Arts and Entertainment

Backpacking Eastern Europe

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— image credit:
by Arvo and
Christiane Johnson


Traveling can bring you very little or as much as you can possibly imagine. It all depends on how open your mind and heart are and how adventurous your spirit.

 

After selling our house and most of its contents, we left for a two-year adventure traveling and exploring some of the many great places on this wonderful planet, a world filled with history, stunning scenery, adventures and unique, friendly and generous people. Our mode of travel varied depending on the places we were exploring. We traveled by car as part of a 6-month journey in Europe.

 

For our Traveler’s Journal presentation, we focus on four beautiful and diverse countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia.  

 

The Czech Republic has many great cities and towns but the two we enjoyed the most were Prague and Cesky Krumlov. The thing that separates Prague (the Paris of the East) from most other European cities is that it survived for the most part undamaged from World War II.

 

It seems every street you walk is lined with even more beautiful old buildings than the previous one. The Czechs take great pride in maintaining this beauty. This city, full of cafes, endless boutique shopping and many other things, is a must.

 

Cesky Krumlov is a town in the south of the country surrounded by a beautiful flowing river. Its great charm and friendly people, along with its picture postcard streets from another time, made it a favorite.

 

Next stop: Budapest, Hungary. Originally the three separate cities of Buda, Pest and Obuda were divided by the river Danube. The three became Budapest in 1873. Although Hungary was the most difficult country in Europe for us to travel because of the language, the friendly people went out of their way to help and the language never became much of a problem. Once again, if beautiful buildings full of history, magnificent spas once used by only the wealthy of Europe and a great city for exploring on foot is for you, we highly recommend adding Budapest to your Bucket List.  We walked for five days and could have spent another five easily.

 

Our time in Slovenia and Croatia came by chance because part of our travel plans included not having a set itinerary. We wanted the flexibility to stay or leave depending on how we liked places.

 

After about two weeks in Austria, the weather turned bad and the forecast showed more of the same, so we decided to cut our time there short. We went to an Internet cafe to find a place with better weather for the next three weeks. Croatia it was!

 

Our main focus was Croatia, but the great thing about travel is not only the destination but the journey as well. As we entered Slovenia we knew we must stay a few days and explore the stunning scenery. Bled, once a retreat for many parts of Europe for its beauty and spas, was a spectacular setting. Once again we had found another place we would come back to. Croatia declared independence in 1991 and has been growing and moving up since.

 

We traveled through Split and of the many islands to visit, Hvar and Korcula looked good to us. We had great weather, beautiful beaches, small-town island charm and very friendly people. The ferries between islands were great; the cost of everything still was very affordable compared to other areas in the Adriatic and Mediterranean. Going back to these islands is high on our list.

 

From these relaxing tranquil islands we set off to the walled city of Dubrovnik. What a history this great city has! Walking around, seeing the damage inflicted just a few years ago, was sad and yet amazing.

The city wall has protected Dubrovnik and its people since the ninth century. While weapons have changed from old siege weapons to the latest of bombs, mortars and missiles, the wall and the city endure. It’s incredible to think about. Walking around the city both below and on the wall is forever etched in our memories. 


About the presenters:

Arvo, with a passion for the outdoors and photography, and Christiane, an architect, started their love of traveling together after meeting in Chile in January 1999. After Christiane moved from Germany in 2000 they continued their travels as much as possible. In 2006, they decided to travel for a couple of years and made a list of countries to visit. They then refined the list since the goal was to spend more time in the countries they explored. Arvo and Christiane have traveled to more than 50 countries either together or individually and plan to continue this adventurous life along with their 2-year-old daughter.

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