Why I’m looking forward to visiting Eastern Europe

2 Sep

NOTE: I acknowledge that some may be offended that I refer to Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Croatia as “Eastern Europe”. I am well aware that the region has made significant advances in its transition to Capitalism and is becoming more and more like Western Europe. I choose to split Europe into “Eastern” and “Western” blocks not because the two regions have very different histories. However, I am aware that economically they are becoming more and more equal and I don’t mean to offend anyone.

I just booked a flight for a backpacking trip across Eastern Europe for next summer. My itinerary will be 2 1/2 weeks long. I’ll be backpacking from Warsaw, Poland to Split, Croatia. The itinerary will take me to Warsaw, Wroclaw, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Zagreb, and Split. I’m very interested in this region. The region is one of the best places in the world for history lovers, is known for hearty food, and is full of beautiful architecture as well as interesting remnants of communism.

Eastern Europe has a much darker history than Western Europe. They’ve been through many invasions from the huns and mongols in times long past, and have been through tremendous amounts of oppression from the Nazis and Soviets. Because of this darker history, some assume its not as safe and is poorer than western Europe. Ukraine has a long way to go still, but in Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, this notion of Eastern Europe as poor, ugly, and run down becoming less and less true every year.

Some of my friends tell me there’s no reason to go to Eastern Europe. They say it has “nothing to do” or that it is “asbolute total crap” or they’ll say things like “people don’t go there” or “why should you go hiking in the Slovak Tatras when Western Europe has the alps which are much bigger mountains?”. When I read them pages of travel guides that talk about how rich the history and culture of the region is, they say things like “Oh, yeah, history, like all those concentration camps!”.

Another thing I hear is that people don’t think Eastern Europe is safe. Or they assume its not safe because its not familiar to them. In fact it is very safe. Although some areas are still quite xenophobic, there is little violent crime and most parts of it are just as safe as Western Europe.

The notion of Eastern Europe as a drab, ugly, bleak place with nothing to do except visiting former concentration camps is very outdated and I wish more americans understood this. So I decided to write this blog post about four reasons to go on a trip to Eastern Europe.

FOUR REASONS TO GO TO EASTERN EUROPE

1. History

There is no better place in the world for history lovers than Eastern Europe, hands-down. And no, it’s not all about former soviet bases and concentration camps. Eastern Europe’s castles are probably the best in the world, and yet far fewer people visit them than Western European ones. A trip to Eastern Europe will give you a great understanding of history if you look into it. And while they’re certainly not the only things Eastern Europe has to offer, the former concentration camps do give you a terrifyingly powerful insight into the horrors of human evil and are a very emotionally harrowing experience.

2. Hidden Gems

Far fewer people have visited Eastern Europe than Western Europe, and yet its got just as much to offer. If you go off the beaten path you’ll find amazing places that tourists don’t seem to go to, and you’ll wonder why.

3. Architecture

Architecture is a fascinating thing about Eastern European cities. The architectural heritage of Eastern Europe ranges from fairy-tale castles and clock towers to big ugly soviet bloc buildings. And often, the soviet buildings and fairy-tale buildings are right next to each other! This contrast gives you an amazing sense of the different ages this region has gone through.

4. You’ll never look at Europe the same way again

People talk about going to Europe and often, they mean going to the Romes, Parises, Londons, and Amsterdams. They see the western, roman-influenced side of Europe and assume they are seeing Europe. They aren’t seeing Europe. They’re seeing one side of it. They’re not looking at the other half of the continent which is equally as fascinating. If you go to Eastern Europe you’ll gain a whole new perspective on the variety of cultures and histories this continent’s nations have to offer.

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Overall, I’m very excited about seeing Eastern Europe. It looks like a fascinating part of the world.

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