Hidden Belgrade (41): Occult Belgrade

Given Belgrade’s long and bloody history it is almost a wonder that there is not a larger number of stories of hauntings and other occult occurrences. This is even more remarkable considering that Serbia has a long association with and interest in the occult – from being connected with vampire crazes since 18th century (we invented the word after all), to its prominent role in … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (41): Occult Belgrade

Brief Histories of Favourite Balkan Foods

While foreign rule and power struggles often brought havoc to the Balkan peoples, it also left behind a diverse cuisine in which various influences merge and make the best use of the region’s fertile lands. While some regional specialities do not cross borders, the limits between the national cuisines in the Balkans tend to be blurry, with many nations enjoying same foods, albeit claiming them … Continue reading Brief Histories of Favourite Balkan Foods

Westsplaining the Balkans

Twenty years ago, while the embers of war in Bosnia and Croatia were still smouldering, Bulgarian historian Maria Todorova published “Imagining the Balkans”. In this seminal work, she detailed the ways in which the Balkans have been perceived and documented for centuries both home and aboard – most often as a somewhat brutal and uncivilised forecourt of Europe. Todorova called this discourse “Balkanism” as homage … Continue reading Westsplaining the Balkans

Day 4-7: The Bulgarian Riviera, from Varna to Rezovo

There might something in the mix of testosterone and sea air, or the fumes from sun-screen lotions, that makes men of all ages behave like they are teenagers whenever they approach the coast. This strange effect descended on us as soon as we entered Varna’s brutalist suburbs, and started discussing horrid facial hair experiments and buying fake Adidas tracksuits. It was the air, and definitely … Continue reading Day 4-7: The Bulgarian Riviera, from Varna to Rezovo

Day 3-4: The Balkans, Veliko Tarnovo and Zheravna

From Sofia we drove north-east towards the old Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo and its impressive UNESCO-protected citadel Tsarevets. We were going deeper into the Stara Planina (Old Mountain) and the scenery was lovely. It was this mountain range’s Turkish name, Balkan, meaning “a wooded mountain”, that gave our peculiar region its name. In the early 19th century a German geographer Zeune, wanted to find … Continue reading Day 3-4: The Balkans, Veliko Tarnovo and Zheravna