Across Europe, individuals and businesses involved in the tourism industry will be preparing for the upcoming summer season. In April, I begin my second year as a tour leader.
In Europe I had only travelled to a handful of countries, predominantly in the west. So, when told I would be running tours across the Central and Eastern regions I was jumping at the opportunity to visit new places. Throughout the season I lead numerous tours covering more twenty countries, visiting cities including Vienna, Prague, Venice, Helsinki and Dubrovnik. Here are just some of the places that made a big impression on me.
Krakow is well worth seeing and sums up the country as a whole. Being in the centre of Europe it has been dominated by its neighbours who have left both Western and Eastern influences. Take a stroll through the old town, stop for a coffee and Pierogi, in the square before visiting the Wawel. In the evenings try Zubrowka and join the locals in listening to Klezmer music in Kazimierz. If you are there a couple of days, take a guided tour to Auschwitz, the scene of some of the most atrocious acts of violence history has seen.
If you want stunning scenery, visit Montenegro and the town of Kotor, where the views are just breathtaking. Once you have got over the cruise ships, take a challenging hike upto the fort for a spectacular view of the old town and surrounding area. Come down and reward yourself with a swim in the calm and cool water, followed by a fresh fish dinner watching the sunset over the Fjord.
Second on the list for amazing views would be the small but stunning Bled, in Slovenia. Start with an early morning walk round the lake and to the castle, followed by a bike ride to the gorge and finish with a open air film night on the shores of the lake.
An enchanting treasure
Cesky Krumlov, is only a couple hours bus ride from Prague and is fast becoming known as a must see town. The locals are extremely welcoming and helpful, whilst the food is full of flavour with plenty of choice for both vegetarians and meat lovers alike. In the morning, rent a bike and journey through the countryside, come back and raft down the gentle, clear river then treat yourself to Trdelnik and the local Eggenberg beer.
The best of Bosnia
Sarajevo and the surrounding countryside is an incredible place where both European and Middle Eastern influences have combined to create a city full of charm and culture. This year will be special, as there are three major anniversaries taking place. Firstly, to remember one of the longest sieges in history. Secondly, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the winter Olympics. Finally, the annual film festival, which in the past has attracted celebrities including Morgan Freeman.
Finally, Budapest, a city perhaps a bit rough round the edges but that just adds character. Start the morning off by visiting the bustling market then walk upto the castle where you can sit and have a drink whilst watching the changing of the guard. In the afternoon, take time out to relax in one of the many thermal baths before trying the goulash and spending the evening in the lively ruin bars that are synonymous with the city.
A final thought
Throughout the upcoming season I will use this as a way of providing in-depth insider tips and suggestions on the destinations my tours run through. Hopefully, this will include; some suggestions for good restaurants, the top attractions, transport tips, how to behave like a local and anything else I think might be useful.
Thank you for reading this article and I would appreciate any comments you have.