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Tourism & Hospitality | Saturday 14 April, 2018 12:07 am |
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Turkish Airlines helps you discover the Balkans – Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia

Established in 1933 with a fleet of five aircrafts, Star Alliance member Turkish Airlines is a 4-star airline today with a fleet of 330 aircraft flying to 302 destinations worldwide with 253 international and 49 domestic. According to the 2017 Skytrax survey, Turkish Airlines, already having a six consecutive years of “Best Airline in Europe” award between 2011-2016, is now chosen as the "Best Airline in Southern Europe" for the ninth consecutive year.

 

As a leading airline within the global aviation community, Turkish Airlines is always on the forefront of the latest technological advances and innovations and boasts one of the widest destinations network in the world. Constantly updating its routes to provide the best choices for its loyal customers, the multi-awards winning airline offers passengers exceptional quality of service, in-flight entertainment systems, comfortable seats and gourmet cuisine.

 

Keeping up with global travel trends and consumer demand for authentic and emerging destinations across Europe, Turkish Airlines flies to the Balkan region with daily flights to Albania from, Kosovo from and Macedonia.

 

The Balkan Peninsula is a magical destination bound to capture the hearts of any visitor from around the world. Backed by immense complexity, proud history, natural landscapes intertwined with rich cultural inheritance visible in their cities and villages, tasteful recipes that boast of multi-cultural influences and over whelming hospitality of the people, it will prove to be the right choice for travel and discovery of new experiences. Here are 3 popular places to visit on your Balkan tour:

 

ALBANIA

A country of southeastern Europe is abundant in natural beauty and a rich multi ethnic community of people, Albania is a mix of unique attractions, archaeological sites, historical mosques, 5th century synagogues, castles, mountainous beauty and pristine beaches such as in Dhermi, Ksamil, Jale. Capital Tirana which holds colorful Ottoman appeal which will be home to the largest mosque in the Balkans, the Grand Mosque ‘Namazgja’, a gift by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which will enable 5,000 people to pray at a time on an area of 20,000 square metres.

 

With a booming tourism sector that generates billions of USD yearly, Albania attracts visitors from every corner of the world – beach enthusiasts, mountain and nature lovers, those who enjoy trendy cafes and an eclectic cuisine, a vibrant nightlife, historic sites or those who are simply seeking relaxation in a welcoming place with a great joie de vivre.

 

Adventure sports is making its way into the scene, providing travelers a wide range of activities to indulge in from hiking the Albanian Alps, to trekking in Mount Korab, rafting the Osumi and Vjosa Rivers to rock climbing in Gjipe found in southern Albania and bike all around the coastline with the possibility to visit ancient cities, Theth and Valbona mountain villages, Llogara national park and also World Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO such as the recognition of the Himariot Isopolyphonic Music .

Cuisine is a fusion of old and new tastes to impress the modern palette – a mix of Mediterranean cuisine, hugely influenced by fine Italian dining and Greek and Ottoman dishes – featuring fresh fruits and vegetables, lamb and veal earthy dishes, the famous borek and baklava, reminiscent of the Ottoman times.

 

Albania is a melting pot of different cultures and religions, with many cultural similarities with the Arab and Muslim world. Indeed, Albania is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, a NATO member and a candidate member state of the European Union - all at once.

 

KOSOVO

Located in the central part of the Western BalkansSoutheastern Europe and borders Albania to the southwest, Macedonia to the southeast, Kosovo is one of Europe's latest additions. A fascinating destination for the talented millennials, Kosovo is the country with the youngest population in the old continent, with more than 70 percent under the age of 35 years. Many budding entrepreneurs as part of the youth development program have raised the profile of this unassuming country with its successful startups.

 

With a welcoming spirit, the Kosovars are particularly proud of the surrounding mountain towns with their hiking escapades, and ancient monasteries.  As a majority Muslim country, Kosovo has some of the most beautiful and oldest mosques in Europe from Al–Aga Mosque, Gazi Ali Beg and Krajkovo mosques to Sinan Pasha Mosque which overlooks the main street of Prizren and is a dominant feature in the town's skyline.

 

Other sights include Ottoman inspired monuments from the Newborn monument in downtown Prishtina which was created in honor of their independence, Kalaja Fortress which is a medieval fortress in the capital Prizren, tomb of Sultan Murad, mausoleum dedicated to the Ottoman Sultan. Hikers can take to Rugova, ranked as the fourth most important center for winter sports by the International Ski Federation (ISF) and also won the "Tourism for Tomorrow" award for the project, "Peaks of the Balkans". Apart from a vibrant sports community that play judo, swimming, boxing, karate, Kosovars most popular sport is football, with many local players part of the European Championship and summer Olympics.

 

Food culture is influenced by Albanian cuisine and has adopted elements of other Balkan countries ranging from different breads pies, salads, desserts available in restaurants like Liburnia, El Greco, Soma Book Station, Baba Ghanoush that contain Greek, Mediterranean, European, Lebanese, Albanian and vegetarian dishes.

 

MACEDONIA

A country that has more than 50 lakes and 30 mountains and a seven thousand year old capital that is home to 284 statues, called Skopje, Macedonia is home to ancient cultures and historical tales. Vacationers can pin this on their list of to do’s - Ohrid, is the country’s only Unesco World Heritage site where in both the city and its lake  are counted as both cultural and natural fixations. Kokino is one of the world’s oldest observatories that is recognized by NASA.  

 

Situated in South-Eastern Europe, in the central part of Balkan Peninsula, Macedonia is an exquisite blend of the Roman, Bulgarian Empires and the Ottoman Turks, reflecting internationally acclaimed architecture, diversified culture and cuisine options.

 

Vacationers can visit the Old Bazaar i.e. an iconic heritage site with small intriguing handicraft shops and museums, including the National Gallery of Macedonia, positioned in a 15th-century Turkish bath complex in the capital while down south, Ohrid presents a medieval township and hilltop castle to discover the mysticism of old fables. Many more sites such as the Church of St Jovan (John), Kaneo is a wondrous Macedonian landmark which is a combination of Byzantine and Armenian architectural styles, St. Naum’s monastery, located 29 km away from Ohrid.

 

To witness the authentic Macedonian way of life, travelers can visit the town of Krusevo, to purchase traditional hand made goods and catch a glimpse of the people’s lifestyle. Islamic culture is dominant in the region wherein visitors can explore the wondrous architecture in the Yeni mosque in Bitola, Mustafa Pasha mosque that have inscribed calligraphic writing and intricate door details.

 

Macedonian cuisine reflects Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences and shares characteristics of other Balkan cuisines. Macedonian meals are known for the diversity and unique quality of dairy products while the national dish is Tavče-gravče  of the Republic of Macedonia. Other must have dishes are Ajvar, roasted red pepper spread; Kebapi, and Polneti piperki that is stuffed with bell peppers and filled with rice or meat.

 

When it comes to sports, worth noting is the Macedonian women's team, Kometal Skopje, which took the EHF Women's Champions League European Cup in 2002 and in 2008. The European Women's Handball Championship was also held in Macedonia in which their national team finished seventh. In 2018, Macedonia is currently competing at the Winter Olympics in PyeongchangSouth Korea.

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