My wife Debby and I will be traveling to five countries in eastern Europe in October, as part of a tour offered by the Rice University Alumni Association. Normally we follow Rick's advice and use his tourbooks, but we decided that this offering would provide a very complete experience at a fair price, without having to travel independently to an area we have never visited. We are very excited about seeing Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. After paying our deposit, we received several documents in the mail from Odyssey Travel, showing the itinerary in more detail and giving us a list of books to read in preparation for this tour. I have just finished the book on Vienna, set in a ten-month period of 1888-1889, A Nervous Splendor, by Frederick Morton. What a fascinating story about life in the Hapsburg's Austro-Hungarian Empire, with many notable artists (e.g., Klimt), musicians (e.g., Strauss, Brahms, Bruckner), scientists (e.g., Freud), nobility (e.g., Emperor Franz Joseph and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany). The main character is Crown Prince Rudolph, heir to the throne but unable to rule. If anyone is interested in Austria-Hungary at the end of the nineteenth century I recommend this book. Also on our reading list is a book on Prague (a collection of short stories about Prague or featuring Prague as a setting), another on Budapest in 1900, and another set in Poland in 1989. I hope to read the remaining books before taking the trip. After our return, I will provide a report on our adventure to this forum. Gary Jones, Ardmore, PA.
Morton's book is a very good introduction to the Dual Monarchy, very readable, competent, knows what he's talking about. I would suggest the books by ZAB Zeman, E. Crankshaw (1971), and CA MacCartney all on Austria-Hungary from the mid-1800s to the end in 1918. Also, if you can get hold of it: BF Pauley, The Habsburg Legacy 1867-1939 for the historical perspective of the Dual Monarchy and its collapse, most recommendable. Repeated failures in foreign policy provided the impetus for internal change and reorganisation, which led to the momentous event with the Hungarians....the Compromise of 1867.
In Poland you can visit for instance Warsaw, Żelazowa Wola, Toruń, Gdańsk, Sopot, Gdynia, Kołobrzeg, Szczecin, Kołbacz, Stargard Szczeciński, Poznań, Gniezno, Łódź, Kalisz, Wrocław, Wałbrzych (with the castle in Książ), Kłodzko, Częstochowa, Kielce, Lublin, Zamość, Przemyśl, Sandomierz, Rzeszów, Tarnów, Wieliczka, Kraków (Cracow), Oświęcim (Auschwitz) and Zakopane. Let me know if you need more destinations or would you like to get to know them in details.
Michal from Szczecin
Could you please give us the title and author of the book set in Poland 1889?
Kathy, Debby is mentioning book set in Poland 1989 not 1889.
Michal, I am afraid they won't be able to see all these cities and towns, they are going with organized trip.
I strongly recommend book by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Prague Winter.
None of those countries are in eastern Europe. They all are considered in central Europe. I suggest a little groundwork before you are guests in their countries.
If you want to be helpful, there is no need for snippy comments. I do understand that there is a discussion about the "correct designation" for this area...but, all of my guidebooks including Rick Steves call this area Eastern Europe.
For historical and traditional reasons I call the Czech Rep., Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia Central Europe and that includes East Central Europe. But I understand why Americans would label these countries and nationalities Eastern Europe and that will continue on their part when they visit these places, regardless how the locals look upon themselves.
That's a difficult issue: Central or Eastern Europe. I also tend to use »Central« to do these countries justice. Until the Iron Curtain they were very much part of the European culture. Now they're back in their natural habitat.
But it's not only Americans who speak about »Eastern«. It's common in Europe as well. No need to be very strict about it.
"Until the Iron Curtain they were were very much part of the European culture." How true and historically accurate! They were also part of the theoretical framework of the concept of Mitteleuropa.