Ten new nations worth a visit
Check out the Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club for the latest expat-informed lowdown on the Serbian capital.
Bosnia and Hercegovina
For centuries Sarajevo was on the fault line of religion, culture and history, and in today's capital of Bosnia and Hercegovina, mosques, churches and synagogues all huddle beside each other and the Neretva River. The city has emerged from the dark days of the siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1996 as an inclusive and collaborative centre for the arts.
The annual summer festival Nights of Bascarsija showcases music, art and dance in Sarajevo's compact Ottoman quarter, and the Sarajevo Film Festival is one of Europe's most important. Poignant memories of the Balkan Wars include Mostar's reconstructed bridge.
Bosnia and Hercegovina is an emerging adventure-tourism destination, with excellent whitewater rafting on the Una and Neretva rivers.
Was the inaccurate depiction of Kazakhstan by Borat a few years ago a blessing or a curse? The film certainly lifted brand awareness for the Central Asian republic made independent from Moscow in December 1991, but the planet's ninth-largest country remains a mystery to most.
Fuelled by revenues from copious oil and gas reserves, Almaty and Astana have emerged as modern-day boomtowns from the Central Asian steppe, but Kazakhs' nomadic roots are still celebrated with one of the world's more...er...interesting cuisines. How does beshbarmak (an offal stew) and horsemeat sausage washed down with a shot of vodka sound?
Celebrate the coming of spring with dancing, Kazakh food and equestrian events at the festival of Nauryz in late March.
The denouement of the inevitable dissolution of Yugoslavia came in June 2006 when the citizens of tiny Montenegro voted to separate from the federation of Serbia and Montenegro. Despite Montenegro being the smallest piece of the Balkans jigsaw, the rugged country packs in a geography textbook of natural features and spectacles.
The country's eponymous "Black Mountains" cradle the perfect medieval town at Kotor. The pine-scented Tara River is Europe's deepest canyon and a growing location for river rafting. The tiny island of Sveti Stefan, irredeemably picturesque and joined to the mainland by a slender isthmus, is rapidly regaining its pre-Balkan Wars status as one of Europe's most exclusive destinations.
Passionate twitchers (birdwatchers) should pack their high-powered binoculars for Lake Skadar, one of Europe's most important bird sanctuaries.
Consider the evidence. Kosovo declared unilateral independence from Serbia in 2008, but Kosovo's closest neighbour refuses to accept the declaration. China and Russia agree with Serbia, but almost 70 other nations including the US, Germany and the UK accept Kosovo as an independent state. Membership of the World Bank and the IMF are a given, but UN membership remains elusive due to the veto-trumping machinations of the Security Council. The presence of the UN and NGOs keeps accommodation prices relatively high, so this is definitely one for the true country collectors out there.
In the Kosovar capital of Pristina, visit Bill Clinton Blvd, complete with a giant billboard of the former US president.