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8 Weeks in the Caucasus and Eastern/Central Europe (LARGE post)

Discussion in 'Wanderlust and Travel' started by Jimbojack, Jul 15, 2008.

  1. Hello everyone,

    I have not posted here for a while, but that's because I was travelling in the Caucasus and Eastern/Central Europe. Here are some details of the trip:

    I just returned from an 8 week trip to the Caucasus and Eastern/Central Europe. I started the trip by flying into Baku, Azerbaijan. From there I went south to Qobustan, north to Sumqayit and around the Abseron peninsula. From Baku I took an overnight train to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. In Georgia I went to Mtskheta, Gori and Kazbegi, then went south across the Armenian border to Alaverdi. There I visited the Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries and continued to the capital Yerevan. I spent a few days in and around Yerevan going to Echmiadzin, Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery. Since the borders between Armenia and Turkey are closed, I took an overnight train back to Tbilisi (18.5 hours), ran across the city in 45 minutes to catch a bus to Istanbul (27.5 hours).

    In Istanbul I met a friend of mine (Klaus), and we spent a few days in the city before taking the overnight Bucharest train and getting off in Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria on the way. We spent a few days there and went to Varna on the Black sea coast. From there we took a bus to Ruse on the Romanian border and another one to Bucharest. Klaus flew back home from Bucharest and I took an overnight train to Sofia (Bulgaria), spent some time there and continued to Skopje (Macedonia). From Macedonia I went to Prishtina in Kosovo, then came back to Skopje and continued to Ohrid. From Ohrid I crossed the Albanian border on foot, and continued to Tirana. After Tirana I took a bus to Shkodra and crossed the border into Montenegro and went to Bar. From there I went to Kotor by bus, then to Dubrovnik in Croatia. From Dubrovnik I went to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, then to Sarajevo. From Sarajevo I took a bus to Belgrade in Serbia, then an overnight train to Zagreb in Croatia. From Zagreb I took a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, then continued to Ljubljana in Slovenia. From there I went to Vienna for a few days to visit my friend Klaus, then took an overnight train to Poland to meet Aggie.

    After spending a few days in Poland, we took an overnight bus to Vilnius in Lithuania. There we went to Trakai and Siauliai before going to Riga in Latvia. From Riga we went to Tallinn in Estonia and spent a couple of days with another friend of mine (Arvo). From Tallinn we took a ferry to Helsinki, then an overnight ferry to Stockholm for a couple of days before flying back home. All this was done completely overland (no flights at all) and was somewhat rushed, I only had 8 weeks, but it was an excellent trip.

    Here is an outline of my route:



    Here are some photos from the trip. So far I'm only posting 2 photos from each country, many more will be added to my site soon along with descriptions and I'll post them here.


    "Dom Soviet", old parliament in Baku. Recently restored thanks to the billions of $ Heydar Aliyev got for contracts from western oil companies for exploration rights in Azerbaijan. The building is unique because it combines traditional Muslim architecture with the generous use of soviet concrete.


    Mud Volcanoes, Qobustan. The mud coming out of the ground is cold.



    Samtavro Church in Mtskheta, built in the 1130's it was the former residence of the lords of Mtskheta, now it is used as a nunnery (one of the resident nuns is in the picture)


    Tsminda Sameba Church, built in the 14th century and located at 2170 meters above sea level next to the town of Kazbegi. Hiking in these mountains, less then 10 kilometers from the Russian border, was one of the highlights of my trip. While not exactly in South Ossetia, many people living here (including the family with whom I stayed) have Russian citizenship and do not speak any Georgian.



    Woman picking flowers in front of an old church in a village near Alaverdi


    Inside of a cave church in the Geghard Monastery in the Upper Azat Valley. The oldest of the cave churches date back to the 7th century (Geghard was founded in the 4th century according to legend). Everything you see in the picture (except for the candles and stand) was carved out of solid rock.



    The ceiling of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul


    Tea sets for sale at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul



    Wall painting showing devils and mortal temptations, Preobrajenski Monastery, outside of Veliko Tarnovo


    Sveta Nedelya Cathedral, Sofia



    Building in central Bucharest, much of the city was destroyed in the 1977 earthquake. Many buildings are still standing but cannot be occupied, the next earthquake will most likely cause them to collapse completely.


    Old woman sitting at an entrance to a subway station, Bucharest



    Liman Ismail, Imam of the Sultan Murat II Mosque in Skopje (built in 1451). He studied in Medina before coming back to Macedonia and taking over this mosque. It was damaged but not destroyed during the war.


    Street in Ohrid



    Memorial to those killed during the war


    Bill Klinton (yes, it's spelled with a K here) Boulevard, one of the main streets in Prishtina. Above his picture it says "Welcome to Bill Clinton Boulevard"



    Two bunkers in the countryside. From 1950 to 1985 the super paranoid Enver Hoxha had around 700,000 of the bunkers (one for every four Albanians at the time!) built throughout the country to repel imaginary invasions. Today they are pain for everyone, very expensive to remove and very hard to destroy, they sit in farms, backyards and on beaches.


    Et'hem Bey Mosque, Tirana. Built in 1789-1823, it is one of the few buildings that escaped intact during the atheism campaign of the 1960's



    A square in front of the St. Nicholas church, Kotor


    View of the Kotor Fjord (largest fjord in southern Europe) from the trail leading up to the old fortifications above the city.



    Main street of the old city of Dubrovnik


    One of the many waterfalls in Plitvice Lakes National Park


    Bosnia & Herzegovina

    Old bridge in Mostar. Originally built by the Turkish architect Hayrudin in 1557 at the request of a local businessman, it was destroyed on November 9th, 1993 by a unit of the Croatian Defense Council. The new bridge opened on the 23rd of July 2004. The bridge linked the two parts of the city, Muslim and Christian, thus it is an important symbol of Mostar.


    New cemetery in Sarajevo, many of the people buried here were among the almost 11,000 victims of the Serbian siege of the city which took place from April 5, 1992 to February 29, 1996.



    Band rehearsing on a stage in the Kalemegdan Citadel, Belgrade


    Flight suit and a part of an American F-117 stealth fighter shot down by Serb forces during the American bombing campaign. The Serbs used 1950's soviet radar technology to track the "invisible" billion $ planes and shot it down using anti-aircraft missiles. The remains are now on display at the military museum in Belgrade where I took this picture.



    A very colorful building in Ljubljana


    Statues at the dragon bridge in Ljubljana, the dragons are now the city's mascots.



    Turkish football fan, this was the day Turkey won against Croatia in the Euro Cup


    Inside of the Abbey Church outside of Vienna, built between 1114-1136.



    The underground complex Riese near Walbrzych. Huge tunnels and halls were dug out of the Sudetes mountains by Nazis using workers from concentration camps. This was thought to be an underground military factory to be used for the creation of V2 rockets. The works were never completed due to the advance of the Soviet Red Army.


    Guards standing outside of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Warsaw



    Statue in the Church of the Holy Spirit, Vilnius


    Czech band playing in front of the Island Castle, Trakai



    Town hall square, Riga


    Restored building in the old city, Riga



    Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn


    Door knocker in the old city, Tallinn



    Tuomiokirkko, (Lutheran Cathedral), Helsinki


    Inside of the Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki



    Changing of the guard at the Royal Palace, Stockholm


    Facade of a building, Stockholm


    I hope you enjoyed these photos. I'll be posting a lot more about individual countries as soon as I have the time to go through the 14,000+ pictures I've taken and write about them.

    Here is a page about the trip on my website, I'll be updating it often
  2. Woo-hoo Philip - another big slideshow! What a great trip - I'm sitting here looking at these while my wife is nearby and she is remarking how many of these places she visited during her residency in Europe/Asia (of course, she did all this before we knew each other...)

    Great collection, great colors too.

  3. StephanieHelen


    Jun 9, 2006
    Wow! You have taken us to all these places with your images, these are fantastic, thanks for posting!
  4. phillip....
    this is one of the greatest travel threads OF ALL TIME at THE CAFE
    i appreciate that you took the time to caption each image
    wonderful and incredible

    thank you
  5. Awesome images. I truly enjoy each one, as well as the descriptions. Keep posting!
  6. I'm speechless! These was an amazing set as you got to travel through some fascinating countries. I started to feel like I was there! Excellent photos!
  7. Just like your Bangladesh coverage a superb post.

    Thanks a lot for sharing.
  8. Sam O

    Sam O

    Jul 24, 2007
    Damn you!

    Awesome, simply awesome!
  9. Wow, impresive, nice job
  10. pat33


    Nov 13, 2007
    Wonderful series of photos. Thanks for sharing your journey.
  11. What a trip !!!!!! ...aswell the journey as the images !!!!!!

    Excellent pics, showing the diversity of Eastern Europe !

    LOVED them all !

  12. Wow!!! These pictures are outstanding. Thank you so much for sharing them!

  13. Fantastic, to me it would be the trip of a life time, and all the more impressive, since you did not fly, just a wild guess here, but I would think you are young, under 35 :smile:

    Your pics are impressive and colorful and the journey with you was very enjoyable, hope you will post more, and take us along with you again.

    Terrific series!!!!!
  14. pointa-b-c


    Mar 21, 2007
    Los Angeles
    Don't think I will ever go to some of those countries, but wow, you took us there! Great job!
  15. Fantastic series, what a trip. Wow
  16. kgilby


    Oct 2, 2007
    A beautiful collection! Definitely sounds like it was a whirlwind trip, and you have captured some fine examples of each place along the way.
  17. Wow! Great images. I'm gobsmacked!
  18. great images!
  19. Wow


    You make me want to leave Paris for an adventure the likes of which only you can make possible... Wow.
  20. What a journey and great pictorial travelogue!

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