WELCOME TO EaSTERN EUROPE
It was not that long ago when the term Eastern Europe was the term used to describe those countries part of the Soviet Union and under the control of Russia. This even included the eastern parts of both Berlin and Germany. When the Soviet Union collapsed, new nation states emerged some being free for the first time in generations. In the ensuing years these countries in “New Europe” as Donald Rumsfeld categorized them are now part of NATO and those drab dominated cities have been replaced by vibrant and youthful entities as exemplified by their attractive cities like Prague, Bratislava and Krakow. Some of these countries are small, like Slovakia, some larger, like Poland but all share an appreciation of their national heritage, a welcoming attitude to visitors and a commitment to enjoy life. Let us show you how to catch the spirit.
Armenia & Georgia
Since the earliest days of recorded history, Armenia has been a cultural crossroad between East and West, North and South. Winning independence from the Assyrian Empire in biblical times allowed the development of a culture both dynamic and unique. Amid pagan and then Muslim neighbors, Armenia became the first country in the world (including Rome) to declare Christianity as its national faith, allowing Armenians to retain their unique identity through hundreds of years of occupation. Armenia also offers a modern face – from the concerts, galleries, cafes, bars and nightclubs of Yerevan. Armenia and Georgia share a border, a long Christian tradition, a small land mass and big neighbors including Russia, Iran and Turkey. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, both countries embrace a joy of life embodied by their respective cuisines, similar but subtly different and their love of wine.
Baltics & Russia
After being dominated by other counties for many years, the collapse of the Soviet Union allowed the ancient cultures, dating back to the Hanseatic League, to emerge as new democracies in the part of the world to whom it had been alien for so long. The countries are small but large in culture, architecture and scenery. Their traditions are ancient but their populations youthful, offering a vivacious atmosphere in which to enjoy the medieval old towns of the Capitals. We include Russia because it too was liberated with the end of the Soviet Union. St. Petersburg gives you beauty and Moscow gives you history.
While much of Eastern Europe has emerged from the years of Soviet domination to become part of the “new” Europe, few have made the change from “nice” resort in Yugoslavia to a world class jet-setting destination as quickly as Croatia. Names like Rovinj, Split, Trogir and Hvar are now used in the same context as Portofino, St. Tropez or Santorini. The country has always had natural beauty (enough to attract the Austro-Hungarian Nobility) but now it comes with a flawless infrastructure and the ability to please people who like to be pleased.
The Czech Republic was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with Prague being one of the notable cities in that Empire. It was occupied by the Russians under the combined entity of Czechoslovakia and was one of the first to try to break away from Russian domination through the ill-fated 'Prague Spring.’ Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country was liberated but decided to amicably split into two, with Slovakia being one country and the Czech Republic being the other. The country is made up of three provinces: Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia; its most famous contribution to world society is Pilsner Beer which gave us Budweiser and eventually Bud Light and the Clydesdales.
Greece is located in Southeastern Europe at the meeting point of three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa. The country consists of a peninsular mainland, the Peloponnese peninsula that is separated from the mainland by the Corinth canal and around 6.000 islands and islets scattered throughout the Aegean and Ionian Sea. The most popular islands and island clusters are Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, the Cyclades and the Dodecanese. In addition to beautiful beaches and historic artifacts, Greece offers superb cuisine, both rustic and refined, good local wine and friendly people who are committed to “Philoxenia,’ the ancient value of hospitality.
Long the home of the people known as the Magyars, Hungary was also a key part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that ended with the defeat at the end of World War I, a war instigated by the assassination of its Archduke by an anarchist. It is a land of contrasts with Great Plains similar to the Pampas, Prairie or Steppes in other countries. Noted for its wine, Hungary also offers a wide variety of cuisines ranging from the cooking of the Roma or gypsies to the iconic Gundel, situated in a Budapest Park and a legacy dating back to the Orient Express. Devote some time to Hungary and be well rewarded.
America is a land of immigrants and one of the leading sources of immigrants has been the people of Poland. Over the years they have come to escape poverty, the Germans, the Russians and to find a new life. Many settled in the Midwest where Polish food like the Pierogi became a staple in the regional diet. Today, however, Poland is a boisterous youthful country, strongly aligned with the west. While the cities may evoke an aura of yesteryear, the population shouts youth and modernity. Let us show you it all from the Baltic Coast to the Tatra Mountains. Enjoy the cities like Krakow, Warsaw and Gdansk and follow the legends like Chopin and Pope John Paul II. While the initial tourists were of Polish heritage visiting the “old country,” we encourage all to visit regardless of heritage.
Although we have placed Turkey with Eastern Europe, it is true that only about 6% of the country is located in Europe with the balance sitting on the Western portion of Asia. As in the past, the Bosphorus separates the two. At one time only a ferry connected Asia and Europe but now you can use a bridge from one continent to the other. The ferry still runs, however, and is a far more romantic experience, especially as night falls and the city lights come on. Turkey is nationally a Muslim country but a secular one thanks to Kemal Ataturk. Its main city, Istanbul, is both ancient and contemporary - combining Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman influences and architecture; exotic enough to be intriguing but contemporary enough to be comforting.