The people of the Balkan nations are often accused of being cold. Not smiling when you greet someone is perfectly normal here, and it’s considered a bit odd to thank people for something unless they’re seriously going out on their way to help you. But while this may be true in normal day-to-day interactions with strangers, the story changes completely when you’ve put in the time and effort to get to know another person. Essentially, friendships in the Balkans are hard to make, but once you’re in, the hospitality is unmatched

On my second night in Zagreb (the capital of Croatia), me and a couple hostel friends decided to head over to a student bar called Krivi Put. There, we met Denis and Stepan, two Zagreb locals who were out celebrating the birth of Denis’s first son.

They invited us along for their party, and throughout the night we swapped stories about what it’s like to live in our respective nations. More than a few rounds of beers later (Croatians drink like madmen and turning down the offer of a drink is considered rude), we ended up at a rock bar called Vintage, where this photo was taken. Denis is the guy with the mustache in the middle, and he’s as proud a father as any I’ve ever met.