Eastern Europe until recently was mainly known as the 'eastern bloc', a gray name for everything that was outdated and old-fashioned. If you listened to a CD here, in the Eastern Bloc countries they probably still had to make do with worn-out cassette tapes. The ultimate symbol for this gray area was and still is the faithful Trabant: a four-wheeler with a maximum speed of maybe just 80 km/h. Today it is precisely this idea that is outdated. In recent years, the countries in Eastern Europe, previously labeled as boring, have become unstoppable in their rise to modern, hip and very pleasant holiday destinations.
And what is the best? The lands are still very affordable. Not 5 euros for a cold beer or 12 euros for a tasty sandwich like in the metropolises of Paris or Barcelona. Prices in Eastern Europe are usually a fraction of that. But in addition to affordability, countries such as Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Poland en Russia much more to offer. From blossomed scenery of vast lakes, lonely mountain villages and stately forests to atmospheric impressions of historic cities. We take you on a trip through the area where nostalgia, authenticity and contemporary trends effortlessly go together. Welcome to Eastern Europe!
Table of contents
We start our journey at the northern tip of the European continent. Three countries are fraternally located here: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Countries also known as the Baltic States. Their similarity is that all three border on the Baltic Sea.
Estonia equals the capital Tallinn as a wonderful city where old and new go hand in hand. The old part of Vanalinn is a wonderful place to walk around, while the modern center brings you back to hip shops and lively nightclubs.
If you want to experience the real Estonia, travel to the highlands of Haanja where you will encounter Lake Verijärv, or visit one of the 1500 rustic islands that lie off the coast.
Latvia follows in the footsteps of Estonia with an equally beautiful and relaxed capital: Riga. Located on both banks of the Daugava River, this charismatic city will immediately capture your heart with its relaxed atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. Riga is steeped in culture and history but at the same time offers you an unprecedented piece of modern architecture that will amaze you.
If you want to enjoy a few days of warm Eastern European sunshine, the Latvian coastal towns and their well-hidden beaches are excellent refuges.
Lithuania is the third Baltic state that is still mysterious and unknown to many travelers. Here we skip the capital Vilnius and take you to the second city of the country, Kaunas. The historic city center is dazzlingly beautiful with classical buildings and authentic churches on every street corner.
Near the city you will find the reservoir Kauno Marios where the clear water is surrounded by impressive nature. Don't forget to discover the country's National Parks. Recommended are Trakai and Dzūkija.
Czech Republic and Slovakia
From the Baltic States we travel to the south. Along the way you can choose to take a trip to Russia, Belarus and Poland. We choose the splendor of the two countries that previously formed the Republic of Czechoslovakia. As a seasoned traveler you have most likely already been to the capital of Czech Republic been, the phenomenal Prague.
The 'Golden City' is quite rightly known as one of the most beautiful cities of Europe† The cathedrals, the old town, the nice bars and delicious restaurants put Prague effortlessly on the map as a world city.
But don't forget the interiors! The Giant Mountains near the border with Poland are an impressive 'tour de force' of nature. Lake Lipno is a completely different face of the Czech Republic. All imaginable water sports can be done here, while in winter you can get on very well on skis or snowboard in the mountainous surroundings.
Slovakia is a country in Eastern Europe with very varied landscapes. Here you will also find many castles and pleasant villages that are so characteristic of the eastern part of Europe. Spissky Hrad Castle Complex and the traditional town of Vlkolinec are the perfect example of this. Slovakia has many beautiful old towns such as Bardejov and Banská Stiavnica while traveling through the country you will pass breathtaking pieces of nature. The Dunajeck Gorge is a fairytale mountain landscape while the rugged environment of the High Tatras National Park is perhaps the most special place in Slovakia.
The names of the cities in the Balkans quickly transport you back in time. Bucharest, Belgrade, Sofia, and Zagreb: the Balkans guarantee a great diversity of cities, nature and travel options. The Balkan countries include the southeastern part of Europe with countries such as Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina even Greece.
A trip through the Balkan countries could be enough travel fodder for many weeks. The main attractions in this area are the Black Sea in Bulgaria (where half a liter of beer costs no more than € 0,75), the sunny coastline of Croatia where you can still enjoy your peace and quiet without many fellow travelers and the adventurous inland traveling through Romania. Here you are still completely on your own and you travel the old-fashioned way. Cities you should definitely visit? There are too many to mention!
A small neighboring country of Romania that is easily overlooked is the pleasant Moldova. This country is full of Eastern European art and culture. The capital is Chisinau, a city with some special sights such as the presidential palace and the illustrious cathedral. The various museums quickly show you that this well-hidden state is more than just a transit country in Eastern Europe. You will undoubtedly find the most beautiful nature at Tipova.
Here are the world famous cave monasteries, including the eponymous Tipova Monastery, which is the oldest and largest monastery in Europe. Unique in Moldova is the elongated area with the somewhat obscure name Transnistria. Because this 'mini-state' is not recognized by other countries, there are no consulates or embassies here. You are therefore very much on your own here, which can be very difficult in the event of problems. So don't be surprised if you get the feeling of being back in the old Eastern Bloc here. A small cash 'compensation' still works wonders here…