Must do East Europe sojourns on the Balkan circuit
Must do East Europe sojourns on the Balkan circuit
European break is so basic with the same destinations in the bucket list of any kind of traveler be it an amateur or a seasoned one. It starts from France, Greece, Italy and Spain. The Best time to visit the Balkan circuits is post the sweltering summer and hit the European continent in autumn not only to avoid the heat and sweat but also to avoid the mad rush of the busy streets and roadside cafes and tables. Baltic territories are still not raided by the conventional travelers though some maverick travel junkies are trying their tryst east bound.
East Europe is on the radar of many travelers who want to do the unconventional Eastern Europe. Going eastbound is feasible and is considerably cheap as it allows for intra-country transport. Cross country travel between East Europe countries cost as low as possible and activity tickets can be bought easily from counters. Balkan Flexipass lets you travel no holds barred to the most exotic and vast swathes of East Bound Destinations.
East Europe is no less than post card beauty. Baltic nations have pared back elegance, flashy decadence, vintage vibes and modern minimalism. Eastern Europe is pleasantly laid back and therefore often overlooked by the travelers who take the conventional route heading other way round.
The Baltic belt has Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Poland, Belarus and Ukraine are three border sharing nations. The capitals of the Baltic nations make for an interesting combination in spite of being vastly varied and contrasting and they can be the home turf for your East Europe exploration. Baltic nations have unmatched views than conventional Europe. The Old Town remains the main highlight of these nations. Traveling between capital cities can be cheap with flight and train costs as you tick all the boxes. Euro Rail Travel can also be checked from the bucket list.
Tallinn is the capital and the largest city of Estonia. The Medieval Walled Old Town of Tallinn in Estonia is decked with the typical old town vibe with cobbled streets and alfresco and gourmet roadside cafes. Tallinn is Estonia’s historical and cultural hub. The main highlights of Tallinn is a 15th century defensive tower of Kiek in de Kok.
Tallinn’s main town square has Gothic Town Hall which is a structure from the 13th century with 64-m high tower. St. Nicholas Church is a 13th century structure in ecclesiastical architectural style. The Estonian Open Air Museum is one of the high points of the Old Town of Tallinn.
Riga is the Latvian capital set on the Baltic Sea and is the culture centre of Latvia with museums, wooden buildings and concert halls replete with art nouveau architecture. The Old Town of Latvia is a pedestrian ton with the popular Livu Square. Riga is the biggest metropolis in the Baltics. The Resort town of Jurmala Baltic is replete with nightclubs with bustling nightlife and bog city vibe. It is the culture capital with Latvian influences.
Lithuania is Vilnius capital is known for it Baroque architecture in the largest medieval Old Town with rustic old world charm in Central and Eastern Europe with buildings lining in partially cobblestoned streets. There are structures from different eras and styles. Vilinius Cathedral is a neoclassical style cathedral. St Anne’s Church is in Gothic style. Gate of Dawn has a shrine of sacred Virgin Mary icon served as an entrance to the original city since 16th century.
Warsaw is the capital of Poland with the architecture reflecting city’s long turbulent past years written in dark chapters. The Holocaust sites in city’s Old Town and Soviet era blocks are must dos. Gothic cathedrals, Soviet blocks and neoclassical and classical palaces have a range of structures. The Market Square has open air cafes and neutral buildings and the Monument of the Warsaw Mermaid at the center of the market square is symbolic of the city.
Warsaw has the ultimate World War II vibe up close back to the medieval times reminiscent of anti Semitic hatred throughout the European Establishment. You can start a Holocaust tour from Poland. Take a free walking tour of Warsaw Ghetto to learn more about the Monument to Ghetto Heroes and Jewish neighborhood.
The Museum of the War Uprising in the Wola district of Warsaw is a tapestry of the Uprising of the War ravaged capital against the Nazis with sewer replicas, underground tunnels, full sized fighter planes, an insurgent hospital, hangar, Polish residents with weapons like dagger and boulders from the Barbaric era.
The Memory Lane is a poignant reminder with huge monuments of the resistance fighters and one of the prominent ones is Anielewicz with a hand grenade. The Little Insurgent Monument in the old town of Warsaw on Podwale Street is a statue commemorating Antek in helmet with machine gun.
Warsaw has cobblestone streets and poles in the Old Town. Warsaw is replete with hummus bars concepts and breakfast at 3 pm.
Polish Patisserie is on different level. Babka, Brioche and Poppy Seed Cake are must eats. The Polish dumplings called Pierogi are must try. Slavic food is flavorful with fillings.
Krakow is Poland’s royal capital with historic monuments with well-preserved medieval quarters. The Old Town is surrounded by remnants of city’s medieval walls. The market square is stately called Rynek Glowny with plaza consisting Renaissance era structures and Planty Park. St. Mary’s Basilica is a 14-century Gothic church.
Auschwitz extermination camp gate has signage that reads Arbeit Mach Frei which means work sets you free. Auschwitz Brikenau concentration camp is 3 km walk with barbed wire fencing as a tribute to the Holocaust victims with handwritten wooden sign left during ‘March of the living’ event by Holocaust survivors. Auschwitz II Brikenau is about 3 km away about 10 times the size of Auschwitz was literally and figuratively the ‘killing field’ during the World War II. A square is erected at Podgorze in Krakow that served as a ghetto. The Empty Chairs Memorial is a must see.
Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus. Minsk is dominated by illustrious Stalinist architecture reminiscent of Belarus’s Soviet past. The Independence Avenue or Praspyekt Nyezalyezhnastsi is a wide 15 km long thoroughfare in Independence Square replete with museums, theatres and other cultural and historical attractions. KGB Headquarters and the Neo-Romanesque Red Church of Saints are on Independence plaza.
Kiev is the capital city of Ukraine dominated by secular and religious architecture with structures of Orthodox churches and historical museums. Kiev has a history of turmoil surviving through WWII an Soviet Rule. Kiev Pechersk Lavra is 11th century monastery and pilgrimage site with domed churches in gold tones. The collection of gold objects from the ancient Scythian times is a must see.
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria replete with Romannd ruins, Greek landmarks and Ottoman mosques. Boyana Church is a 13th century church replete with frescoes in medieval style. It is the largest city of the Republic of Bulgaria and an affordable European capital with massive parkland.
Bucharest is the capital and commercial hub of Romania with a communist era buildings. Palatul Parlamentului is the ginormous parliament building from communist era with 1,100 rooms. Eastern Orthodox Stavropoleos Church is another iconic landmark. Curtea Veche Palace is a 15th century structure on the historical Lipscani District. National History Museum and National Art Museum are iconic in their own right. Romanian Anthenaeum and Athenee Palace Hotel are historic. It is also called Paris of the east for its Art Nouveau architecture.
Belgrade is the capital of Serbia. It is also considered New York of Europe. Belgrade Fortress also known as Beogradska Tvrdava is an iconic landmark at the confluence of Danube and Sava rivers with the vast past of Kalemegdan.
Montenegro is a Mediterranean country on the Adriatic coastline replete with coastal churches, beaches and fortified towns such as Kotor and Herceg Novi. Durmitor National Park and Tara River Canyon are replete with limestone peaks and glacial lakes. It is called the pearl of the Mediterranean.
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