/ Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises

Apr 25, 2013

Entrenched in history, Eastern Europe promises to give your vacation a much-needed cultural refresher course.

When most people think of going to Europe, especially on their first trip there, the famous cities automatically come to mind: London, Rome, Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. While these places hold the charm, history and weight of tourism, they are not all Europe has to offer. For travellers looking for something new and different, the allure of Eastern Europe is sure to draw them in with its lush countryside, rich history, beautiful and picturesque coastlines, and a much cheaper budget than you might expect. From beautiful Zadar in Croatia to the numerous castles in Transylvania, the historical and majestic Prague and healing Budapest, Eastern Europe is filled with many gems that will provide the travelling experience of a lifetime.

Transylvania, Romania

Sometimes the only thing Transylvania brings to mind is bloodthirsty vampires, thanks to the famous novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. But it’s a historical region where different ethnic groups have lived together in peace for centuries. It is home to about 100 castles and fortresses and over 70 fortified churches, many of them still very well preserved and offering a way to step back into the history of the Romans, Hungarians and Saxons. One of the more famous castles is Bran. Often associated with the 15th century prince Vlad Tepes and called “Dracula’s Castle,” it is the inspiration of Bram Stoker’s famous novel. The beautiful Baroque, Gothic-style castle is filled with secret passages, balconies and walkways and has been home to many monarchies and communist regimes. If you’d like to step away from the more traditionally explored routes and tourist destinations, there are many small villages to visit where the residents live just as they did a hundred years ago. Discover old houses and churches and learn more about the nature of the people who have endured numerous political changes and cultural differences throughout the centuries.

Zadar, Croatia

The port city of Zadar in Croatia is located on the southern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It caters to both types of tourists: those looking to fit into the crowd and those looking for an escape from the rush of people. In the Old Town you’ll find the Riva, a picturesque waterfront promenade where crowds gather every night to watch the sunset; the most beautiful sunset in the world according to Alfred Hitchcock. Further north, you’ll find quiet streets and a relatively undiscovered region filled with rich history. Get away from the crowded coastline and explore the hinterland or sail to one of the remote islands to experience solitary peacefulness. Visit the flourishing Paklenica National Park — one of five national parks in Zadar — and enjoy hiking, rock climbing or walking by the lake, and experience the secluded wilderness and waterfalls. Visit the Old Town to explore the 2,000-year-old Roman ruins that still seduce tourists. Afterwards, you can grab a bite to eat at one of the fish restaurants or student cafes. Zadar may be one of Croatia’s most underrated cities, but it offers too much history, nature, architecture and fun by the waterside to not be explored and enjoyed.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is one of the better known Eastern European cities because of its vast architecture, history, thermal baths and its youthful atmosphere. Being the capital city of Hungary there’s tons of daytime sightseeing, nightlife activities and a world-class classical music scene. It’s considered the “Paris of the East” due to its architectural and cultural significance and it’s also on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the same reasons. Made up of two cities — Buda on the west bank of the Danube River and Pest on the east — it is quickly becoming a popular destination to visit as more and more visitors see all it has to offer. The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath is the largest thermal bath in Europe and a popular destination for tourists, locals and anyone seeking treatment for a number of ailments. Built in 1903, in the Neo-Baroque style, it consists of a combination of indoor and outdoor pools with varying temperatures and activities. Since Budapest is also known for its electric music scene, many times swimming is combined with music festivals and DJ concerts and makes for an afternoon well spent relaxing and rejuvenating both the mind and body. Take a few days to enjoy everything from folklore to classical opera performances in the State Opera House; visit the House of Terror to experience the Second World War Nazi regime in Hungary; or bike around the city enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes that both Buda and Pest have to offer. Budapest can be a great last city to visit in Eastern Europe as it gives you a chance to relax your aching and travelled bones in one of the many public or private thermal bathhouses all around the city.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is another gorgeous city to visit in Eastern Europe. Made up of a very rich and long history spanning more than 1,000 years, and twice being the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, it has and preserves architecture splendors from historical times as well as modern world war periods. Called the city of a hundred towers, it could also very well be named the city of a hundred bridges; the most famous being Charles Bridge which was built in the 14th century and was the only source of transportation between both sides of the Vltava River for more than 450 years. Prague Castle is the most important monument in the city. Originally the residence for the kings and queens of Bohemia, it is currently the home of the president. Developed and continually built and added to over the past 1,100 years, it represents all architectural styles and periods, from the Medieval to the Renaissance and finally the modern. Prague also has hundreds of galleries and museums, and is home to many film and musical festivals and fashion shows throughout the year — there’s usually one taking place every season. Whether you are looking for culture, history, modernity, education, science or cuisine, Prague has something to offer every traveller.




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