Back Home From Eastern Europe


I returned home yesterday after being awake for 32 hours straight. Boy was I tired. To make the long flight from Bucharest, Romania, we landed in Amsterdam, Netherlands for the endless flight to Minneapolis. Can you believe our flight went 1,468 miles out of the way? That added about five hours to an already long day. The images you are seeing are from the boat in Budapest at night and in the gallery below, two from during the day for contrast. Click galleries to enlarge because the scenery is very appealing.

I was visiting 7 countries in Eastern Europe, starting in Prague, Czech Republic, then moving onto Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, ending at Bucharest, Romania. First we landed in Prague and toured by foot and bus for 4 days. Next, we boarded a bus to take us to Slovakia then further onto Budapest, Hungary. A few days in Budapest on our luxury river boat, the River Concerto, for a sail down the Danube to the remaining countries. The city is just gorgeous, especially at night as seen.

The cabin was nice and the service outstanding. We were served delicious local meals from all the locations we visited. This was not just any food mind you, but all gourmet food. Five to six course meals never stopped either, it was like a foodathon from morning until night. I thought when I got home I would weigh ten or more pounds, but to my surprise, I was the same weight as when I left.

Being sick before we left, I was healthy for the first 12 days of my trip. But then… ironically, people started getting sick with the same upper respiratory illness I had before the trip. One by one the boat passengers got ill and I was also not immune to get sick once AGAIN. Four days of coughing, headaches, sore throat, and I was back in respiratory agony. I missed a bus tour in Belgrade, but did venture out on foot later in the day. I found myself a bit too wary to explore Serbia on my own, going back to the boat to await the group. Sickness did not keep me down as you can see from the images. Although having recently started a decent tourist trade, many countries still are uncertain as to their future. I would hope fighting has stopped because it is a shame to lose any more of these beautiful, historic structures.

ChurchInterior-3Funny thing in these countries, we did not have to present passports – the boat crew handled that for us. I was surprised considering all the problems in the world that many countries did not even verify we were who our passports said we were. Free travel is normal in EU countries, but some countries are not part of the European Union, like Serbia. And Serbia is concerned with what is happening in their region with Russia. Strangely, the people there are divided on being a part of Russia once again. The same in Hungary.



I did learn all about Communism in these countries and what life was like under Communist rule. I have to say, I do understand why there are people wanting and not wanting to lose independence. Young and elderly people are without jobs. There is no or little middle class in most countries visited. Even though some older folks lost land and property during Communist occupation, they still want this way of life back. Others accustom to freedoms like we have in this country want nothing to do with oppressive rule. But the lure of all having jobs, safety, an apartment and food is a great enticement. What you find though, they had little happiness. In Hungary, people rarely ever smiled. It was sad. But it can be understood as their country was greatly reduced in size over the years after Yugoslavia was portioned off into smaller countries.

In Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria, the bombed out buildings were in contrast to what I saw in Prague. In WW2, Hitler deemed Prague so beautiful, it was off-limits to be bombed we were told. Hitler did threaten a bombing raid against Prague though unless he obtained free passage for German troops into Czech borders and of course, he got what he wanted. Many historic structures in Prague did escape the destruction of war, including Prague’s historic Astronomical Clock, still in existence today. The Astronomical Clock tracks Central European, Babylonian and Sidereal time – the last one in the world that does.

Prague-Astrological-ClockWith all the beauty, you have very noticeable destruction unfortunately. Bullet, bombed buildings below.

Every country had their own language and currency. You would think this to be a barrier but it was not. Many spoke English. Dollars were taken quite often. My only problem was my American Express Gold Card was not honored at ATM machines, and that meant no local currency. I found it unnecessary for the most part since all our meals were part of our package and many upscale boutiques took my Am Ex card. I was not interested in shopping anyway, but was interested in their art. I found many local artists making delightful and colorful pieces. I did purchase a hand painted barrette for my long, long hair and a small painting from a street vendor. If you love handcrafted art, Eastern Europe is rich in selection.


At the end of the trip, it snowed in Bucharest, Romania. When I checked the ten-day forecast before the trip, the weather prediction for Bucharest was 78°! Needless to say, no winter clothes were brought. It was jeans, layers and layers to stay warm. The visit to the Black Sea in Constanta was hurricane weather winds. I so wanted to wade in the Black Sea, but no chance to with winds picking us off the ground. Some of the group ventured out on the very windy beach, and one was blown to the ground. Me… not quite so venturesome.

Next post, the images are from the ride on the river – Danube. Later, I will show you some of the places we visited, like private homes and shops. Cathedrals and Mosques were plentiful (as you see in this post), so I will have them as well. Keep watching!

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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58 Responses to Back Home From Eastern Europe

  1. Beautiful Captures 🙂 I want to see more of Europe after being in Ireland last month. The history, the culture, the people – AMAZING experience. Happy Day – Welcome Back!

  2. alesiablogs says:

    I have a video my husband and I made while in Prague that we put on DVD. We had it on VHS for many years. It was taken in 1992. It captures many of the scenic photos you took. It is funny looking at it because I was so young looking back then. haha In regards to the weight staying the same, I have one thought on that. You must have coughed it off! Glad you are home and safe and sound. Boost your energy for the next big trip! haha

  3. Wonderful trip you had Donna. Get some rest and get us some good gardening posts. Lol. Glad you’re back.

  4. swo8 says:

    What a wonderful trip. That is a lovely part of the world. Just love the architecture.

  5. paxami says:

    Welcome home, Looking forward to more photos and commentary. Sonja

  6. Christine says:

    Stunning photos Donna!

  7. Glad you are safely home, Donna, after your fabulous trip! Sorry you were unwell again. Your photos are stunning. I especially like the church interiors. I’m learning a lot — keep it coming! P. x

  8. diggingher says:

    Your photo’s and story are amazing! I am sure you have many wonderful memories.

  9. It’s nice to have you back. Sorry to hear you were sick again. What exquisite architecture! Your photos are wonderful. I’m glad you had some fun.

  10. Your photos were very stunning. I especially loved the night photos and the cathedral. So sorry you got sick again. That long trip home certainly didn’t help. Hope you are on the mend now. Looking forward to more photos of your travel experiences!

    • Oh my gosh, I have been sick for over two months straight. This sickness was not what kept me down the last two months, but it was a doozy on top of my other issues. I dreaded the plane ride because on the way there we were crammed into 17″ economy seats with MY knees in the seat in front of me and the guy behind me having his knees in my back. Having a 9.75 hour transatlantic flight back, I thought I was doomed. Lucky the 330 airbus had more generous seating. The last flight to Minneapolis was the killer.

  11. bittster says:

    Beautiful, amazing… the nighttime photos are perfect! Glad to have you back stateside 🙂

  12. debsgarden says:

    You just got home after being awake for 32 hours and just recently ill? And already you have put up this fabulous post! You have my deepest admiration, and you win my award for Super-blogger! I really enjoyed a look at Eastern Europe. It is beautiful, but so sad that many places still bear the marks of war. The Astronomical Clock is a masterpiece!

    • Considering it was created in 1410, it really is a masterpiece. Can you imagine that fine work today even? Thanks for saying I deserve an award from you. I have been out of the loop so long and missed not having internet access. I tried posting from abroad, but it was such a chore. Internet went out and what was posted kept getting lost. I wanted to post a travel log of daily travel, but once on the Danube, there were very few large towns. The main problem was on the boat our internet was by one iPhone (hotspot access) for a boat holding almost 180 people including crew.

  13. lma7 says:

    Thank You for all the beautiful photos! Welcome to see Finland too!

  14. What a lovely tour! So sorry to hear you were sick, but it sounds like you didn’t let that hold you down. My daughter spent a couple of weeks in Eastern Europe during her study abroad experience, and described it similarly. Welcome home!

  15. Debra says:

    Welcome back! I am so sorry to hear you were ill… and thanks so much for these amazing photos.

  16. Sounds like a dream trip, too bad you were sick for part of it. It’s very confusing to think about the transition from communism in these countries. When I visited my son in Russia it seemed as if the average Russian was actually worse off than they had been under the Soviet Union, nor had they gained much in terms of Democracy or freedom of expression. On the other hand it seems that some countries, like the Czech Republic and Estonia, have really thrived. Gorgeous pics, by the way. And you must have done LOTS of walking to keep from gaining weight from all that rich food (lots of sour cream, I bet)!

  17. Beautiful photos. An amazing experience. 😀

  18. The rich architectural detail is just stunning, especially the interiors of the buildings. Love the church photos. Sadly throughout Europe you can still find remnants of the damage of WWII, When I was in East Berlin you could still see find buildings with bullet and small arms damage.

  19. Rose says:

    Beautiful, beautiful! What an amazing trip this must have been! As much as I enjoyed the photos, though, I also appreciated your impressions of the people in each country and the conditions there. I didn’t know that Hitler never bombed Prague–that must be the only good thing we can say for him. I recently watched the movie “The Monuments Men” and thought about all the beautiful art and architecture that was destroyed during that war, not to mention later wars in countries like Serbia. I hope that these countries can find a way to keep peace and to keep their borders open for more people to enjoy.

    • This trip was more than sightseeing. The cruise company prides itself on exposing passengers to many cultural experiences. Talks are educational in that they invite in locals to give us talks on their experiences and impressions of ways of life we in this country are unfamiliar. Some lived through the wars in this region and I have to say there was much told that was quite alarming. One man told us of his looking right down the barrel of a gun at age 15 at the hands of those opposing his rebel group in the Romania Revolution in 1989. It really does seem that this area will never have complete freedom from the fear of oppression of one way or another. Serbia especially was a war torn country. It was one I found hard to see for what it was like before devastation. New buildings replace old and much of the Communist “anti-architecture” remains.

  20. Rose says:

    P.S. Hope you are feeling better, Donna. Sometimes those nasty respiratory viruses can hang on for what seems forever. Glad you were able to enjoy the trip nevertheless.

    • Thanks Rose. I cannot shake this illness. I was on antibiotics, but they did nothing for my sickness. If they did, it was not enough to rid me of it. Quite a few on the ship got sick as well, and those I talked to are still quite ill. Me, I am mostly over it, but still it hangs on.

  21. Victor Ho says:

    Quite a trip and a great travelogue. I did find the D610 to be a great camera. Good luck with the D750. It’s funny that travel pictures always show sunny skies and gorgeous landscapes. We forget rain and snow and illness. Sorry for the down time and your snowy day.

  22. Pat says:

    What a fabulous collection of photos!

  23. What a wonderful trip. I read your words and felt sad that there is little joy in Hungary. One of the great values of travel is the gratitude it generates in the traveler for the comforts of home. Love your photos and look forward to more.

    • When we were told this about people there, they explained when the country was portioned off, their relatives became minority residents of other countries. As minorities, they experienced what all minorities face. The Hungarians in particular have some resentment and much distrust, especially those that went through the dividing up of the country.

  24. Indie says:

    What an amazing trip! That is too bad you were sick for part of it. Such gorgeous buildings and fascinating, rich and complicated history. I’ve always wanted to visit Eastern Europe. It was great to see your pictures!

  25. Your tour and the history behind each beautiful piece of photography are fascinating. The churches and Astronomical Clock are AMAZING! Thank you for sharing your ventures with us.

  26. Beautiful pictures Donna, simply breathtaking. I look forward to catching up more on your travels.

  27. I especially like the tiled roof patterns and the clocks. Nice post 🙂

  28. Donna welcome back and I hope you are felling better. What a great adventure to see and learn so much from. I look forward to more posts.

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