Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Balkans--Introduction

As of September 2017, the only countries I hadn't yet visited in Europe were some of the Balkan countries--specifically Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo.  To correct this oversight, I went on the "Balkan Mosaic" tour offered by Bestway Tours.  The tour is divided into two segments, with the second segment covering Croatia and Slovenia.  Since I had already been to those countries, I only took the first segment of the tour, which started in Belgrade (Serbia) and ended in Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), with stops in Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro.  The small red stars in the map below represent cities that I visited.

There were a total of nine people on the tour: two couples from California, and 5 single (for the purposes of the tour) men.  Since my wife had no interest in going to the Balkans, I was one of the "single" men.

About the Balkans

It helps to know something about the history and ethnic background of the Balkans before traveling there (or viewing the pictures from someone who has traveled there).  The area has been conquered and divided up so many times in history that there is even a word (Balkanization) to describe it. At one time or other, the region has been occupied by or composed of:
  • Illyrians
  • Romans
  • Serbs (7th Century AD)
  • Turks (14th Century)
  • Austria-Hungary (19th Century)
  • Independent States (1912-1929)
  • Yugoslavia (1929-1991)
  • Independent States (1991-)

to name a few.  This has resulted in multiple religions (Catholic, Islam, Eastern Orthodox) and ethnic groups (Serbs, Bosniaks, Croats, Albanians, Macedonians, etc.).  Problems arise when multiple religions and ethnic groups occupy the same country.  Here are a few combinations:
  • Serbia: Mostly Serbs (83%)
  • Kosovo: Albanians and Serbs
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Serbs, Bosniaks, Croats
  • Macedonia: Macedonians and Albanians
  • Albania: Mostly Albanians
  • Montenegro: Montenegrins and Serbs
So, here's a list of groups that don't (or do) get along:
  • Serbs hate Albanians, Bosniaks and the USA
  • Albanians hate Serbs, like the USA
  • Bosniaks hate Serbs
  • Albanians and Macedonians don’t get along
The Serbs don't like the USA because NATO intervened against Serbia during the Bosnian War, and in favor of Kosovo independence.  The Albanians like the USA because the USA was backing Albanians in Kosovo who were trying to break away from Serbia.

Go it?

Final Note

A few of the photos in the next few pages were taken by Jeff Anderson, one of the tour members.  I'll acknowledge him as appropriate in the captions.  I also stole all of the maps (except the one on this page) from his web page, but he probably stole them from another page :-)

Next -- Days 1-4: Serbia

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