EuroTribe

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Interview with Francis Tapon

I am happy to welcome Francis Tapon again, this time to the latest interview session of EuroTribe. He’s an author of Hike Your Own Hike and The Hidden Europe: What…

I am happy to welcome Francis Tapon again, this time to the latest interview session of EuroTribe. He’s an author of Hike Your Own Hike and The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us. Enjoy!

1) Hello again Francis! Could you introduce yourself for those who may not know you?

I’m an author of two travel books. My travel style is that I like to immerse myself in one region for a few years instead of globe-trotting all over the world randomly. For example, I spent 3 years in Eastern Europe to research my book about the region.

2) The last time you got covered on EuroTribe was back in 2012, when I wrote about your book “The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans can teach us”. Now you’re in Africa, on a 4-year trip to visit all 54 countries. How is it so far?

It’s been as I expected: lots of unexpected things happening! Although sometimes misadventures are disagreeable when they happen, they often end up being the best travel stories and memories. Part of being a happy traveler is learning to enjoy moments when things don’t go according to plan. This is especially true in Africa, where almost nothing goes as you plan!

3) You must have a lot of crazy and interesting stories from your African adventure. Would you share something with us?

When I was climbing the tallest mountain in Liberia, my guide abandoned me. We were hacking our way up with a machete. He was getting tired and wanted to go home because the sun was starting to go down. I encouraged him to persevere.

While he was resting behind me, I kept hacking my way up the mountain, blazing the path. While I was doing that, he sneaked away without saying goodbye. After summitting, I got lost on the way down because it was night and I had no flashlight. I had no sleeping bag or shelter. I spent 2 rough nights on the mountains, getting ripped apart by ants and thorns.

The Unseen Africa Francis Tapon

4) You will also write a book on African countries. Do you think it will be easier or more challenging than writing a book on Eastern Europe?

It’s a bit more challenging because Africa is 10 times bigger and there are more ethnic and linguistic groups than in Eastern Europe. On the other hand, Africans don’t obsess about history as much as Eastern Europeans, so that makes it easier since Africans tend to focus on the present, not the past.

The Unseen Africa Francis Tapon

5) Besides the book, are you working on any other project?

Yes, I’m creating a TV show called The Unseen Africa. To make the show happen, I’m running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to make the pilot episode. If you want to see a travel show that shows sides of Africa that we’re not used to seeing, then please support the project. Even if you can’t give financial support, telling your friends about it will help too.

6) Anything else you wish to add?

If you ever have place that you’re scared to go to, or if you have negative stereotypes of its people: go there. You’ll almost always find it that the reality is better than you imagined.

The Unseen Africa Sahara

Thanks a lot for giving your time to take part in this interview Francis!

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15 Essential Tips Every Beginner Hitchhiker Should Know

Hitchhiking is not only the cheapest way of traveling but also the most exciting one as it allows you to have so many experiences in short period of time. You…

Hitchhiking is not only the cheapest way of traveling but also the most exciting one as it allows you to have so many experiences in short period of time. You will;

  • meet a lot of people and maybe even befriend someone

  • get frustrated or mad after hours of waiting, but the feeling of getting a ride after waiting for such a long time is good

  • you will be exposed to very interesting music (see below)

  • you’ll get better at sign language

  • your faith in humanity will be restored

  • you will hear insider stories from your drivers

  • and more

Hitchhiking is not fun and games only as it involves a risk of being picked by a potentially unsafe driver, so if in doubt turn down the ride.

Hitchhiking from Belgrade to Zagreb

Here I’ve compiled a list of 15 essential tips every beginner hitchhiker should know;

1) Think twice before you decide to hitchhike. Why? Hitchhiking is not about getting a free ride only, it’s also a WALKING ADVENTURE, so be ready to walk. And sometimes to walk all day!

2) Buy a good road map. It’s gonna be useful when deciding whether you should accept that ride or not.

3) Try to learn the language at least a bit as it will help you have a conversation with drivers. Sometimes they decide to pick up hitchhikers for one simple reason – they are bored and they appreciate company. You will also have a higher chance of getting that ride if you speak your driver’s language.

4) Have a supply of food and drinks with you.

5) You will of course first use the public transport and then go to the outskirts of the town to hitchhike.

6) NEVER accept a ride into the center of the city if you are traveling long distance and between big cities. Not only you will lose a lot of time, it will also be hard to come back to the highway.

7) When at the border, it’s better to cross it on foot and then hitchhike from the other side. Why? Drivers are more alert and they don’t feel comfortable transporting other people through an international border, so you might have more success from the other side.

8) Gas stations are a good place to hitchhike. You can always ask people around for a ride and the chance of success is usually pretty high.

9) Getting a ride at night is really difficult and not recommended.

10) Some people will react mean or try to make a joke on you. Don’t let that discourage you! You are awesome! 😉

11) Usually people who stop don’t go all the way to your destination but you can ask them to leave you at a better spot or at the next gas station.

12) Hitchhike with a friend. Not only it’s more interesting, it’s also more safe. A girl and a guy is the best combination for hitchhiking.

13) Walking along some roads like highways can get you warned or even arrested. Although you may have the right to walk along most roads, it doesn’t bother to check which one you can and cannot.

14) If you are entering a truck, take off your shoes. This is especially true for the part in the back. Truck drivers spend most of their time in a truck and they treat it like it’s their home.

15) In EU there is a law that forbids more than two people in the front of a truck. That also means if there’s two of you traveling you won’t be able to pass an international border with a truck and will have to cross it on foot instead.

What do you think about hitchhiking? Would you do it or not? If you already did, do you have any other tips to share? Feel free to comment below.

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Hacking Flights In 12 Steps

There are many ways and resources for finding a cheap flight ticket online which can be confusing, but in general finding a cheap flight is much easier now than it…

There are many ways and resources for finding a cheap flight ticket online which can be confusing, but in general finding a cheap flight is much easier now than it used to be in the past. Here I will list all the tools that you can use to find the best possible deal. Booking a flight is also the most expensive part of your trip and it can be time consuming, but it’s definitely worth it as it can save you a lot of money if you use this ‘Hacking Flights in 12 steps’ guide.

Let’s say we are looking for a RT ticket between Belgrade and Istanbul and 5th-15th June are the dates. First we should;

1) Use flight search engines

We usually start looking for a flight online using various flight search engines. But which ones are the best to use? There’s Kayak, Vayama, Travelocity, Skyscanner, Momondo and many others. Skyscanner is great because it searches all airlines (both national carriers and low-cost) thus allowing you to find the cheapest possible price. If you are flexible about the destination, it will also show you the cheapest flights from your home base airport.

skyscanner search flight

As you can see Skyscanner found the cheapest flight with AirSerbia, while Momondo filtered these results;

momondo search flight engine

Momondo has a great user interface and it allows you to see which flights are cheapest and what is the quickest way to arrive. Another great option is the fare alert, which means that Momondo would let you know if the price of the flight would drop. Because of this Momondo is my personal favorite and I absolutely recommend it.

Kayak is also a good flight search engine but it works much better for the US citizens than Europeans.

2) Check the airline’s website to see if the price is cheaper

Sometimes the price is cheaper when booked directly through airlines website as they want to steer travelers to their own websites instead of online search engines.

So in this case we will check the websites of Turkish Airlines, AirSerbia and Pegasus Airlines.

The results we get are;

turkish airlines belgrade istanbul

airserbia belgrade istanbul

AirSerbia’s price is 97 EUR, same what Momondo showed us.

pegasus belgrade istanbul

So from all the airlines who fly directly to Istanbul, AirSerbia offers the cheapest price.

3) Search flights from nearby airports

For example, the biggest air hub around is Budapest airport and many people from nearby countries (Serbia, Romania), fly from here. Anyway in our case this is not a good solution as the price is more expensive.

The good thing about searching for flights from nearby airports is the possible availability of more airlines. For example RyanAir flies from Budapest but not from Belgrade. For this reason it might be good to check nearby airports.

skyscanner budapest istanbul-vert

4) Check the website of the airport that you will be flying into

Many times budget carriers are not listed in the search engines and that’s the reason you should check a list of the airlines flying into that airport. Usually you’ll be able to find a much cheaper flight.

5) Watch out for the promotions

The earlier time I’ve flown from Belgrade to Istanbul it was with a special promotion of Turkish Airlines. The ticket costed 99 EUR and if you look above it’s 183 EUR. You should definitely sign up for the newsletter of your prefered airline as their subscribers will usually be the first to find out about special deals. So if you wan’t to fly this route for example, sign up for the newsletter of Turkish Airlines and AirSerbia.

6) Check airlines’ social media accounts

Besides signing up for the newsletter I recommend checking them on Facebook or Twitter.

air serbia belgrade istanbul

The cheapest ticket we found so far is on Facebook page of AirSerbia! But these are not the dates we want. The advertised price is for travels between 29th april to 12th june so we should also…

7) Be flexible!

This must be the most important thing. Forget about booking months in advance, the best deal you will get is usually ONE MONTH before your trip. The key is to watch promotions and once you spot a great deal just grab it otherwise it’s gone. Being flexible also means traveling in off season which isn’t so bad as you will encounter less tourists than usual.

8) Use miles

If you are a frequent flier check if you can redeem your miles for new flights. You will have to sign up for the frequent flier program of your prefered airline and keep track of your miles.

9) Check student discounts

The best site in this category is statravel.com which offers cheaper rates for students.

10) Visit Holiday Pirates website

This is an amazing resource for crazy cheap flight deals, hotel deals and everything in between. Check it out for yourself, you won’t regret it!

11) Delete cookies

Clear your browser’s cookies when searching for a flight. Search engines usually track how many times you have visited their website which can make prices go up.

12) Check with the travel agent

Travel agents will rarely give you cheaper tickets than the tools I’ve just introduced to you but it doesn’t bother to try. Even if the travel agent has a slightly costlier price, he can help you by giving advice about your destination.

What is your favorite tactic for finding cheap flights? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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21 Free Things to Do in Belgrade, Serbia

The capital of Serbia is an inexpensive place to visit by European standards and it’s often listed in the top 10 budget friendly European destinations. Public transportation is cheap and…

The capital of Serbia is an inexpensive place to visit by European standards and it’s often listed in the top 10 budget friendly European destinations. Public transportation is cheap and most of the attractions are completely free for visitors. Also, Serbia’s new national carrier,  Air Serbia, offers various new lines to many destinations with affordable prices. The free things to do in Belgrade are divided into two groups: guided tours and individual sightseeing.

Guided tours

Attend a free walking tour of Belgrade

There are two types of tours on offer: the Downtown walking tour and Zemun tour. The first tour is led by Željko, a graduated geographer of the Belgrade University, and lasts about two and a half hours. I recommend it because Željko is really enthusiastic about his job and besides learning some basics about the Serbian culture you will even get an opportunity to taste homemade rakija and other treats. All tours start from the Republic Square.

free Belgrade walking tour

Book a Belgrade greeter

This is a free service provided by the Tourist Organization of Belgrade, which is trying to connect local volunteers with travelers. You can hire your own greeter, who will be glad to welcome you and show areas of your interest.



Do sightseeing by Tram

Another tourist sightseeing free of charge. If you happen to be in Belgrade on Friday or Saturday don’t miss this tour because it’s very interesting and insightful. Note that there is a limited number of spots and you should go to any Tourist Information Center with your ID and apply for the tour.

For more info click here.

If you prefer individual sightseeing…

Hang out with Belgraders

Locals are open to foreigners and are happy to connect with anyone. Book a Belgrade greeter or check CouchSurfing for local events.

Explore the Belgrade Fortress and take a look at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers

Kalemegdan park, Belgrade

Visit the Montmartre of Belgrade

Skadarlija, Belgrade

Get lost in Zemun

Gardos, Zemun

See the Republic Square

Republic square, Belgrade

The epicenter of the city which is impossible to miss. This is a favourite meeting point of Belgraders, a place to say hi and bye.

Stroll down Knez Mihailova street

Knez Mihailova street

Visit the only remaining mosque in Belgrade – Bajrakli mosque

Bajrakli mosque, Belgrade

Hang out in the Academic park on the Students’ square

Academic park, Belgrade

Visit the Belgrade City Museum

Residence of Princess Ljubica

Free entrance every first Saturday in a month. On the photo is the Residence of Princess Ljubica.

Visit the Cathedral church

Cathedral Church Belgrade

And the largest Orthodox church in the world – the Temple of St. Sava

Temple of St. Sava

Have a walk by the rivers

Beograd Beton Hala

Go to Ada Ciganlija

The favourite greenery spot of Belgraders, also known as “Belgrade’s Sea”, has an 8km long gravel beach that offers refreshment in hot summer months. The entry is free for the pedestrians and you can discover the lake in circular path by walk or opt for many recreational activities available here.

Ada Ciganlija, Belgrade

If you’ve got some spare time in Belgrade, go to Avala mountain

Avala mountain Belgrade

Visit one of the markets

Belgrade has about 34 markets and most of them are open green markets. These are good to explore and search for organic food that you can buy directly from the producer. There are also flea markets (New Belgrade one is the most famous), that of course mostly sell useless stuff, and fake or second hand goods, but are interesting for exploring.

Zeleni Venac Market

Attend Belgrade Beer Fest

Belgrade Beer Fest 2013

One of the most popular festivals in Serbia. The festival entrance is free.

See the ruins of buildings left from NATO bombing

ruins of buildings left from NATO bombing

Explore Savamala neighborhood

savamala belgrade

If there’s anything else you wish to add feel free to comment below!

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Serbian wine story with Gvozden Radenković

In this interview session of EuroTribe, I am pleased to have the opportunity to interview Gvozden Radenković, who is the Head of the Vineyard-Growers and Wine Producers` Association of Serbia….

In this interview session of EuroTribe, I am pleased to have the opportunity to interview Gvozden Radenković, who is the Head of the Vineyard-Growers and Wine Producers` Association of Serbia. Before you start reading this interview on Serbian wine, be sure to check their official website too.

Enjoy reading!

1. What is a typical “Day in the life” of a Serbian winemaker?

It’s a hard working day. There is only one month in a year when growers and winemakers have no work in the wine cellar or in the vineyard, and it is January. Pruning of the vineyard starts in February, and we have many operations to undertake until the September harvest. The work does not end there. Until year’s end we devote ourselves to creating a new wine.

2. What is the biggest hurdle for the wine business today in Serbia?

The obstacles are numerous. Our country went through 20 years of terrible political turmoil and economic shock, which led to the devastation of vineyards and destruction of large industrial wineries. The gaping hole in the market has slowly been filled with the emergence of small boutique wineries. The problem is that the State institutions offer hardly any help to this branch. The signing of various international agreements opened our market to uncontrolled import of wines from all over the world, from countries with national strategies regarding wine that is being hyper-produced with extremely low production costs. Our own product has thus become uncompetitive even in the domestic market, let alone abroad. Having said this, you can only imagine the situation with the export.

3. What are the challenges that wine makers are facing? Is it finding right people and training them, logistic issues or something else?

In the first place, wine makers and growers are dependent on atmospheric conditions. It is, as we say, a kind of industrial plant under the open sky. It may be that some years bring a poorer quality of grapes, some years bring better, and some years can pass without even a harvest. All these other problems you listed are present because this branch of industry has not been taken care of for years. Besides the present lack of staff, there are many other problems, such as difficult collection of receivables. However, it is the problem we face in our market in all segments of the economy.

4. Nowadays, consumers are more aware of prices, so how can wine be a competitor to other types of alcohol?

It is a very tough struggle. Producers of spirits and beer, because of its massive sales have large marketing budgets, and even the strong global wine brands have difficulties to cope with such a strong campaign. In our country, it is even more difficult because small wine producers have almost no marketing budgets and the low purchasing power of the market dictates higher consumption of cheaper products.

5. You’ve mentioned that only 50% of the Serbian wines can be found in restaurants. What is the key for this solution? Should we as the citizens opt for a Serbian wine next time we go to a restaurant or is it up to the owners of these objects to include more domestic wines?

I’m afraid you have misunderstood me. I said it the Ministry of Commerce should adopt a law that would make sure that wine lists in restaurants feature at least 50% of domestic brands. We had this law a long time ago and this is nothing new. Moreover, similar practice is present in the neighboring countries that produce wine and thus protect their product.

6. What has been the greatest achievement of the association so far?

Our association has existed for only five years. But we are proud to have participated in the adoption of the new wine law. We are also the organizers of a major international fair, held in Belgrade, as well as of several local wine events. We actively try to introduce Serbian winemakers to various international institutions, as well as to gather and organize easier export to foreign markets.

7. Which markets will you be focusing in the future?

As I mentioned earlier, unfortunately, now we are not competitive in the markets of Western Europe. The reason for this is not the quality of our wine, as there are prestigious awards won by our manufacturers on world competitions in recent years to prove that we have an excellent product. The reason for this lies only in the high production costs in Serbia, due to the absence of any government support and subsidies. For this reason we are forced to turn to the markets of the former Soviet Union and China. They are interested in our wines and they can accept our prices, but in these markets we have a problem with large quantities they need, and that we don’t have.

8. How do you see the ideal collaboration with the Ministry of Economy?

In the past five years, the Ministry of Economy has helped us a lot in mapping wine routes in Serbia and installing proper traffic signals. This has helped increase interest of consumers for wine tourism and cellar tours, which in turn directly influenced the increase in sales at the site. I hope that in the upcoming period, the ministry will continue with the same and greater efforts to promote wine tourism.

9. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Only a bottle of an excellent Serbian wine 🙂

Gvozden, thank you so much for giving us some of your time to take part in this interview!

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A guide to Timisoara, Romania

So you are thinking of visiting Romania’s third most populous city? This guide to Timisoara should help you out. Timisoara can be easily reached from many locations like Budapest or…

So you are thinking of visiting Romania’s third most populous city? This guide to Timisoara should help you out. Timisoara can be easily reached from many locations like Budapest or Belgrade (click to read “Belgrade to Timisoara by train“). The name of the city comes from the river Timis that flows to the south of the city and this is the main center of the historical Banat region. It’s a small city and one day is more than enough for exploring it.

SIGHTSEEING

The best way to start sightseeing is by grabbing a map of the tourist attractions at some of the tourist information centers in the city.

Timisoara tourist map

As you can see the map suggests some routes that you can opt for. I suggest you opt for route 3 simply because you will see more attractions. Timisoara is known as the “City of parks” in Romania, so it has a special park route as well. You will most probably start your sightseeing from the Victory Square. From here you can easily visit the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral which is one of the symbol buildings of the city. It’s also one of the biggest churches in Romania.

the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral

Interior of the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral

Victory Square has many buildings in the “1900s style” with great architectural elegance. One of the most notable buildings in the square is the Culture palace which houses the Romanian Opera House. It was devastated by two fires and rebuilt again. The auditorium has 600 seats. Timisoara is actually the only European city that has state theatre in three languages as it also hosts the German State Theatre and the Hungarian State Theatre “Csiky Gergely”.

Culture palace Timisoara

Culture palace

By exploring the city you will notice that street art is an important part of a city’s culture. Timisoara also hosts annual “Graffiti and Street Art International Festival” in September with the aim to represent street art works on great and visible sufraces. For more photos click here.

Timisoara street art

Besides Victory square another important square is Unirii. You can see the Holy Trinity Monument here, in baroque style. The three sides show bas-relief with scenes from the plague epidemics which occurred from 1738-1739.

Unirii square Timisoara

Unirii square

One of the most beautiful buildings is the Baroque palace which dates back to the 18th century. Franz Liszt held a concert in the baroque room of the palace in 1846. The building had various names and functions: it used to be the President’s Palace (18th century), headquarters of the Timis Banat and Serbian Vojvodina Governor and since 1984 it has hosted the Art museum.

Serbian Orthodox Vicarage and Serbian Orthodox Church are another important landmarks of the city. The building of the Serbian Vicarage is under the administration of the Serbian community since 1865 and it hosts an old religious art collection.

Serbian church Timisoara

Interior of a Serbian church

Theresia Bastion which used to be a fortress during the 18th-19th centuries is another interesting landmark.

Theresia Bastion Timisoara

Theresia Bastion

Eat/Drink

The local cuisine is influenced by Hungarian, Serbian, German and Arabic specialties.

There is a great Lebanese restaurant in the Victory square called “Beirut”. Shawarma here is really tasty and cheap! You can spot Hungarian kürtőskalács everywhere and Serbian pljeskavica is also quite popular.

Also, you will find many street stalls selling sandwiches, kebab, french fries etc. with great prices.

I recommend a visit to Bierhaus to enjoy a nice beer. There are more than 50 types of beer available here, so you won’t have a problem picking the right one. If you want to try Romanian beer choose Silva or Timișoreana.

Accommodation

There are not many hostels in Timisoara. I’ve stayed in Downtown Hostel which is located in the Victory Square. The hostel is small but cozy as it has three dorms: one of eight beds with shared bathroom, one double-bed room with private bathroom and one twin room with shared bathroom.

It also has a social room and a chill out balcony. But the best part of this hostel are the staff. Great place to enjoy your stay and I absolutely recommend it.

downtown hostel timisoara

Downtown hostel

Downtown Hostel in Timisoara

The walls of the balcony

If you have visited Timisoara, feel free to leave your suggestions below.

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