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.
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.
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.
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)
Although sometimes overshadowed by nearby Prague, Bratislava (a.k.a., the “Little Big City”) is relaxed, unpretentious and pleasantly lean on souvenir shops.
See more photos from Bratislava and Trencin, Slovakia
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.
Read: Barack Obama in Berlin
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.