Troubador From the Baltic to the Balkans

Released: 28/09/2021

ISBN: 9781800464575

eISBN: 9781800466128

Format: Paperback/eBook

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From the Baltic to the Balkans

Tales from an Eastern European Rail Adventure


Inspired by a life-long passion for travel, Stuart McMillan embarked on a journey of over 2,000km, crossing the continent from the Baltic Sea to the Balkan coast. The book provides personal observations and reflections on a fascinating world hidden for decades behind an Iron Curtain. It gives the reader a glimpse of how the history, culture, years of oppression and brutal wars have shaped these beautiful lands and the people who live there.

Starting in Lithuania, a journey weaving through the beautiful and often mysterious Slavic lands all the way to Croatia - taking in Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It includes travelling in a 44-degree heatwave; taking a short-cut via Moscow; experiencing a chaotic sleeper train out of Ukraine; coping with the failure of all air-conditioning and lighting on a long-haul train down to Serbia; learning about the legacy of both Nazi and Communist oppression; and seeing first-hand the scars and re-built splendour of Sarajevo and Mostar following the recent brutal, and often forgotten, Yugoslav wars.

As well as recounting the beauty of the countries and cities visited, and reflecting on the years of oppression and wars that shaped the landscapes and cultures, it also captures the emotions of travelling alone for weeks through foreign lands – the freedom to experience so much of countries hidden away from the world for so long; the reliance on internal narrative for company; and the bouts of homesickness that often conflict with the author’s love of travel.

'From the Baltic to the Balkans - Tales from an Eastern European Rail Adventure' was published on 21 September 2021 and is available to buy in both printed and e-book formats.

I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to leave a kind review!

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Dundee Courier

Edinburgh Evening News

The Scottish Field

I enjoyed the journey. It was an easy and interesting read. I like the history and football chat and it made me think about places that I never considered visiting before. I've not read a travel book before but this feels more like an adventure story than what I imagined a travel book would be like.

by Shiona

This is how I travel, vicariously through books. And as such, this was a fun adventure. It’s a relatively short trip and certainly a very short book, so you have to adjust your expectations accordingly. The actual alliterative traversing took place something like 8 years ago, the author is a prolific traveler who wanted to jot down some of his stories to inspire the wanderlust in others.
Sure enough, his love of travel comes through loud and clear on every page. The man is the kind of traveler who loves all of it and find the sunny side of every egg, so even when the conditions leave a lot to be desired, he manages to find worth and appeal in the experience. It’s charming in a way, especially because this isn’t born out of ignorance, this comes from someone who is aware of the sociopolitical situation, past and present, and chooses to or tries to see the beauty of the place anyway.
But then again, there isn’t much space in this book to pontificate or go on, these are more like somewhat elaborate postcards or quick sketches of places…with ample amount of black and white (at least on my kindle) photos provided. The great thing about this trip is that it takes you on the least obvious/popular international destinations, so armchair travelers should enjoy that. Overall, a nice quick trip without leaving one’s armchair. Recommended.

Original review:

by NetGalley review

If I'd have ever gone from Kaunas to Dubrovnik it'd have been by (highly implausible) organised coach trip – and not required a dogleg via Moscow. I haven't done that non-existent holiday, however, nor anything like it, but have popped into a few of the places en route, making this a welcome retread of old ground and visit to places new. And I leave the author in the unique position of needing the train guard to evict someone from his bunk on an overnight train to Budapest, seemingly leaving himself with the lad's girlfriend and the quandary of undressing for the night.

This surprisingly slender volume actually managed to convey what I felt it should. I mean it's fine, while it's being slight. I would mention it's a 2021 book discussing 2013 events and sights, having been written in 2017, but someone's already slated me for saying travel books go out of date (er, yeah – they do age, much like the best of us, and when the places are as accessible as this, at least). The whole has a friendly mien, meaning it's what you'd make notes of to tell your buddies, a mixture of what you did and where what is. The style has no pretensions to being great travel literature, it's just a common response to some fabulous locations.

I couldn't get anything of Vilnius from the recap here, but my visit was decades ago. It certainly was a long time since I'd thought of Budapest's Memento Park, where all the ex-communicated Soviet statues (ex-Commie-cated?) lie for perusal. I've not been back to Yugoslavia since its dispersal, and the writing here certainly made me think about joining a few dots, even if it did have the slight touch of being less than thoroughly discerning. That said, pretty much anywhere in Europe is a safe bet for a nice time, and it's likewise hard to fail at presenting a diary of your travels round the place. There're no failures here.

Original review:

by NetGalley review

As an armchair traveler this was a wonderful trip for me. Full of interesting information lots to see and in a short format. Really enjoyed.

Original review:

by NetGalley review

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan has had a life-long passion for travel and an enthusiasm for storytelling. He was inspired to write his debut book in the hope that others will feel as passionately about travel as he does and would be motivated to follow their dreams and travel the world.

Stuart has travelled in South America, South East Asia, Scandinavia and across Western, Central and Eastern Europe, though his favourite destination will always be the Scottish Highlands.

He lives in Edinburgh with his wife Laura and their overindulged ragdoll cat, Hamish.

Stuart McMillan
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