The following article was originally posted by BBC travel.


The Belgrade International Film Festival, or FEST, is an annual highlight in the city’s, and Serbia’s, cultural calendar.

Explore the cultural highlights of Serbia over the winter months

It’s cold outside, so head indoors and immerse yourself in the best of Serbia’s art, culture and history.

Museum of Naïve and Marginal Art, Jagodina
Founded in 1960 as a gallery for self-taught artists, the MNMA is home to more than 3,000 works of naive and marginal art, by around 350 artists dating from the 1930s to present day. Although its primary function is to protect works of Serbian and Yugoslav art, the collection was widened to include international works in the 1990s, and now includes works from across Europe and beyond.

The building itself is worthy of a pause for admiration. It is protected as a national treasure but the Republic Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments.

The museum is open 10am – 5pm Tuesday to Friday, and 11am – 3pm Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit the museum website.

The Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection, Novi Sad
Moving from self-taught to academic art, the Pavle Beljanski museum is the legacy of the diplomat and art collector who gave both his name and his collection of paintings, sculptures and tapestries to it. The collection today consists of 185 works of 20th century Serbian art by 37 artists, from the first generation of Modernists onwards.

The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday and open daily from 10am – 6pm on other days excluding Thursday, when it is open from 1pm – 9pm. For more information, visit the website.

International Film Festival, Belgrade

The Belgrade International Film Festival, or FEST, is an annual highlight in the city’s, and Serbia’s, cultural calendar.

Since its inception in 1971, it has attracted a Who’s Who of Hollywood’s finest, including Jack Nicholson, Kirk Douglas, Robert De Niro, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski, Catherine Deneuve and Ralph Fiennes. It is the only film festival in Eastern Europe with such an impressive cast list.

FEST is usually held in late February/early March, but the exact dates for 2018 are yet to be confirmed. Full event details will be released on the website in due course.

Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrade

Described time and again as one of (if not the) best museums in Belgrade, the Nikola Tesla Museum is a celebration of the life and work of Serbia’s most eminent inventor, and unsurprisingly is a science wonderland as a result.

The museum is open from 10am – 8pm Tuesday to Sunday, and is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit the website.

Ethnographic Museum, Belgrade

One of the oldest museums in the Balkans, the Ethnographic Museum is a remarkable celebration of Serbian culture, ranging from traditional dress and jewellery to furniture, industry, transport and art.

The museum in open from 10am – 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, and 9am – 2pm on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit the website.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Vojvodina

Vojvodina’s Museum of Contemporary Art is a vibrant celebration of local and international art from the latter half of the 20th century, as well as the 21st.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 6pm, with late night opening on Friday, when it stays open until 8pm. The museum is closed on Monday. Entry is free. For more information, visit the website.

Serbia: the place to be

Cities filled with culture, mountains and rivers filled with adventure… Explore all that the diverse destination of Serbia has to offer.

The following is a reposted article from PASTE Magazine by Olivia Balsinger.


mostarbike.jpg

The Journey Begins

I’m sitting in a bar in Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Surrounded by ancient walls and the Adriatic Sea, this is Croatia’s crown tourism jewel. This is also the spot where I will begin a seven-day cycling journey.

After ordering a beer, I turn my attention to my tour companions. We will be embarking on an odyssey of sorts—starting here on the coast and winding into the Western Balkans’ Dinaric Alps—until we reach Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We will travel through some of the most interesting and undiscovered areas of southeastern Europe. This expedition will be orchestrated through Green Visions, an adventure-travel operator based in Sarajevo with a sustainability and ecotourism focus. The promotion, and booking for the tour was a joint effort with Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Biketours.com.

“What we are about to do is embark on the inaugural bike ride from the coast of Croatia through the mountains and onwards to Sarajevo, finding the local touch as much as possible along the way,” says Thierry Joubert, the director of Green Visions. “We will be embarking from Dubrovnik, averaging 50 kilometers a day.”

Biking, we will soon discover, is the perfect way to explore the Balkans … and an opportunity to cover more distance and diversity of landscapes and cultures than travel by foot, but more slowly and intentional than by car.

“We are committed to sustainability and part of sustainability is through local operators and keeping the profit as local as possible,” said Jim Johnson, President of Biketours.com, which runs more than 200 tours representing more than 70 European bike tours operators in more than 40 companies. “We have been told by [local operators] that we are their megaphone to the world.”

Dubrovnik

The “Pearl of the Adriatic” is all about the views, the blue water, the terra cotta roofs, and, of course, the walls. My three recommendations for this town are to first, visit the walls as early as you possibly can. That means 8 a.m. My second: Dinner at Konoba Sciabecco in the Old Town and under the Saint Nicholas chapel. Order the fish platter and sit along the polished limestone walkway at sunset. After, and number three, head to Libertina Bar for a real local’s experience and ice-cold beer.

Konavle, Croatia

Our first official day on bikes was south of Dubrovnik in an area called Konavle. We pedal through pine and cypress forests, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees, including tangerines, figs and mulberries. We stopped for a mid-day meal at Konoba Vinica Monkovic in the village of Ljuta. The local trout cooked in parchment paper and decorated with colorful sautéed zucchini and capers only added to this restaurant’s ambiance. Choice of seats include tables literally atop the Ljuta River, on a floating platform.

As we pedal back to Dubrovnik, we are briefly stopped by a traffic jam of stubborn sheep in the road, reluctant to make a passageway for our bikes, and it hit me: this was not going to be an average trip. It could be hours—if not entire days—before we would run into another car or cyclist on the road. The Balkans are raw and unscripted.

Entering Bosnia and Herzegovina

Our introduction to this rugged country, which sits in the heart of the Western Balkans, came immediately after we crossed the border and started to climb up and through the Dinaric Alps. We then descended into a valley on the outskirts of the city of Trebinje for a lunch at an old rail station in the community of Zavala. Here, the route merged onto the old Austro-Hungarian train tracks, which have recently been repurposed as biking trails.

Before heading into Trebinje, we visit the Vjetrenica Cave, a seven-kilometer system complete stalagmites, stalactites and it’s own species: the blind, albino and lizard-like human fish.
In the evening, we relaxed in the city, where families mixed with intoxicated bar hoppers while DJs provided a riverside soundtrack. A short distance from the walls of the Old Town, we ate at the Restaurant Vukoje, which serves a bevy of its own high-end wines and has a panoramic view of the entire valley. 

Mostar

A day of climbs and sharp descents culminated with Herzegovina’s unofficial capital, Mostar. We arrived to Ottoman Quarter of the city. The smell of incense mixed with the call to prayer. 

The city of Mostar is best known for its famed bridge, which rises as a stunning stone arch between two medieval towers in the heart of the Old Town. Dusk is the best time to visit, as selfie sticks and tourists pervade during the day, especially throughout the summer season. 

A highlight was walking our bikes across this famed bridge as the sun was setting. Then we celebrated the end of another successful day of biking with rakija, the Balkans’ version of schnapps, on the balcony of our hotel, Almira, in the city center.

Umoljani

Our next cycling day was perhaps most special for our group as we were mashing through terrain few traverse. We were now in the heart of Bosnia.

We began a strenuous climb over Prenj, Visocica and Bjelasnica mountain ranges, ascending through a beautiful wooded forest. As a light rain began falling, we parked our bikes in what appeared to be a quaint mountain house in the middle of the countryside. Typical of this region, our stop turned into a conversation and coffee with the owner, who was all too happy to share with us the region’s history. He gave us an impromptu tour of his kula, a traditional guesthouse, and the plot of land that has been in his family for 800 years.

We cycled onwards and upwards, continuing over mountain passes towards to a remote village, Umoljani. Our lodging for the evening, Pansion Umoljani, overlooked the valley beyond, and served a delicious array of authentic cuisine, including spinach, potato and cheese pies and copious amounts of rakija.

Sarajevo

Walking through the streets of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina, I could feel its turbulent and beautiful past weaving together into a harmony of inspiring “now-ness.” Nestled in the mountains, we pedaled into the lights and pavement of the city by dusk, a dynamic difference to the gravel country roads that led us here.

 I had heard in passing that Sarajevo has been nicknamed “The European Jerusalem.” It did not take me long to understand why: In the center, the main mosque, Orthodox Christian church, Catholic Cathedral, and synagogue sit within a few hundred feet of one another.

And contrary to what many travel stories write, the scars of the past do not define this city today. Sarajevo hosts over 15 yearly festivals and is, as it has always been, a cultural hub of artistic renaissance and musical exploration. The capital is also home to youth mountaineering groups that encourage locals to explore the surrounding mountains once again, and companies like Green Visions that make the outdoors accessible for locals and travelers alike. 

Eating dinner, in the traditional and delicious restaurant Zara iz duvara, we debriefed about the trip and realized that the Balkans region is the perfect spot for visitors to learn about Europe, the Near East, and, well, travel. This is where East meets West: Where cobble stones intersect with dirt roads, and where past meets present. The Balkans are some of the last remaining places for authentic adventure on this planet; tourism has not yet been thoroughly developed in this part of the world, which makes it raw and undiscovered.

While the infrastructure of the Balkans may not compare to its Western European neighbors quite yet, paved roads and paths are prime for cycling and adventure tours.

If You Go 

Make sure to contact either (or both) Green Visions and Biketours.com.

Olivia Balsinger is a travel writer based in New York City. She is also a Paste Health columnist, deputy editor of About.com’s Sustainable Travel and OhThePeopleYouMeet.com

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AuthorNicolas Segura
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It is our great pleasure to announce that several ICT clusters from the Balkan and Black Sea cluster network have been invited to sign a GRANT Agreement with the European Commission. Namely, a consortia of 8 clusters coordinated by the Bulgarian ICT Cluster as the lead organization had submitted a project proposal named GIVE (acronym) under the COSME Call: Clusters go International. The list of the partners is: Bulgarian ICT Cluster; Albanian IT Association - AITA; Automobile Cluster Serbia; Bulgarian Automotive Cluster; Cluj IT Cluster; Macedonian ICT Chamber of Commerce - MASIT; ICT cluster of Central Serbia; Green and Smart Technology Cluster (Latvia)

The project proposal preparation was supported by the REG USAID Project, targeting the sustainability of our individual country partners and, especially, the multi-country network.

AIM of the Project: Green Ict deVElopment (GIVE) general project objective is to build up a strategic cluster partnership in the field of smart green technologies among the three vital industries  - automotive, renewable energy and ICT.

The smart green technologies encompass all industrial and human activities which generate positive impact to the environment applying Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Today, traditional manufacturing industries as automotive and renewable energy should find smart solutions to answer to global environmental challenge they face by applying ICT.

The GIVE partnership will be based on cross-clusters, cross- border, and cross - regional and cross - industry collaboration.

It ill be very challenging because it has eight partners from seven different countries, two different European regions and three vital industries.

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AuthorNicolas Segura
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The following is a reposted article from RealClear | Life.


Luxury travel operator Mountain Travel Sobek and its expert guide lead RCL on the 128-mile trek.

We were only half-joking when we called Richard Branson’s recent family adventure—which featured a Matterhorn to Mt. Etna trek—the “family vacation from hell.” RCL is wise to the fact that many of you want to get physical on vacation, so we searched far and wide for the perfect jaunt. We found one that requires a bit more than your average pre-work bicep curl to accomplish, but is nothing short of an experience of a lifetime.

Mountain Travel Sobek, a luxury travel operator headquartered on the West Coast, has partnered with Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina–based Greenvisions to take guests on one of the most unique adventures RCL has found in its search for the “next big thing” in travel.

For just under $8,000, you can join a 22-day, 128-mile trek through the largely untouched Via Dinarica trail, which snakes through the Dinaric Alps and takes you through six countries—Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania.

A highlight of Day 2 on the MTS trek, here’s an aerial view of Bled Castle, overlooking the lake of the same name in Triglav National Park, Slovenia. (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

A highlight of Day 2 on the MTS trek, here’s an aerial view of Bled Castle, overlooking the lake of the same name in Triglav National Park, Slovenia. (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

A highlight of Day 2 on the MTS trek, here’s an aerial view of Bled Castle, overlooking the lake of the same name in Triglav National Park, Slovenia. (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Now, if you’re asking yourself, “Aren’t some of those countries dangerous?” You’d be right, but 25 years too late. Long after the break up of the former Yugoslavia—and the Bosnian War, which started in 1992 and lasted through 1995—the Western Balkans have become a white-hot travel destination patronized by everyone from Jay-Z to Bill Gates.

And the Via Dinarica is sort of the icing on the cake, per Thierry Joubert, a native of Curaçao, Dutch Antilles, who’s been based in Sarajevo since 1992, is the co-founder of Greenvisions, and heads up Mountain Travel Sobek’s extensive tour.

“I came [to Sarajevo] during the war to work with children in refugee centers, and I did all kinds of development and humanitarian work,” Joubert told RCL via Skype. Then, five years after the Dayton Agreement, which ended the Bosnian conflict, Joubert founded his travel-adventure company, Greenvisions, as a for-profit company, with Bosnia’s future in mind. (They published the first postwar travel brochure for the country.)

Joubert and company have been working with Mountain Travel Sobek for eight years, having originally met MTS co-founder Richard Bangs while he was in Bosnia on a development project for USAID. “The reason I like Mountain Travel Sobek is that we have crazy ideas, and they’re willing to take the chance,” said Joubert with a laugh. One such crazy idea was the 22-day trek, which is by far the most extensive trip the two companies have come up with yet.

On Day 13 of the MTS trek, you’ll find yourself in Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Montenegro (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

On Day 13 of the MTS trek, you’ll find yourself in Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Montenegro (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

On Day 13 of the MTS trek, you’ll find yourself in Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Montenegro (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

What is the Via Dinarica? Joubert described it as a confluence of mountain trails in “the wildest part of Europe” that were once all connected in the former Yugoslavia and maintained by mountaineering clubs but were broken up by borders after the country was split up. At that point, the trail was just legend, at best. But in 2006, there was a call for the disparate trails to once again be united—like the Via Alpina—and three years later, Greenvisions was on the case. Along with a partner in Montenegro, Greenvisions wrote a cross-border plan for the European Union, reconnecting the trails from Sutjeska National Park in Bosnia with Durmitor National Park in Montenegro (see above), each country’s oldest national park. That was the first 100 miles of the over 1,200-mile trail that now stretches from Slovenia to Macedonia. The project snowballed from there; in 2014, Outside magazine sent a journalist to hike the Via Dinarica with Joubert, and it’s been gaining popularity ever since. USAID has also chipped in about $1.2 million to help maintain the massive trail.

For those guests who are looking to drop a long way out of cell service on vacation, the Via Dinarica trek couldn’t be better. As Joubert explains, because the region’s mountain ranges are still so untouched compared to the rest of the EU’s, hikers will be surprised at how few people they run into over the 22-day period. And somewhat like the neighborhoods of New York City, each mountain town travelers come across is wholly distinct from the previous one—culturally, religiously, and culinarily. “All of these sections have a very different flavor,” said Joubert.

You’ll find yourself in the old city of Mostar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Day 7 of the trek (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

You’ll find yourself in the old city of Mostar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Day 7 of the trek (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

You’ll find yourself in the old city of Mostar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Day 7 of the trek (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Now, in terms of physical fitness, this is by no means an easy- or intermediate-level trek. “The mountains are rough here,” Joubert said. Don’t let the word “trail” fool you into thinking this is something locals leash up their dogs and walk for pleasure on the weekends. “It’s not a manicured trail,” said Joubert. “People have walked on this trail, but it’s rocky and uneven. It’s not dangerous, but these are not smooth trails.”

While MTS offers an extensive itinerary—from which we’ve scattered pictures of destinations throughout this story—RCL asked Joubert to tease out his “greatest hits” along the trail. Here’s what he said:

Velebit National Park (didikat/Flickr)

Velebit National Park (didikat/Flickr)

Velebit National Park – Premužić Trail – Croatia – This single chain-link in the greater Via Dinarica was blazed during the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918). “It’s just stunning,” said Joubert. “At [the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire] it was a highway through this incredible karst and rocky mountain, [and] it still is. Everything is wild around you.” Joubert continues: “This guy just cut this road through the mountains that dips in and out, and you get to see the seaside. So you have the blue Adriatic coast, and then you go down again on the other side in the interludes, and there’s nothing there. It’s just wild.”

Hajducka Vrata (a.k.a. the ‘Rebel’s Door’), about 6,500 feet up Mount Cvrsnica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. You’ll get there on Day 9. (Courtesy of Mountain Travel Sobek/Elma Okic)

Hajducka Vrata (a.k.a. the ‘Rebel’s Door’), about 6,500 feet up Mount Cvrsnica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. You’ll get there on Day 9. (Courtesy of Mountain Travel Sobek/Elma Okic)

The Isolated-ness of Bosnia – Geographically speaking, Bosnia is the midway point of the Via Dinarica. And it also happens to be Joubert’s adopted home. “Bosnia is very small; it’s only 50,000 square kilometers [roughly 19,000 square miles], but within it, it takes ages to get from one side to the other, because it’s all mountains,” Joubert told RCL. One of the coolest stops along the way? The so-called “rebel’s door” on Čvrsnica Mountain, about 6,500 feet up the mountain face. He notes that the mountains in the region aren’t Everest; the highest peaks are only about 8,500-feet high.

Albania’s so-called ‘Accursed Mountains,’ which you’ll reach on Day 15. (In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

Albania’s so-called ‘Accursed Mountains,’ which you’ll reach on Day 15. (In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

The ‘Accursed Mountains’ – Albania – You can blame the locals for the doom-and-gloom moniker. The mountains are anything but “accursed.” What makes the area so special is a number of functioning villages. It’s a particularly busy cultural center along the Via Dinarica. “The mountains are very high, beautiful, [and] stark, but with the villages, you have relatively easy access to the places around [you],” said Joubert. The best part, though? The local bed-and-breakfast scene (read: shepherd huts and actual home-stays), where travelers can rest their weary bones and consume “mountaineer”-style meals.

One of the most traditional Bosnian foods, according to MTS/Greenvisions’ Thierry Joubert, is the ‘pita,’ a bread dish stuffed with fillings like cheese or potatoes. (Ismail Duru/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

One of the most traditional Bosnian foods, according to MTS/Greenvisions’ Thierry Joubert, is the ‘pita,’ a bread dish stuffed with fillings like cheese or potatoes. (Ismail Duru/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Mountains of Food – You can’t go wrong with great ethnic fare in the region, which is marked by a diverse range of cultures. Traditional Bosnian meals, for example, include börek and pita—not the bread you scrape up hummus with—but an oven-baked phyllo-dough pie cooked in a pan and filled with ingredients like cheese, mountain spinach, or potatoes. It’s traditionally served with locally produced yogurt. One meat you’ll have no problem finding? Lamb and mutton, usually roasted and served on a spit. Stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage leaves, and polenta also make appearances throughout as well. “Low fat does not exist here,” said Joubert. But the insanely long treks balance out the calories.

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The following is an excerpt reposted from an article on Vogue.com written by Michaela Trimble.


Photo: Courtesy of Sam Elkins / @samuelelkins

Photo: Courtesy of Sam Elkins / @samuelelkins

With new trails and lodges opening all around the globe, there’s never been a better time to lace up your hiking boots and set out for adventure in some of the world’s most beautiful destinations. Whether you seek to summit South American mountains, thru-hike in the European wilds, or march side-by-side with Antarctic penguins, now is the time to get acquainted with the world’s most rugged and pristine lands. Here, the top adventurous destinations every woman should visit in 2017.

...

The Balkans
If you whisper the words Via Dinarica in a room of adventure travelers, heads will turn. In 2017, the official map completion of the 1,200-mile Via Dinarica will be finalized, creating a reliable, graphed system for travelers to self-hike through the western Balkans. The trail begins and ends in Slovenia and Macedonia, respectively, running through Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania along the way. Trekkers can experience the rich, cultural heritage of the region during homestays in local villages and mountaintop or seaside huts. On a trip with Mountain Travel Sobek, carve out 22 days to explore six of the eight Via Dinarica countries. The 128-mile route weaves through the unexplored region, where limestone peaks meet the Adriatic Sea and views of glacier-fed lakes prove frequent. If you prefer to cycle the Balkans, opt for a spot on The Odyssey with TDA Global Cycling, a seven-week tour from Athens to Amsterdam that stops in Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia.

...

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The following is a post on Medium by Startup Grind, written by Enis Hulli.


Ukrainians already put a stamp on Silicon Valley with outstanding companies like Whatsapp (Jan Koum), Paypal and Affirm (Max Levchin).

Still at the dawn of its tech revolution, Ukraine is headed to become a startup powerhouse with many more global success stories to come.

Strong tech education provides a powerful foundation.

Country’s robust education system creates close to 40k graduates a year in technical studies and the government aims to get this number to 100k by 2020. The economy of the country has been shaking but IT has always been one of the most stable industries with much higher salaries, which makes it super attractive for people and drives more interest.

The number of so-called “switchers” (people, who switch from any industry to IT) has increased by 5x since 2014, increasing the talent base — Igor Ovcharenko, Seedstars.

Coupled with more than 200k IT professionals and low labor costs, Ukraine’s IT outsourcing sector thrived in the recent years. The highly skilled and young workforce of the country stands out from competition at the EMEA region with superior quality and fast execution.

Outsourcing is a catalyst to create global entrepreneurs

Growing from 0.06% of the GDP to 3.3% -more than 50x- in the past 5 years, Ukraine’s IT sector will soon become number one export of the nation. It is no surprise that more than 100 multinational tech giants opened their R&D offices in Ukraine including Samsung, Boeing, Siemens and Oracle.

Ukrainian engineers gain invaluable experience working on innovative products and develop the cultural ability to work and operate in the Western markets.

This knowledge transfer and vision pushes companies to switch from pure outsourcing/service to global product companies and provides the necessary learning infrastructure for the engineers to become well-rounded entrepreneurs.

Ukrainian entrepreneurs build customer-funded businesses

Contrary to US’s gigantic market size and excessive funding opportunities, entrepreneurs in Ukraine need to operate in a much smaller market with geopolitical challenges and lack of capital. Focusing on international markets from day one, Ukrainian startups become profitable very quickly, only to re-invest in further developing the product or growth.

In a sense, that’s limiting, but it also gives Ukrainian startups an edge that many early stage tech companies lack. They develop an acute business sense very quickly and learn how to compete. — Yevgen Sysoyev, AVentures

Serving customers from international markets, the new-age Ukrainian startups are still very much rooted domestically with all of their development and R&D offices still in the country, giving them a real cost advantage.

Early signs of the next major startup hub

Great startup hubs need a home-run style victory that unlocks major capital resources and puts the ecosystem on spotlight like ICQ (Tel Aviv), Snap (Los Angeles) and Doubleclick (NYC).

Ukraine is close to such a domestic break-out with Grammarly (raised $110M), bpm onlineGenesisReaddle and Jooble en route to become the first unicorns.

Unlike the user base and geography acquisitions in adjacent markets, tech giants are acquiring Ukrainian startups like Looksery (by Snap), Viewdle (by Google)or Maxymiser (by Oracle) for their team and technology to leverage country’s growing talent base.

Ukrainian teams have extraordinary work ethics, putting in long hours and making up for any lack of resources they might experience in their local ecosystems.
They can address hard problems and are usually on the cutting edge of the latest tech, AR and cryptocurrency being just a couple of examples. — Eveline Buchatskiy, One Way Ventures

Early stage scene is also blossoming as startups achieve millions of dollars in revenue with close to no external funding. Attractive for foreign investors, companies like CompeteraPromo Republic and Reply.io have established teams with dozens of engineers and systematic sales processes to sustain cost effective growth in global markets.

Geo-arbitrage funds emerge as a bridge to Silicon Valley

Increasingly companies are launching their US operations at earlier stages while still keeping development back home. PetcubeAllsetPreplyMobalyticsSixa and People.ai are all examples of Ukrainian entrepreneurs competing on the global playing field since inception.

VC funds like AVentures, TA Ventures, Wannabiz and Imperious emerged to take advantage of the geo-arbitrage opportunity and support Ukrainian entrepreneurs grow globally.

Top tier investors like Khosla, General Catalyst and Index have invested in Ukrainian entrepreneurs with domestic software development operations. Then CVC’s like Intel Capital and HP Ventures joined the Ukrainian Venture Capital Association to leverage the innovation potential.

Early stage funds and accelerators like 500 Startups, Techstars and Y Combinator are continuously scouting around the country to detect savvy entrepreneurs and capitalize on the opportunity to connect them to the US.

Ukraine will create more Steve Wozniaks

The country has a strong technical education system and a growing talent pool of engineers joining the workforce that become the fundamental infrastructure to create an innovative economy.

Locally incubated global success stories increase the investor appetite for Ukraine as the country becomes the next startup nation. The necessary components are falling into place to create tomorrow’s tech giants.

Beware Silicon Valley, the Ukrainian mafia is coming!

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AuthorNicolas Segura
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The following was originally posted on adventuretravelnews.com on August 21st .


Few things get to the heart of authentic travel like food. In the Westerns Balkans, nothing is more important than the pride shown for the pure ingredients grown in every corner of this beautiful stretch of Southeastern Europe. The great news: Tourism experts and foodies have begun to take notice and are making Slow Food a key ingredient in travel offers here.

western-balkans-adventure-travel-webinar-5-slow-food-develop_599b58c03c285-300x169.jpg

For this session in the Western Balkans Adventure Travel Webinar Series, we’ll speak with two Balkan Slow Food experts about why this region is such an ideal spot for gourmands and how tourism operators can learn more.

Register here for this month’s Western Balkans Adventure Travel Webinar—Slow Food Development in the Balkans—which will air on Thursday, August 31 at 9:30 a.m. EST (3:30 p.m. CET). As always listeners are invited to ask questions and chime in. (The webinar will be archived and free.)

Both of this week’s guests are food activists and ardent promoters of small-scale producers and sustainability. Gordana Radovanovic, from Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the Slow Food Trebinje, Hercegovina, Convivium leader. Nikolce Nikolovski, from Bitola, Macedonia, is the national coordinator of Slow Food in Macedonia.

The Western Balkans has become Europe’s adventure playground. National Geographic Traveler named the Via Dinarica hiking trail, which runs through the middle of the region, one of its “Best of the World” destinations for 2017. The trail links and traverses Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

In response to this energy and excitement, we invite all those interested to participate in our Webinar Series. Alex Crevar, who has covered the Balkans (The New York Times and National Geographic Traveler) as a travel journalist for 20 years, moderates and tackles topics of interest to the adventure travel industry—for both professionals and travelers.

The monthly series is brought to you by the Western Balkans Geotourism Network and the Via Dinarica Alliance. These cross-border cooperatives are committed to strengthening the region’s sustainability through responsible tourism. The series is hosted by Balkan Vibe, the premier travel platform for the Western Balkans, offering the widest range of tours for the region as well as a seamless booking and credit-card payment system. The series is supported by the USAID/REG project.

Contributing members are responsible for the accuracy of content contributed to the Member News section of AdventureTravelNews.

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The following is a reposted version of an article from Paste Magazine written by Alexandros Katsis.


The Guca Trumpet Festival, which began in 1961, is an annual brass band gathering in western Serbia. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world come to the town of approximately 2,000 citizens every August.

But, it would be a mistake to think of this festival as only a set of concerts. It is also a hedonistic happening fueled by a locally distilled liqueur called rakija, which is the tincture of choice. The end of the event is punctuated with the Golden Trumpet award.

For an authentic—and truly wild—look at one of the best festivals in Europe, please click through the following slideshow.

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The company Flo, was part of the REG organized, TRACTION Camp Odessa event. Flint Capital is headed by Sergey Gribov, who was one of our mentors at the TRACTION Camp Tbilisi. Flint Capital is leading a USD 5m investment round in the company.

Congratulations to the Flo team, which is great news for Belarus and the region overall! Of course, congratulations to our REG Startup Team Leader, Max, as well:)


Image Credit: Flo

Image Credit: Flo

Flo, an app that tracks women’s health from periods to pregnancy, announced today funding of $5 million. The round was led by returning investor Flint Capital, with participation from model and activist Natalia Vodianova and other angel investors.

Women can download the app on both iOS and Android for free and start logging in their menstrual cycles and symptoms. “Currently, there are over 50 symptoms to track, and this number is likely to double in the future,” wrote Flo founder and president Yuri Gurski, in an email to VentureBeat. “Users can keep track of their sexual activity, sports, water intake, vaginal discharge, contraception, moods, pains, and much more.”

Above: Flo app                  Image Credit: Flo

Above: Flo app                  Image Credit: Flo

Gurski, who funded startups like MSQRD and Prisma through his investment firm Haxus Venture Fund, founded Flo in 2015 in Minsk, Belarus.

The app employs neural networks to analyze and predict menstrual cycles. “The use of machine learning increased predictions accuracy by 54.2 percent, with the prediction error reduced from 5.6 to 2.6 days,” wrote Gurski. “The more symptoms are logged, the more unique patterns the algorithm is likely to find in a woman’s cycle.”

Today, Flo claims to have 10 million monthly active users (MAU) and counts approximately 100,000 women getting pregnant each month using the app.

One feature Gurski is particularly proud of is what he calls the network of “digital sisterhood.” “We’ve recently launched a Quora-style Q&A service within Flo, where users can discuss their most burning intimate issues with experts and other users, anonymously,” he wrote. “We are seeing amazing results; it is truly a strong community of like-minded peers.”

Other period and ovulation tracking apps include San Francisco’s Glow, which was also founded by a man (PayPal cofounder Max Levchin), and the female-led Clue, which was founded in Berlin. Sweden-based Natural Cycles, another active player in the market, recently announced being the first app to be certified as a method of contraception by the EU.

For now, Flo fuels its growth with investor money, having raised a total of $6 million to date. The startup is, however, exploring new ways to monetize, Gurski said. “A good example might be paid DNA tests which could provide a user with more personalized content and health insights,” he wrote. “This is something still to be tested.”

Today’s fresh injection of capital will be used to further develop Flo’s AI technology and expand into the U.S. market. The startup is in the process of opening an office in San Francisco and currently has a little over 30 employees.

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The following is a reposted article from the Associated Press written by Elena Becatoros.


SARANDA, Albania (AP) — Descending beneath the waves, the cloudy first few meters quickly give way to clear waters and an astonishing sight — dozens, perhaps hundreds, of tightly packed ancient vases lie on the seabed, testament to some long-forgotten trader’s unfortunate voyage more than 1,600 years ago.

A short boat ride away, the hulking frame of an Italian World War II ship appears through the gloom, soldiers’ personal items still scattered in the interior, its encrusted railings and propeller now home to growing colonies of fish and sponges.

Off the rugged shores of Albania, one of the world’s least explored underwater coastlines, lies a wealth of treasures: ancient amphorae — long, narrow terracotta vessels — that carried olive oil and wine along trade routes between north Africa and the Roman Empire, wrecks with hidden tales of heroism and treachery from two world wars, and spectacular rock formations and marine life.

“From what I’ve seen so far, you can’t swim more than a few meters without finding something that’s amazing, whether it’s on the cultural history side or the natural history side, here in Albania,” said Derek Smith, a coastal and maritime ecologist and research associate who has been working with the non-profit RPM Nautical Foundation to explore the Albanian coastline for the past decade.

Now Albania’s National Coastline Agency is examining how best to study and protect its sunken attractions while opening them up to visitors in a nation that is virgin territory for the lucrative scuba diving industry.

“The idea of presenting the Albanian underwater heritage is a new idea for the country, because so far there is very little known about the rich history of the Albanian coastline, and in particular the shipwrecks,” said agency head Auron Tare, who has been involved for the past 12 years with RPM Nautical Foundation’s underwater research. “I believe the time has come now that we should present to the world the wealth of this heritage that we have in our waters.”

Once more isolated than even North Korea, Albania has gradually opened up to international tourism and shrugged off its former image as a hermit state that briefly turned into lawless bandit territory in the late 1990s. But coastal land development has been burgeoning in an often anarchic fashion, and there are fears the more accessible wrecks could be plundered unless adequate protections are put into place.

Legislation is expected to be passed soon to protect the country’s underwater heritage while also granting some access to visitors.

Neighboring Greece, to Albania’s south, has struggled with balancing tourism with protecting its ancient artefacts. Greece was so fearful of losing its underwater antiquities it banned diving outright in all but a handful of places. Even today, diving is forbidden on any wreck — ship or plane — built more than 50 years ago, regardless of when it sank.

Albania is going for a more balanced approach.

“I’d say that in the near future the ancient wrecks should be open to scholars and research,” said Tare, who noted the country has also lost some of its underwater heritage to plundering in the last 20 years. “Where(as) some of the modern wrecks which do not have much to lose in the sense of looting might be opened up to the dive industry.”

He estimated that with access to the more modern wrecks from WWI or WWII, diving could pick up in Albania in the next five years.

The RPM Nautical Foundation, in cooperation with the coastal agency, has mapped out the seabed along about a third of the Albanian coastline, from Saranda near the Greek border to Vlora. Using a combination of divers and high-tech equipment including sonar and a remotely operated underwater vehicle, or ROV, its research vessel has discovered nearly 40 shipwrecks.

“So far RPM has documented from about 3rd and 4th century BC through to World War I and World War II contemporary shipwrecks,” said Smith. “So we’ve got quite a big range of maybe 2,500 years, 2,300 years’ worth of cultural resources here on the Albanian coastline that have really largely been unexplored.”

One of them is the tightly-packed amphora pile near the shore. Known as the Joni wreck, it was a merchant vessel estimated to have had about four crew members and a cargo of mainly of north African amphorae.

The fact that the pottery was north African “is really important because it shows the trade connections between the Adriatic and the north African coast,” said underwater archaeologist Mateusz Polakowski, who has been working with RPM.

Small fish peer out from the necks of the jugs, which the passage of time has concreted into the seabed. The site hasn’t been excavated and archaeologists believe several more layers of amphorae, as well as the wooden hull of the ship, might still lie intact beneath the seabed.

“A lot of these wrecks are very important as national heritage treasures,” said Polakowski. “Just as much as the biology of it is, just as important as the reefs and the fish populations are, I think these shipwrecks not only become artificial reefs, but they also instill a sense of cultural identity, cultural heritage.”

Albania sits at a strategic point at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea and along ancient trade routes from Italy to the Balkan peninsula, Polakowski said. Much more remains to be explored.

“They have about 200 miles of coastline here,” said Smith, the maritime ecologist. “Even though we feel like we’ve covered a tremendous amount of it ... there’s always more to be discovered.”

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The following is a reposted article from Travel | Play | Live and written by Tracey Coke.


All photos © Tracey Croke

All photos © Tracey Croke

It seems “I’ll call someone” is a local catchphrase of guides and business owners. On a five-day mountain bike trip around the country’s southwest region, fulfilling our group’s daily random demands became an informal game of “meet that challenge”.

If that sounds perverse, like we were revelling in the privilege of behaving like a complete bunch of a-holes, but believe me – everyone from our guides to the locals willingly joined in on the fun – it was largely their idea. Off agenda activities, between our group of five, included climbing, slack-lining, an outdoor massage in a mountain village, and popping into Albania for cake and coffee. This game and the banter attached to it became a crucial part of discovering a formula that I believe is unique to Macedonia.

Alex Jovanoski, owner of Velodrome Bike Tours, substantiates “unique” by explaining how Macedonia’s southwest businesses came together to create a cluster of experiences for a discerning adventure market. “We created sustainable experiences that highlight the natural beauty and cultural heritage of our region,” says Alex, who, along with tourism and aid agencies, was one of the driving forces behind “we”.

Spreading the tourism dollar was key to this teamwork and sustainability. “We convinced people they can earn extra tourism income from their own lives,” added Alex. Coupled with that, the country’s got some serious bragging rights that it’s only just started shouting about. Look past the uncontrolled slapping up of the communist era eyesores, (mainly around the capital, Skopje) and you’ll see how nature has shaped this beauty over millions of years.

The topography of this landlocked country, which is roughly eighty percent mountainous with vast natural lakes, balances a warm Mediterranean to snow-covered alpine climate. And because it’s so small, it packs a ridiculous amount of easily accessible and diverse adventure opportunities. 

The icing on their snow-covered mountains is the Macedonians themselves, fun personalities full of banter who are bursting with pride about their homeland, their, local food and their cosy B&B family businesses.

All photos © Tracey Croke

All photos © Tracey Croke

Adventure Awaits

If there’s an epicenter to this adventure wonderland then it has to be Ohrid. It’s where our bike trip started and one of the few places in the world where a natural and a cultural UNESCO heritage site of “outstanding universal value” sit side by side.

From Ohrid, paragliding, caving, kayaking, canyoning and diving can be arranged in and around one of the world’s rare ancient lakes, described as a “natural phenomena that has continuously existed for at least two to million years”.

Sitting humbly on its shores is the UNESCO heritage town of Ohrid - one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. Among narrow cobbled streets it harbours a preserved ensemble of ancient urban architecture dating back to the seventh century housing quaint shops, traditional restaurants and boutique hotels.

On your Bike

All photos © Tracey Croke

All photos © Tracey Croke

Road cyclists can take a spin on around the lake’s 87 kilometres of shoreline. But don’t forget your passport because it straddles two countries, so you’ll be popping in and out of Albania.

We headed out with mountain-bike guides Goran and Alex’s son, Jovan, to sample the off-road trails of Galicica National Park (one of three in Macedonia) - which offers a mix of old village roads, dirt double-track and narrower natural goat and walking trails. Over the days, the landscape switched between lake vistas, dense beech forest and a wild wilderness, where the clouds shifted in fast-forward changing the landscape in a blink.

One day, our guides – also mountain rescue volunteers – took us to their rescue hut for a break. The changing weather can occasionally catch out self-guided tourists, otherwise, rescues on their watch have been few and far-between. “Mostly we hang out and play guitar,” Goran explained. Nevertheless, a framed condom on the wall with a note “In case of miracle break glass,” proved in the funniest possible way, that this boy’s club take their duties extremely seriously.

The journey was interspersed with other special moments such as a boat journey to a ‘forbidden’ island and an overnight stay at Saint Naum, a converted ninth century monastery close to the Albanian border. An opportunity for a bonus short ride to round off the day with coffee and cake in Albania, proved irresistible to the chronically curious among us.  

Fuelling Up

Back in Macedonia, the cuisine was a firm highlight for me. They say the unpolluted air, soil and water, especially in the rural and mountain areas, make the difference in their flavoursome dishes – many are vegetable based.

Food is generally meze style mix of Mediterranean and Middle East influence, the latter from the days of the Ottoman Empire. Homemade, organic and locally grown are as common as muck and almost everything, it seems, is turned into their national tipple rakija – a strong spirit washed down with almost every meal.

I nick-named Alex “the magician” when, at the top of a long climb, he appeared out of nowhere and produced a picnic of “Gjomleze” a dish from a local village made only from pastry, which considering its lack of ingredients was surprisingly tasty.

Apparently the secret of the flavour is slow cooking. “My friend spent all morning making it, Enjoy!” Alex exclaimed. We washed it down with a runny tangy yogurt, another Macedonian favourite I came to love.

We witnessed Alex’s rural team spirit in action in the mountain village of Elshani, where we parked our bikes and ourselves one night. It doesn’t get much homelier than Risto’s guesthouse, where the multi-tasking Anita cracked jokes while giving us a cooking lesson, introducing us to local friends and mingling with other guests. 

It was Anita who had a massage organised for us before we had chance to grab a shower – a good thing it was outdoors. This is a place where the hospitality is so warm you’ll want to pay the dinner bill and then offer to wash up afterwards, which we did.

On the last day, I thought there might be a chance to pick up a bag of my favourite fruit and Macedonia’s most famous– the Ohrid cherry. “No, they’re not in season,” Jovan explained. Just as I was going to turn it into a challenge, he held up a finger, “wait, my grandmother preserves them, I’ll call her,” he said.

It’s no wonder Macedonia is leaping on to the adventure travel scene. This is the ultimate adventurous can-do country with a personal kind of magic. And there just aren't that many places in the world like this.

The Author travelled with Velodrome Bike Tours - Email Contact velodrome@t-home.mk

For more information about visiting the southwest region of Macedonia see http://eden.mk


Five unique experiences in Macedonia

1. Be a bear ranger

Macedonia is one of the few areas in Europe where brown bears wander free without borders. Spend five days trekking in the forest with park rangers. Learn about bear behaviour and how Macedonia is connecting tourism, local people and conservation to protect bears and other wildlife.

To join a bear conservation trekking adventure
Email: gorki.balojani@balojani.com.mk
Web: www.balojani.com.mk

2. Go to a traditional wedding that everyone’s invited to

Every year on 12th July, The tiny mountain village of Galichnik attracts people from all over Macedonia for their traditional Wedding Festival and everyone’s invited -tourists included. For a special experience, stay in the cozy B&B home of Borka and Pavla, a legendary couple who are the only permanent residents of this summer holiday village. During the summer season, their homestay is the perfect base for exploring Mavrovo National Park.

For accommodation and more info email: Marko Bekric galicnik@outlook.com

3. Visit a ‘forbidden island’

Golem Grad is not really forbidden but it is highly protected. This uninhabited island of global scientific interest – known for its endemic flora and fauna, significant birdlife and high concentration of ancient ruins - can only be reached by boat. It’s definitely one for the nature-cum-history lovers and the kind of place you imagine a T-Rex could stomp up at any second.

More info at:http://eden.mk 

4. Spot a Lynx in one of Europe’s oldest National Parks.

With over 500 kilometres of mixed-use trails, Mavrovo National Park is a peaceful wilderness with panoramic views known for its extensive beech forests, alpine meadows and pristine rivers. It’s home to the critically endangered Balkan Lynx. Latest reports say up to 45 Lynx wander between Macedonia and Albania. You’ll be very lucky to see one.

For Mavrovo trekking and horseriding contact info@macedoniaexperience.com and see www.macedoniaexperience.com  

For Mavrovo Mountain Biking contact Marko Bekric - Galichnik Mountain Bike Adventures galicnik@outlook.com   

5. Dive in The Bay of Bones – Ohrid Lake

The Bay of the Bones is where a stilted bronze-age settlement once existed. “The museum on the water” is village reconstructed from the archaeological remains. Uncover ceramics and artefacts, which tell a story of a civilization that exited thousands of years ago. Aptly described by a journalist colleague as“the coolest diving spot you’ve never heard of.


More info at: www.macedoniaexperience.com

All photos © Tracey Croke

This article first appeared in issue 5 of Travel Play Live and has been edited for online. Buy single print issues or subscribe here.

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The following is reposted version of an article from Paste Magazine by Bridget Nurre Jennions.


Sveti Toma in Limlijani main and lead.jpg

Okay, we admit it: we have a real thing for Montenegro. We’ve told you why you need to go there now and we’ve written at length about it’s coastal gems: Budva and the Bay of Kotor. But with the number of visitors to this small Adriatic country steadily increasing and daily low-cost flights connecting its capital Podgorica to many of Western Europe’s major cities, we figured it was time to let you in on a few secret spots still known mostly to locals: Lake Skadar, the Eastern Highlands, and Bojana Island.

Cap off a day of trekking with a night in a traditional mountain hut, practice yoga from the corn-grinding circle of a ruined 14th century village overlooking the Balkans’ largest lake, or chat with local fishermen as you dine on some rare Adriatic delights. With all three destinations within two and half hours of Podgorica, you don’t even have to choose: any of these would make for an unforgettable weekend or you could combine them for a diverse weeklong Montenegrin adventure.

Lake Skadar

An emerald oasis nestled between Montenegro’s coastal peaks and its capital city, Lake Skadar will immediately take your breath away—if not for its tranquil lily pad-covered lagoons, then definitely for the medieval monasteries that can be found perched on tiny islands in the center. So strong was the pull of this ancient lake that former British publishing and public relations executives Ben and Emma Heywood left their lives in London to establish their tour company, Undiscovered Montenegro, on its banks.

From their beautifully refurbished inn near Virpazar, Villa Miela, you can experience the bounty of the lake in a variety of ways: hiking the saw-toothed peaks, biking through the nearby villages, or kayaking across its serene waters to catch a glimpse of the giant Dalmatian pelican or Grmozur, the 19th century Montenegrin Alcatraz. The company also offers weeklong yoga holidays that include a morning of hiking to the 14th century village of Godinje and its crop-grinding-circle-turned-yoga platform that offers some spectacular lake views. Though the village still largely sits in ruins following a devastating 1979 earthquake, it is home to Konoba Godinjeand Winery, where owner Miodrag Lekovic offers up fresh local cheese and pours some of the best of Montenegro’s full-bodied Vranac red wine varietal.

In fact, in addition to being one of Montenegro’s most important ecosystems, Lake Skadar is also the site of its biggest wine region. Just seven kilometers from Virpazar, the wine village of Limljani bears a striking resemblance to the mountain-backed vineyards of South Africa. Be sure to taste the Sveti Toma wine at Klicic Winery, a barrique-aged Vranac named for the 7th century chapel that survived a tumble down the hill into the valley nearby.

Eastern Highlands: Bjelasica, Komovi, and Prokletije

“To come here is like traveling back in time,” Ivana Milicevic Kalic, marketing manager for RAMS Travel Agency, explains one rainy Sunday morning over a mug of mountain tea. “In many ways, this region hasn’t changed its way of life for over 200 years.” Based in the northern town of Bijelo Polje, known for its many arts festivals, the agency’s owners Sabina and Musa Ramovic are focused on offering visitors a glimpse into traditional mountain life.

Working with the regional tourism body, Sabina and Musa have helped develop the Bjelasica, Komovi, and Prokletije cultural route that covers Montenegro’s mountainous eastern region, and pairs mountain adventures with cultural immersion. With swanky coastal resorts like the iconic Aman Sveti Stefan charging top dollar for the cheese, meat, and rakija (schnapps) that come from this region, the couple have established a Slow Food convivium to preserve these traditional foods and bring Montenegro’s visitors direct to the source.

In practice, this means that along the four-mile hike from your homestay in the mountain village of Bistrica to the 17th century Podvrh Monastery, you will be beckoned by the Balsic brothers to come taste their twice-distilled pear rakia direct from the still. After an autumn morning spent wading through the waters of nearby Dalovica gorge to explore Montenegro’s deepest cave, you might join a local family producing their year’s supply of ajvar: a roasted pepper spread that is a staple of the region’s cuisine. Or finally, after a day of hiking on Bjelasica Mountain, you can spend a night under the stars in a traditional mountain hut, or katun, which have been used for centuries each summer by shepherds tending their flocks.

Bojana Island (Ada Bojana)

With 45 miles of beach stretching along the sparkling Adriatic Sea, it’s hard not to mention Montenegro’s stunning coastline. Our pick for sun and surf is a small island formed by a river delta near the Albanian coast: Bojana Island, or Ada Bojana. While some know Ada Bojana for its faded nudist resort, it is also home to Montenegro’s best seafood restaurants, which line the Bojana River that separates the island from the mainland.

The oldest, and widely regarded as the best of these restaurants, is Misko, where you can choose your meal from the live tank before taking your seat to watch the fishing trawlers outside the window. The restaurant’s offerings range from the traditional, like fresh oysters, to the unique. If you are lucky, they may have slipper lobster, a rare Mediterranean version of the crustacean known for its exceptionally sweet meat, which is cooked fresh and served on a bed of saffron pasta. Ask for “Baba” (Montenegrin for grandma, a reference to the lobster’s shriveled appearance).

Just next to Ada Bojana is Montenegro’s longest beach: the eight-mile Velika Plaza (long beach). Its idyllic wind conditions have made the beach a popular place for visitors throughout Europe to try their hand at kite surfing. If kite surfing isn’t your thing, then the soft white sand and numerous beach bars will help take the edge off.


Breathtaking Balkans columnist Bridget Nurre Jennions is an Emmy-winning TV journalist and an international development specialist in Kosovo. Follow her travels on her blog, Bridgekrieg.

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The following is a reposted article originally from The Financial Times.


Serbia ranks first in a global greenfield foreign direct investment (FDI) performance index, produced by fDi Intelligence, the Financial Times' data division.

(Thinkstock)

(Thinkstock)

The index measures the appeal of countries as destinations for greenfield FDI relative to their GDP.

Serbia scored 12.02 in the index - and the score "indicates that in 2016 it attracted more than 12 times the greenfield FDI that would be expected for an economy of its size," Tanjug reported, quoting the daily said. 

Serbia is followed by Cambodia (11.24) and Macedonia (9.18). 

Serbia's otherwise disappointing economic performance has been outweighed by regulatory reform, low labor costs and access to the EU single market - and "most investors are attracted to Serbia as an export platform rather than as a market in its own right," the Financial Times added. 

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia President Marko Cadez on Thursday reacted to this news to say it was "excellent for the future of the Serbian economy." 

"What makes it even more important is that it is based on an analysis of the prestigious Financial Times, and that the managers of the world's biggest companies who make decisions about where to invest their capital have read it," Cadez said, Tanjug reported.

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The following is a reposting of an article originally from BalkanInsight.com by Marcus Tanner.


Russian President Vladimir Puti. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/AP

Russian President Vladimir Puti. Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/AP

A new book takes a searching look at what Russia is up to – and what it is not – in Southeast Europe.

Taalk of Russia being “back” in the Balkans has become a commonplace in diplomacy and journalism – however disputable it is whether Russia ever went away.

But even if Russia’s resurgence in the region is a given, the big question is: what form is it taking and with what aim? Is Russia “back” as imperial overlord and as “spoiler” to the West – or as friendly ally and necessary counterweight to an overbearing EU?

The distinction is all-important. If it is the former, the Balkans can expect trouble as the big powers jostle and confront one another in the region. If it is the latter, the Balkan states stand to benefit by selling their favours to the highest bidder.

With Russia on so many lips, Bulgarian scholar Dimitar Bechev’s thoroughly researched exploration of the many facets to Russia’s revived presence – economic, military and diplomatic – is timely. It is also judicious.

Never one to dramatise, in his book ‘Rival Power, Russia in Southeast Europe’ Bechev disentangles lurid myths from plain facts to draw a balanced portrait of a restless ex-superpower that is busy realising some – but not all – of its strategic goals in Europe’s soft, southeastern underbelly.

As Bechev notes, Russia has serious cards to play in the Balkans. Where else can it win such warm applause with so little effort – just for being there?

“It is hard to deny that Russia and Putin command a tremendous amount of support across countries with Eastern Orthodox majorities (Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Republika Srpska in Bosnia and the Greek part of Cyprus),” he writes.

“From Banja Luka to Nicosia, party leaders and opinion makers make the case for cooperation or even full alignment with the Kremlin.”

However, while conceding that pan-Orthodox and/or pan-Slavic sentiment is a bankable asset for the Kremlin, Bechev insists that is less important and more skin deep than many believe.

Russia’s lavish praise for its Serbian “brothers” rarely translates into economic favours, he notes, citing the fate of Serbia’s gas and oil champion, NIS, as a warning.

Hugely undersold by Serbia to Russia in exchange for Serbia’s inclusion in South Stream pipeline project, Russia coolly scrapped the pipeline project practically without warning in 2014, leaving Serbia on the wrong side of the bargain.

Greece got the same bruising treatment, he adds. Greek society is another instinctively pro-Russian society, he notes, and the far-left Syriza party was ardently pro-Kremlin in opposition, lambasting “Fascist” Ukraine and even hailing the Russian takeover of Crimea.

But when Greece’s new leader, Alex Tsipras, dramatically showed up in Moscow with his begging bowl, hoping Russia would stump up the cash to enable Greece to defy the West’s harsh bailout terms, Putin turned away, unwilling to shoulder the burden.

Tsipras was forced into humiliating retreat, thrust right back into the hands of the dreaded Europeans under whose economic tutelage Greece has remained since.

Russia is not the only partner playing a complex game in the Balkans, he notes. Serbia parades filial devotion to Russia, he recalls, but that has not stopped Serbia from pragmatically pursuing EU membership, or from quietly cozying up to NATO. While constantly protesting its determination never to join the alliance, it cooperates discretely with NATO in a host of ways.

The Eastern Balkans, Romania and Bulgaria, are another area where appearances are deceptive, Bechev writes. In journalistic legend, he writes, Romania was always the West’s “Latin sister”, defying Russia even when it was part of the Soviet bloc. Bulgaria, by contrast, is always pictured as a Russian doormat – “the 16th Soviet republic” in Communist times – and not much different now.

The Russians certainly hoped that was the case with Bulgaria, Bechev writes, recalling how the Kremlin was delighted when Bulgaria joined the EU, seeing Sofia as Russia’s very own “Trojan Horse” in Brussels.

But Romania has often been a good deal more interested in Russian trade than it lets on, he adds, while Bulgaria, just as often, has been a more awkward ally than Moscow expected.

Indeed, Bulgaria turns out to like one of those friends who are always flattering and obsequious when you meet them in the street – but who go mysteriously AWOL when you ask an actual favour.

Bechev ends this absorbing book, which takes in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey as well, by insisting that what we are not seeing in the Balkans is a return to an old-style Russian empire.

Russia, he says, is bent on interfering with Western plans with the region, rather than with recreating satellite states there as some form of revenge for the loss of the old Soviet bloc.

For all its significant leverage over energy, it lacks the economic muscle to draw any of these states fully into its orbit, nor does it have any kind of state “model” to export beyond vague appeals to national conservatism.

The author closes by dismissing the notion that Moscow is somehow responsible for the region’s undoubted problems.

“From Belgrade to Ankara,” he writes “dysfunctional democracies, state capture and the backslide to authoritarian politics are, on the whole, homegrown ills, not an outcome of a sinister Muscovite plot.”

‘Rival Power, Russia in Southeast Europe’ is published by Yale University Press.

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The following is a reposted article originally posted by Paste Magazine (by Alex Crevar).


The "mega" trekking route is also a "cultural corridor" that extends across Southeast Europe's Balkan Peninsula from Slovenia to Macedonia

Starting in May of 2014, I began a hike that changed the course—and rhythm—of my life. Over the last three years, I’d trek for as many days as I could get away, and then start again after I dealt with whatever abstract “responsibilities” that unfortunately got in the way of the really important parts of my world … like efficiently ordering my pack every morning and lacing up my boots to get back on ridges that look across the Adriatic Sea, clear rivers, and flocks of sheep eating their way across hillsides. While on the trail, I slept under the stars at the edge of mountain lakes. I stayed in nomadic shepherd settlements and had coffee as chickens ran between legs. I summited untouched peaks and ate homemade food that burst with the flavors of the unsullied meadows and landscapes that framed my day-to-day existence.

My vehicle for discovery during this epoch was the Via Dinarica “mega” hiking trail, which traverses the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe and connects eight countries along the Dinaric Alps and the ranges that are immediately tangent. The trail covers approximately 1,000 miles and combines shepherd paths and mountain transversals with centuries-old trading routes. From north to south, the Via Dinarica includes cross-border collaborations and trekking between Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia.

The emergence of the trail follows the rapid trajectory of the Balkan region as one of Europe’s new tourism stars. The trail began to take shape in 2010 with a cross-border project between two national parks: Sutjeska and Durmitor. That trek incorporated the highest peaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, respectively. Over the last five years, the trail has grown in notoriety, in country-to-country cooperation, and infrastructure. As well, during this period, a group of adventure tourism companies—representing each of the countries along the route—formed the Via Dinarica Alliance to answer questions and aid travelers.

More than just a trail connecting a conglomeration of countries (it is not just for hard-core trekkers), I realized the Via Dinarica represents a way for travelers to explore the food, music and the old-world heritage that still exists in this corner of Europe. The beauty and purity of uncompromising mountain traditions promise an endless panorama of discoveries, which will take a lifetime to embrace.

Video courtesy of Novagenus, a design and communications company, is working on a series about the Via Dinarica.


Zagreb, Croatia-based Alex Crevar is Paste’s travel editor.

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AuthorNicolas Segura
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The following is a reposted version of an article originally posted by HackerRank and again by The Washington Post (by Karen Turner). 


The United States took home the most number of medals at this year's Summer Olympics in Rio. But what if coding was one of the competitive events? A new HackerRank study reveals that the United States wouldn't stack up quite so well against international competition.

The study compiled the results of 1.4 million coding challenges by about 300,000 developers completed on the website HackerRank, a free coding practice website that doubles as a developer recruiting ground for companies such as Facebook and Airbnb. After breaking down the results by country, HackerRank found that U.S. coders landed in 28th place.

"I don't think it's that surprising," said Vivek Ravisankar, co-founder and chief executive of HackerRank. "In my opinion, the U.S.’s position here mirrors a lot of the other world ranking reports, such as STEM education performance or even other international coding competitions," he said.

HackerRank found that the most talented coders were based in China, followed closely by Russia. Rounding out the top five were Poland, Switzerland and Hungary. The three poorest performing countries were Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nigeria.

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The data was also spliced by type of challenge, breaking down into puzzle categories such as algorithms, data structures and artificial intelligence. Algorithms, which was the top challenge choice for coders, was dominated by Russians, while the Chinese performed best at data structures.

The study falls in line with other rankings that capture the skill sets of coders by country. Last year's Pew Research Center analysis of STEM test scores revealed that American students fell in the middle of the pack, underperforming compared to students in Singapore and South Korea. At this year's International Olympiad in Informatics, a UN-sponsored competition of computing skills, the list of winners told the same story. Chinese, Russian and Eastern European contestants dominated, while the highest scoring American coder came in 15th place.

Russian and Chinese coders continue to triumph at the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, where St. Petersburg University beat out Harvard University this year. Then there's Google Code Jam, where participants compete to solve algorithmic puzzles — China and Russia are neck and neck with first-place prizes, save for three back-to-back wins by a top coder from Belarus named Gennady Korotkevich.

Part of these countries' success with producing top-quality coders might have to do with starting math- and computer-focused education at an early age. In China, preschool coding classes have become increasingly popular for parents of young children. In Russia, math circle culture that dates back to the Soviet era introduces problem solving and math "olympiad" competitions to students as young as middle school.

Ravisankar, who has spoken with top performing coders on HackerRank about where they learned their skills, agrees that this is the most commonly cited answer for coding excellence. "There's more of a culture of coding and practicing math-related subjects at a much, much earlier age in these countries," said Ravisankar.

"It's just a part of early education over there," he added.

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The following is a reposted article originally from PASTE Magazine written by Nevena Bosnic.


Just in case you’re still on the fence about going to the Balkans for your next beach getaway, take a moment to come to your senses. It may make the difference between having a ho-hum holiday or an epic vacation. This corner of Southeast Europe is not only the new adventure travel haven on the continent, it has arguably its best coastline.

Why are these patches of shoreline the best on the continent? They are isolated, they are still chock full of Old World charm, and have food that other, more touristy locales, could only imagine.

Whether you’re looking for an extravagant blowout or budget-friendly seclusion, you will find something that accommodates you at these top 10 seaside destinations in the Western Balkan countries of Albania, Croatia and Montenegro. Take a tour with our friends from Balkan Vibe, the region’s premier travel platform—offering the widest range of tours, a seamless booking, and a credit-card payment system.


Nevena Bosnic is the co-founder and business development manager at Balkanvibe. She is also a first-generation American—now living in Sarajevo—passionate about exploring, maintaining and investing in her Balkan roots.

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AuthorNicolas Segura
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