The southeast European nations of the Balkan Peninsula and the countries of the Middle East are in close proximity to Central Europe, Africa and Asia. The region has traditionally been a crossroads of ideas, values and material goods and is often considered the cradle of Western civilization. There is a long-term influence of the Middle East on Balkan cultures when it comes to language, tradition, music, customs etc. Possibly the historical event that left the biggest mark on the collective memories of the peoples of the Balkans was the expansion and later fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Ottoman empire, at its peak, controlled southeastern Europe, the Middle East and most of North Africa. Ottoman occupation was a major influence on all civilization of southeastern Europe and caused ethnic differences that remained after disintegration of the empire. Over the past millennium, numerous great empires fought to conquer Southeast Europe due to its ideal geographical location. Today, this very same geographical location will become one of Balkans greatest virtues in taking on the role of the bridge of ideas between Europe, Asia and Africa.