Tirana

Tirana, the heart and capital of Albania, like all other European metropolises has never-ending movement and energy. With its clubs, bars, cafes, and taverns, Tirana is worth discovering by both day and night. The hospitality shown towards tourists is something that will mark your journey not only in Tirana but also all over the country. There are different thoughts regarding the origin of the name of the city. Some think that it relates to Tyrrenia (a name of Etruscan origins), while other believe that it relates to the word Theranda (harvest), or to the Tirkan (a castle at the foot of Mount Dajti).

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Your own journey might begin by visiting the museums and the key spots such as Sheshi Skanderbeg, where you will be able to see the Mosque of Ethem Bey (built between 1798 and 1812) and the 35 m high Kulla e Sahatit (the Watch Tower), built in 1822 with a San Marco style cupola. Next, you can visit the famous mosaic uncovered on the floor of an old Roman lodge. Its center configures the walls of the castle of the Roman emperor Justinian (A.D. 520). The monumental Tomb of Kapllan Pasha and the Ura e Tabakave (a bridge constructed in the beginning of the 19th century, located on Bulevardi Zhan DArk) are also worth visiting. As a capital, Tirana has the countrys finest museums, theatres, and galleries representing the national arts. A visit to the National History Museum, the Archeological Museum, the Natural Science Museum, the private Mezuraj Museum, and the National Gallery of the Arts will leave wonderful memories. You can also pass a pleasant evening in the National Theatre or the Opera and Ballet Theatre. For dining, Tirana offers both a rich traditional cuisine and a variety of foreign fares, from Italian to Chinese, or even Indian. There are also several clubs and restaurants on Mount Dajti to discover and enjoy. The mountain is reachable by cable car, which provides a fantastic view of the city. In the Tirana region you may also visit the castles of Petrela and Preza, as well as some natural attractions, such as Pellumbas Cave, Shkalla e Tujanit, and more.

Sofia

Bulgaria’s capital has a lot of stories to tell, and each historic attraction will give you a new perspective on Sofia’s complicated past. Take the churches here that have spent several centuries of their existence as mosques, the overbearing soviet architecture or the Roman history that is still being uncovered and blends with the modern city. Many of the buildings you’ll see are from the Bulgarian Revival in the late-19th century, when the country reclaimed its independence from the Ottomans. And always to the southwest looms the monumental Vitosha Mountain. Vitosha Boulevard is Sofia’s main shopping street. A pedestrianized thoroughfare, its main part runs from the Saint Nedelya Church to the grand National Palace of Culture. Vitosha Boulevard is lined with comfortable cafés to sit in and engage in some people watching. If you’re hungry, you can have lunch or dinner at an Irish pub, an Italian restaurant or a Chinese fast food place. Not far from Vitosha Boulevard, along Graf Ignatiev Street, is Slaveykov Square, well known for its open-air book market. Browse the dozens of stalls selling all kinds of literature in a multitude of languages, from romantic novels to political and scientific volumes. Sofia is one of Europe’s most ancient capitals. Originally established by the Thracians, it was later an important city of the Roman Empire; Emperor Constantine famously referred to it as “My Rome”.

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A large part of Sofia’s ancient heritage is still preserved. The most prominent example is the red- bricked Hagia Sophia (Sveta Sofia) Church from the 6th century which gave its name to the city itself. Make sure you visit the church’s underground crypt to see Roman frescoes and artifacts. Saint George’s Rotunda is even older than the Hagia Sophia Church and bears the title of the oldest extant building in Sofia. Dating to the 4th century, its unusual cylindrical structure is now curiously nested in the courtyard of the Sheraton Hotel, Ministry of Education and Presidency edifices. Many locals still don’t know that Sofia has a partially preserved Roman amphitheatre. It’s not easy to find though – its ruins are now mainly inside the Arena di Serdica hotel. Ask at the reception and they will be glad to let you in to see the amphitheatre for free. Being on the underground level of a hotel and knowing that gladiators fought on this very spot is a surreal feeling. How many capital cities around the world boast a full-sized mountain right on the outskirts? Vitosha is not only the most prominent feature of Sofia’s landscape, but also an attractive destination for nature lovers. In summer, you can embark on an entertaining trek up to the highest peak Cherni Vrah (2290 m) or to the stone river of the Golden Bridges (Златните мостове, Zlatnite mostove); in winter, you may want to head to the Aleko winter sports centre to check out the quality ski runs.

Sinop

It is believed that Sinop, lying at the northernmost tip of a peninsula extending from the Anatolian landmass into the Black Sea, derived its name from the Queen of the Amazons, Sinope, who lived there once upon a time. According to another story, Zeus, the King of Gods was so enchanted by the beauty of the nymph Sinope, the daughter of the River God Asopus that he settled her in the earthly locale commensurate with her beauty and the city was named after her.

Sinop owes its diverse cultural richness to its beautiful natural harbour-perfectly sheltered and calm, a haven from the tempestuous Black Sea. The strategic importance of Sinop Harbour brought Sinop to the fore as a centre of trade across millennia. The city’s strategic importance, however, led to successive conquests, and each civilization that made Sinop its own adorned the city according to its own fashion, building fortresses, churches, temples, and mosques and its various quarters. 

The cultural richness of Sinop is so extensive that almost each historical building has the marks of more than one civilisation. Foremost of them all is Sinop Fortress, which has provided diverse services to various civilisations during its four millennia of history. The walls of the fortress demarcate the initial area of settlement, and bear the marks of all the civilisations that have passed through the city. The fortress served primarily for defensive purposes, and during the reign of the Seljuk Sultans, a citadel was added. The builders of the citadel reused the ruins of antique structures, incorporating a fascinating tapestry of columns and capitals into the new walls. The Ottoman Sultans used the citadel as a shipyard, building the most powerful man-of-war of the era. In 1887 the citadel was converted into a dungeon. The external walls and the sea lying beyond secured the prison against escape attempts. About the same time a public bathhouse (hamam) was added to meet changing needs. As in the Ottoman Period, the citadel was used as a prison also during the early years of the Republic. It is now open to visitors and hosts cultural activities.

Sassari

Sassari is the second largest city in Sardinia with a population of 122,000; it is also one of the oldest settlements in the city and has a great deal of history and important cultural establishments. Located in the north west region of Sardinia, this city is actually the fifth largest municipality in Italy and has a large economy based on tourism and the services industry.

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Although findings have dated settlements in Sassari to the Neolithic age, the main settling of the city occurred during the Middle Ages. Throughout this time period, ruling of the city changed hand numerous times as conflicts raged throughout Sardinia. As time progressed, Sassari developed and grew in size and now stands as the main city in the northern region of the island.

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As a tourist destination, Sassari has a great deal of historical buildings and monuments, but it also benefits from a great location and is an idea base from which to explore northern Sardinia. From this city, you can visit the coastal regions and find some simply stunning beaches.

Podgorica

Podgorica is located in central Montenegro. The area is crossed with rivers and the city itself is only 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) north of Lake Skadar. The Morača and Ribnica rivers flow through the city, while the ZetaCijevnaSitnica and Mareza flow nearby. Morača is the largest river in the city, being 70 m or 230 ft wide near downtown, and having carved a 20 m or 66 ft deep canyon for the length of its course through the city.Except for the Morača and Zeta, other rivers have an appearance of small creeks. The richness in bodies of water is a major feature of the city.

In contrast to most of Montenegro, Podgorica lies in a mainly flat area at the northern end of the Zeta plain, at an elevation of 40 m (130 ft). The only exceptions are hills which overlook the city. The most significant is 130.3 m (427 ft) high Gorica Hill, city's namesake, which rises above the city centre. The other hills include Malo brdo (“little hill”, 205.4 m or 674 ft), Velje brdo (“big hill”, 283 m or 928 ft), Ljubović (101 m or 331 ft) and Dajbapska gora (172 m or 564 ft). For the most part, these are too steep for development and thus limit the city's expansion, especially to the north. However, urbanization has been encroaching on the lower slopes of the hills since the 1990s. Podgorica city proper has an area of 108 square kilometres (42 sq mi), while actual urbanized area is much smaller.

Podgorica's mixture of architectural styles reflects the turbulent history of the city and country: as one régime replaced another, the corresponding style was introduced.

As part of the Ottoman Empire until 1878, Podgorica has some examples of Ottoman architecture. The oldest parts of the city, Stara Varoš (Old town) and Drač is typical of this, with two mosques, a Turkish clock tower and narrow, winding streets.

When the city was incorporated to Montenegro, the urban core shifted to the other bank of the Ribnica River, where the town developed in a more European style: wider streets with an orthogonal layout. This part of the city is today traditionally regarded as the city center and is called Nova Varoš (New town)

During World War II, Podgorica was almost razed to the ground, being bombed over 70 times. After liberation, rebuilding began as in other cities of the communist-ruled SFRY. Mass residential blocks were erected, with basic design typical of Eastern bloc countries. All that part of the city on the right bank of the Morača River was built this way.

The main contemporary traffic arteries were laid out during this period, which extended the orthogonal street layout of the city center, to the south and west. Residential and infrastructural developments in the SFRY era have mostly shaped the layout of today's Podgorica and accommodated the unprecedented population growth that followed World War II.

In an effort to create a recognizable and modern state capital, city officials are routing significant investments in the city's public spaces. Thus, the city has gained entirely new squares and some monuments. New landmarks include the Hristovog Vaskrsenja orthodox temple and the Millennium Bridge, the main feature of the Podgorica skyline.

Sarajevo

Its idyllic mountain setting and diverse heritage makes Sarajevo one of Europe’s most intriguing cities. Yet it is its indomitable spirit that makes it truly special. Although Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a name which might seem inextricably linked to war and tragedy, the passing of 20 years has done much to heal this remarkable and resilient city, and tourism is now sharply on the rise. The reason is obvious. Sarajevo is beautiful. The city is tucked inside a long, thin valley and surrounded on all sides by forested mountains, and almost every crossroads and street corner provides at least a glimpse of an idyllic picture-postcard backdrop.

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During the worst moments in the city’s history, when its inhabitants were targeted by snipers, this dramatic geography proved to be a terrifying drawback but, thankfully, the spectacular natural beauty of Sarajevo can again be admired and enjoyed. The best way to do this is to find the highest vantage point possible, and with the recent reopening of Sarajevo’s iconic cable car, a trip up the mountainside has, once again, been made easy. A short walk from Baščaršija brings you to the shiny new cable car station in the foothills of Mount Trebević, one of the peaks which played host to events in the 1984 Winter Olympics. For a return fee of 20 Bosnian marks (approximately £10), this must-do cable car lifts you more than 1,100m in seven minutes, providing breathtaking views every second of the way. At the top, the perspective shifts and changes like a kaleidoscope. It’s a view which defies comparison with most other European cities. Mosques and minarets decorate the skyline along with the Romanesque towers of Catholic churches and the onion-shaped domes of Orthodox ones. And that is another thing which makes this city so fascinating: it’s a place where east and west meet. On the main pedestrian thoroughfare, Ferhadija, this cultural equator is marked for posterity on the pavement and a sign encourages visitors to take a photo looking first one way up the street and then the other. The contrast is stark. Austro-Hungarian architecture and a mosaic of western shop signs can be seen in one direction, while, with a simple turn of the head, the outlook abruptly transforms into a Turkish bazaar. On one side of this line, people sit and drink beer at tables on the street, while on the other, there isn’t a drop of alcohol to be found. Instead, you’ll find open-fronted cafes offering strong Bosnian coffee and also, perhaps, a puff on a hookah pipe.

Niš

Nis (Niš) is city in southeastern part of Serbia. This the third largest city and student center in Serbia. Nis is especially alive during summer with number of different cultural events and festivals which are taking place in this part of the year. Southern people are known for their hospitality and love for good food, company and music. Nis is city where east meets west and where traditions and history goes really good with new and modern.

Tourist sites:

  • Čegar – The place where Battle on Čegar Hill took place on 19 May 1809.
  • Crveni Krst concentration camp – One of the few preserved Nazi concentration camps in Europe. It is on 12 February Boulevard.
  • Memorial to Constantine the Great – built in the city centre in 2013, in commemoration to Constantine the Great who was born in the city, on the anniversary of the Edict of Milan.
  • Bubanj – Monument to fallen Yugoslav World War II fighters, forming the shape of three clenched fists. The place where 10,000 civilian hostages from Niš and south Serbia were brutally murdered by German Nazis.
  • Kalča, City passage and Gorča – Trade centers situated in Milana Obrenovića Street.
  • Memorial Chapel in the memory of NATO bombing victims – The chapel was built by local authorities while the monument was built by the State government in 1999. They are situated in Sumatovacka street near Niš Fortress.
  • Niš Fortress – The remaining fortification was built by the Turks, and dates from the first decades of the 18th century (1719–23). It is situated in the city center.
  • The fortress-cafes – They are situated near Stambol gate (the main gate of the fortress).
  • Mediana – Archeological site, an Imperial villa, from the late Roman period on the road leading to Sofia, Bulgaria, near EI Nis.
  • Niška Banja (Niš spa) – A very popular spa during the summer season. It is 10 km (6 mi) from city center on the road leading to Sofia, in the bottom of Suva Planina Mountain.
  • Tinkers Alley – An old urban downtown zone in today's Kopitareva Street, built in the first half of the 18th century. It was a street full of tinkers and other craftsmen, but today it is packed with cafes and restaurants.
  • Skull Tower (Ćele Kula) – A monument to the Serbian revolutionaries (1804–13); a tower made out of skulls of Serbian uprisers, killed and decapitated by the Ottomans. It is situated on Zoran Đinđić Boulevard, on the old Constantinople road leading to Sofia.
  • Sultans Trail Long distance hiking and biking route from Vienna to İstanbul runs through Niš.