Home > Matt Explains > the Balkans (part 1)

the Balkans (part 1)

To explain the Balkans takes way more education and expertise than I have.  What I can offer is an explanation of what I learned and experienced in my two weeks there.

The Balkans are one of the most historically troubled regions in recent history.  This region sits between the Greek Peninsula and Italy and thus at a crossroads in cultures.  It has been the scene of numerous conflicts dating back to the Roman Empire and continuing to recent history.  The reminders of the most recent conflict, the war between former Yugoslav republics are still visible in many parts of the regions.  Building pockmarked by bullet holes leaves reminders of the violence that so recently affected the region.  This violence is a recent memory for many people still living in these countries but the animosity, while impossible to forget seems as though it has been buried, replaced by an embrace on life today, a life that is being increasingly affiliated with Western Europe after years behind the Iron Curtain.  A taxi driver shared with my that due to Tito’s cunning (not something that would be PC to say in the west), Croatia was left in a better position since Yugoslavia and particularly Croatia tried to play both sides during the Cold War, gaining technology and aid from both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R..  While I wonder of the veracity of his claims, what is clear is that Croatia came out of the recent war in comparatively better shape than Bosnia and Serbia.  This is due in part, to the help of NATO forces that aided in the war efforts throughout the region, joining to help before much of the violence reached Croatia, keeping Croatian casualties much lower than in the neighboring countries.

Croatia is a deserved success story in terms of modern travel marketing.  The country has a plenty to offer in terms of scenery, cuisine and history.  While best known for Dubrovnik, I found other parts of the country to be more spectacular.  Dubrovnik is a beautiful old city that deserves a day or two to explore, wandering though the alleys of the old town, ducking into shops and cafes in between time spent wandering the city wall gazing at the ocean. But the real highlights of Croatia lay elsewhere along the Dalmatian Coast where stunning panoramas of where the mountains come to meet the water painted in unbelievable tones of blue.  Elsewhere along the coast there are historic sights such as the Diocletian Palace in Split, as well as sailing, kayaking and beaches on the Islands of the Adriatic. Getting away from the coast offers other experiences, such as the vibrant cafe culture in Zagreb, the turquoise mountain lakes separated by waterfalls in Plitvice National Park and twisting mountain roads that border olive groves.

to be continued next entry…

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