The Balkans is a region with very old history, including the Greek peninsula and the mountain chain that stretches from the Eastern coast of Adriatic Sea to Istanbul, where Europe meets Asia. Its past is marked especially by the ancient Greek heritage and the history of the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great. The part north of Greece, all the way to the Danube is now a Slavic territory, except for Albania, with Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav republics of Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Croatia.
The Ottoman Empire was another force that shaped the region, the significant Muslim minorities found today in Bulgaria, Bosnia or Greece, a religion that is shared by the majority of Albanians. Orthodox Christianity is very vivid in all the rest of Balkanic population, with popular traditions about the main moments of life, such as marriage and baptize. A special connection is kept with the world of the dead, celebrated periodically with funeral rites.
The people of the Balkans used to wear home-made traditional costumes, that were specific from one region to another. Today, the costumes are only dressed on holidays or by groups of dancers. But the art of weaving costumes is kept alive as other crafts as pottery, icon painting, traditions connected to breeding sheep and goats. The culture of this region was mainly an oral culture, with legends and myths like those that can be found in Homeric chants. A similar culture is found north of the Balkans in Romania, which is the only Latin country in the area.
The volatile borders of the Balkans and the growing and decaying empires in the region gave it its name of powder keg of Europe, but the cultural heritage and natural beauties hopefully will soon make forgotten this.

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