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The Balkan Countries 380

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THE BALKAN COUNTRIES 380. Shut in by mountains.—If you tried to go from Venice into the Danube valley, you would have a hard climb, because the high Dinaric Alps are close to the east coast of the Adriatic Sea. The part of this mountain system which con tinues southward into Greece is called the Pindus, and the mountains extending eastward toward the Black Sea are called the Balkans. The region in which they all lie is called the Balkan Peninsula.

Some mountains have ridges and valleys, but the Balkans look as though they had been mixed up with a huge spoon. Moun tains are piled around in all directions, with little open valleys in between. Sometimes the stream that flows through one of these valleys goes out through a gorge so sharp and narrow that no road can follow it. For this reason, the only way out of these enclosed mountain valleys is over the mountains. Often the road is only a mule path, with long, hard, dangerous climbs. You can see why people thus shut in do not trade or travel much, and know but little about the outside world. Between the Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea there is only one narrow valley through which a road can go all the way through the Balkans from north to south. This road from Belgrade to Sofia, and on to the Greek port of Saloniki. Trade and armies have followed this narrow path for thou sands of years.

In all the rest of the Balkan Peninsula, steep mountains face you, no matter which way you turn. Traveling is so very hard indeed that many different peoples have lived in this region, each one keeping its own section and speaking its own language. These peoples are the Serbs, the Bulgars, the Rumanians, the Albanians, the Greeks, and the Turks. Since the World War each people has a country of its own, but for a long while the Turks ruled them all and treated them unjustly and cruelly. There have been many terrible wars among the Balkan peoples. The people are poor and mostly uneducated; but, being shep herds and having lived out-of-doors most of their lives, they are big, healthy men. They are strong and fearless. The people of Montenegro, now part of Jugoslavia, have always been a free people, fighting back the Turks from their poor, rough mountains.

381. Balkan countries do not have much rain in the summer, and are stony and steep besides. Only a small amount of wheat and corn is grown in the few little valleys where smooth land can be found. Most of the wealth of the people is made up of sheep and goats that pasture on the rocky hills. Lumber is scarce; S9 that people often live in vil lages of whitewashed stone houses with straw roofs and earth floors. In their rough country it is so hard to travel and carry freight that they do not. have much trade. Instead of woolen factories, many of the people still have looms in their homes, and make car pets and cloth from the wool shorn from their own flocks. Travelers see little bare footed girls out on the hills herding the goats and sheep, knitting or spinning yarn as they walk. When the men dress up for a holiday they wear stockings with figures of flowers and other designs knitted in them. Can anyone you know knit a flower design into a stocking? • The land is so rough that the Balkan people can use very few farming machines on it. That is one reason why they are poor. On some of the hills of Bulgaria are many plum orchards, and much plum marmalade is sent from there to France and England. In other parts of Bulgaria are large gardens of roses.. People whole baskets of rose petals from these gardens, and make a few drops of a delicate and expensive perfume called attar of roses.

In the mountains of Serbia there are oak forests where goats and cattle pasture and where hogs fatten on the acorns. The bristles in many of our best hair brushes have grown on the backs of these Balkan swine.

382. Greece.—Greece differs from the other Balkan countries in having a long and irregular sea coast. Its many harbors have made it very easy for travelers to reach there and to come away again. In past centuries, when the Serbs and Alba nians were stuck fast in their mountain valleys, the Greeks were sailing around the Mediterranean Sea, making settlements in Sicily, Italy, and Asia Minor, and in the islands of the Aegean Sea. Thus the Greeks learned everything they could from other people.

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