Frommer's Favorite Experiences in Eastern Europe
Breathing the Air Inside a Thracian Tomb (Sveshtary, Bulgaria): Entering this UNESCO-protected burial site 95km (60 miles) southeast of Ruse near the village of Sveshtary will send chills down your spine when you mull the thought that you are standing in a chamber where people who walked the earth 300 years before the birth of Christ, their servants, and their animals lay undisturbed for more than 2 millennia. You will marvel that you are viewing the same frescoes and sculptures that ushered these ancient residents to the next life. Be sure you call for reservations because the number of people allowed inside the climate-controlled space each day is limited.
Sunset on the City Wall (Dubrovnik, Croatia): When evening approaches Dubrovnik, views from the top of Old Town's protective wall become a kaleidoscope of color and pattern as shifting light and visual perspective change position in tandem, almost to the tempo of the Adriatic Sea lapping at the wall's base.
Strolling Across Charles Bridge at Dawn or Dusk (Prague, Czech Republic): The silhouettes of statues lining the 6-century-old crown jewel of Czech heritage hover like ghosts in the sunrise skyline. Early in the morning you can stroll across the bridge without encountering the crowds that appear by midday. With the changing light of dusk, the statues, the bridge, and the city panorama take on a whole different character.
Stepping into History at Karlstejn Castle (Czech Republic): A 30-minute train ride south of Prague puts you in the most visited Czech landmark in the environs, built by Charles IV (Karel IV in Czech -- the namesake of Charles Bridge) in the 14th century to protect the Holy Roman Empire's crown jewels. This Romanesque hilltop bastion fits the image of the castles of medieval lore.
Discovering the Courtyards of Budapest (Hungary): Budapest's residential streets are enchanting, but it is the buildings' courtyards that hold the city's greatest secret: Budapesters are villagers at heart. Nearly every apartment building in this city has an open-air courtyard in its center, where fruit trees and flower gardens flourish, cats lounge in the sun, and pensioners congregate on common balconies smoking cigarettes, gossiping, and watching children playing among flowerpots and laundry racks.
Sipping Coffee in the Heart of the City (Kraków, Poland): Superlatives don't do Kraków's Rynek Glówny justice. It's said to be central Europe's largest town square and it's also supposed to have the most bars and cafes per square meter than any place in the world. Yet it's also one of the most beautiful spaces anywhere and the perfect spot to enjoy a beverage and watch the world go by.
Auschwitz-Birkenau (Oswiecim, Poland): Words cannot convey what a deeply shocking and moving experience it is to visit what was the largest of the Nazi extermination camps. Plan to visit both camps (just a couple of miles apart). Auschwitz is undeniably horrible, but it's at Birkenau where you really grasp the scale of the tragedy.
Staying in a Village Home in Maramures (Romania): The farming villages of Maramures occupy an idyllic mountainous landscape near Romania's northern border with the Ukraine. Here you'll discover some of the most bucolic communities in Europe, where horse-drawn carts outnumber motor vehicles and many households have a cow in the backyard. You'll be surrounded by warm, friendly people, many of whom dress exclusively in traditional costume.
Traveling by Train Through Transylvania (Romania): You may not have Count Dracula as your guide, but the terrain encompassed by the land "beyond the forest" will set any heart racing. As you wind through vast tracts of forest and pass soaring mountains, the only signs of human habitation might be a church steeple peeking through a forest canopy, or farmers cutting grass with hand-held scythes.
Viewing Red Square at Night (Moscow, Russia): The crimson-and-ivy-colored domes of St. Basil's Cathedral rise in a dizzying welcome to this most majestic of Russian plazas. Stand on the rise in the center of the square and feel a part of Russia's expanse.
Steam Stress Away at the Sandunovsky Baths (Sandunovskiye Banyi), (Moscow, Russia): Thaw your eyelashes in January or escape snow flurries in May in the traditional Russian bathhouse, something between a sauna and a Turkish hammam. The pristine Sandunovsky Baths are a special treat, with Greek sculptures and marble baths.
Watch the Neva River Drawbridges Go Up (St. Petersburg, Russia): An unforgettable outing during White Nights, or anytime, involves perching on the quay at 2am to watch the city's bridges unfold in careful rhythm to allow ships to navigate the Neva.
Walking in the High Tatras (Slovakia): During summer, trails across the peaks are open, meaning you can start in Slovakia in the morning and enjoy a well-earned dinner in Poland the same day. The High Tatras have trails suitable for walkers of all abilities; just choose a route and give it a shot.
Discovering Magnificence in the Bowels of the Earth (Slovenia): Slovenia has thousands of Karstic caves, but those protected by UNESCO in the Skocjan park are unforgettable. Subterranean architecture comprises stalactites, stalagmites, and limestone pools, not to mention the world's largest underground canyon, stupendous bridges, and drop-away galleries that will reconfigure your understanding of life on earth.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.