Western Balkans

KOSOVO POLJE

No one seems to know anything about it. The Albanian children playing on the streets of Kosovo Polje – a town which is rather like a suburb of Pristina – never heard. The women are likewise oblivious. When approached, taxi drivers tend to shrug their shoulders. A policeman makes an effort to explain, but his English turns out to be worse than his botched attempt at drawing a simple map of the area. Everyone is polite and forthcoming, but knows nothing.

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SPLIT IN SPLIT

Nero's Domus Aurea, Louis XIV's Versailles, Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein Castle, the Balchik Palace of the Romanian Queen Marie ‒ the world is full of palaces built on the whims of eccentric rulers. None of them, however, comes close to that of Roman Emperor Diocletian (285–305 AD), in Split, Croatia.

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10 THINGS TO DO IN ZAGREB

The people of Zagreb are fond of saying that their city is too quiet. For the visitor, however – especially if you began your journey by crossing the western suburbs of Sofia – the quiet of Zagreb is a blessing. It has everything Bulgaria's capital city doesn't – wide streets, well preserved old architecture and a preternatural cleanliness.

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THE LAST OF THE BOGOMILS

No matter where you are, be it in a city, a village or the middle of the countryside, the landscape of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be described in just four words: mountains, rivers, bridges, cemeteries.

The mountains and rivers have a wild splendour, the bridges an Ottoman grace and the newer cemeteries stand out for their sheer number and the recurring dates of death – between 1992 and 1995.

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PRIZREN

It was a desecration. In the dead of night, somebody had placed a freshly severed pig's head at the door of the Muderis Ali Efendi mosque, one of the oldest and most visited mosques in Prizren. The Muslim Albanians decided to take their revenge on the usual suspects, the Catholic Albanians from the nearby church. Thus, between 1905 and 1908, the city experienced the notorious Three-Year Boycott of Catholic Shops.

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MOSTAR

Bosnia and Herzegovina has an area of only 51,000 sq km, or 19,700 sq miles, but it contains three of the best-known bridges in the world. Near the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand, the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The assassination prompted the Great War. The bridge over the Drina in Višegrad, which was built by Mehmed Paša Sokolović in 1577, is famous for a couple of reasons. Writer Ivo Andrić made it the main character in his book The Bridge on the Drina (1945) – and won the Nobel Prize for it.

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10 REASONS TO VISIT SARAJEVO

Thirteen years after the siege, which between 1992 and 1996 made Sarajevo the symbol of the disintegration of former Yugoslavia, the city continues to fight. Today, however, its citizens are not trying to survive the bullets or missiles launched by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and the Army of Republika Srpska while lacking sufficient power, water or access to humanitarian aid.

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GETTING ALONG WITH THE 'M' WORD

When it comes to “Macedonia,” it's hard for most expats in this region to understand just why this name is so divisive. As you must be aware, the name is the centre of a bitter dispute between Greece and its northern neighbour calling itself the Republic of Macedonia. The Macedonia name issue is one of those highly emotional subjects that foreigners in Greece avoid when possible - but that's getting harder to do.

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