Little Gems of Eastern Europe
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990 resulted in Eastern Europe becoming much more accessible to travellers and since then, we’ve taken advantage of this opportunity to visit places that proved too much hassle before then. Russia and its satellite countries are full of interesting places to visit and we’re taking a look at some of the little gems of Eastern Europe that are now much easier to get to than ever.
Mljet Island, Croatia
Mljet is the biggest island of the Dalmatia region of Croatia. Only 23 miles long and about 2 miles wide, this volcanic island boasts its own inland sea with a tiny island – an island in a sea in an island. A third of Mljet has been designated Mljet National Park, its preserved forest and salt lakes providing a secure home for endangered species. There’s plenty of accommodation available on Mljet – with a hotel, holiday apartments and a camp site, there really is something to suit everybody.
Minsk is the capital city of Belarus and with its 18 museums and 12 theatres is a must for the culture vulture. Famous for its grandiose Soviet architecture, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped back in time to the Soviet era. However, Minsk is bang up to date as far as entertainment is concerned with stylish bars, world class restaurants and avant garde clubs offering the type of nightlife that would delight the most urbane and sophisticated.
Its name in Greek means ‘suspended in the air’ and that’s a fitting description of these stunning cliffs with ancient monasteries perched precariously on their summits. Only six of the original twenty four monasteries remain and they house some of the most precious religious manuscripts and artworks known to man. Accommodation is plentiful in the towns of Kastraki and Kalambaka so that visitors can explore this beautiful part of Greece with its temples and churches surrounded by some of the most verdant countryside in the Mediterranean region.
For horror film fans, a visit to Snagov, reputed to be the final resting place of Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula) is a treat not to be missed. About 25 miles north of Bucharest, Snagov nestles along the shore of Lake Snagov. Snagov Monastery was built on a small island in the lake and it’s here that the Tomb of Vlad the Impaler can be visited. Access to the island is by rowboat and head, arms and legs need to be covered in order to enter the monastery.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
You can find Lake Bled nestled at the base of the Julian Alps just over thirty miles from the capital city of Ljubjana. This glacial lake is surrounded by forests and mountains, providing the visitor with stunning views of some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe. The lake surrounds Bled Island, which is the only natural island in Slovenia and is home to the pilgrims’ Church of the Assumption of Mary. Graced with medieval frescos, the Church sports a tower a bell tower reached by climbing 99 steps. Lake Bled, which is overlooked by the medieval Bled Castle, hosted the 2011 World Rowing Championships.
Much of Eastern Europe (with so many of these Little Gems) is still largely unexplored by tourists, leaving it unspoilt and a great place to go if you’re looking for an atmosphere of pioneering adventure.