Despite having seen a big chunk of Western Europe with Topdeck, I’d only just touched the tip of the iceberg on this continent. Most people hear about the enticing romance of France, the delicious food of Italy, the fascinating history of Germany – but not much emphasis is put on the other side of Europe.
It seems that many movies use Eastern Europe as a backdrop for dangerous, crime-riddled storylines. A bit of research shows it’s quite the opposite, and I couldn’t wait to see for myself.
What’s so brilliant about Topdeck is they have such a broad scope of trips – ranging from just a few days to multiple weeks – and slotting into even the tightest of schedules. I coordinate my love for travel in between my full-time job, so I have to plan each holiday meticulously.
Whilst I sat on the plane at the start of my Eastern European journey, across the aisle was another young woman travelling alone. I had this gut feeling she was there for exactly the same reason as I was. Whether you believe in fate or just incredible coincidences, it sure was amazing to find out that lo and behold: she was my first fellow Topdecker!
My favourite thing about the tour was the themes running through it: relaxation, history, music. Each country we visited touched upon at least one of these elements which encapsulated the charm it had to offer.
Being a history buff, one of the biggest reasons I love to travel is to learn about the country I’m in, and how it came to be. It’s literally like walking through history in many Eastern European countries – seeing the bullet holes in structures still standing, contrasted with the new buildings next to them.
What surprised me most was the incredible amount of recent history, including atrocities I never learnt about in school. I felt so grateful to have the chance to listen to the people who lived through it and survived to tell the tale. It was my opportunity to learn, and pass their stories on to someone else.
The trip allowed me to connect even more with my Jewish religion and heritage, and for that I will be forever grateful. My travel tradition consists of exploring a city’s Jewish Quarter (if there is one) to try to find a Kosher bakery and eat a local delicacy, and then search for a pendant as an addition to my (already-too-full) necklace. I found what I was looking for, but Budapest had something else in store for me – the most unique and magnificent synagogue I’d ever seen. The largest in Europe, I marvelled at its beauty and exquisite interiors.
Musical culture thrives in Eastern Europe. You just have to walk the streets of Prague to soak up the atmosphere of the street musicians on nearly every corner. The John Lennon Wall shows how much music has influenced the city. My one tip would be to visit the wall both at night as well as in the day – not only will there be fewer crowds, but there is a certain kind of magic that comes out when the moon is shining above you.
Merely a country over, Vienna also delights with its rich artistic and musical heritage, being the home of composers such as Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. An optional (but in my opinion must-do) activity is attending a performance of one of the many orchestras Vienna has to offer, where you’ll listen to some famous pieces of classical music that you will no doubt recognise.
Johanna got you hankering for some little-bit-quirky, culture-filled adventures in Eastern Europe? Check out our 2021 Eastern Spirit tour here.