Culture

Idyllic Balkans

The Balkans are a land full of wonders and surprises, but also full of imperfections and perils. This is why I consider the Balkans as lovely. Balkan folklore is joy, melancholy, drama, celebration. These often-forgotten lands are mainly remembered through an outrageous picture. Westerners only remember the troubled times of the 90s (cf. the Yugoslav Wars) and often consider the people of the area as poor or illiterate. Obviously, their lives are not as comfortable as westerners’, but they are true and intense. The political situation is complex, and is taken over by shady businesses, such as corruption. Despite all of this, I wanted to describe another reality, unknown to the general public. Maybe what I will describe is an idealistic vision of the Balkans. However, I wanted to rebuild an esteem, an interest, a passion about the region.

Kafana (traditional balkan pub), Serbia
Novi-Sad landscape.

Between mountains, plains and the Danube. From the Aegean Sea to Austria, passing by cities like Beograd or Tuzla, the wounded Sarajevo, or the underestimated Skopje. A certain poetry brings the Balkans out of normality. Landscapes of history and exploits such as Trajan’s Bridge, designed by Apollodorus of Damascus (Aπολλόδωρος) between the Iron Gates, which was the first bridge ever built on the Danube. Landscapes are wafting emotions, drama and delight. 

View of Novi-Beograd from the highway.
Street of Novi-Sad

Then, we think about the clichés, such as the Yugoslav wars, mafias, and rough, brutal people. I prefer focusing on a rich folklore, featuring many arts. My thoughts are leading to fanfare. It is a local particularity, with great artists such as Boban and Marko Markovic. Circus is also part of the Balkans’ art panel. When wandering through a Balkan city, you are never away from wonderful encounters. I particularly remember this surprising mass in Tršić (Serbia), with traditional songs and rakija (a local fruit brandy), on a Sunday morning. 

Beograd, snowy weather

The Balkans are rich by their diversity. Many different people live there: Serbians, Croatians, Romanis, and many, many others. Therefore, many languages can be encountered. It’s also a diversity of history, multiple histories. A diversity of landscapes, seas, mountains, plains, rivers. Orthodox churches stand alongside mosques, such as in Tuzla. Even if tensions are sometimes tangible, stability make those places unique. These tortured lands should have a brilliant future. The Balkans are still magic, as reason do not run mentalities. The unexpectable is common, and quite expectable, paradoxically. Sometimes, the Balkans are absurd, sometimes, the Balkans are true. But above all, the Balkans are unbelievable. We shall let a chance to the Balkans…

Tuzla street art, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
All photos were taken by JYC.

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