A picture-perfect trip ...
Greetings from Donna and Gary!
Please note: All the linked photos on this site have been stored at an online service called Webshots. Unfortunately, Webshots has been sold, and the past storage service has been taken down. So my Eastern Europe photos are unavailable for viewing on this site. Fortunately, I still have them on my computer and may, when I have the time, upload them to the server for this website. Until then, I apologize for the missing photos.
For 17 days in October 2007, we took a dizzying, dazzling trip through six countries of Eastern Europe, aka Central Europe. It was our second journey together to Europe, since celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2004 by touring Western Europe. We hope you'll feel our enthusiasm for these vibrant countries as you navigate through the online words and pictures that highlight many of our on-the-road memories.
Organized by Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door of Edmonds, Washington, our Best of Eastern Europe tour included historic sites in three major cities; quaint, picturesque towns; the natural beauty of waterfalls, mountains and the Adriatic Sea; the grim Auschwitz concentration camps; and connections with people through music, dance, food and conversation. We traveled on a half-full full-sized tour bus and usually stayed in small family run hotels in the heart of most villages and cities we visited.
Companion trip ...
Our tour group of 23 included friendly, fun, thoughtful and interesting people from Washington, California, Illinois, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Our fellow tour members included a group of 15 friends who had toured together before as well as newcomers to the wonderful Rick Steves philosophy of backdoor sightseeing as temporary Europeans. We felt welcomed into the existing group of fellow travelers. Each country page features our new friends in the left-hand column. At right, our tour group in Eger, Hungary.
By creating this website, we're honoring our comrades in this Europe-through-the-backdoor adventure. We're expressing appreciation for our tour companions as we share our fond photographic memories with them and with our families, friends and colleagues. At right, our tour group at Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.
Welcome to all other visitors to our website. All our photos, linked photos and photo albums are yours to enjoy. Click on small images and text links for larger photos or photo albums.
Guiding lightly ...
Leading our Rick Steves tour group was fantastic guide Ben Curtis and his terrific assistant, Levente Nagy, originally from Budapest, and our conscientious bus driver, Boyan, of Slovenia. They and their local guides led stimulating, informative tours but also gave us ample time to find our own way, get lost temporarily, visit shops old and new, connect independently with our traveling companions, and make our own discoveries. At right, guides Ben and Levente at a Hungarian rest stop.
A hearty thank you to all our guides for helping to make our journey such a fun, well-organized, meaningful experience with limited stress. And thank you to Rick Steves for your mind-broadening global perspectives and opportunities: Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. At right, our local tour guide, Anna Gaga, in Krakow, Poland.
At home abroad ...
Finally, our website honors the people who served us in European hotels, restaurants, shops, museums and other locations. Though we were English-speaking Americans visiting foreign countries, everyone we met helped us with respect and good cheer. At right, the shy but friendly daughter of a shop owner in Otocac, Croatia.
We learned so much this year about how Eastern Europeans have overcome tyrannical rule, ethnic cleansing and bloody wars. They now live in peace with their neighbors, creating a vibrant, friendly, colorful and capitalistic place for themselves and curious visitors. After more than 40 years, the dark, foreboding gloom of communist rule behind the Iron Curtain mostly ended in 1989. It lives now only in museums, history books and lingering memories.
Our second European journey together continued to strengthen our appreciation for the centuries of art, music, wisdom and history, diverse humanity, and varied environments outside the United States and throughout our planet.
"Another year over, and a new one just begun. ... Let's hope it's a good one." The image at right (our December 2007 holiday card) shows part of the Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic. The wall is a living memorial to free expression and musician/peace activist John Lennon. Prague residents created the wall after Lennon was murdered in 1980. To minimize freedom of expression, communist authorities would frequently paint over the messages. Since the fall of communism in the early '90s, the wall has continued to provide residents and visitors with an artistic outlet for their messages of hope and peace.
With hope for worldwide peace, justice, freedom, and
©Gary and Donna Larson. Modified Dec. 31, 2012.
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Useful Links: Other Web sites about Eastern European countries, cities, sights and travel tips, global views, and even Seattle.
22 Nights and Dazed in (Western) Europe--Gary and Donna Larson, summer 2004