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Balkans

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The Balkans is a region that includes countries on the Balkan Peninsula in the southeast of Europe, including most of the former Yugoslavia.

Countries[edit]

Slovenia is sometimes considered to be part of the Balkans, but it is increasingly being included in tour packages as part of Central Europe, such as Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland. The same applies only partially to Croatia. Slovenes consider themselves Central European, due to their long ties to Austria. However, in the recent years (2004 - present), more and more Slovenes consider themselves as a Balkan nation again, as they are experiencing a lack of integration to the EU. The Balkan peninsula is, according to some definitions, what lies south of the rivers Sava and Danube from the city of Belgrade. This definition, however, then would rule out part of northern Serbia, known as Vojvodina, a good part of Croatia, Romania and, of course, Slovenia. Historically, all these countries/regions were usually considered to be part of the Balkan countries, as Slovenia, too, was once part of Yugoslavia. It is their recent independence that has allowed for the Slovenes to re-proclaim their desire to be considered Central European! Lastly, much of Greece also resides upon the Balkan Peninsula; however, the Greeks, like the Slovenes and northern Croats, also distance themselves from the Balkans, and, as its major travel destinations (apart from Athens) lie upon its islands, it is almost exclusively considered as a part of Southern Europe, anyway.

Cities[edit]

  • Belgrade - The unofficial capital and transportation hub of the region with world-renowned nightlife
  • Bucharest - Large and ugly, an unsynchronized mosaic of different ideologies and historical periods, Bucharest has its hidden charms that take time to uncover
  • Chişinău - A trip back to the Soviet Union, the Moldovan capital can offer to the visitor an unexpected an enriching experience
  • Istanbul - Former Constatinople, Istanbul is a bustling city and economical heart of Turkey, linking two continents across its bridges over the Bosphorus
  • Podgorica - Capital of the newly-founded "Republic of Montenegro"; not much to see, better head to the coast or to the lake Skadar nearby
  • Sarajevo - Sleepy and laid-back in a beautiful valley, Sarajevo is a capital of a state that has yet to decide where it belongs between the Slavic, Western and Islamic worlds
  • Skopje - Capital of Macedonia, with major restoration works underway
  • Sofia - Neglected and decrepit outside the center, Sofia deserves no more than a day on your travel-path
  • Tirana - Albania's capital
  • Zagreb - A pale copy of Salzburg, Zagreb is for those not feeling well out of their comfort zone in the West yet wanting to go abroad. One day visit will suffice.

Other destinations[edit]

  • Bitola — The most european city on Balkans. The arhitecture is in neoclassical style. The people are always dressed chic and trendy. Must see - Wide Alley (Широк Сокак).
  • Plovdiv — the oldest city in Europe, cultural capital of Bulgaria, famous for its landmarks dating back to Roman times, charming Old town with cobblestone streets.
  • Kopaonik — one of the most popular mountains for skiing
  • Brasov — an old city with many fortresses around it
  • Dubrovnik — an ancient city on the Adriatic coast
  • Plitvice Lakes — Beatiful nature landscape of lakes
  • Makarska — one of the most visited turistic spots on the Adriatic Sea
  • Ohrid — there are many old churches and there is the Tsar Samoil's fortress
  • Prilep — you will be amazed by the beauty and the things that this beautiful city offers
  • Sibiu — former cultural capital of Europe, Sibiu is surrounded by hundreds fortified churches
  • Zlatibor — mountain with the most healthiest air in Europe

Understand[edit]

Monastery of St Jovan overlooking the Lake Ohrid
Old town of Dubrovnik on the Adriatic
Râşnov Fortress on the Carpathian Mountains

While lately the very word of Balkans may translate to ethnic strife and civil wars in people's minds due to the headlines in the last decade of 20th century (and unfortunately, there is some truth in this perception), Balkans, with its rich, though often turbulent history and wonderful nature, offers much more than that. Charming multicultural towns, impressive monasteries and citadels dotting the hillsides, mighty mountains sprinkled with a liberal dose of beautiful forests and pleasant lakes, and last but not the least a great folk music tradition—coming off both as much joyful and melancholic as it could be—all survived various wars, if sometimes suffered a bit from the atrocities. With hundreds of kilometres of coastline on both the Adriatic and Black Seas, beachgoers won't be disappointed in this region, either.

Talk[edit]

Languages on Balkans include:

Before nationalist tension rose in the wake of the Yugoslav Wars, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin were all considered a single language, Serbo-Croatian. And indeed the distinction is purely political, as, except for a few specific words, it is the exact same language with different names. In fact, national languages of most of the countries in the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia) and Bulgaria are members of the South Slavic language group — therefore, due to much commonality between words and language structure, it is possible to communicate verbally between countries if you have a basic understanding of Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian or Bulgarian.

Some other useful languages might be Turkish, which many people in Greece and Bulgaria speak, and Romani may be useful in all of the Balkan states. Most of the people, especially in cities and touristic areas speak English, and sometimes German, Italian, French (in Romania).

Get in[edit]

A popular trip to the Balkans, originating in the UK, involves driving in a rally from the UK to Macedonia. The rally lasts about 2 weeks and makes numerous stops in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. Particularly popular among British University students, the Balkan Rally has been running successfully since 2010. www.balkanrally.com

By plane[edit]

There are numerous international airports in the Balkans. The major airports in the region are (by country):

By boat[edit]

Get around[edit]

Though three of the Balkan countries (Bulgaria,Romania and Croatia) have joined the European Union with others on the way, no countries in Balkans have implemented the Schengen Treaty yet, which means, unlike most of the rest of Europe, border controls are still a reality in the region—which is rather inconvenient but a joy for the ones who want all those entry and exit stamps on their passports.

Detailed maps of most of the countries in the Western Balkans you can find with torrent downloaders; look for "Topografske karte EX YU" (Topographic maps former-Yugoslavia), a file of approximately 4.13 GB. Note that this does not include Bosnia. To download only the maps you need, see the matrix at the Military Geographical Institute of Serbia.

By train[edit]

A cheap way for traveling around the Balkans is the Balkan Flexipass, which is valid in Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.

By bus[edit]

BalkanViator is a new website that aims to make life easier for anyone travelling by public transport in the Balkans. As many travellers in the region are aware, details of bus routes in the region can be frustratingly difficult to pin down when planning a trip. Websites with bus timetables are often fragmentary and provide limited information (for example departure times but no arrival times, or routes listed by final destination with no indication of intermediate stops). The idea behind BalkanViator is to put an end to all this by making available in a single website the information about bus routes held by the Ministries of Transport of Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia - more than 20,000 routes in all.Blog about BalkanViator on Balkanology.com

See[edit][add listing]

Itineraries[edit]

Do[edit][add listing]

Events[edit]

  • ICFF Manaki Brothers, Bitola (Битола) Macedonia, [1] - International Cinematographers Film Festival Manaki Brothers held in Bitola every year September-October. Popular in the region and the festival has great connection with France.
  • Guča festival, Guča (Гуча) Serbia, [2] - An annual trubački (trumpet) music festival held in the summer. This genre of music is best known as ethnic jazz, and is best played by the Balkan Roma people. 6-12th of August, 2012
  • EXIT Festival, Novi Sad, Serbia, [3], 12-15 July 2012 - An annual rock festival held in early July, which many musicians and bands from all over Europe attend.
  • Ohrid Summer Festival, Ohrid, Macedonia - An international culture festival held annually from July through August.
  • Acrobatics festival, Krupa na Vrbasu, BiH [4] - 20-26th of August 2012. Circus skills in the canyon.

Activities[edit]

  • Peaks of the Balkans Hike, [5] - The only permitted and guided hike of its kind. The trail and peace park concept is a nominee for the 2013 World Tourism Awards, and with this new project, border-crossing procedures for hikers have been simplified and a mountain security system has been established.

Winter sports[edit]

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina was the host for the 1984 Winter Olympics, and after the 1990s, the alpine facilities are well restored. Around Sarajevo and Travnik are Olympic-grade mountains.
  • In Serbia, you can ski in Kopaonik and Zlatibor.

Queer[edit]

Whereas it is generaly not safe to openly display gay behaviour in the Balkans (See "stay safe" section below) there are many underground alternatives which are supportive of the LGBT community.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Drink[edit][add listing]

Regional firewater of choice is rakija (spelling varies from country to country; very similar to Turkish raki), a hard liquor (around 40%, and can be higher if home-made) common to all countries in Balkans. Rakija is distilled out of just about any fruit grown in the region, with the most popular varieties being plum, apricot, mulberry, and grape.

Another local drink is boza, a thick and sweet ale made of millet, maze, or wheat with a very low (less than 1%) alcohol content and traditionally drunk in winters.

There are excellent local beers to be had in each country in the region. Wine is also common, the peninsula being dotted by vineyards from one end to another.

Low taxes on alcohol coupled with a laid-back lifestyle and a liberal attitude towards alcohol consumption mean even smaller towns in the region has a considerable nightlife scene. Belgrade in particular is noted as the region's party hotspot.

Stay safe[edit]

While the horror stories of 90s are long gone and the likelihood of an armed conflict in the foreseeable future is next to none, unexploded land mines as a legacy of Yugoslav Wars continue to be a safety risk, especially in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Serbia. What is worse about them is that they are where you don't expect them to be at all—they tend to be moved away from their original positions by the abundant rainfall in the region, and therefore riverbanks close to former hotbeds of conflict are especially dangerous. Don't stray too far into wilderness unless you are absolutely sure where you are heading is free of mines.

In many Balkan countries, it is not a good idea to openly display gay behavior.

Sex trafficking happens in the Balkan states.

Get out[edit]

The Balkan countries are surrounded by Greece and Turkey to south, Ukraine to northeast, Central Europe to northwest, and Italy to west across the Adriatic, all of which have greatly influenced the regional culture now and then.



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