While the cold war has well and truly thawed, today most commentators refer to Eastern Europe as to those countries which fell behind the iron curtain to experiment with socialism. Prior to Russia exerting their political views in the twentieth century, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dominated throughout Transylvania, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Slovakia, while the Russian Empire stretched across Ukraine, the Baltics and Poland. Today Eastern European nations are basking in their independence, welcoming international visitors to explore the region’s natural beauty and mesmerising historic towns.
Summer is generally the best time to visit Eastern Europe. July and August are the warmest months with temperatures rising on average to 19 degrees in Prague, 18 degrees in Moscow and 21 degrees in Zagreb. In winter the mercury is only 0 degrees in Zagreb, -1 degree in Prague and -10 degrees in Moscow, which makes winter perfect for snowboarding and skiing.
Eastern Europe hosts many festivals throughout the year. In Prague, celebrate music at the Prague Spring International Music Festival or enjoy the International Folklore Festival. The Moscow International Film Festival is an annual event in Russia’s capital, while Message to Man is an international competition for documentaries and short films. In September Zagreb honours theatre with a Theatre Festival while July presents the International Folklore Festival.
Flying from Australia to Eastern Europe, you will need to take connecting flights to Asia or Western Europe before flying to the final destination. Major airline hubs in Asia include Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing. In Western Europe, major airline hubs include Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Paris, London and Vienna.
For a once in a lifetime experience, consider taking either the Trans-Siberian or Trans-Mongolian from Beijing, China to Moscow.
There are luxury hotels located in all significant Eastern European cities, offering comfort associated with this style of accommodation. Many international five star names are represented or on the other hand consider more intimate, boutique hotels that offer a unique experience.
To find out more about the range of holiday accommodation available with Travel Associates call 1800 017 849 or enquire online.
Sights to See
Once the capital of the former USSR and the historic Russian empire, Moscow maintains its air of confidence with the dominating Kremlin and the symbolic Red Square. Be sure to pay your respects to Lenin who lies in state in his Mausoleum before enjoying world-class ballet at the Bolshoi. To the northwest of Moscow lies one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, St Petersburg. Admire the inspiring art collection in the Hermitage Museum, formerly the royal Winter Palace, explore Yusupov Palace where Grigori Rasputin was murdered and visit the Peter and Paul Fortress where Russian royalty are buried.
The archetypal Eastern European city is Prague, capital of Czech Republic. Wander through the cobblestone streets soaking in the awe-inspiring architecture, discover Prague Castle and cross the Danube using the Charles Bridge, a fourteenth century construction. For a quaint town, travel south to Český Krumlov and consider rafting or tubing on Vltava River or simply stroll through the picturesque streets.
Fast becoming a significant travel destination, Croatia offers a glorious elongated coastline and stunning islands sitting serenely in the Adriatic Sea. Dubrovnik offers a glimpse into times gone by with an incredibly well restored old town, while Split celebrates its ancient heritage with a former Roman Palace located as the centrepiece of the city. The capital, Zagreb, a former Austro-Hungarian city, boasts enchanting medieval architecture.
Don't leave home without...
Today the significant Eastern European destinations are cosmopolitan modern cities. Therefore if you accidently forget a preferred item, it can generally be replaced in the larger cities. However, once you travel throughout the countryside, it may be more difficult to replace desired items.
Many visitors to Russia buy a cute souvenir Russian Doll as a memento of their trip. Officially known as the Matryoshka or Babushka Doll, the first set was created in 1890 by two folk artisans. The dolls first entered the world stage, when they were presented at the World Exhibition in Paris, earning a bronze medal. Today they are painted in many designs – some serious and some comic – so there’s a set perfect for everyone.
Things to be careful of…
Eastern Europe can be prone to pick-pockets, particularly in crowded tourist areas. Always keep your valuables close to you and stay alert.