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NATURE: Wild Balkans

NATURE visits the natural wonders of Montenegro’s Durmitor Mountain in "Wild Balkans."
Rita Schlamberger ©ORF/Science Vision
NATURE visits the natural wonders of Montenegro’s Durmitor Mountain in "Wild Balkans."

Airs Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 at 8 p.m. & 11 p.m. & Sunday, Dec. 30 at 4 p.m. on KPBS TV

Thick forests, vast wetlands, deep chasms - this is a wild, inaccessible place that belongs more to myth than reality. The landscape looks as if it was taken straight form Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." But here there are neither orcs nor elves; rather, bears and wolves. This is not Middle Earth; rather it is middle Europe - the Balkans.

Lake Skadar is the largest lake at Balkan Peninsula, famous for its diversity of flora and fauna.
Courtesy of Rita Schlamberger ©ORF/Science Vision
Lake Skadar is the largest lake at Balkan Peninsula, famous for its diversity of flora and fauna.

Through the centuries this land has burned its way into the soul and spirit of its people. The jagged contours have thrown long dark shadows over the history of the peninsula, always in the middle, between forces of the East and the West.

It's as if the bloody history of the Balkans conspired to conceal its natural wonders. The landscape is still untouched and in it are wild animals that have all but vanished from the rest of Europe.

While the Balkan Peninsula serves as a refuge for many creatures, many of them are listed by the IUCN as vulnerable or endangered. View a photo gallery of the rare animals of the Balkans.

This program originally aired in 2010.

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Watch Wild Balkans on PBS. See more from Nature.

The Balkan Peninsula is notorious for being one of the great battlegrounds of history. And yet, it possesses another side unknown to many, where ancient forests and vast wetlands harbor pristine wilderness, and sheer cliff walls and desolate plateaus preserve a seemingly unchanged past. Buy the DVD. This film premiered January 31, 2010.