Let's get to know our neighbors!
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Have you ever thought about how many common customs, traditions, or food recipes we share as Balkan neighbors?

We bet you have encountered many everyday habits, even familiar words or expressions that we commonly use! We tried to find out some facts you probably don’t know about our neighbors, and you will be surprised.

Let’s start with Albania, which is approximately 700 km far from Athens. Pretty close, right?

For years, Albania’s small country was separated from the world, but today, it has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists. It attracts travelers worldwide, foodies interested in unique traditional cuisine, and history enthusiasts looking for rich cultural heritage.

But first,

1. Albanians don’t call their country ‘Albania’ .They call it Shqipëri (The Land of Eagles). Eagle in Albanian means’ shqiponja’, and both the similar spelling and the eagle on the flag have lead Albanians calling themselves the ‘sons and daughters of the eagle.’

2. Have you heard of Berat? It’s a UNESCO heritage town. You have to visit it to grasp how beautiful it is. As you arrive and stand in front of the river, on the opposite side, you see the old town and a series of houses on the hills, in the typical Ottoman style of white walls and grey rooves.

3. In many towns in Albania, it’s common to see a scarecrow hanging from a building or a roof. Albanians believe putting a scarecrow brings good luck and protects the neighborhood from evil spirits. Sometimes they put a teddy bear instead of a scarecrow. These scarecrows and teddy bears aren’t just tied lightly to the buildings. They are impaled or hung like a noose.

4. Did you know that Mother Teresa was Albanian? Born in Skopje, North Macedonia, she had Albanian parents and has won the Nobel Peace Prize.


5. Raki is Albania’s national drink. You may know that, but you may not have experienced how strong it is! Raki made in the villages is equal to about three typical drinks. If you’ve traveled in the Balkans, you’ve probably tasted  rakija or rakia, but the Albanian version is unique.

6. Last, but not least, you know that the capital of Albania is Tirana, and that it has many common elements with other European capital cities. However, it’s one of the few capitals without a McDonald’s, followed by the Vatican City.

Tirana is the heart of the Albania, with a dynamic and youthful ambiance. Post-communist transformation is most evident here.

7.  Did you know that “Fodor’s Travel Guide” announced Albania as the hottest destination in the Mediterranean for 2020? Interest for Albanian cuisine and dishes is now growing in Greece.

8. Which is the most popular dish in Albania? That is ‘Byrek .‘It is a delicious pie made with dough layers filled with various ingredients. Each Byrek can have a unique filling. The most famous “Byrek” recipes are “Byrek me Gjizë” (Byrek with Ricotta Cheese), “Byrek me Domate dhe Qepë” (Byrek with Onions and Tomatoes), “Byrek me Spinaq” (Byrek with Spinach), “Byrek me Mish” (Byrek with Meat).

Send more than money to your friends in Albania


Exploring food and, as Byrek may remind you of the Greek Pies, let’s move a bit more to the east to explore Bulgaria, our other Neighbor.

1. Did you know that Bulgarian yogurt is the best in the world? A mildly sour-tasting yogurt, the Lactobacillus bulgaricus, which gives the unique taste of yogurt, can be found only in Bulgaria. Bulgarians call it “sour milk,” and they think it’s the secret behind long life.

2. Bulgaria is one of the oldest European countries, established in 681 AD. Since then, Bulgaria has been the only one that hasn’t changed its name, ranking third in Europe for the number of valuable archaeological monuments after Italy and Greece

3. Have you ever eaten Shopska Salata?  Also known as Bulgarian Salad and winner of the best dish in Europe in a contest organized by the European Parliament, it has many vegetables that we use in our own Greek salad. The Bulgarian Salad won by a whopping 14.214 votes, followed by Lithuanian cold beet soup

4. Shopska tastes great with Kozunak, the traditional braided sweet bread. It is a favorite snack among Bulgarians, especially during Easter.

Apart from food, Bulgaria has a vibrant history as well.

5. One of the traditional Bulgarian musical instruments is the bagpipe! Yes, the one that we have associated with Ireland and Scotland is known as “gaida” in Bulgaria.


6. Why do Bulgarians spill water? Bulgarians used to spill water in front of the door for good luck or success. When a member of the family leaves home for a special event like the first day of school, prom, before an exam, at a wedding, the rest of the members of the family spill water in front of the door before he leaves with the word “may your success flow like water.”

7. Do you know that John Vincent Atanasoff, of Bulgarian origin, invented the first electronic computer? Maybe this is why Bulgaria has one of the fastest internet speeds in Europe.

8. Lastly, back in the 80s Bulgaria used to be one of the biggest wine exporting countries in the world. Wine production has a long history dating back to Thracian times.
Red wines dominate Bulgaria with many recognizable wine varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, but also white ones such as Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay and of course many local varieties. Bulgaria has two official wine growing regions: Danube Plain and Thracian Valley. Both are PGIs (Protected Geographic Indication).

9. And as we love cultural cities, we would like to share with you that there are 9 UNESCO world heritage sites in Bulgaria. Rila Monastery, Boyana Church, Ancient City of Nessebar, Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, Madara Rider, and the Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo are seven cultural sites that you can visit in Bulgaria. There are also two natural sites, Pirin National Park and Srebarna Nature Reserve.

Send smiles to your friends in Bulgaria


levander field bulgaria

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