The origin of the croissant is not the most obvious starting point for a perspective on the relations of the Balkans to the rest of Europe. But it is a useful one. Hands up all those who know the city from which the croissant hails! No, it is not Paris. However much of an affront it may seem to modern French bakers, the croissant is in fact a Viennese creation. Its crescent half moon shape reminded the good citizens of the Austrian city of their success in repelling the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683. Its gentle mocking of the symbol of Ottoman power pleased Vienna's café society. The foreign forces had been sent packing.
A hundred and fifty years later, the celebrated Austrian diplomat and chancellor Metternich commented "Asia begins at the Landstraße", speaking of the then quite modest road that led out of Vienna to the southeast. Metternich's pithy comment reminded the Viennese all too forcefully that they lived on the very edge of European civilisation.
But recent years have challenged us all, not just the burghers of Vienna, to rethink our mental map of Europe.