Tirana, Albania: From Despair to Hope

13 Restaurant row

An energetic and progressive Tirana is what we see. Fine places to dine, vibrant shops, parks for strolling, traffic chaos, buildings undergoing facelifts, new structures taking form under a flourish of cranes. Locals tell us Tirana has changed beyond belief from its once austere and dull grey of past decades. The country’s sobering history is evidenced throughout the city in Ottoman, Italian and ... Read Full Article

When in Kosovo Enjoy Pristina and Nearby Prizren

Kosovo National Library

The atmosphere is effervescent! Families are out enjoying a sunny Sunday. Small cafes are filled to capacity. The scent of roasting chestnuts wafts from charcoal burners on every corner. A visit to Kosovo shows that tourism is on its way up, and rightfully so! And, When in Kosovo Enjoy Pristina and Nearby Prizren. We absorb the scope of light-hearted activity as we walk along Mother Teresa ... Read Full Article

Sighisoara, Romania: a Tour of the Towers

clock tower in Sighisoara, Romania's

Sighisoara, in Romania's Transylvania region, has beautifully preserved medieval city walls, incorporating nine fascinating towers. Let's visit the towers in clockwise order, starting with the most famous. The clock tower is the citadel's main tower, and is intentionally located at what was considered a sacred compass point, the east. It's easy to see from a glance that its robust, chunky ... Read Full Article

Top 10 Reasons to Visit Russia

Iconic Red Square

Winston Churchill called Russia a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” which is perhaps even more true today; just read the news. Russia is on the far eastern edge of Europe and tourism there can be expensive and frustrating. Nevertheless, the only possible way to understand one of the world’s great countries is to stand on her soil. I worked at the Anglo-American School of Moscow ... Read Full Article

Alba Iulia, Romania: Six Centuries of History in one Hilltop Fortress

The Third Gate at Alba Iulia

Alba Iulia, in Romania’s Transylvania region, has a hilltop citadel where many historical eras come to life, dominated by two massive cathedrals with over 600 tumultuous years dividing them. But far from being stuck in the past, the city is a trailblazer in terms of renovating its assets and achieving recognition on the international stage. In 2012 the municipality was named a European ... Read Full Article

A Visit to Deva Castle in Romania

he ruined state of the castle is due to an apparently accidental explosion during 1848-49

Deva, a city in Romania's Transylvania region, has an evocative hilltop fortress that pays testimony to many past conflicts - military and religious. Deva's extensive ruined castle perches atop a volcanic hill 370 meters high. That makes it easy to see from anywhere in town, especially with the large white letters that spell DEVA around the hill. Unusually for a Transylvanian city, the ... Read Full Article

River Cruise: The Ultimate Shopping Shuttle

We cruised aboard the AMABella

You’ve done Paris, you’ve seen Rome but when’s the last time you’ve dug for vintage treasures in Budapest? Or shopped off-the-runway furs in Vienna? For true shopaholics looking to welcome 2015 with a (fashion) bang there’s no better place than Eastern Europe. With local Christmas markets popping up across the region, from big cities to small hamlets, it really is the most wonderful time of the ... Read Full Article

The Crazy Days! ‘Carnival’ All Over Europe

Carnival in Venice

The ritual of ‘Carnival’ has been a prominent institution of cultural life since well beyond the days of antiquity—Ancient Greeks and Romans honoured deities Dionysus and Bacchus with wine feasts and orgies; Germanic Tribes chased wild winter spirits during the smoky nights of the ‘Rauchnachte’; Christians continued on with festivities of their own, with countless offshoots of festive tradition ... Read Full Article

A Christmas Market River Cruise on the Viking Baldur

The Vienna Christmas Market set in front of the Vienna City Hall

My husband Bill and I were invited to take a cruise with Viking River Cruises and decided that a Christmas Market Cruise on the Danube could be a fun way to get into the holiday spirit. Our 7 day cruise started in Passau, Germany and ended in Budapest, Hungary. This was our first river cruise on Viking. A few weeks before the trip, our documents arrived along with our full itinerary, ... Read Full Article

Memories of Communist-era Prague

These American kids definitely stuck out. Think it was the jeans?

Prague is undeniably a magical city, a beautiful tourist paradise rich in history. But a visitor who was a student there 45 years ago reveals a different city hidden in plain sight, one with a drab, painful, and very recent past. Travelers just need to know where to look.  Prague in 1969 My friend Mike spent five months - from January to May of 1969 - studying in Prague and Brno with Portland’s ... Read Full Article