Stephan I, the first Hungarian king crowned in or around the year 1000, was declared a Catholic saint soon after his death and an Orthodox saint a thousand years later.
In 1945, Warsaw had been destroyed to such an extent that the only place which offered conditions for reopening foreign embassies was the centrally-located Hotel Polonia. Looking for France? Room 22, s'il vous plaît.
Prosecco’s Italian name is a direct descendant of the Slavic prošek. The latter word is still used in Croatia, but for a different kind of wine. Now the argument has made it to the European Council.
During Stalinist times, this now-Estonian town evaporated from the map as it turned into a militarized zone and a source of uranium ore for the Soviet nuclear program.
Along with its counterpart in Gdańsk, Poland, this Czech masterpiece of medieval engineering gives you as many details on time and astronomy as the present-day three iPhone widgets.
Some four hundred kilometers from the nearest seashore, a former quarry in Kadzielnia is home to remains of a coral reef, not dissimilar to that near the Bahamas.
Lithuanians brag about the mildness of their native language. So in order to keep it clean, they simply use either Russian or English whenever they want to say something particularly naughty.
Commonly known as a "Maluch” (Eng: "the little one”), the Fiat 126p was a car that Poles dreamed of for decades. Even though it's been out of production for years, it is still attracting unexpected admirers. Like Tom Hanks (yes - that one).
In one famous photo, a woman dines in her house at the table together with a half-ton wild boar. The same woman grieved the loss of her lynx as if it was her daughter. Am I talking about a fictional character from children’s books? No. In fact, I am recalling an actual Polish larger-than-life zoopsychologist.
After Polish tennis player Iga Świątek won the US Open, commentators from all around the world struggled to pronounce her name. Here’s how to do it right.
The disputed identity of the famous Medieval monk, scholar, astronomer, manager, and economist was made clear after the recent exhumation of his supposed tomb.
Have you ever wondered why there is the same word for a tourist bus and a person who trains athletes? There is a good reason, and it comes straight from a small village in Hungary.
The iconic Palace of Culture and Science is a monumental skyscraper in Warsaw's city center, now considered somewhat controversial due to its Stalinist genesis. Even so, it turns out that Varsovians now have a soft spot for this cultural landmark and do not want to see it demolished.
In one scene of "Return of the Jedi," a protocolar android addresses a person in Polish. Was Jabba the Hut's servant a Socialist economic migrant, or did American producers just want to impress viewers with an exotic language?
Harry Houdini, son of a Rabbi from Budapest, was not only a pioneer in his discipline of entertainment but also a master in breaking the chains of countries’ boundaries as he gained truly international fame.
The recent archeological discovery of a 17th C. woman’s corpse buried with a sickle around her neck points directly to her being suspected of some undead activity. However, her moniker, the vampiress, isn’t entirely fitting. It’s not that she wasn’t suspected of being undead (she was), but the term “vampire” doesn’t fit her time and place.
The old saying goes, "Stop trying to reinvent the wheel." However, often overlooked in this statement is exactly how many times the wheel has, in fact, been reinvented. The Ljubljana Marshes Wheel found Slovenia is the oldest wheel ever found.
Varosliget, or City Park, was established in Pest (before it was connected to Buda) over three decades before the same was done in London – a city now known for its parks.
When World War Two ended in Central Europe and the Iron Curtain, as famously called by Winston Churchill, descended “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic,” the eastern side of the curtain began filling with monuments of victory. In August 2022, yet another of those monuments fell.
People, goods, and mail were moved by air for the first time at the beginning of the 20th century. And the first regular route for long-distance air travel was between European cities in Austria-Hungary.
With a narrative spanning from the famous CIA headquarters in Langley, VA to exotic Thailand, Netflix's latest blockbuster set most of its action in-between the two, right in the heart of Central Europe. And don't worry – thanks to the power of CGI, no actual locations were harmed during filming.
With up to 21 hectares of area, Malbork in northern Poland was, by far, the largest gothic stronghold of the Teutonic Order. It was never conquered and only changed sides for political reasons.
The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, a cult novel about Spain, written in French by a Polish aristocrat and an intellectual genius, got transcribed to hypertext, shedding new light on its content.
Invented in the late 1950s, this simple, sturdy aluminum electric cooker didn’t even have power regulation. But it was so handy and ingenious that Russian housewives called it a "miracle oven,” and even today, some Polish cooks can’t imagine life without it.
When Austrian and Polish soldiers captured Turkish positions after the Battle of Vienna, they thought that the tiny, brown seeds they found were horse fodder. However, soon enough, they were all enjoying a new kind of brew that was exported across Europe.
The whole of Europe can be divided into two parts, just based on the name of this staple drink - tea. The only countries that escape this division are the former members of the Polish-Lithuania commonwealth. So, what can we glean from this fact?
In 1818, Joseph Madersperger invented the sewing machine. A few decades later, none other than Karl Marx called it the ultimate tool of the revolution.
On 1 October 1869, the Austrian Post Office issued its first postcard. Today merely a collectible, they were for decades a communication staple, as texting is now.
Hungary is famous for being a landlocked country. However, the great lake of Balaton makes up for that fact to Hungarians, who appreciate this lake so vast, it allows you to enjoy a riviera.
At 16 square kilometers, the Lithuanian enclave of the Republic of Paulava was one of the tiniest countries in the known world. It was a progressive realm where personal freedom was protected, and even peasants could own land.
Thonet, an almost two-century-old Central European furniture manufacturer, is best known for its No. 14 Chair, which can be seen in the paintings of many French Impressionist café dwellers.
With almost a thousand castles and another 1100 stately homes, Czechia tops the list of places to visit for those in search of aristocratic residences. In fact, one castle in Prague is considered the largest ancient building in the world. So how did Czechia become the land of castles?
Thanks to a combination of the Eastern Bloc’s economic structure, effective export deals, and last but not least, great products, Hungarian bus manufacturer Ikarus was able to dominate the Eastern Bloc’s transportation business - and even some of the West’s, too.
The RPG game “This War of Mine” about civilian life in under-siege Sarajevo was the first videogame in the world to ever make it into school curriculum.
Is this real life? Is this a fantasy? In Croatia, former Yugoslavia, you can explore abandoned underground airbases. Some of them, like Željava, even have a history of daring escapes from the war-torn country.
After a scandal of large-scale wine adultery in the vineyard heartland of Austria, it was time to tidy up the fallout. What followed was the successful renaissance of Austrian winemaking.
Are you looking for sunny skies and sandy beaches? There's a gem hiding in plain sight in a spot you might not have thought to look. And the best part: fewer tourists. For now, at least.
In honor of one of the world's greatest composers, his homeland's confectioners created Mozartkugeln – spherical chocolates and Austria's top souvenir for over a century now.
To easily navigate through Central Europe, you should know at least a few languages and no fewer than two scripts. The border between Latin and Cyrillic scripts is one of culture and politics.
Although voted never to be activated in the aftermath of the Chornobyl meltdown, Austria’s Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant remains in good condition as a research facility and a unique film set.
One restaurant is the oldest. Piwnica Świdnicka in Wrocław opened in 1275. Only slightly younger is Cracow’s Wierzynek, named after Poland's first famous restaurateur.
Ernő Rubik, the inventor of the world’s famous Rubik’s Cube, with a background in building and furniture design, is now a STEM promotor, game designer, and an acclaimed symbol of Hungary.
András Arató, a “silver” model for stock photos, became an internet phenomenon a few years ago. Recognized for his incredibly unique smile, some were surprised to learn he’s an actual person, and a Hungarian too.
With two million citizens and a whopping 1.5 thousand kilometers squared, the Silesian Conurbation is a much larger urban area than the Polish capital – Warsaw. It consists of multiple cities that grew to meet each other’s borders.
Most countries across Europe, especially those of Central Europe, have a strain of DNA in common. They all were once influenced by the Habsburgs, a dynasty that for centuries ruled in different parts of Europe.
The festival was also the birthplace of punk rock under communism, despite the fact that it was considered a safety mechanism to prevent a youth-led revolution against socialist power.
Dracula's Transylvanian castle is huge enough to be a symbol of vampire menace. While it may appear to be a castle made from pure fantasy, it is, indeed, quite real. But it's actually in Slovakia.
In 2019 right after the Polish parliamentary election, the Parliamentary Committee for Women's Rights took up a cause particular to Poland. One against the tradition of greeting women by kissing their hands.
The blockbuster screen adaptation of the famous "Chronicles of Narnia" was partially set in Poland. The country owes this to an unusual rock formation called the Errant Rocks – part of the Stołowe Mountains (Table Mountains) chain.
The Varangian colonization of Ruthenia (modern-day Ukraine) was possible thanks to a river route flowing all the way from Lithuania through to the Black Sea.
St. Anne’s Mountain in Poland was a part of the German territory when the Nazis decided to commemorate the Battle of Annaberg with a mausoleum, theater, and a monument park. After the war, it changed allegiances and now honors members of the uprising.
Starting as far back as the 15th century, people in Poland and Lithuania would pour vodka into oak barrels and bury them underground for many years. Making Starka, barrel-aged vodka, was connected to the maturing process of their children.
Latvia's second-largest city, Daugavpils, is home to the Mark Rothko Art Center, named after one of the most famous artists in the world, who was born in the city in 1903.
"Tytus, Romek i A'Tomek" was the longest-running Polish comic book series. But its creator's biography extended beyond the adventures of a monkey born from an inkblot.
The discovery of the 17,000-year-old Venus of Piatra Neamț figurine in North-Eastern Romania in 2019 was supposed to be an archeological miracle. However, some eagle-eyed journalists discovered that certain puzzle pieces do not fit into the story.
The Struve Geodetic Arc is a network of triangulation towers spanning Scandinavia to the Black Sea. They made it possible to take the first accurate measurement of a meridian arc.
In Czechia, the beer-drinking culture without a shadow of a doubt constitutes its national heritage. Activists are now fighting for official recognition of this fact by UNESCO.
Spanning an impressive 249 meters, Ventas Rumba is the widest waterfall on the Old Continent. This width makes up for its relatively modest 2-meter height. Each year on midsummer's eve, the waterfall is the setting for a stark sight - as in a stark naked one - as revelers streak across the nearby bridge in the moonlight.
In 1387, Lithuania became the last European nation to convert to Christianity. However, Romuva, the old, native Lithuanian religion, did not die out. In fact, it’s in the middle of a resurgence, with the number of followers doubling in recent years.
There's little doubt that one of the best holiday destinations in Europe is Croatia's Dalmatian coast. This is somewhat old news, as the area was already known as a dream retirement spot 1,700 years ago, attracting even the likes of Roman emperors.
Medieval Polish historian Jan Długosz once claimed that trees in the Roztocze Forest turned to stone just a few years after death. The reality is just a bit more complicated.
In Kruszyniany, a small village in northeastern Poland, you can still experience the culture (and even cuisine) of the Tartar. Steppe Warriors were introduced as a lethal weapon against heavy German cavalry. The last Tartar families integrated into a colorful mix of cultures and religions along the eastern borders of Poland.
Who knows if it's the diet or just something in the air, but three out of the five countries that produce the most female models per capita are in the Baltic region: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
A corpse found on the border between Austria and Italy seemed so fresh that the tourists who found it called the police. But it was archeologists would eventually dispute the nationality of the ice man.
While Józef Piłsudski worked on his leading role in the politics of future Poland, his brother Bronisław became an ethnographer. He is credited with the only remaining recordings of a lost spoken Japanese language.
The Pionier 1907 Cinema may not be the most modern and state-of-the-art movie theater in the world, but its name is no accident. Though it recently lost its title as oldest running cinema in the world, it is still in a close second, with a title made official on a Guinness Record certificate.
The fragile situation created by a Christian kingdom vs a Christian knightly order pressured medieval Polish lawyers to expand on an ancient Roman idea.
Hungary's ruling politicians under Soviet rule took inspiration from the country's most famous traditional dish, using it as a model for running its politics. Though the ingredients were different, the methods for combining them had certain similarities.
The revolution against the Soviets took different and unique forms in each country in the Eastern Bloc. In Estonia - it took the form of choirs.
With the advent of modern science, there also came modern detectives. One of the first was Juan Vučetić, born in Hvar, Croatia, who pioneered dactyloscopy and was the first person in history to identify a killer based on a bloody fingerprint.
Russia has repeatedly either "invited" Poland to take part in partitioning Ukraine or accused Poland of plans to do so. The Curzon Line, drawn a hundred years ago, helps to understand the distinction amid the current military buildup.
"The Art of Love," a guide to satisfactory sex, effective conception, and contraception, was a scandal – and an immediate success – in Poland in the 1970s.
A 200 kg stone with curious inscriptions found in Canada's Nova Scotia has scientists and historians wondering if perhaps this stone bears proof that a Hungarian set foot on North American soil centuries before Christopher Columbus.
When thinking about the oldest universities in Europe, the first that come to mind are probably Oxford or the Sorbonne. That would be a good guess, as those are indeed among the ten oldest universities in the world, most of which were founded in the 13th century or earlier.
"Mr. Blot's Academy" was a magical school described by Jan Brzechwa six decades before "Harry Potter." In the character of the Professor, some see Janusz Korczak, a pedagogue so dedicated to the Jewish orphans in his care that he went with them all the way to the gas chamber.
We can call this episode "That time when Latvians built a tower to have a higher highest point than their neighbor." In reality, the highest Latvian and Estonian peaks just barely classify as "mountains." And at one point, Latvia even built a tower on top of its highest peak just to surpass its Estonian rival.
When speaking about certain prolific figures in Hungarian science in the early 1900s, some of their western colleagues suggested that they might as well be from Mars with their heavily accented English and superhuman intellect.
The decades-long debate between Poland and Russia over who invented vodka started to turn in Poland's favor when an A-list Hollywood star stepped in to help the old myths to die hard.
The Estonian city home to the University of Tartu has had multiple names and belonged to numerous countries. Despite the constant change, the university has managed to turn its varied heritage into a positive, now known internationally for its high level of education and openness to forward-thinking academic pursuits.
It’s always good to know your neighbor. This is almost certainly the case in the village of Hum, Croatia, which boasts fewer than 30 current residents. Besides its tiny size, its other claim to fame is a secret recipe supposedly passed down by Celtic Druids some two thousand years ago.
This former part of the Soviet Empire is known for being one of the most digitally-advanced societies globally. It was the first to offer the possibility of sending votes via the internet.
…and the country knows exactly how to put them to good use. We're taking a deep dive into some of the best thermal spas Slovakia has to offer.
The magical combination of carrot, parsley, celery, and leek is so ubiquitous in Polish cuisine that it forms its own category called "the Italian stuff”. The tradition dates back to one dynastic marriage in the 16th century.
The A.S. Bytom Funeral Home found a thousand ways to ridicule the fear of death. It’s among the most prevalent Polish memes on the internet, and thousands perhaps still believe (or hope) it exists.
On one day in 1989, two million people formed Baltic Way: the longest human chain in history. It connected three capitals and represented unity and freedom.
One of the largest and most elaborate murals from Communist Europe consists of three million porcelain pieces and makes a huge impression. In fact, it had such an impact upon its unveiling that its creator was forced to flee Romania.
The Medieval Wieliczka Salt Mine in southern Poland has many wonders. If a one-day visit is not enough for you, feel free to go on and just spend the night in the underground hostel.
Yes, there is a way to measure it - many, actually, depending on who is doing the assessment. For many years now, whenever standards of living are measured, Vienna has managed to snag one of the top spots.
Croatia’s Višnjan Observatory is the most successful in the world when it comes to looking out for asteroids that could possibly crash into Earth.
Although his colleagues, such as Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, are more remembered today, Šibenik-born Fausto Veranzio can be credited with many inventions, including the suspension bridge, parachute, and wind turbine - all in the 17th Century.
In 1937 Walter Zapp developed the Minox subminiature camera, a boon to real-life 007s across the world. His invention opened up the possibility of quickly and covertly smuggling countless thousands of pages of secret materials out from behind enemy lines.
When he created the iconic "Count Dracula" accent that endures today, Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi had a secret weapon: simply not speaking English well. The myth is that he memorized sentences he couldn't understand. However, the truth is more of a grey area.
The Tokaj region, famous for its wines that have been prized since the 18th century, became an official appellation in 1737, some two centuries earlier than the famous Burgundy.
There are only a handful of countries around the world where Coca-Cola does not reign supreme. Czechia and Slovakia are among them. Meet Kofola, the socialist Coke alternative introduced in the 60s, still holding strong and topping the soft-drink market.
Artist and minority activist Małgorzata Mirga-Tas's work has taken the Polish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Art 2022 by storm. Her exhibition shows tapestries, attempting to weave the history and contribution of the Roma community back into European art history.
As you take in the extraordinary sights of the country, especially the city of Dubrovnik, it's easy to see why film crews from massive productions like "Star Wars" and "Game of Thrones" have chosen to shoot some of their most most meaningful scenes here.
On a May day some 250 years ago, Poland declared its first-ever constitution. Along with the communist-propagated Labor Day, also in May, the celebrations for two long and storied traditions give just the right excuse for majówka - extended spring celebrations.
"Can you treat a police officer seriously when he is asking you: "Why did you participate in an illegal meeting of dwarfs?" This was the ethos of Poland's Orange Alternative movement - and the origin of the dwarves that now adorn Wrocław's streets.
Today’s race for the tallest building in the world is usually a competition between the United Arab Emirates and China. However, a few short centuries ago, St. Olaf’s Church in Tallinn held the title. (At least, maybe it did.)
Don't be overwhelmed by the word "green" that appears everywhere Slovenia is concerned. "Green" is such a deeply ingrained concept in every aspect of the country that you might get the feeling that even the bricks in Ljubljana's houses will be green. (For the record, they're not).
At almost 650 meters tall, the radio mast in Konstantynów was the tallest structure of its time. Although it toppled in 1991, it held the record until the completion of Burj Khalifa in 2008.
These funny-looking, curly haired pigs are a Hungarian specialty. Their breeding is protected and regulated by law, and their meat is, well, quite simply delicious.
Famed Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban has created a novel solution to grant refugees dignity and privacy. His work has been successfully introduced in Poland during the Russian war on Ukraine.
Cepelinai dumplings, the fist-sized Lithuanian delicacies, derive their name from Zeppelins - the long, cylindrical airships of the early 20th century to which they bear a striking resemblance. And like their dirigible counterparts, cepelinai will leave you high... on carbs.
Hide the dry-clean only outfits for the day! Śmigus-dyngus is the age-old, day-after-Easter Polish tradition where splashing cold water on friends, loved ones, or even complete strangers is common practice.
Riga Black Balsam, concocted by a pharmacist in the mid-18th century, was used as a magic cure for numerous diseases. Today it's a drink, cocktail ingredient, cure for indigestion, and, most importantly, Latvia's pride.
2022 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the word “robot,” brought to you by famous Czech science-fiction author Karel Čapek. However, the term, actually coined by his brother, has deep historical ties to centuries of feudal economics.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the diversity of Central Europe better than the richness of its languages. The perfect example is the way the region's countries approach naming the Easter holiday. The diversity is quite telling.
English-style beer consumption stole some ground from vodka territory when a jokingly named quasi-political movement called the Polish Beer-Lovers Party gained Members of Parliament (MPs) in the early 1990s.
Doftana Prison, located in Prahova county at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, was notorious in the early 20th century for its harsh confinement of political prisoners, and ultimately became a veritable breeding ground for future leaders of a Red Romania.
When it comes to Easter traditions that might get lost in translation, Czechia and Slovakia have a solid example. In many villages throughout both countries, it is an Easter Monday custom for boys to spank girls with braided whips. Women can even return the "favor" with presents.
Central Europe is, well… central, but different countries claim to be more central than others. This is where you can look for the most central place in Central Europe.
How far would you have to go to find an animal species different to anything you might find on Earth’s surface? If you are a skilled expert on caves and near Romania's Black Sea coast, 200 meters of underground tunnel could be just enough.
Przemsza is the name of a Polish river that is nearly impossible for non-Polish speakers to pronounce. Regardless, three Emperors speaking these languages had to know its name, as their countries joined at its junction for decades. Now it's almost forgotten in the middle of modern-day Poland.
A UFO-like set of discs sits atop a mountain peak on the Czechia-Poland border. However, its inhabitants are not extraterrestrials, rather meteorologists who come from far and wide for the unique weather.
Not ready to hang up your skis come April or May? No need to worry. Some of Central Eastern Europe's top ski resorts will keep you on the trails well into spring.
Perched high atop the list of countries with the most literate people in the world are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania... and North Korea. While the first three have some solid proof behind the statistics, the fourth makes the list based on more dubious claims.
The history of sugar is not as straightforward as a mere ingredient for sweetening your tea or cakes. At various points in history, it has been used as medicine, a spice, and even a symbol of both royalty and oppression. The invention of the sugar cube only adds to the story.
Would you turn yourself into the cops for a good night's sleep? In Ljubljana, you can skip the drastic measures and still hide behind bars for a few peaceful hours of rest in this prison-turned-hotel in one of the city's most trendy districts.
Shopska salad is a bone of contention between a few Central European nations. However, its origins are easily traced to the post-war creation of Bulgaria as a socialist paradise of sun, relaxation, and good food. The red, green, and white salad easily fits the image of traditional Bulgarian cuisine.
With two million people, Slovenia is among the smallest nations in Central and Eastern Europe. However, when it comes to internationally recognized cuisine, it is one of the biggest powerhouses. What is the recipe for their amazing culinary success?
Europos Park is a “monument valley” on the outskirts of Vilnius to celebrate the spot being exact center of Europe. But the celebration was a bit hasty, as now one of claimants to the title is 11 km away.
If this grapevine could talk, oh... the stories it could tell. Wars, plagues, and fires haven't been able to stop one remarkably resilient vine in Maribor, Slovenia, that is still producing fruit - and wine - at a ripe 400 years old!
In this outdoor cabinet of curiosities on the outskirts of Bratislava, Slovakia, animals made of the most unlikely of materials – scrap metal – come to life. It is an art form that is quickly growing in popularity across Eastern Europe.
Contrary to popular belief, the Airbnb travel model wasn’t invented in the 2000s. Examples of it can be found 60 years earlier with Balkantourist, travel agent in communist Bulgaria.
Decades before Anthony Bourdain set out to enlighten a hungry population of would-be food tourists and future foodies about the exotic world of international gastronomy, there was Emil Markov, who was on a mission to bring Bulgarian cuisine to the world.
As you walk along the seaside in Zadar, Croatia, the air is filled with the melancholic sounds of the sea. The notes might not mirror any type of classical composition, but they nonetheless create a sound that is in perfect in its harmony.
Some say that cultural divides can be explained by the kind of alcohol we imbibe. But is there any actual distinction between "vodka Europe" vs. "beer Europe" vs. "wine Europe"?
Ready to channel your inner Indiana Jones? Maybe walking across the world’s longest suspended sky bridge, hung almost a hundred meters above a valley in Czechia’s Moravia district, would help you do the trick.
In a small corner of the West Pomeranian forest in northwestern Poland, a grove of pine trees grow in unique shapes that might seem more suited to a fantasy film rather than wildlife reality. The origin of this curiosity is still up for debate.
A small pyramid in northeastern Poland holds the final resting place for several members of a wealthy family. But to some it's a places as mysterious and mystical as the pyramids of Egypt.
One of Estonia’s most famous scientists is the founder of embryology, Karl Ernst von Baer. Each year, Estonian students honor his life and achievements by giving his monument in Tartu Park a bubble bath to remember - with champagne and beer.
Some say that the woods in Poland's Masurian Lake District harbor a secret: that an abandoned channel project from the Polish Lake District to the Baltic Sea wasn’t only for an inland trade route - it was to provide access to a secret German WW2 era submarine shipyard.
Holiday-seekers in in Central Europe will soon have a new travel option at the ready with the launch of a new train route from Cracow, Poland to Split, Croatia. Sunny beaches, here we come.
In a small town in eastern Slovakia, an underground spring shoots a 15-meter-tall column of water every day and a half. This is the only place in Europe outside of Iceland where you can see such a marvel.
In Lithuania's capital, pedestrian crossing lights recently got a makeover as part of the celebration to commemorate 100 years of women’s right to vote in the country. Lights featuring figures wearing skirts now dot the intersections of a bustling Vilnius neighborhood.