Hey everybody so as you know, I'm working on the scripts for the next few country episodes
Which means it's gonna be a filler week! Heavily requested but never really fulfilled until now
The Balkans explained
AKA Europe's most dysfunctional family
before we get into this though
Just want to give a quick shout-out to one of my favorite brands to work with - Seterra
You guys know I'm very
picky with which brands we get to sponsor here on Geography Now and Seterra is definitely cool on my list
Seterra is a geography learning game.
Go to their website to find out more. Download the app if you want, or you could play for free on the website
Seterra. Thank you. Anyway back to the Balkans
Now if you look at the map of southern Europe
You see this whole mess and you're like,
"the hell is going on?"
Basically, this place has a lot of weird history. Everybody loves and hates each other
These two countries can understand each other when they speak, as can these four,
but they all swear it's distinct different languages
In modern times today
Generally, they're all kind of cool with each other
And the younger generation has pretty much moved on from all that animosity that their grandparents endured during war times
Like I've heard Greek people say,
Hey, I've traveled to Albania and Turkey, the nations of our enemies and yet they were like totally treated fine by the locals
when they told them that they were Greek and they had a great time
so it's pretty much like that like mostly the
government and the zealous people are just the ones that create the modern drama
Quick historical context, this entire area at one point was ruled over the Ottoman Empire
then during the 20th century half of it was Yugoslavia
Wars battles music and Rakija. Done.
What exactly are the boundaries of the Balkans?
Apparently the Balkan Peninsula is surrounded by the Adriatic Sea to the west,
the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea to the east
Its northern boundary is often given as the Danube, Sava, and Kupa rivers
Or the Balkan and Dynaric Alps mountain ranges
The countries that lie entirely in the area include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria, Montenegro, and the newly named North Macedonia
As well as the disputed, partially recognized Kosovo area
and parts of Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, most of Greece and a very small part of Romania, Turkey, and even Italy
In this episode though, we're just gonna talk about the major Balkan nations that are either completely or mostly located within the Balkan area
So no Italy and I talked to some Romanian people and a lot of them said "Nah, we're not Balkan,
We're just our own thing in southern Europe."
So I'm not gonna talk about Romania. And with that being said, let's start off alphabetically, Albania
Oh, Albania was one of the first episodes I made. That was so long ago.
Out of all the Balkan nations, Albania is probably like the one that sticks out like a sore thumb the most
It's like the oddball that doesn't quite fit in
It's like the emo kid at the dinner table
Their language has no other relatives and they have a bunch of these like dome bunkers all over the country because their former leader was kind of paranoid
I mean, come on Albanians. Let's be real, Enver Hoxha, he was a little intense
About half the country is Muslim
which is interesting because they went through a weird communist era in which
all religious practice was banned and illegal but like the religious communities still kind of held on
For the longest time they were actually closed off to the entire world
Today however, they are completely opened up and a lot of like intrepid Europeans like to travel here
because there's a lot of like secret hidden beaches
Everything here is cheap. They are a candidate to join the EU
However, they still have some political obstacles that they have to overcome in order to join and uh yeah
They kind of don't really get along well with Serbia because of the whole Kosovo thing
Which we will explain in a bit
Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our first South Slavic nation
This is the most confusing political entity in, I would argue, the entire world
just watch the episode if you want a recap, but basically they have three constituent people groups
No other country has this. Maybe kind of Comoros, but that's a little different
And it's weird because like, everything here comes in threes.
The Bosnians or Bosniaks are mostly Muslim
The Serbians are mostly Orthodox and the Croatians are mostly Catholic
The country is divided into three parts
This all happened because after the breakup of Yugoslavia, there was a Bosnian war yada yada yada
and here we are
What's even crazier is they have three presidents - one for each of the constituent groups
and even weirder, they all pretty much speak the same language
But they are very keen to make sure that they distinguish that it's Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian
like, it's all basically the same thing but they still, like, distinguish it
The country is almost completely landlocked
But they have this small little twenty kilometer long coast on the Adriatic. But yeah for what it's worth
They have a really cool art and music scene. They hosted the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo
you still see some of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in things like food and architecture
and yeah, interesting place that not a lot of people talk about, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria, our second Slavic nation.
Ah, the land of roses. Every time I get something sent in from Bulgaria for fan mail,
it always usually includes something made out of roses.
Bulgaria is, how can I put it? It's kind of like the, uh...
Slowly withering beauty. Here's the thing like Bulgaria is loaded with lots of cool
you know natural sights and wonders and culture,
but like a lot of people are just leaving. Since the early 90s, about a quarter of their entire population has left
Making them one of the highest population decline nations in the world
Joining the EU has helped a bit but they still rank as the poorest nation in the EU
Nonetheless, lots of history started here
They're proud of being known as the place where the Cyrillic alphabet was created by these two brothers.
They love their bagpipes
Technically they're descended from the Bulgars which like migrated from Asia
So technically you could say Bulgarians have Asian roots Bulgarians and Macedonians are pretty much family
I mean they speak the exact same language almost. In fact many Bulgarians will say that Macedonians are just kind of like confused Bulgarians
It's just the biggest difference is that North Macedonia was historically part of Yugoslavia whereas Bulgaria was not
Keep in mind though, their language is Slavic, but it is not intelligible to the Serbo-Croat Bosnian languages
Like, they can't understand each other
Croatia. Our third Slavic nation. Croatia is kind of like "the one that got really lucky"
It's the land of the best Balkan sunsets. All those Game of Thrones locations
They even have Game of Thrones tours Croatia is one of the five Catholic influenced Slavic nations
Whereas the rest are predominantly Orthodox, you see a lot of Italian and ancient Roman influence here.
Lots of Italians even live here
They are seafaring folk
thousands of islands and rocks off the coast
They have the second highest quality of life index in the Balkans
Their tourism sector has just been exploding. So many cool natural and man-made sights. Huge music and art scene here
In fact, one of my favourite bands 2 Cellos was started here
And yeah, overall they've pretty much moved on from war times and they've built up quite a reputation Croatia
Greece. We all know this one. Very few countries love their culture and history and background as much as Greek people do
Greeks love being Greek.
Greece is kind of like the master of history and the remnant to the ancients, the cradle of western civilization
Now, they're known for being loud dancing party animals. Sorry. It's... Come on, Greeks, you know it's true
Like Albania, they are a linguistic anomaly. They have no other cousin languages
However, it's interesting because Koine Greek was the lingua franca of the Roman Empire
So you had people all over on three continents speaking Greek (ancient Greek)
They are a seafaring powerhouse! Over 6000 islands and the 11th longest coastline in the world
I'm not going to get into the whole economy and EU drama thing. We all know about it
We'll talk about the North Macedonia thing in a bit. But for what it's worth. Yeah, Greece is popular
They love Serbians and Serbians love Greece. They've worked historically alongside each other a lot
especially during the fight against the Ottomans plus Serbia also kind of likes how Greece does not recognize Kosovo which brings us to the
Partially Recognized disputed area of Kosovo
Kosovo is like the weird wildcard guy that nobody really wants to get involved in except for Serbia and Albania
If you ask a somewhat nationalistic Serbian they will probably say
If you ask a Kosovar, they will probably say
But then Serbia will say, "yeah, but not a full participating member state"
"Plus there's a lot of Serbian history and cultural sites in Kosovo."
"Okay, well, we're still pretty much in every sense a country. Even your government recognizes our administration"
"Well, you can claim whatever you want, but no, you're not a country"
And it goes on. Whatever you want to claim Kosovo is, it's basically like Albania's little brother
The majority of people in Kosovo are Albanian. There's a huge war in the 90s after the breakup of Yugoslavia
Which pretty much led to what we have now and keep in mind
There is a Serbian minority in Kosovo, which is where a lot of the conflict centers around
Whatever you want to consider Kosovo as, basically
It's a place that's kind of trying to move into the 21st century in a weird awkward way
Tourism is starting to grow especially amongst intrepid travelers who like to say that they've been to a disputed area
But yeah, probably the biggest controversy of the Balkans
Montenegro. The fourth Slavic country
I had so much fun making the Montenegro episode because
I had no idea how hilarious their reputation was amongst the Balkans.
If you didn't watch the episode, basically, Montenegro is the sleepiest country on Earth
They even have a "Lazy Olympics" where you can get about 400 Euros just for being the person who does nothing for the longest
They're like the chill lazy little hippie sister of Serbia that has access to the beach and she likes to sleep on the beach
They were the last part of the former Yugoslavian Republic to break away in 2006 from Serbia
Probably because they were sleeping and missed the deadline
They speak pretty much the same language as Serbians, Croats, and Bosnians, but they just have their own little Montenegrin accent
They really don't like getting into drama or conflicts which is funny because
historically, they were known for being like really vicious fighters.
They get along with pretty much all of their neighbors
However, in the end, Serbia is just kind of like their best friend-ish
Like a lot of Montenegrins go to Serbia for education and job opportunities, and Serbia likes to use Montenegro for access to the sea
The newly named North Macedonia. Ooh, the country that must not be named
Other than Kosovo, this is probably the most controversial area in the Balkans
For the longest time, they had gone through a series of disputes and economic blockades, mostly against Greece
All because of the name
I don't have too much time to explain just watch the video which is already kind of outdated
For the longest time, under the UN they were labeled as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Many countries called them the Republic of Macedonia
Greeks were not happy because the word Macedonia implies Hellenistic roots
When clearly the people of this area are... They're not Greek, they speak a Slavic language
But then the Macedonians have their side of the argument and then it just gets kind of messy
I'm not gonna go further into this
Anyway, yeah, the people here are kind of like in a tug of war against everybody around them
I mean Bulgarians are kind of like "Come on, you guys are basically Bulgarians just join us"
Serbia is like "You guys are kind of cool and plus you and Montenegro are the only two countries that kind of
split apart from us without any bloodshed but your church is kind of messed up"
Albania is like, "I don't like your Western border, especially by Lake Ohrid"
Culturally, it's a huge mix as well
So you have like a weird Orthodox Muslim mix thing going on kind of
You have a lot of preserved Byzantine frescoes and paintings
I was told a lot of Balkan people loved going here because everything is like super cheap and they do have pretty good food here
And I mean if you just kind of like look past all the semantics and like overarching diplomatic issues
Then they're just like people that like to eat, have fun, and chill.
It's just yeah government and politics makes things crazy
Serbia! Oh boy, if you ask anybody in the Balkans, they all have an opinion on Serbia
A lot of people will probably say Serbia is kind of like where all the crazy stuff starts
It's the country they all love to hate and hate to love
Like, they kind of started and pushed the kingdom of Yugoslavia
They kind of started World War I and the Yugoslav wars.
Let's be honest, though. Yugoslavia was kind of like a collective effort. I mean Tito was Croat-Slovene
But then people are like "eh I guess the new younger generation that never saw war is kind of cool and a little sexy I guess"
And the thing is, for the longest time, Serbia was actually a kingdom apart from the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Unlike Croatia and Bosnia which were part of it
So they're kind of proud of the fact that they kind of like stood their ground
Of course, they are another Slavic nation, they can understand Croatians and Bosnians.
They are a "negotiating" candidate to join the EU but of course everything is on hold because of the whole Kosovo thing
Plus it's interesting because if they did join the EU that would kind of maybe strain their relations with Russia
Which is like one of their closest allies. That's a whole other thing
But I mean, there's a lot of history and culture here, too
Belgrade is like over 7,000 years old and it was actually Celtic before it was Roman
It was actually voted by Lonely Planet as the city with the best nightlife
They love raspberries and they have like one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world
and like in a nutshell, they are such a key figure in the Balkans
And uh yeah, what else? Novak Djokovic
And finally, Slovenia. Slovenia is the richest and most well-off of all the Balkan nations
Their language is kind of intelligible to the Serbo Bosnian Croat language
But I heard it's just like a little bit more difficult to understand
They have beautiful world-renowned buildings and monasteries
They don't like to cause any drama. They get along very well with Italy
There's a lot of Italians that live here, even though they're kind of pissed off that
Italy got the entire Trieste coast cutting off half of their access to the sea, but eh
And it's kind of like whenever they're at a party with all their cousins
It's like everybody's drinking rakija, but then Slovenia is like the one who's like "I prefer a nice glass of wine"
Which is like almost sacrilege
Serbians, Croatians, and Bosnians kind of joke that Slovenians are kind of like the stuck-up people
They're kind of like the nerdy brother that got a good job in banking and he still shows up to the family reunions
But he kind of like keeps his distance and doesn't want to party too hard cuz he has work in the morning
and everybody else is like "ugh, you little wuss" but hey, they're rich, so they don't care
And that's basically it. There's so much I missed out on, I know I could have added a lot more
but that's why I kind of want you guys to explain in the comments
which is gonna be a beautiful place, and it's gonna have no controversy and no arguments obviously
For what it comes down to though, the Balkans is a place with lots of culture and history
It's just kind of jumbled up a little bit here and there that's kind of the beauty of it all you know
People bringing something different to the table
In the end, they all love doing their shots of rakija and they can all agree
At least we're not under the Ottoman Empire anymore
This was fun. Hope you have a good one. Stay cool. Stay tuned