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:. . The Balkans

The geography of the Balkans is quite varied and complex, but much of it shares common characteristics that are highlighted by the very name of the region. The word balkan means, in Turkish, a wooded ridge or mountain. Much of Bosnia-Herzegovina, for instance, resembles West Virginia. The mountains are not exceptionally high but are nearly omnipresent, making road-building and agriculture difficult. In places, the mountainous terrain is inhospitable to human settlements due to the lack of rainfall.

There are two major mountain ranges in the Balkans. The Dinaric Alps in the west are an extension of the more famous Alps of Switzerland and Austria. They run parallel to the Adriatic coast and in many places come right down to the sea. In the northern Balkans are the Carpathian mountains, which reach quite great heights in Transylvania, the western part of Romania. There are many other smaller ranges of mountains and hills as well.

The coastline of all of the western and southern Balkans is rocky and rugged. Despite the fact that the Balkan peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic, Aegean, and Black Seas, navigable rivers are few except for the massive Danube, which flows through the region on its way from Germany and Austria to the Black Sea.

Serbia and Macedonia are land-locked, and Bosnia is almost so. Bulgaria and Romania have access only to the Black Sea, which is connected only to the Mediterranean by the straits at the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, long under Turkish control.

The landscape has traditionally provided for small-scale farming and animal husbandry, but parts of the Balkans also provide excellent farmland. Along the borders of Central Europe, the flat or rolling countryside of Slavonia (Eastern Croatia) and Vojvodina are extremely rich. Much of Romania and Bulgaria consists of arable land, too. Major products of the region include wheat, meat and dairy products, cotton, lumber, tobacco, oil and gas, and wine. Mineral resources such as coal, bauxite, lead, nickel, and zinc abound.



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