Prague at Night

Central Europe

Journeys » Central Europe

July 8, 2023:  The second trip for 2023 is… Central Europe!  We are off to romantic Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Bled, and Ljubljana!  And then of course, Croatia. *Most images courtesy of wikimedia commons until we have our own!

The 2023 Plan

This year is shaping up to be our best travel year yet. We started with a fantastic two-month trip to New Zealand, with a short stop on the Big Island of Hawaii on the way home to see Volcanos National Park.  Now, after a busy three months at home in the USA, we are off again!

We start with two weeks in history-rich Central Europe.  We begin with Czechia, then to Poland, Hungary, and finally Slovenia. Each place has fascinating medieval history, amazing architecture, and great music.  Each endured dark days during WWII, and later behind the Iron Curtain. Now, all are free and thriving EU democracies, and part of NATO.

After all that history, we will chill on the Adriatic sea in Croatia.

Sunrise, Bol Croatia
Sunrise, Bol Croatia

Prague, Czechia

Prague (“Praha” in Czech) means “threshold”, an apt description of this Central European city.  It has for centuries been the border between Slavic and German, Catholic and Protestant, and Cold War East and West.  The city was historically a rich mix of Czechs, Germans and Jews. Then the Nazis invaded in 1938 and the Soviets “liberated” in 1945.  The Jewish population was decimated, and Soviet Communism was imposed, despite multiple revolts.

Then in the 1989 “Velvet Revolution,” just nine days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into Czechia and Slovakia – and Prague slipped away from Soviet Communism. 

Today tourists throng to the Staré Město (Old Town), Josefov (Jewish Quarter), and cross the famous Charles Bridge to Hradčany (the Castle Quarter).

The Charles Bridge from Lower Town
The Charles Bridge from Lower Town
St. Vitus at Dusk from the Charles Bridge
St. Vitus at Dusk from the Charles Bridge

Krakow, Poland

Krakow is the “must-see” city in Poland, with its Stare Miasto (Old Town), Wawel Hill (with its historic castle and hometown hero John Paul II’s cathedral), and the Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter).  Nearby Auschwitz and Schindler’s Factory recall dark times.  Despite the human tragedy, the city’s beautiful architecture escaped WWII and the Soviet regime relatively unscathed.

Wawel Hill, Krakow
Wawel Hill, Krakow (Wiki Commons)

Budapest, Hungary

Over 1000 years ago, invading Magyars swept into Europe from the east on horseback, raiding everywhere and finally settling in what is today Hungary.  They brought with them a unique language and culture.  Later as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, they again ruled large swaths of the continent.  But WWI and WWII left Budapest a grand capital with a small country.

Hungarian cuisine is supposed to be the best in Central Europe, with spices from the Orient and broad influence from the old Austro-Hungarian empire. It’s all about paprika!

Fishermen's Bastion, Budapest
Fishermen’s Bastion, Budapest
Parliament, Budapest
Parliament, Budapest

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Slovenia (not to be confused with “Slovakia” to the north) was once the industrial hub for Yugoslavia.  Yugoslavia steered clear of both the West and the Soviets during the Cold War, but disintegrated in the 1990s.  Slovenia was the first country to secede; they were largely able to avoid the bloody Balkan Wars that followed, and quickly leaned West to join the EU and NATO.  Their culture is a blend of Slavic, German and Italian.  And they have great wine!

Lake Bled, Slovenia
Lake Bled, Slovenia (Wiki Commons)

And Croatia, of course

Yes, we love Croatia… we’ve been four times in three years! On this trip we will revisit Rovinj for a few days, then to Baška Voda, recommended by friends.  We will cap it with time in our second favorite place, on the promenade in Bol.

Rovinj Evening
Friendly locals in Bol...
Friendly locals in Bol…
... with Food! (Bol)
… with Food!
Did I mention that we love Bol?
Did I mention that we love Bol?

Journey Map

Below is our planned route, which you can view and add as a layer in your own Google Maps. We will travel by rail, with sleeping berths for the ~8-hour overnight journeys from Prague-Krakow and Krakow-Budapest.  We will drive through scenic and mountainous Slovenia and through Croatia.

Detailed Itinerary

If you are considering a similar trip, the Itinerary PDF below provides details, including history and sights for each stop. 

Travel Bytes

I will post Travel Bytes when I get a breather!

Church of the Assumption of Maria, Lake Bled

Lake Bled


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