History, Culture, Politics, and Travel in the Balkans, Turkey, and Cyprus



Macedonia: What’s in a Name?

Macedonia established a new government a few weeks ago after several months of political deadlock. Zoran Zaev, the new prime minister, is seen as a potential hero that can save Macedonia from its recent bouts of political turmoil. But not only is Macedonia excited; Greece has been quick to open talks with its northern neighbor. Talks between the Macedonian foreign minister and his Greek counterpart in Athens are supposed to be the start to solving the poisonous issue in Macedonian-Greek relations: Macedonia’s name. Macedonia may be willing to change its name, after more than 20 years of disputes with Greece, said Nikola Dimitrov, Macedonia’s foreign minister. Continue reading “Macedonia: What’s in a Name?”

Old Mostar Bridge: A Missed Opportunity in International Law

The Bosnian and Herzegovinian city of Mostar is known for its cosmopolitan nature. Churches, mosques, and synagogues lay next to each other and diverse groups of peoples walked side by side for centuries under Ottoman, Austrian, and Yugoslav rule. The city developed a unique type of architecture that fused styles from the various traditions that came to Mostar, which still has elements of its Ottoman past in its bazaar and neighborhood layout. The city is dominated by the Ottoman-built bridge which gave Mostar its name, the Stari Most.

Postcard of the Mostar Bridge, 1911
Stari Most in a 1911 Postcard

Continue reading “Old Mostar Bridge: A Missed Opportunity in International Law”

Greek Independence Day: A Complex History for Just 24 Hours

On March 25th, Greeks across the globe celebrated Greek Independence Day. It has been nearly two centuries since Metropolitan Germanos of Patros raised the flag of revolt at the Monastery of Agia Lavra, the traditional start of the Greek War of Independence. Much like other national memories of independence, fact and myth have become blurred over time. What were the Greeks fighting for then and was it really achieved? Continue reading “Greek Independence Day: A Complex History for Just 24 Hours”

Beyond the Balkans: Nationalism’s Effect on Immigration

Immigration has at times been an issue for many countries. When a nation gains a large body of immigrants, it almost inevitably raises the question, for better of for worse, of what is that nation’s identity. But when does this self-examination of the nation turn from an understanding of oneself into a rejection of the other in society?

Greeks Emigrating from Patras to the United States, 1910 | Library of Congress

Continue reading “Beyond the Balkans: Nationalism’s Effect on Immigration”

Eggs, Bracelets, and Grass: Spring Comes to the Balkans

Yesterday, Americans celebrated Groundhog’s Day, an odd, but perhaps also endearing tradition to welcome the coming of spring. Although Punxsutawney Phil may be unique, traditions that say good-bye to winter and welcome spring are not. From Poland’s drowning of the Marzanna (a straw doll) to throwing colored powder at each other in India’s Holi, the celebration of spring after a long winter is important in cultures across the globe.

The Balkans has its fair share of spring traditions as well. Many of them share characteristics of their neighbors, no doubt from centuries of cross-cultural contact. From giant vats to scrambled eggs to red and white woven bracelets tied to trees, the coming of spring is a time for celebration across the Balkans.

A Large Pot of Cimbur (scrambled eggs) | Travel Channel

Continue reading “Eggs, Bracelets, and Grass: Spring Comes to the Balkans”

Happy New Year: The Vasilopita in Greece and Beyond

The cutting of the Vasilopita is an annual New Year’s tradition for Greeks. Vasilopita is literally “Basil pie,” and celebrates St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappdocia (modern Turkey), whose feast day is on January 1 in Eastern Orthodoxy. The Vasilopita is a bread or cake and inside the cake is baked a coin. Whoever gets the slice of Vasilopita with the coin inside has good luck for the whole year!

Vasilopita | Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, Austin, TX

Continue reading “Happy New Year: The Vasilopita in Greece and Beyond”

The Power of an Alphabet: The Enduring Legacy of Cyril and Methodius


Born Constantine and Michael, the two brothers are more commonly known today by the names they took as monks, Cyril and Methodius. Their missionary activities among the Slavic peoples of Europe earned them a lasting place in history and an important role in Orthodox Christianity. Continue reading “The Power of an Alphabet: The Enduring Legacy of Cyril and Methodius”

Çay: The Basics of Turkish Tea

View from Pierre Loti Tepesi, Istanbul.

Turkey takes its caffeine seriously: Turkish coffee and Turkish tea are unique and renowned around the world. Instead of going out for coffee, like in the United States, you go out for kahveçay, getting an option of either kahve (coffee) or çay (tea) Continue reading “Çay: The Basics of Turkish Tea”

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