This year ESN Kosice organised for the first time east version of Balkan trip. It was the second Balkan trip organised by our section (Balkan trip - west version in 2016). Our adventure started on Thursday evening (13th April) and finished on Tuesday morning (18th April). We took advantage of Easter holidays and enjoyed exploring three Balkan countries - Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia in 4 days. The Balkan trip crew was composed of 44 people (7 ESN Kosice members, 37 Erasmus students). We were happy to welcome 10 students from Bratislava and 4 from Presov and some of our ex-Erasmus and friends on our Sunshine’s bus board.
Dracula castle & Peles + Bucharest (14/4/2017)
The first day of the trip was full of interesting stops and beautiful views of Romanian countryside! After the night in the bus, we enjoyed the sunny Sighisoara, a lovely little colourful Unesco city because of its well-preserved fortification and town center from middle ages, which is also the birthplace of well-known Vlad Dracula.
Later we headed to visit Bran Castle, which is famous by the legend of Dracula. The castle was constructed in the 13th century. It is rather small but nice, packed with tourists mostly because of the fact that Dracula was the owner of the castle and the movie was shot there.
The last stop of the day were fairytale-like castles Peles and Pelisor. These castles were built in neo-renaissance style on the medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia and their constructions date back to the end of the 19th century. A proof that ESN connects and helps people was a fact, that we welcomed aboard three Erasmus hitchhikers from Thessaloniki to join us for a road to Bucharest. After some rest in the hostel, we enjoyed the nightlife with our ex-Erasmus students and local friends originally from Kosice.
The second day of the trip started with the interesting tour around beautiful Bucharest, during which we visited many important and nice parts of the city. The best was Romanian parliament, the second largest building of the world. After the free time for lunch, we headed to Sofia. We arrived quite late but the atmosphere in the city was nice and locals were celebrating Easter. Some of us even decided to explore the night Sofia.
Sofia + Rila (16/4/2017)
The third day started with the guided tour as well. The guide showed us a lot from historical center and explained historical context. Did you know that the city has a history of nearly 7000 years and it is the second oldest city in Europe? Also, during Roman times, it gradually became the most important Roman city of the region, giving a birth to two Roman emperors (Aurelian and Galerius). Later on, the city was part of Ottoman empire. We also visited the orthodox church and saw ruins from Roman times. Of course, after the tour, we could taste traditional Bulgarian meals.
After a good lunch, we headed to Rila and its gorgeous monastery. Since there was no guided tour, Erasmus students were the ones to make it - they had to read some facts about the place, such as it was founded in 10th century, how many monks live there, who and how was the monastery founded, etc. Afterwards, there was a perfect time for a meditation in such a nice environment. We ended our day by a long journey to Belgrade.
The last day of our adventurous trip began in Belgrade. Our guide, Jovana, picked us up and showed us the city, told us the history and explained many of the customs as well. But let us share the feedback - Marc from Barcelona: “We were short on time, but was more than enough for our tour guide, Jovana, to make us love the city! We learned very interesting facts about Belgrade and Serbian customs and culture. Furthermore, thanks to her recommendation most of us ended up eating the delicious Ćevapčići in the city's oldest restaurant.”
Novi Sad & Subotica (17/4/2017)
Our way back to Košice brought us into beautiful city of Novi Sad. Local ESN crew welcomed us and briefly showed us the city. Although this is a Serbian city, it reminded some of us our Slovak cities like Levoča or Spišská Nová Ves. Looking forward to another visit of the city, and next time we will definitely spend more time over there! :)
The very last stop on our tour (except for borders) was in Subotica. Even though small but very beautiful city, where we had our dinner. Then our bus drivers picked us up and we started a long way back home.
Knowing that we have a lot of time to reach our destination Košice, Erasmus students came up with an idea to play a game - half of the bus was supposed to write down TRUE statements about what happened during the trip and the other half of the bus was supposed to write FALSE statements. It was all moderated by Pasquale from Italy and we had tons of fun when he read made us guess whether it was true or not. It was very very nice to see how people from different groups and cities connected during last days. We are sure that also Patron and Limon enjoyed the trip with us!
Authors: Andrea Hanakova, Jan Karchnak
Photos: ESN KE