The environment is one of the means for us to reflect upon Allah’s creations, ponder on how merciful He is, and ultimately get us closer to Him. But it is often difficult to reflect when the environment around us is mostly engineered by humans! As an avid environmentalist, I am always interested with nature and how perfectly everything is placed. Which is why, alhamdulillah, my trip to the Balkans has allowed me to re-connect with God through pondering on His beautiful creations.
The word "Balkan" comes from Ottoman Turkish balkan 'a chain of wooded mountains" located at Eastern Europe and consists of countries of Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey.
With so many countries in the Balkans, here's 7 more reasons why the gorgeous Balkans is a must-visit place for every Muslim🤗
1. Experience Allah’s breathtaking creations
Balkan is popular for its scenic places. And I am here to reassert it!
I remember tearing upon looking at the view from Mostar bridge – a bridge that was built during the Ottoman empire. It was so beautiful and a sudden consciousness hit me; “If the Earth is already this beautiful, I wonder how Allah's paradise would be like
And I cried pondering upon
my sins and whether I would be able to even smell the beautiful scent of paradise 😥Truly, the place is magical as it allows the visitors to be mesmerized by His beautiful creation!
Here's some other scenic places in the Balkans which greatly impacted me - reminding myself that I am small in Allah’s vast earth.
Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Lake Bled, Slovenia
Credit: Hotice Hsu on Flickr
2. Taste the best water in the world (besides Zamzam, of course!)
Upon reaching Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, one distinct experience I will definitely remember is the taste of the drinking water. Its natural spring taste is so heavenly and excellent in quality. Most of the drinking water we had in our lives has been distilled due to a myriad of reasons!
Going to Bosnia-Herzegovina could be one of the small opportunities for us to taste naturally-drinking water; the water that nature has distilled for us. It is cooling, refreshing and you can taste the rich minerals as it enters the mouth through throat 😌
Public Fountain for Drinking outside Gazi Husrev Mosque
Credit: @birtarihgezgini on Instagram
No wonder the water from Bosnia-Herzegovina is declared as the best in the world during the 27th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting in West Virginia 😋
3. Appreciating other people’s history as ours
The creation of an independent Bosnian nation in 1992 was opposed by Bosnian Serbs, which launched a military campaign to “cleanse” Bosnia-Herzegovina from its Muslim population. The Bosnian war that ended in 1995 was largest massacre in Europe since the Holocaust, killing 100,000 people - majority of whom were Muslims 😟
Credit: @Muzhaffar Yusoff on Instagram
At certain areas, bullet marks can still be seen intact on the buildings. There are some damaged buildings left for nature to thrive; as the country is facing financial difficulties to repair all the affected buildings.
Credit: @Muzhaffar Yusoff on Instagram
The picture below is known as the Sarajevo roses. It’s on the floor around the country inked by red resin, to mark mortar explosions that took lives away.
Credit: @Siti Umairah on Instagram
This ought to make us wonder: do we feel a sense of empathy towards our Muslim brothers and sisters? And most importantly, do we feel the bond between each other even though we live continents away? Being here will really put you at the center of these feelings, and bring you closer to the ummah around the world!
4. A train ride in a natural cave On a lighter note, ever experienced a train ride inside
a natural cave? In Balkans, you can 😍 The Postojna Cave train at Slovenia has been taking visitors around the cave for 140 years!
Credit: @rafanovielli on Instagram
The experience is really one-of-a-kind, as it allows visitors from all age group to enjoy the caves formation without any sweat 😜
My past experiences in a cave were always by foot or water, never before by sitting comfortably on the train!
5. Inspirations everywhere
Dubrovnik Old Town at Croatia is popular due to the scenes from Games of Thrones! It is known as the world’s finest and most perfectly preserved medieval cities in the world. The walls and fortresses built all around the Old Town of Dubrovnik - overlooking the sea - is the city’s most famous feature 😍
Credit: Jennifer Boyer on Flickr
And when climbing the stairs to reach the fortress, the view and experience became much more beautiful. This reminded me of a talk I’ve heard ‘those whose Iman is high, they will continue to fly up higher and everything below (the world) then seems small’. And this resonates very well with my experience going up the walls too!
Credit: @Siti Umairah on Instagram Like the stairs, insyaAllah our Iman will fly up higher each day and
the world will look smaller, and even more insignificant. Because it is this that will allow us taste better the beauty and sweetness of Iman 🤗
6. Meeting place of the East and West
Referring to Sarajevo old Town at Bosnia-Herzegovina; The Eastern half of the market is heavily influenced by Ottoman Empire, while the Western half showcases architecture from Austria-Hungary!
This is due to the different powers that ruled Bosnia-Herzegovina (the resulting Treaty of Berlin caused Bosnia-Herzegovina to nominally remain under sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire, but was de facto ceded to Austria-Hungary). Till today, the place symbolically represents a meeting place between East and West in the city; the place which thrives with different cultural backgrounds which leads to the unique environment 😌
Credit: Muzhaffar Yusoff on Instagram
It's beautiful to look at the different characteristic of the infrastructure here, showing how the place appreciates diversity and its history. And it made me reflect how - if ideological diversity can contribute positively to a place, it can also be a positive contribution to nations in general. This allowed me to have a better appreciation of the diversity that exists around the world 🤗
7. Balkans is for everyone! Whether you're young or old, Balkans is such a rich and colourful place
that you have to visit it at least once! In my tour group, there was an aunt whose age is over 60. And my friend even brought her 2-year-old daughter along for the trip. The place was filled with a lot of walking, slopes and stairs but with some support, everyone had a meaningful experience!
I hope these reasons will convince you to give Balkans a chance! But before heading there, remember to do your research and see which of the countries in the Balkans interest you (as there are many countries here!). Opt for tour packages or if you're more adventurous, explore this place on your own! Another consideration is the weather which would make a huge difference for your trip - go during the autumn to see the colourful leaves, or winter to experience snow. Whichever you choose, I'm sure your memories here will stay with you for a long time 🤗