Central & Eastern Europe: A Travel Roundup

Olive harvesting in Albania, John Paul II monuments in Poland, a Soviet military hardware “cemetery” in Moscow, and more: Central and Eastern Europe-based bloggers share their recent travel observations and photos.


- Stepping Stones has posted photos of two elderly Albanian village women: the first one is harvesting olives in “the old-fashioned way”; the second one has her black apron filled with “tiny daisies,” which she is picking for a local company and gets paid less than $1 per kilo.

Also, Stepping Stones has spent some time at the ancient city of Apollonia and visited the Ardenice Orthodox Christian monastery:

[…] Ardenice is an old Orthodox monastery which was saved from destruction during the times of totalitarianism. 4 monks still live and work there but they were away at the seminary today so we didn't get to see them. The site has been ‘reclaimed’ in recent years and is being well maintained and lovingly restored after being used for everything from a restaurant to a small hotel. […]

- Kolin of Living in Shkodër has been jogging around the city lately “seeing ‘normal’ Albanian life,” getting “LOTS of really strange looks” and taking pictures of the old doors to private houses:

[…] There are many of these and one street could have about 20 different kinds of doors. It is the old wooden doors that I really like.

I think to myself, what kind of story could these doors tell us if only they could speak. […]

Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia

- Balkanology Blog has posted some photos of Croatia and, following a tip from a fellow blogger (Stuart Pinfold), wrote about “the eccentricities of Google Maps in giving driving directions between certain points in Southeast Europe.”

First, there is Google's Dubrovnik-Mostar route:

[…] Instead of the conventional 150-kilometre drive that less creative mapping software might recommend, Google suggests a more adventurous approach: a ferry to Italy, some driving, another ferry to Greece, and more driving through Greece, the entire length of Albania, Montenegro, and finally Bosnia. At 1541 kilometres it's a mere 10 times longer than the usual route – and so much more interesting. […]

Then, there is the Split-Dubrovnik route:

[…] Sure enough, Google's answer does involve a drive along the Adriatic Coast – unfortunately it is on the other side of the Adriatic, between Bari and Pescara [in Italy]. […]

And there is also the Split-Zagreb route:

[…] The result was even more surprising: “We could not calculate directions between split, croatia and zagreb, croatia.” […]

And the Belgrade-Podgorica route:

[…] Closer inspection of the driving directions reveals the problem: Google wants us to head southeast for 150km, turn around, and drive back to the outskirts of Belgrade on the same road before finally taking the correct road towards Montenegro. […]

The author of Balkanology Blog gave up at this point, but Stuart Pinfold – the blogger who first discovered the confusion – shared some more results of Google Maps destination searches in the comment section to this post.

The Czech Republic

- The Journeys of Captain Oddsocks writes about the town of Svitavy – which, among other things, is the birthplace of Oscar Schindler, the man “credited with saving the lives of over 1000 Jewish people towards the end of World War II”:

[…] The Schindler home is at Poličská Ul. 24 but is still a family residence and therefore inaccessible to the public. It’s marked only by a small stone memorial in the park across the street.


One block south of the main square, the Svitavy city museum dedicates an entire wing to the story of Schindler and his Jews. Most of the displays take the form of documents and photographs and are neatly displayed in white on black panels. There are also several items exhibited in glass cases – prisoners’ uniforms, identity cards, food stamps and so on […].

In another post, Captain Oddsocks writes about his “love/hate relationship” with “tourist information offices in the Czech Republic” and offers some tips on how “to make sure their visitors, however few or many, have such a wonderful stay that they want to go away and spread the word without being asked”:

[…] I say that because I think, even though foreign tourists have been coming here freely for almost 20 years, the Czech Republic remains drastically underrated and underappreciated. Most people only go to Prague. […]


- Latvian photographer Arnis Balcus posts photos of Latvia's oldest movie theater, Rīga, founded in 1923:

[…] It is probably also the only cinema in the country that still hires an artist to paint film ads.


- Polandian writes about the fast-growing population of Pope John Paul II statues in Poland:

[…] There are now 228 known public statues of Jan Pawel in Poland (this guy keeps a record). The Pope only died three years ago. According to a calculation I just pretended to do, if the production of Pope statues continues at this rate there will be more marble John Pauls than actual Polish people by about 2025. […]


Kitsch is the word that springs, unfortunately, to mind. You have to wonder what John Paul would have thought of all this idolatry, and you have to conclude that it wouldn’t have been positive. […]

- 20 east explores Warsaw landmarks connected to Heinrich, count von Brühl – the palace at Saski Square and the palace in Młociny:

[…] We’ve walked past it many times but not ventured over the fence. The other weekend, I went out for a walk alone into the wilder parts of the neighbouring land and after working my way around a small lake and then up a steep slope I found myself standing face to face with the palace without having to deliberately break any boundaries. I imagined the place would be deserted but I think there’s a caretaker living in the north wing because I saw a tricycle parked there (visible in the next picture) and curtains in the windows. There’s a weird looking guy, about 45 years old, rides around the neighbourhood on a tricycle made for a 6 year old. I thought he was just the local mutant but it seems he might be the palace caretaker. […]


- Eagle and the Bear writes about “a strange assemblage of Soviet military hardware” at Khodynka Field in Moscow – here and here:

[…] Listen up, kids — this kind of thing doesn’t happen in America or Europe: A completely unsupervised collection of Soviet air power, Hinds and MIGs, relics that once hunted down Afghani goat-herders now at your disposal for war games and stupid pictures. […]

LJ user akry has also devoted several posts (RUS) to Khodynka military hardware “cemetery” and has posted over a hundred photos taken there:

[…] We were shocked by what we saw there. The once mighty, beautiful machines have been left to rot under the rain, their blister windows broken, their insides sticking out… And these are the helicopters and aircrafts that used to protect us… […]


- A Yankee-in-Belgrade writes about the “long and tumultuous history” of Serbia's capital:

[…] When the Scordisci (a Celtic tribe) set uptheir stronghold Singidunum at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers in the third century, the city at the “crossroads of the worlds” had been already been conquered by the Byzantines, the Gepidae, the Sarmatians, the Eastern Goths, the Slavs, the Avars, the Francs, the Bulgarians, the Hungarians, the Ottomans, the Austrians, the Germans… each of whom gave the city their respective names: Singedon, Nandor, Fehervar, Nandor Alba, Alba Graeca, Grieschisch Weisenburg, Alba Bulgarica, Taurunum… However, its Slavic name Belgrade, meaning White City, has lasted the longest. […]

- At the Balkan Crew, GV author Danica Radovanovic writes about places she loves best in Belgrade:

[…] 2. Markets, open lively markets with food and other goods. Someone said that you have to go first to the open market when you visit some city in order to know better the soul of the city and its habitants, people who live there. […]

- Viktor Markovic of Belgraded.com writes that the travel tips he shared in The Guardian last week “are a good sneak preview of what's coming soon at Belgraded – a series of articles entitled ‘Hundred things to do in Belgrade‘.” Viktor invites readers to contribute their own “top secret Belgrade tips.”

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