Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Rakia: An introduction

You've arrived in Bulgaria, found your resort and unpacked your things. Now you're just sitting down to enjoy your first proper meal in this incredible country when you spot the word 'rakia' on the menu. You are in for a treat, my friend. Here are some reasons why we think you will adore this very special alcoholic drink.

It's never the same...

Rakia is an umbrella term for a delicious fruit brandy that is enjoyed across eastern Europe, but don't be fooled. While the fundamental nature of the drink remains the same, tastes, fruits and even the length of fermentation vary wildly. For example, the rakia you drink in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, and what you consume in Dubrovnik, Croatia, might taste completely different. In Bulgaria, grape rakia is the most common, although keep an eye out for Slivovitza, which is rakia made from plums. In Croatia, however, anything goes and you might find the beverage made out of anything from truffles and olives to apples and pears.

It's homemade...

It is not uncommon for restaurants and families to brew their own rakia - something that unites Croatia and Bulgaria. This only adds to the possible varieties of the drink, with some people preferring to create stronger or clearer vintages than others. If you were to ask someone who brews the best rakia, they would be united in their answer: "I do."

There is an etiquette around drinking...

Be sure to observe the etiquette of the country you're in. In Bulgaria, the 'cheers' is perhaps the most essential part. It is important to wait before this moment to start drinking, and don't take a sip until you've made contact with everyone in the group. You may also find it is regularly served as an accompaniment to salad. In Croatia, things are a little less formal. Glasses of rakia are passed around the table, acting as a social lubricant and inspiring conversation. Remember - if the drink burns your throat as it goes down, it's a bad one. If it burns your chest, it's a good one.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Discover 3000 Years of History in Ancient Nessebar

Bulgaria is famed for its beautiful Blue Flag beaches, fun resorts and family holidays, yet just around the corner from Sunny Beach, is the ancient port of Nessebar which can claim to be one of the oldest towns in Europe, dating back an impressive 3,000 years.

A UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the old quarter of the town has been preserved as a living museum, displaying cobbled streets and the remains of 40 ancient churches from the medieval and other periods in history.

The city’s remains, which date mostly from the Hellenistic period, include the acropolis, a temple of Apollo, an agora and a wall from Thracian fortifications. There is a windmill dating back to the Ottoman Empire, which has become the symbol of the town.

Offering a choice of good restaurants, bars and well priced shops selling local art and crafts, Nessebar is a perfect destination for couples seeking a bit more of a cultural experience. The pretty harbour, with its excellent fish restaurants is the base for many interesting excursions, including a day trip on a luxury catamaran.

Other reasons to book a break in Nessebar include a good climate with summer temperatures averaging 25 to 30 degrees and a beautiful sandy beach. Plus the resort is conveniently located close to Sunny Beach where you can go and spend a fun evening out easily and cheaply.

A seven-night break at the three star Hotel Victoria, Nessebar, on a bed and breakfast basis, costs from £392 per person, including return flights from London Gatwick to Bourgas departing 14 September.

For bookings and details of excursions go to or call Reservations Tel: 0845 130 1114 or contact your local travel agent.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Three things about Croatia that will surprise you!

One of the most frequently said comments about Croatia is, 'It will surprise you'. We at Balkan believe this to be very much true, so we've compiled a list of aspects that will simply sweep you off your feet when you venture into this stunning country for the first time.

1. There is Roman architecture here, and plenty of it

People usually go to Rome or Greece to get their fill of Roman architecture, but did you know Croatia has more than its fair share of amphitheaters, palaces, and other structures? Within Split and Pula in particular, you'll find an extraordinary plethora of well-preserved historical wonders that date all the way back to a time when this magnificent society held power over the globe.

2. The locally made wine is delicious

In Croatia, people are proud of their locally made wines. Across rolling fields on both the mainland and the island as far as the eye can see, witness well-maintained vineyards where the magic happens. To this end, you'll find plenty of local vintages on menus throughout the nation, and it's worth sampling as many as your metabolism will allow during your holiday. Wines aren't the only alcoholic beverage to consider, however. Be sure to try the local specialty maraschino, a liqueur made from cherries that is produced in Zadar.

3. The food is even better!

Croatian cuisine really is something special, as you'll realise the first time you sit down at a restaurant. But to really understand what you're eating, you have to get the culture. Chefs put a serious emphasis on freshness, and meat and vegetables are often locally sourced. Preparation is key - some dishes undergo a 24-hour preparation process before they reach your plate. And to accompany your meal, why not opt for some of that superb local wine we mentioned in the previous point?

Book your holiday to Croatia today with the UK's number one tour operator to Croatia, Balkan Holidays and experience a place unlike any other destination in the world.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

4 Tongue Tantalising Dishes of Croatia

If you're wondering what culinary delights await you on your visit to Croatia, you've come to the right place! In this article we present you with four delicious, mouth-watering Croatian dishes that we have tried and love. Be sure to look out for and try these heavenly dishes on your next holiday to Croatia.

1. Pasticada 

If the description of this traditional meat dish doesn't have your mouth watering, then quite frankly, there's something wrong with you. A hefty joint is taken for marinating - a whole 24 hours before it is cooked - in a sauce of red wine, garlic and various herbs. While it's on the heat, the flavour is further enriched with the addition of carrots, onions, cloves and nutmeg. The resulting sauce is full of flavours - a real treat.

2. Crni Rizot

Commonly referred to as black risotto, this is a Dalmatian specialty that you'll see most commonly on the islands. Its name and distinctive flavour - quite unlike any other risotto you'll ever have tried - comes from the squid's ink. Don't forget to grate cheese over the top in true Croatian style!

3. Riba na Gradele i Blitva

This commonly served combination is simply everywhere throughout Dalmatia, so it would be rude not to give it a go one evening - especially as it tastes simply delicious. Mixed grilled fish is carefully sliced and grilled over a wood fire. Mouth watering yet? Good - there's more. Garlic, parsley and olive oil is then added as well as leafy green chard. The whole lot is then boiled with potatoes, creating a dish that perfectly embodies the Croatian tradition of simple food done right.

4. Samobor Kremsnita

After the main meal, you'll no doubt want to satisfy your sweet tooth. Samobor Kremsnita is perfect for this - a delicious vanilla cream cake with a puff pastry top that is usually sprinkled with icing sugar. They're known for being a tad addictive - the satisfying crumble of the pastry as you bite into it contrasts nicely with the sweet gooey sensation of the vanilla custard. You'll definitely want to ask for at least two.

Book your holiday to Croatia today with the UK's number one tour operator to Croatia, Balkan Holidays and experience a cuisine and beauty unlike any other destination in the world.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

3 reasons to put Montenegro on your to do list

There's a lot to love about the country of Montenegro, the very name of which sounds as though it has come straight from a fantasy novel. Find out why we think it's one of the most magical places on Earth.

1. Because some of the colours here don't exist anywhere else

Sometimes there's a vibrancy to a green that can only be described as emerald, or a flair to a red that more closely resembles crimson. Throughout Montenegro's wild gorse-coloured mountains, Adriatic beaches and enticing cities, you'll find aquatic blue waters, vibrant violet flowers and terracotta orange roofs. Everywhere you look, there are incredible hues, spectrums and sights - this is a photographer's dream.

2. Because there is much to be done here

Despite being less than half the size of Wales (the country, not the sea creature), Montenegro certainly packs a lot in. Deciding where to start is likely to be your biggest problem. With a landscape that plunges and soars like a drunken dragonfly, there are plenty of adrenaline-inducing experiences abound. White water rafting through the Durmitor national park is certainly a highlight - the narrow free-flowing valley is fringed with stunning trees of exactly the shade of emerald we mentioned earlier. Then there are glittering beaches to lie on, unique cities to explore and a one-of-a-kind culture to experience. One thing is certain - you won't be bored here.

3. Because the beaches are worth the flight alone

Spectacular stretches of coastline are something of a trademark for Montenegro. The resorts of Budva, Petrovac, Sveti Stefan and Becici attest to this in terms of extraordinary beauty - picture stunning white sand shelving away into a clear-turquoise ocean. Lying here, surrounded by nature and yet catered for by the modern amenities of a modern resort town, you'll feel completely at ease with yourself and the world - which is surely the best feeling a holiday can give you.

Find out more about our range of Montenegro Holidays or book by visiting our Montenegro Holidays page.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Why Hvar is the place to be this Summer

A visit to Hvar this summer will allow you to explore Croatia's best beach life, natural scenery, nightlife and more.

Swathes of pebbly beach edging gently into the sea. Intimate bays with old-fashioned fishing boats bobbing beautifully in the water. Stunning Gothic palaces that dominate picturesque town squares and traffic-free streets. These are just three of the reasons why the Croatian island and its eponymous town are the place to be this summer.

Charming, charismatic and ever beautiful, Hvar is one of those rare destinations that caters for anyone and everyone. It doesn't matter what you're into, you'll be able to find it here. A beautiful climate coupled with stunning beaches and rough and ready coastline satisfies the needs of sun worshippers and tan builders, while azure waters will appease the appetites of those wanting to explore the depths and enjoy a splash around with friends or family. 

But there is history here, too, and you can explore every inch of Hvar Town's unique architecture, which has been impacted upon by the years it spent as the Greek colony of Pharos. Great coastal walking routes make for an excellent experience for those with itchy feet. 

With all this to explore, you'll find yourself frequently at a loss for words during the daytime hours as you wander from one attraction to the next. Contrast is key here - one moment, you might find yourself in a deserted plaza, the next, a busy and bustling market. All of which makes for a diverse holiday experience.

Although the atmosphere is easy-going in the heat of the sun, you can expect things to hot up dramatically as darkness falls. Hvar Town is often credited with having the greatest nightlife on the Adriatic, with the harbour side cafes, bars and restaurants full of chatter and laughter long after midnight. 

From the tip of its beach laden coastline to the centre of its tree-filled woodlands that occupies much of inland Hvar, this is a spectacular island paradise that you won't want to miss. Boasting the best of Croatia's nightlife and beaches while offering history and culture, this playground of the rich and famous is definitely the place to be this summer.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Varna - The Sea Capital of Bulgaria

The city of Varna is known as the sea capital of Bulgaria and it is this unofficial title that hints at the reasons that make it a great place to explore while on holiday in the country.

Located in the north east of the nation on the shores of the Black Sea, Varna has all the charm associated with a coastal destination, as well as the historical and cultural attributes of Bulgaria's third largest city.

This means it ticks all the boxes for a family holiday where everyone wants to see and do something different.

Since a town was established on the site in the sixth century, it has acted as a sea port and over the years been in the hands of a number of different empires, including that of Alexander the Great and the Romans. Fascinating monuments from the history of Varna can be found in the Archaeological Museum, including items from the chalcolythic necropolis, which is the oldest golden treasure ever found.

There is no doubt that the city can trace its fortunes to the fact it sits in such a commercially important position. While the sea has played a vital role in Varna's past, it continues to be a focus for those visiting the city to this day. So significant is the coastal influence that the largest park in the town is called the Sea Garden and just below here, the beach and central sea baths can be found.

Built at the beginning of the 20th century to allow those travelling for their health to bath in the waters, this area also includes two quays and a number of restaurants with views of the sea.

Sit and enjoy a meal of freshly caught seafood or opt for something a little more energetic. Surfing, diving, jet skiing and boat trips are all popular activities that holidaymakers like to take advantage of from Varna.

For a unique blend of seaside and city life, book your summer holiday to the northern Black Sea coast now.