This section of this web site is devoted primarily to Eastern Europe. Although I have traveled to western Europe a number of times, I have not included the photos in this web site because they are too old and, in many cases, photos of items that have already been photographed millions of times by others. From 2004 to 2006, however, I had the opportunity to live in Ukraine and to travel to some other areas in Eastern Europe.
For almost half a century, Eastern Europe was part of the Soviet sphere, shrouded behind the "Iron Curtain" that descended over the area shortly after World War II. Some countries, such as the Czech Republic (then part of Czechoslovakia), Hungary and Poland retained their status as separate nations, but were controlled – at times by brute military force – by the Soviet Union. Other countries, such as the Baltic Countries and Ukraine were completely absorbed into the Soviet Union as "republics" and suffered an even more intense level of Communist domination, including efforts to marginalize their national cultures and to rewrite their histories.
Soviet control and isolation made it difficult for western travelers to visit the nations of Eastern Europe and almost impossible to gain entry into the "republics". Soviet domination also allowed – and in many cases required – that the countries of Eastern Europe develop along a track relatively uninfluenced by the West. Thus, these countries offer many sights that western visitors will find unusual, if not exotic.
It has also been interesting to see how the various countries have handled their newly-won independence. Although each country left the starting gate at relatively the same point in 1991, some have moved more quickly than others. The Baltic Countries, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia, for example, have quickly adapted to democracy and a market economy and have already become successful members of the European Union. Others, such as Ukraine, have lagged behind and are having greater difficulty throwing off effects of decades of Soviet domination. And for others, such as Bosnia, independence has led to war, ethnic bloodshed and atrocities that Europe has not seen since the Nazi era.
Tourism has also varied widely over the region – as does tourist infrastructure. Some areas, such as Prague and Kraków., have definitely been "discovered" and attract thousands of tourists. Visitors will find hotels, restaurants and other tourist amenities that approach in quality, if not quantity, the offerings of western Europe. Other areas, such as the beautiful Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine see very few western tourists. So, whether you are looking for a travel experience on a par with western Europe, or you prefer to "beat the crowd" and explore some less developed areas, Eastern Europe has much to offer.
© 2006-2007 Bruce G. StumpfAll Rights Reserved