The Antipodean’s Andrew Allen took the path less travelled through the Balkans with Busabout’s Ottoman Trek. From the blue waters of Split to the history of Bosnia, the energy of Bulgaria and the variety of Turkey, here are some snapshots from his journey.
You hardly encounter any tourists on Busabout’s Ottoman Trek. This is a journey off the beaten track, from the Adriatic to the edge of Asia. From bullet holes to baklava. The itinerary is jam packed: five countries in six days. It’s impossible to explore the whole lot in a single post, so I’ve gone for another tack. Here’s a daily snapshot. Some are the best photos from the day; others capture a defining moment of the trek. Together, they capture a little bit of what makes this particular trek so magical.
Pre-Trek Day 1: Split, Croatia
You’d be crazy not to arrive early and spend a day here in Split, Croatia before leaving on the Ottoman Trek. The old town is centred inside the best preserved Roman palace anywhere in the world. The orange roofs tell you you’re on the outskirts of Eastern Europe, and they stretch for miles. When you climb the bell tower, the roofs of the old town look magnificent next to the aqua blue water. You’ll be torn between wanting to dive straight in at the beach around the corner, and staying up in the bell tower forever so you never have to look away.
Day 1: Mostar, Bosnia
Mostar bridge is so high that untrained divers have died jumping off it. But the locals know how, and proudly showed off for us Ottoman Trekkers. The bridge was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, but was pretty much destroyed during the 18 month siege of the city in the 90s. After its meticulous restoration in 2004, it became listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 2: Sarajevo, Bosnia
Today, in Sarajevo, we were shown around by a local guide who was just a child during the siege in the 90s. Her stories were more than harrowing: they were personal. Walking through the tunnel that was the only route for supplies into the city was eye-opening, and really drove home the reality of the conflict for me.
Day 3: Belgrade, Serbia
I was surprised to find Belgrade artistic and beautiful. The highlight of the day, and easily the best photo, was watching sunset over the Danube River from the fortress.
Day 4: Sofia, Bulgaria
A gypsy feast in Bulgaria you say? Yes please! This part of the Ottoman Trek excited me the most when I read the itinerary. The dancers were hilariously entertaining, and before long we all joined in.
Day 5: Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Ever heard of Plovdiv? Didn’t think so. But don’t let the sleepy peaceful photo fool you. This is one Bulgarian town where the people who accidentally lose the group end up having the wildest night of all! I won’t spoil their story for you, but involves a stray cat, bikers who smell like roses, failed Greek medical students, and colourful wigs. You’ve been warned.
Day 6: Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul’s Blue Mosque glows yellow when the sun starts to go down. The Ottoman Trek arrives here with plenty of time left to explore the city where East meets West.
Post-Trek Day 1: Istanbul, Turkey
This photo was taken at midnight in Istanbul, moments before we were interrupted by a confused security guard investigating the noise. We’re below Palatium restaurant (just one street over from Busabout’s Istanbul base, the Sultan Hostel). Palatium serves food to die for, with the added bonus of being above a Roman palace. We ate on Turkish beanbags on a glass patio over the palace, then went exploring downstairs. When the guard interrupted us, we were rehearsing our Bulgarian gypsy dancing. I can’t think of a better ending to the Ottoman Trek!
Post-Trek Day 2: Gallipoli, Turkey
It never occurred to me that Gallipoli would be beautiful. It has huge significance for all antipodeans because of the massacre of Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) troops there in the First World War. Many of the Ottoman Trekkers decided to stay together the day after the Trek concluded, and visit together. Here, at ANZAC Cove, our guide passes around historical photos to help us understand the history.
To book this trip and experience these snapshots for yourself, call our consultants on 0208 045 4186.