By Ciaran Miqeladze with help from Azra Karabašić
I’m sort of amazed by the Balkans, beyond all the issues around the rich beauty, amazing post-punk music, and tremendous diversity of the region. For those of us in our late twenties and early thirties, the Balkans represents a place that we grew up always hearing about on the nightly news but never truly understood. We’d constantly hear code words like: “Tuđman,” “Dayton,” and the Balkan’s man’s man, “Stoichkov.” In many ways, I think so many young tourists come to visit Bosnia or Albania in order to understand those vague memories of news programs and football announcers talking about the massive coming out party for Croatia in 1998. This is great and all but guess what? Those days are over.
Go to the Balkans now and sure, you’ll hear some stupid rumbling once in awhile about that stuff but people are moving on. More importantly, the young people of today aren’t hyped up on burning down other cunt’s villages. Plus, that stereotype only really applies to a handful of the countries. Yet remarkably, what colors the overwhelming majority of Westerner’s imaginations about the Balkans is chaos, genocide, poverty, and last names that are hard to pronounce. People haven’t realized that most of these countries, although somewhat poorer, are pretty normal European countries. They have vibrant youth cultures that are not arrested by the past but are happily moving forward.
Sadly, this news has not reached all of those Western tourists bombarding the Balkans. With that comes their stupid questions and assumptions about the region. Although it is okay to be curious, we say whoever told you there is no such thing as a stupid question lied! Here are some of the questions that people from the Balkans are sick of hearing Westerners ask them!
Špela (22), student/pink-haired pixie from Ljubljana, Slovenia
Nataša (25), Forensic psychology student from Belgrade, Serbia
Snezana (23), student from Strumica, Macedonia
Kristina (24), journalist from Zagreb, Croatia
Azra (29), Member of European Volunteer Service from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dayana (23), freelance author and photographer from Sofia, Bulgaria
Bona (31), sales manager from Tirana, Albania
Aldo (28), journalist from Zagreb, Croatia
Filip (22), student from Bitola, Macedonia