Visitors to Central Eastern Europe usually talk about cheap food, good parties and beautiful women. Heaven for everyone planning a stag party. We may be partial as we met in Slovakia, but this is our attempt to tell about this fabulous region, to show that there is more to experience than endless (and cheap) parties. Here we talk about (some of) the reasons why we love Central Eastern Europe.
Central Eastern Europe
Let’s start with a definition as the parts and regions of Europe may be confusing to the best of us. Some time ago I studied comparative politics at uni and there we were talking about Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. I would also like to add Slovakia and possibly Austria and Slovenia to this list of countries. According to the OECD, however, the Central Eastern European countries also include the Baltic states as well as Albania, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria.
The top 5 reasons why we love Central Eastern Europe
The countries in the region are small but just look at the number of countries and languages. Even though there are many similarities, there are also a lot of diversity. From the Baltic Sea in the north to Slovenia’s short coastline, in between, you have big cities, little villages, truly amazing nature, mountains, forests, and fields. In these lands, people have loved and fought. Old, amazing buildings stand next to ugly blocs from the Soviet times. The whole region breathes a certain air of times long gone and melancholy. I have lived in two of these countries and traveled a bit in a third one, every experience was very different. One common denominator for all these countries is the friendliness. In all the countries, with the exception of Hungary, the languages are very similar.
Language & Culture
I don’t know if anyone but a fellow language geek can understand how it feels to hear a language you love being spoken all around you. Imagine a butterfly invasion just because it is so lovely. Someone who loves Slavic languages will probably end up here at some point. Other great reasons to come here: the food (especially if you love cheese – there is a lot of it), the wine (in some of the places – we have already mentioned our favorite grape, vranac), folk music (apparently) and loads of great literature. Kafka was one of the writers who awoke my interest in Prague.
As mentioned above, these countries are quite small. They are also well-connected. It’s simple to go on day trips to new destinations. Especially the trains are cheap and comfortable, some buses are OK too. A tip: always buy a return ticket, it’ll be cheaper.
Some people are more interested in history than others. For those of us who are interested in European history, this is where a lot of it happened. From Hungarian kings and Ottoman Empire to post-WW Europe. All the countries in the region have plenty of stories to tell and people are also interested in telling you about it.
Forget Prague, Budapest, Kraków, and all the other tourist spots. (Although they are worth a visit as well) Go, explore! Visit all those picturesque villages and towns (for instance Zamość in Poland, Eger in Hungary or Olomouc in the Czech Republic) that are spread out around the region. Do you want to go to the beach? Did you know that Slovenia has a coast? Or why not try swimming in a lake? Get to know some local people, if you have the chance. Who knows, you might end up visiting a vineyard or drinking pálinka.
No, wait. We have one more tip for 2016: GO THERE! Central Eastern Europe won’t disappoint you. And should you be a fan of politics – grab a book or a newspaper, this is where it happens a lot of the time!