I am a person who likes to make tons of photos bit then actually looks at them later. There is no bad mood that cannot be mended by going through your sea photos! So, here I am looking at my photos and suddenly deciding it would be a good idea to group my favorite places by their first letter. A totally different approach appears. I am in no way claiming my favorite places are universally the best, and there are so many more I haven’t seen yet. But I hope it will be fun! So, here we start with some interesting places on the Balkans with the letter A.
- Abritus, Bulgaria
A magnificent Roman town close to today’s town of Razgrad, which I only discovered when I accidentally saw an announcement of the festival called Ancient Abritus, running for – I think – sixth year already somewhere in June. The town itself has not been fully uncovered but what you can see is rather welcoming; there is even a modern tower that gives the notion of what it must have felt like to stand on the old and non-existing today fortress tower in the past. The visitor center is a must; there are fun games for all ages inside – Roman mosaics and 3D-puzzles of Roman arches to assemble, photos with a Roman hair-cut, etc. The festival itself also involves all ages, even the kindergartens take part in the procession before the local roman ruler. And if you think that grown men in hemp diapers would look funny, go and see the demonstration of the Pentathlon (a contest in five disciplines, s.th. like running, archery, wrestling and I don’t remember the rest).
- Asenova Fortress, Bulgaria
One of my first posts in this blog was about it as I had not visited it since my school years when we were being cargoed in smoking buses and dragged around the country without any explanations. It was now when I saw it much later that I was able to really appreciate it and like it. Its very location is magical and I have actually said everything else about it in my movie of the Bulgarian Shorts series on my YouTube channel (for now very under-developed, but with great potential) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76NCUYtUPzA
- Asprovalta, Greece
The nearest sea to my current location of Blagoevgrad, measured by watch. Despite the constant jams at Kulata Border Checkpoint in the summer but with a certain compensation offered by the Struma Highway which gets longer and longer. Asprovalta is a typical small Greek town with low-floor construction, white houses, large balcony tents and many flowers. With wonderful places to eat and so many kilometers of beach that no people from Blagoevgrad could fill in. There are many sea-side cafes with sun-beds and umbrellas where you only pay for what you order from the bar; the frappe is excellent and you get it with icy-cold water as bonus. The admirers of unorganized beach activities, on the other hand, can spend a whole day for almost no money if they bring their own umbrella, coffee in a pot and sandwiches in a bag. Both options have been tested.
- Athens, Greece
I already suggested Athens last week for a visit on February and I paid certain attention to the Acropolis. I didn’t however mention its museum which on the outside resembles the socialist-grandeur style we are familiar with but on the inside is marvelous; I didn’t mention either the sites on the hill below the Acropolis which also offer certain pleasant surprises. To me personally, the most interesting place in Athens was the Athenian Agora (the ancient city square) where I saw for the first time a restored stoa. I had read on labels in front of broken column remains that this was, for instance, the southeast stoa of this particular city; I had even been told the stoa was a two-storey building with an outer colonnade, but it is so different when you can see and touch. And it is not just the stoa which by the way contains a more than interesting museum; the Athenian Agora can easily fill a whole half day for you.
- Aggitis, Greece
This is a cave also called the Mara Cave and is located near a village in Northern Greece bearing the name of Aggitis or Angitis. Actually, it is the name of the river flowing by the village and through the cave; my photo shows the spot where the water exits the cave. In Northern Greece, they have yet another cave starting with A and even more famous than the first one – it is the Alistrati Cave, also a favourite of mine. But I decided two caves in one list are too many. It is good that both caves offer written information in other languages including Bulgarian, because guides usually speak in Greek. The caves are not something unseen before but are nonetheless beautiful and very pleasant to visit, especially if you pass by on your way to or from the sea in the hot summer.
- Astra, Romania
The last of my interesting places to visit on the Balkans with “A” is located in the outskirts of the Romanian cultural pearl of Sibiu – a town known in German as Hermannstadt and in Hungarian – as something totally un-pronounceable for me. Astra is an ethnographic open-air museum – if by ‘museum’ you mean an entire village. There are rural houses and whole farms from various districts of Romania, collections of carts and grape pressers, a stackyard, 5-6 types of grain mills, unseen doghouses and even the grandpa of bowling which I have shown on the photo. The most amazing thing is you can touch everything and enter everywhere, even the basement of the mill. The visitor center tries to use modern approaches but in my humble opinion there is more to be done there. And Astra itself needs at least a whole day if you want to give it a proper tour.
There are many more interesting places to visit on the Balkans, come back for the other letters!