The Balkans

With a name derived from the Turkish phrase meaning “range of forested mountains”, the Balkans is a distinct region in Southeastern Europe which is also sometimes referred to as the Balkan Peninsula. The Balkan Mountains stretch from central Bulgaria down to the eastern border of Serbia. While there are many nations that are part of the Balkans today, the region is defined as such due to geopolitical relations and intertwining cultures native to this part of the world. Its borders stretch from the Kolpa, Sava and Danube rivers in the north to the Mediterranean Sea in the south, with the Black Sea to the east and the Adriatic Sea to the west. Covering over 212,000 square miles and home to 55 million people, there are 8 separate nations here.

Albania shares a border with Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece, but it also touches the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. Its capital is Tirana, which is home to nearly a third of its 3.6 million citizens. Unlike many countries in the Balkan region, most of the people in Albania are descended from the same ethnic heritage: Albanians. The close familial ties play in important role in cultural life here, enriching the traditions of the native peoples, creating very strong families and social identities. The climate here is primarily mild, being separated into the highlands and lowlands areas, each with distinct traits.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a nearly land locked country in this region that shares borders with the nations of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. The border that it shares with the Adriatic Sea is only 16 miles long. There are a variety of climate types here, from the hot summers and cold winters of the continental inlands to the more balmy Mediterranean weather of the southern end of the nation. The terrain here is equally varied from planes regions to steeply wooded hills. Sarajevo is the capital of this country of nearly 5 million people. The three primary ethnicities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

Bulgaria borders not only the Black Sea, but also the countries of Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey. There are 7.5 million people living here, the vast majority of them sharing Bulgarian ethnic roots. This is the third largest nation in the Balkans after Greece. Its capital is Sofia and it has some of the largest stretch of beach of any country in this region.

Croatia features not only mountains, but the Pannonian Plain and the Adriatic Sea along its edge. The neighboring countries of Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina all share borders with it. The capital city is Zagreb and the total population of this nation is nearly 4.5 million people. The majority of the people speak the Croatian language and descend from that heritage.

Greece is perhaps the most famous of all the Balkan nations, bordering Albania, Turkey, Macedonia and Bulgaria. It’s capital city is Athens and it plays home to 11.3 million people with its balmy climate and Mediterranean coastline. Several islands, including Crete, also belong to Greece.

Kosovo is an entirely landlocked country in the Balkans which shares a border with Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. Its capital city is Pristina and its total population is near 1.8 million people. Most of those who live in this nation are of Albanian descent and speak either the Albanian or Serbian language.

Macedonia is another landlocked nation that shares its border with Kosovo, Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Albania. Nearly a quarter of its 2.1 million people reside in the capital city of Skopje. The country features many tall mountains and over fifty different lakes.

Montenegro shares borders with Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo, but it also has a coast along the Adriatic Sea. The capital city is Podgorica and a variety of languages are spoken among its nearly 700,000 citizens.

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