When I grew up in the 70's in the West, travelling to Eastern Europe (the DDR and places east) was unheard of. Even Yugoslavia was only something the most intrepid travellers would consider at the time. In the late 80's tensions started to ease and I found myself hitchhiking the Highway of Death through Serbia and a few years later was seen sharing a beer with soldiers in the back of a Soviet Army truck as they were on their way to Dresden during their withdrawal from Warsaw pact states.
Those were real adventures! These days of course it is much easier to visit Eastern Europe. Travel to countries like the Czech Republic and Croatia is as popular as ever while other countries like Romania and Poland are up-and-coming destinations. Then there are countries such as Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine which are not at all on traveller's radars, yet they are unique places to visit. And Transnistria? Who even knows where that is?
Let's take a look behind the former Iron Curtain. Here are ten reasons why you should visit Eastern Europe now.
Go before the crows do
While Prague is firmly on the tourist trail, places further east and south like Slovakia, Ukraine, Moldova and to a lesser extend Romania are still rarely visited. This is not for a lack of places to see as you will note when you read on.
On an early morning drive through the valleys of Transylvania, Romania, I came across the Brancoveanu Monastery. The sun had just risen over the mountains, the gardens were in full bloom and through the speakers came the melodious chanting of the priests. At the Lavra in Kyiv, Ukraine, I could not help but be drawn in to the service. Beautiful singing was echoing throughout the complex, alternating as it did between the deep baritones of the priest and the sopranos of the women in the congregation. What monastery will you visit? The Solovetsky Monastery on the White Sea in Northern Russia? The Monastery of Gracanica in Kosovo, Orhelul Vechi in Moldova or the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria?