An Eye for Central Europe

Medieval castles, imperial palaces, blocky Soviet throwbacks and new glass and steel buildings lined our paths; poppy seed strudels, potato dumplings, and goose feasts filled our stomachs; light Austrian white wines, hearty Hungarian reds and freshly pulled Czech beers served as social lubrication; and Slavic, Germanic and Finno-Ugric (Hungarian) accents provided the soundtrack.

This is the cultural goulash of Central Europe.

Prague Castle - Czech Republic
Driving up to Prague Castle

Although our recent reflections on this site have been focused on China, we’ve actually been bouncing around Central and Eastern Europe and working on projects.

Before we move onto stories from Burma and India, we offer a visual slice of Central Europe. Enjoy our photo collections from Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia and Hungary.

Vienna and the Austrian Countryside

Vienna, a city of grand culture, coffee houses and sacher torte. While it’s firmly in the West, it provides hints of the East. For visitors, it offers magnificent museums, a vibrant market (Naschmarkt), and Heurigers (vineyard restaurants on the outskirts of the city) that make drinking a spritzer (white wine mixed with sparkling water) a required activity.

Concert Ticket Salesman, Dressed Up - Vienna, Austria
All dressed up and nowhere to go. Vienna, Austria.

Read: The Wine Bends: A Detour in the Austrian Countryside

More photos from Vienna and the Austrian countryside

Prague, Czech Republic

Despite the density of crystal shops, souvenir stands, strip clubs and tourist restaurants in Prague’s Old Town (Starometska) and Wenceslas Square, its residential neighborhoods (Vinohrady, Vrsovice) still retain their charm.

Vinohradska Vodarna - Prague, Czech Republic
Vinohradska Vodarna, getting into Prague’s neighborhoods.

Although the days of $0.40 draught Pilsner Urquell beer (upon our arrival in Prague, circa December 2001) are long since over, the city still begs a visit.

Read: Clown and Country: A Week in the Czech Countryside and other articles about Prague.

More photos from Prague and the rest of the Czech Republic (Cesky Krumlov, Valtice, Kutna Hora, and more)

Bratislava, Slovakia

Although sometimes overshadowed by nearby Prague, Bratislava (a.k.a., the “Little Big City”) is relaxed, unpretentious and pleasantly lean on souvenir shops.

Bratislava's Old Town, Fisheye - Slovakia
Bratislava’s Old Town.

See more photos from Bratislava and Trencin, Slovakia

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is arguably the most dynamic city in the region; a forward-looking and creative energy circulates constantly and begs us to stay each time we visit. During our first visit in 2002, Berlin was a giant construction site whose cranes consumed the landscape. Berlin has since settled nicely into its post Cold War identity, but the spirit of change abounds. Maybe this is why Barack Obama chose to speak here in July, 2008.

Berlin Wall - Dresden, Germany
Eastside Gallery in Berlin.

Read: Barack Obama in Berlin

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest leaves no doubt about its historical significance – just look to the scale of its streets, buildings, and its public transport network. We’ve already spilled our ink about rediscovering Budapest this autumn and falling in love with its markets. Check it out below.

Great Synagogue (Dohany Street Synagogue) - Budapest, Hungary
Through the gates at Dohany Street Synagogue, Budapest.

Read: Budapest: Warmth and Spice in Central Europe

Photos from Budapest, Hungary

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  1. says

    These are absolutely beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing. Vienna is our favorite city in the world so far. My husband studied one summer and we went back this year. I don’t know what it is about it, I just love everything it has to offer. Oh, the Heurigers are so amazing. No place I’d rather be on a summer afternoon! I can’t wait to go sometime in the fall/winter to experience the season.

  2. Suzanne says

    Hey guys,

    Seeing the link to the Christmas markets post makes me wish I was in Prague or Brno (awwww) drinking svarak and hanging out in staromestke namesti. Always got a kick out of the animal pen. Am I crazy or did they have a llama one year?

  3. says

    Love the photos as always! We have spent many months in these areas and love them too! I think we are actually crossing paths today as we are in NYC for a day waiting for our red eye flight back to Paris and onto Spain for the winter.

    We did miss Hungary and Romania last year due to my ending up in the hospital in Vienna, but looking forward to catching up with them this year. We just stayed at a spectacular B&B in Denver ( Castle Marne) with a host who was Hungarian. Such a wonderful family & the food was so scrumptious that we are even more anxious to check out Hungary this summer!

  4. says

    Audrey, I’ll bring the tokaj, you bring the stories — I could hear about Hungary all day long, and someday my husband and I are going to get there! Sounds like Fall is the perfect time to go.

    Thanks for sharing your impressions and your beautiful photos. Hooray for traveling with your significant other and making the journey such a work of art! Here’s to the exquisite architecture you’ve seen and the schlag you’ve inhaled…

    I’m just about to check where you’re going next, so I can virtually follow you!

  5. says

    Thanks everyone for your comments. My individual responses are below:

    NewWrldYankee: You have a lot of inspirational fodder in your neighborhood.

    Nicole: It’s never our intent to make our friends cry, but we understand. Czech banking fees, “neni mozne”, foreigner’s police – does that make you feel a bit better?

    Lori: Vienna is a great city. During our first visit in the winter of 1998, we almost dismissed it, perhaps because it was 0 degrees and our faces nearly fell off due to the cold. But we grew to love it, having returned over a dozen times across all the seasons (and Christmas).

    Suzanne: They did have a llama (or a few). Am still laughing…

    soultravelers3: Criss-crossed paths. Such is the life of world travel. Happy and safe travels to your family.

    Melanie: If our experience was any indication, late autumn in Hungary is great. If you go in August and music is your thing, check out the Sziget music festival.

    Steven: I think you’ll find some people in Prague, Vienna, Berlin and Bratislava that might take issue with your assertion :)


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