with agricultural projects in the likes of Nizhny Novgorod, Shahunya, Moscow etc, easing the transition out of farming collectivisation. (I travelled round visiting projects and the sites, passed by mile upon mile of forests, and had a wonderful time, despite a bout of food poisoning from some dodgy meat, leading to me throwing up in a bin on an overnight train. The cleaner was not amused!) Out in the countryside I went mushroom picking and visited colourful markets, people were living in wooden dachas and I heard some unforgettable basses singing in a preserved wooden church with amazing acoustics. The Kremlin had a surprising amount of Orthodox churches within its grounds. I particularly loved St Petersburg with its stunning palaces, architecture and canals. My Grandfather was born and grew up there, where his parents and Uncle were living, as the city was quite international in the days of the Tsar. Most of the family left before the revolution when the Cossacks started agitating, but one brother returned as he missed it so much. When the revolution happened he had to get out of there with a few hours notice, with just what he stood up in. About 70 years later that branch of the family got some minor compensation for their losses. I’d like to go back, despite the change in politics, as the people are lovely and welcoming.


great stuff

I visited Yugoslavia before the most recent conflict so it must have been in the late 1970s,. We were there for May Day and we chanced upon a rally in a coastal town near Split where there were huge posters of President Tito and lots of enthusiastic speechmaking and singing. I remember feeling a bit intimidated so we soon moved on. However the locals were extremely friendly and invited us into their homes and plied us with Rakia which is a delicious and potent plum brandy. I recollect buying a bottle to take home, nursing it all the way to the plane, then dropping and breaking it as I climbed the aircraft steps! Yugoslavia seemed very old fashioned with limited menus and uninviting products in the shops,

Our more recent visit to Cavtat near Dubrovnic was totally different . Croatia now seems like most European countries with extensive menus in the numerous restaurants and plenty of expensive goods on sale. We did take a day trip to Sarajevo in Bosnia and that was particularly memorable as a friend was robbed a few minutes after arriving! Sarajevo is fascinating with its 16th century Ottaman era Latin Bridge, the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which ignited World War 1, Unfortunately we spent a lot of time waiting to report the crime to the Bosnian police and closely guarding our own property rather than exploring the rather quaint city! This was the last holiday I took with my husband before he became ill so I have special memories of a wonderful country.

Looks like a very interesting read this month! The only time I’ve been in Eastern Europe was a tour from Munich to Prague, Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg before returning to Munich. The Fisherman’s Bastion in Buda looking over the river to Pest stands out in my mind as well as the stunning Matthias Church, Coronation Church of the Buda Palace. The colourful and sculptural windows were intriguing. However, what impressed me the most was one of the optional tours I went on while in Budapest to Szentendre, an artists’ village just 20 km outside Budapest and situated on the Danube. The highlight for me was a tour of a museum of ceramics by Margit Kovacs (1902-1977) on Vastagh Gyorgy Street. Normally rustic art and pottery are not to my taste, but her work was beautifully done and very expressive. It has been 15 years since I was there but the images remain with me. Trains depart from Batthyany Square every 20 minutes for Szentendre and the museum is open every day from 10-6.

Amazing book about a part of Europe I knew nothing about. I am now hooked on reading about the Balkan Conflict and can’t wait to start another Annabelle Thorpe book. Book Clubs are such a great way of taking you out of your reading comfort zone ! I have now visited Kotor which is the most magical place and look forward to travelling to other parts of Eastern Europe in the near future

Sadly, I have never visited this part of the world. The country that has remained most in my mind is French Guyana – spent a wonderful 5 weeks there – slept in the Amazon forest, shot the rapids in the Amazon, visited the Space Centre in Kourou and saw Ariane the rocket in situ, colourful Macaws everywhere, etc. etc.

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