What is so fascinating about the Balkans? Where are its myths coming from? What does this region mean to us, to our neighbours and the rest of Europe? How do the inhabitants view themselves?
Hop on and let’s take a ride on the Balkan Express, where history is told on old Roman and Ottoman roads, through landscapes and cities on the Adriatic Sea, along the Danube River, across South Eastern Europe to the region’s largest city, Istanbul.
Following an initiative by ERSTE Foundation and the scientific research conducted by the European Stability Initiative (ESI), ORF and ORF/3sat produced the Balkan Express (Return to Europe), a ten-part documentary, one of the most ambitious TV projects in South Eastern Europe in the recent years.
During 180 days of filming, which took place over a period of a year, not only artists, lawyers, journalists, activists, but also mayors and football players tell their version of the story of Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Turkey.
With powerful imagery, the 52-minute episodes give a new perspective on the present and possible future of the region. “We have initiated and supported ‘Balkan Express’, because we believe it is important that in countries in which the series is broadcast the term ‘Balkans’ should not only trigger images of war and conflicts in our minds. If we are able to contribute, other than in politics, to seeing neighbours as friends, we have accomplished a lot,” the Chairman of the Board of ERSTE Foundation, Andreas Treichl, explains ERSTE Foundation’s commitment to the documentary.
Speaking about the Balkan Express, in a March 2008 interview with DER STANDARD, Gerald Knaus, ESI founding chairman, highlighted: “The Balkans have always been part of Europe, and Europe has long been in the Balkans. This can be seen in Thessaloniki, a real city of the Balkans, with a very complex history. It has been in the EU since 1981. And one sees this especially in Istanbul, for centuries the biggest city in South Eastern Europe, and today, once more a magnet for the whole region. Our journey, which begins on the Adriatic, will end on the Bosporus, just like the Via Egnatia that connected the western and eastern capitals of the Roman Empire in classical times. In that time there were no borders in the Balkans; the whole region was part of what was then Europe. This is still a vision for the Balkans today.”
The Balkan Express will be available in selected shops at the end of May.