In which I left my partner in New Zealand for six months, hitchhiked from Bulgaria, to Macedonia, via Kosovo, on to Albania, Montenegro and Serbia – and only almost ended up in a Taken like scenario several (dozen) times.
Eastern Europe can effectively be defined as such:
For dumplings, milk bars, the best hikes in Europe and incredible history: go to Poland. Via Gdansk, Warsaw, Krakow, Auschwitz, and Zakopane.
For also the best hikes in Europe (the same mountain range as Poland), waistline-increasing fare and actually not much else: go to Slovakia. Via the High Tatras, Poprad and Bratislava.
For the best beer in Europe, quaint mountain villages, nights out that might land you in hospital, and the best roast pork on the planet: try the Czech Republic. Via Cesky Krumlov, Plzen, and of course Prague.
If you’re partial to more beer, and are around at the best time of year: try Munich and do Oktoberfest on a budget.
For Greek ruins aplenty, the best pastries and white cheese on the continent (sorry France), head for Bulgaria. Via Veliko Tarnovo, Bansko, Sofia and Plovdiv.
For weird scultpures, beautiful lake scenery and a country you probably never knew existed, go to Macedonia. Via Skopje and Lake Ohrid.
For an off-the-beaten-track sort of French Riviera, thousands of windows and a ‘cursed’ mountain range, head for Albania. Via Vlore, Tirana, Berat and Shkoder.
For a country that is not as war-torn as you initially thought, but is actually rather bustling, with great fare and incredible history, try Kosovo. Via Pristina.
If it’s the Greek Isles you’re after (which need no introduction, nor plethora of describing words), we’ve got you covered. Via Santorini on a budget, Crete, Naxos, Meteora and Athens.
For a half-decent beach town, devastatingly beautiful mountain country, a harbourside fortress, and a famous train ride, go to Montenegro. Via Kotor, Tivat and Budva, and Podgorica.
For mountain country with the most artery-clogging regional dish, cold weather, a decent glut of history and ill-fated hitchhiking decisions: head for Serbia. Via Zlatibor, Belgrade and Novi Sad.
Top tip: If you’re being driven across a country by a masturbating Italian, please exit the vehicle.
* There’s also Hungary, Romania, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Italy, France, Monaco and Austria to come when someone indicates they need them.