The Balkans are undoubtedly a fascinating collection of countries. They are at the confluence of Europe, Russia and the Middle East, and thus of great strategic significance. On numerous occasions – during the Victorian focus on the Eastern Question, when the assassination of Franz Ferdinand triggered the First World War and with the wars that followed the fall of Yugoslavia – it has played an outsized role in international politics. For many in the West that fascination stems from its history of conflict and its tangled politics. It was certainly what first lead me to take an interest in the region. One of the first issues to spark my precocious interest in politics was the war in Kosovo. I suspect that my agreement with Paddy Ashdown on the merits of intervention was part of why I began identifying as a Lib Dem. And it was the aftermath of the war in Bosnia that inspired the interfaith visit where I got to know the country.
With this in mind look out for posts on:
- Why Macedonia sits next to Thailand at the UN
- Why the Muslim majorities of the Balkans are a challenge to the Islamophobia sweeping Europe
- The inspiring story of the Serbs who fought to defend Bosnia
- The disturbing story of the Greeks who took part in Srebrenica
- The Bosnians of Salt Lake City
However, there’s lot more to the Balkans than war and death. I’ve loved the time I spent in Bosnia, Croatia and Romania. It’s place at the confluence of civilisations makes it incredibly cosmopolitan. It’s also a land of friendly people, beautiful landscapes and a hell of a lot of history. Plus from a tourists point of view it has the benefit of being cheap and largely undiscovered by most tourists.
So also watch out for a series of posts on why you should visit this part of the world including:
- It has the world’s best cafes
- You can walk from Vienna to Istanbul in 5 minutes
- Some great beaches
- It has a music festival in a castle
- Some food that really shouldn’t be good but is