Thoughts from the Balkans

Being born and raised in the Balkans and still living in one of the beautiful countries of this Peninsula could be called luck.

The Balkans may not be among the top destinations from Europe, the economy of this region is certainly far from being the best, but then its vibe, the pathos and the enthusiasm radiating from the people around you are also far stronger than in other areas of our continent.

In the eyes of a person who grew up here, but also traveled to other countries and other cultures, the Balkans are the region which so many developing nations call home, being more and more preferred by the digital nomads who decide to live a relaxing and beautiful life, far away from the chaos of the large cities of the world, where life seems to have found just the right balance between a comfortable and an affordable lifestyle.

Maybe not everyone feels ready to travel here yet, but we know that a lot of people are curious about life here in the Balkan Peninsula.

Situated in southeastern Europe, during the centuries the Balkan Peninsula area was ruled by the Roman Empire, the great Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and by Austria-Hungary. It underwent many changes and the people there, including our grandparents, struggled a lot, fighting in the wars for freedom against many odds. Some of our parents lived under communism and there are still some areas where the influence of that period can still be felt. People were not allowed to express their own opinion and were struggling even to buy the bare necessary things.

Yet, in the end, the Balkans were left with a huge historical and cultural heritage, castles, fortifications, sanctuaries, and archaeological sites that nowadays are a great attraction for tourists from all over the world and for us are a kind reminder to feel grateful for this beautiful place that we call “home”.

The Balkan Peninsula is situated between the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Pannonian Plain and includes 12 countries. There are many discussions on which countries can be included in the Balkans and most probably you will encounter different opinions, however, most will agree that the 12 countries are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.

This is an area where real adventures can happen, crossed by the impressive river Danube, the hilly relief is surrounded by the Carpathian and Dinaric mountain ranges, with the perfect locations for bungee jumping, fantastic caves, waterfalls, castles, as well as walking paths which seem to lead straight into fairy tales.

Every season has its own beauty in the Balkans. We can still enjoy a lot of snow in winter and don’t need the artificial one when we want to go skiing on the slopes. We enjoy rainy autumns, when all the nature turns into a painting and the multicolored leaves create a perfect atmosphere. In summer there are a lot of turquoise seas where we can go and leave all our worries (and problems) behind. Oh and then spring, this wonderful season when the streets are engulfed in the fragrance of magnolias and the children buy snowdrop flowers for their moms.

We still keep some traditions and customs. We still wear traditional clothes and still dance to our traditional tunes. We get goosebumps when we see little children dressed in traditional handmade clothes, when our grandparents give us vegetables directly from their garden or when our parents take the bread out of the oven, freshly baked for us. The specific smell of sweet bread on Easter and Christmas and the smell of traditional food still takes us back on memory lane to our childhood, as the recipes are still the same which we grew up with. And if we live abroad, we will definitely find a way to get our favorite traditional food.

Whether you are into history and culture, into art and traditions, outdoor adventures like rafting, bungee jumping, hiking, simply looking for a place to go and relax on one of the most beautiful beaches from Europe, or just willing to have fun and enjoy some great music and dance, Balkans is the place to go to.

Traveling to the Balkans means traveling to 12 countries, with 9 currencies, multiple families of languages, 3 major alphabets, 4 seasons, a lot of history, myths, legends, Christian and Muslim memorials, museums, protected natural parks where you can find an incredible variety of flora and fauna, stunning landscapes, delicious food and lovely people which will make you feel at home.

 

Alexandra Nicola – Balkazaar contributor 

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