A trip to the Western Balkans, inspired by a SKorean TV show

It’s always amazing to see how a TV show creates a travel destination so successfully.

I’ve taken several domestic trips inspired by “2 Days and 1 Night,” a S.Korean TV program that visits almost every corner of the country.

The show’s original producer Na Young-suk moved to another TV channel, tvN, and created this “… over Flowers” program series: “Grandpas over Flowers,” which took four Korean actors in their 60s and 70s to France, Taiwan, and Spain with an actor in his early 40s as porter, driver, and cook; then its spin-offs “Sisters over Flowers,” which took four Korean actresses in their 40s and 60s to Croatia, also with a young actor and singer in his 20s for the porter/guide role, who’s way more helpless than the actresses; “Youth over Flowers,” with three Korean singers in their 40s to Peru, the season that just ended; and “(Real) Youth over Flowers,” with three young actors in their 20s to Laos, to be aired soon.

The show’s original concept is to film the grandpas, who became stars at young age and have never traveled by themselves not to mention in a tight budget, backpacking abroad by themselves. Really this was the first time for the grandpas to carry their own luggages, book hotels (or hostels) themselves, schedule their own trip, and travel without any assistance but the somewhat helpless young porter. Recently NBC reportedly bought the concept and frame of the show, under the name of “Better Late than Never.

The travel variety show was a big hit in Korea, and hundreds and thousands of Koreans backpacked themselves and took off to the destinations featured in the show. Mr. Na, the producer, even received an award from the Taiwanese government for promoting tourism of the country.

Among the destinations, Croatia hit me hard. Croatia has been on my to-visit list for years, but watching the episodes, the destination grew in me so much. In March, a former colleague of mine Ally, another globetrotter, and I decided to travel Croatia during the long holidays in May only to find that it’s too late to book direct flight to Croatia. So many other Koreans were also hooked by the show and flying to the country. The only available and affordable flight we could get was one that goes to Belgrade (Beograd) of Serbia. Then, I learned that Montenegro, whose tourism business I studied about during my graduate program, was on the way from Serbia to Croatia, and Ally found Slovenia, a country she’s been planning to visit, was bordering with Croatia.

Too many places to cover for two weeks we thought. But what the heck. We ended up traveling ALL four countries in the Western Balkans—Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia—for two weeks, from April 30 to May 12. It was rather a serious training than a relaxing vacation, but we had so much fun, doing some crazy stuff, together and individually.

So, here our journey begins.

The route Ally and I took in early May 2014

The route Ally and I took in early May 2014

 

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