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Published: June 11th 2007
In the summer of 2003, I was back to my old summer traveling habits. For some reason, I was still not done with Europe. I had pretty much given up on Western Europe due to the expense, but Eastern Europe still offered everything I wanted, including a special surprise in Romania. I flew into my former hometown of Prague and went from there. Here are some blurbs of what I did in each country.
Czech Republic- Prague, Benesov. My grand return to Prague was cut short by the temptation of going to new, undiscovered places.
Germany- Dresden. Checking in on my favorite German city.
Poland- Wroclaw, Warsaw, Zakopane, High Tatras. I based myself in Poland for mountain hiking in the High Tatras. I also made a stop in Wroclaw, my favorite Polish city.
Lithuania- Vilnius, Trakai, Kaunas, Klaipeda, Juodkrante, Neringa. I finally got around to exploring Lithuania. It was pleasant, if unspectacular.
Finland- Helsinki. I didn't go north to visit my host-families because there's too many people to visit and not enough time. I did want to spend a few days in wonderful Helsinki, however.
Estonia- Tallinn, Tartu, Rapina, Polva. I also finally got around to exploring Estonia, which I liked more than Lithuania. The highlight was cliff repelling during a rainstorm somewhere in a forest near the Russian border.
Russia- Pechory, Pskov, Moscow, Kazan, Nizhniy Novgorod, Vladimir, Suzdal, Smolensk, Yekaterinburg (crossed into Asia!), St. Petersburg. Russia outside of St. Petersburg and Moscow is untouristed, non-English speaking, and fascinating. I got try out the Russian I learned while studying in Prague while visiting exciting cities like Kazan and Smolensk, though it's hard to steal the spotlight from the amazing and virtually unknown monastery at Pechory. I also attended 5 or 6 Russian league soccer matches. Rubin Kazan was my favorite team as I saw them stuff Lokomotiv 3-1 in Kazan.
Slovakia- High Tatras. Another epic hike in Slovakia.
Hungary- Budapest. No trip to Eastern Europe is complete without a transit though my favorite city in the region.
Serbia- Belgrade. I wanted to go to other parts of Serbia and Mentenegro, but I was having far too much fun in Belgrade. There was a music festival on the big island in the Danube, priviate parties that I got into because I was English-speaking (and then into the VIP loft because I was English-speaking), and lots of sights around a long action-packed pedestrain street.
Bulgaria- Sofia, Plovdiv, Rila. I stayed too long and had too much fun in Sofia too, but at least I made two excursions out of the city.
Romania- Sibiu, Sighisoara, Orlat, Cluj. I went back to the same medieval fesitval in Sighisoara that I had attended two years before. The result this time was even better. I ended up meeting Raluca, my future wife!
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