Eastern European food is often maligned by Westerners who imagine that they will be dining exclusively on bread, potatoes, meat, and cabbage during a stay in that region. Yes, Eastern European food can be heavy, especially in places like Russia and Romania, where the temperature can fall to arctic levels and stay there for a long time. But this region's cuisine also can be surprisingly light and sophisticated, like the delicate truffle dishes in Istria (Croatia) and other regional specialties.

When looking for a restaurant, avoid places that display menus translated into seven languages. These are bound to offer diluted versions of wonderful regional foods or awful interpretations of "foreign" dishes. Instead, look for small mom-and-pop places filled with locals having a good time. Alternatively, you can make quite a good meal from local bakeries and markets where everything from caviar to laundry detergent is sold.

Dining is relatively inexpensive wherever you go in Eastern Europe. You'll find wonderful fish, Italian-style fare, and local wine in Slovenia and Croatia's coastal cities, spicy goulash stews in Hungary, and excellent beer in Poland and the Czech Republic. If you're lucky, you'll also be able to sample a few homemade liqueurs, usually potent brews made from plums, cherries, or other fruits.

One thing is for sure: You won't go hungry in this land where eating is a social event, a sport, and a way to celebrate life.

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.