I did, however, manage to take some time off to do one trip abroad last year, and that was to Croatia - a little 3-week jaunt, starting in the south and flying out of Austria (god bless Ryanair - no matter how much people complain about budget airlines, even with all the surcharges and crummy service it is still incredibly good value for money). It only served to reinforce my love for the Balkans, which certainly has my vote for the best region in Europe: stunning scenery, easy to get off the beaten path, relatively cheap (although Croatia didn't quite make it into that category), a fascinating history and crazy, endearing locals. The bijou coastal towns and dainty islands were pretty, but what enchanted me were the mountains and national parks inland from the coast - the karst landscape of the Velebit arm of the Dinaric Alps rises straight from the coast, and yet despite its accessibility it is possible to get away from it all and marvel at the majesty of nature and geology. And since a picture paints a thousand words, I'll let some of my hack photos do the rest of the talking for me:
The setting sun sets the white limestone and autumn leaves ablaze. The little hut partially hidden behind the trees is where I spent the night: although all it contained were a few wooden boards and a wood-burning stove, the view across the Adriatic to Italy was priceless.
The path off the mountain went through this (partially cleared) minefield and I'm too stubborn to turn back and take the same way back.