East Meets West: A Journey through Serbia and Croatia

10 June - 18 June, 2023

Destination:
Serbia Croatia

Trip Dates:
10 June - 18 June, 2023

Trip Length:
9 days

Trip Price: £2080

Now that peace has been restored in the Western Balkans, travellers are rediscovering the cultural, and architectural gems of Serbia and Croatia… and also their fine foods and wines. As well as being of great cultural interest, the region is spectacularly beautiful. Thick pine forests and olive groves intermingle with spectacular mountains, lakes and rivers in a landscape dappled with picturesque villages.

 

The fortunes of Croatia and Serbia highlight two millennia of cultural mixing and power struggles for dominance in the western Balkans. This is a history of ebb and flow drawing in the Byzantines, Franks, Ottomans, Habsburgs and perhaps more recent peturbations with Russia and the EU. Both countries are historically Slavic nations but today they look more West than East. This is where north Europe meets the South and where Christianity meets Islam. Understanding Serbia and Croatia is all about cultural tectonics where the plates of European civilisations have jostled, often violently, against one another.

 

Serbia has been a melting pot of colliding and complementary cultures for centuries. As recently as 2005, Serbia was still in a formal federation with Montenegro and Kosovo who broke away from Yugoslavia in the 1990’s along with Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.. All had chosen to declare their independence in the 1990s. Serbia’s final territorial blow – long anticipated but painful nevertheless – came in the two years 2006 and 2008 when Montenegro and Kosovo both unilaterally declared independence. In just two years Serbia had lost two federal partners and former territories.

 

Perhaps surprisingly, the country has moved on from these disappointments and for many of its citizens the country is often misunderstood and misrepresented. Belgrade is the heart and soul of the country which today is a dynamic capital and one of Europe’s true urban highlights. Vivid museums, creative restaurants and experience an unrivalled cultural scene.

 

Like Serbia, Croatia has been through huge upheavals in the last 30 years even by the standards of its own turbulent history. With the implosion of Communism and independence Croatia has scrambled to modernise. Unlike Serbia Croatia is already a member of the EU (2013) and its government and people have worked hard to recreate the nation’s image and gain international credibility. Zagreb, Croatia’s capital is an enchanting mix of personalities from its Baroque kernel to the more lofty and grandiose ideals of Mitteleuropa.

Trip Leader: Mrs Nirvana Romell

Nirvana was born in Dalmatia and after graduating from the University of Zagreb in Croatia with a degree in Art History (Western art and the arts and cultures of ex-Yugoslavia), she moved via South Africa to England, arriving in Cheshire in October 2003. Now based in France, she has been working as a freelance lecturer of history of Western art, including the arts and cultures of ex-Yugoslavia. She has given numerous talks, led workshops and accompanied tours of permanent and temporary exhibitions for organisations such as the Manchester Art Gallery, National Museums in Liverpool, the Arts Society, the Royal Geographical Society, University of Manchester and others. She has been leading journeys to the Balkans for 15 years, including a very successful tour of Kosovo and Montenegro for the Alumni in May 2019. Comments from this and other journeys accompanied by Nirvana can be found at the end of this itinerary.

East Meets West: A Journey through Serbia and Croatia. Trip Comments:

‘Nirvana was a wonderful guide in every respect - personality, knowledge, efficiency.’

‘The pre-departure information was probably the most comprehensive we have ever received’

‘We enjoyed a wonderful variation of local specialities and of such a high standard.’

‘We thoroughly enjoyed travelling to a region pretty much unknown to us with excellent planning and services.’

‘Many thanks for all your hard work in organising the journey. I enjoyed it hugely and was extremely impressed by Nirvana who was both scholarly, entertaining and a real enthusiast for the excellent food of the region. I never tired of listening to her.’

‘Nirvana was an enchanting leader, extremely well informed and entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her’.

‘All of the journeys [with Oxford University] were excellent, but the trip to Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro was outstanding. The party itself was wonderful and our accompanying expert, Mrs Nirvana Romell, was outstanding. The itinerary was excellent - Kosovo especially would have been extremely difficult to visit by oneself.’