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Balkans & Middle East in 2003


I tried to visit Moldova in 1997 but was prevented from doing so by extreme bureaucratic difficulties. Last year, I hesitated between a "Greece to Moldova" trip and the Pacific Islands before choosing the latter so this year, it was Moldova's turn. I waited until February 20th before leaving Montreal so that winter would be over in Romania, Moldova and Hungary by the time I got there after visiting the Middle East.

The American plans to invade Iraq gave me cause for concern but there was no evidence that it would spill over to Lebanon and Syria so I went ahead. I admit feeling insecure when I boarded the plane to Beirut but it was too late to turn back so I trusted in my proverbial good luck that nothing serious would happen to me. I was right for my visit was most enjoyable. There were very few other tourists and the people I met in Lebanon, Syria and Turkey went out of their way to demonstrate that the Muslim tradition of hospitality was not affected by the nearby war in Irak.


Those I met in the Balkans part of my journey were also quite friendly and open minded as long as religion was not discussed. The scars left by past conflicts between the Orthodox, the Catholic and the Muslims of the region are still fresh enough to cause deep hatred between these people of common slavic origin.


I had planned to end this trip with a leasurely month of island hopping in the Greek Islands but I chose to return home early for found them overly touristic.

This year's adventure took me from Montreal to Greece and Cyprus, to Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, to Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova, back to Romania, then, to Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, and Macedonia, to Bulgaria again and finally once more to Greece, Of these 14 countries, only Moldova, Albania and Macedonia were new to me.

As usual, I am providing some information on costs and hotels  that might be useful to you if you are considering a trip in that part of the world.




I continue developing this site for the pleasure of sharing the joys of discovery with you. Meeting wonderful people of all skin colours, ethnic origins and beliefs has inspired me to set up the Humanist Foundation of Quebec to promote critical thinking and intercultural tolerance.

You may download and use the globetrotter's photos provided you mention "Photo by Bernard Cloutier" with a link to this site below each photo. High resolution versions can be acquired from our agent



If you feel like it, you may exchange comments and impressions with other readers in the questbook or express them to me privately by the e-mail link. Putting a link on your web site, if you have one, would invite your viewers to enjoy free virtual travel as I hope you did.




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