Western Europe gets all the attention, but that means it also gets all the tourists. Here are some of my favorite old cities that I’ve visited on the other side of the continent, along with a few photos I took while there. Granted, a few of these places are now squarely on the backpacker circuit, but many remain underexplored. What they all share is an incredible, exhilarating sense of urbanism — old and new.
Eastern Europe itself is hard to define. Competing designations might include only the former Soviet states, or all the formerly communist European nations. Others might separate a limited Eastern Europe out from Central and Southeastern Europe. Here I will play fast and loose with the geographic boundaries: these are just cities somewhere vaguely toward the eastern side of the continent. Apologies to any readers whose country is usually considered a part of Central or Southern Europe.
First up: Mostar. A small city in the south of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mostar is most famous for its medieval Ottoman center and its Old Bridge, or Stari Most:
Continue reading The Beautiful Cities of Eastern Europe
After my recent trip through Myanmar, I backpacked across Laos. Much like Myanmar, Laos was closed to tourism and the West for decades, but has recently re-opened its doors. Unlike Myanmar, Laos is officially a communist state – one of only five remaining in the world, alongside Cuba, China, Vietnam, and (nominally) North Korea.
Continue reading Off the Beaten Path in Laos
I recently had the opportunity to travel across Myanmar for the first time. It’s a fascinating country, only recently emerging from decades of isolation. Travelers here today are greeted with the first few baby steps toward a tourism industry, as well some of the kindest people and most spectacular sights in Asia.
Myanmar is not the easiest country to approach. It remains, effectively, a military dictatorship wracked with corruption and abuse. Government officials control the airlines and hotels for personal profit. Large swaths of eastern Myanmar are dedicated to opium plantations funneling foreign currency into the pockets of powerful officials. Even its name is controversial: many foreign governments still officially recognize only its traditional name, Burma, as a political statement against the authoritarian regime that renamed it Myanmar in 1989.
Continue reading Off the Beaten Path in Myanmar