The Best and Worst of Eastern Europe

to+cave+resto.JPG” border=”0″ />ast week, I promised to send a “Best and Worst List” from our “Experiment in Travel in Eastern Europe”. Over the next few months – in between blogs about The Diva’s Daily Life – I’ll cover in-depth each of the destinations we visited, advising you on where you should go, what to do and most importantly what to buy while there! For now, you can use our list (written on the fly as we were speeding down the autobahn driving home to Holland) as a check list in planning your very own trip east!

Best and Worst List:
Favorite City: Budapest
Least Favorite City: Tokay
(interestingly, both places are in Hungary)

Favorite Country: Slovakia (in spite of the fact that the people were not a particularly friendly bunch)
Least Favorite Country: Hungary

Favorite Place: Carpathian Mountains/High Tatras in Eastern Slovakia
Least Favorite Place: The drive to the Tokay wine region from Budapest

Favorite Hotel: – – Bratislava/ Hotel Arkada – Levoca
Least Favorite Hotel: Pension Rosa – Cesky Krumlov/ – Tokay

Favorite Spa: Hotel Gellert, Budapest
Least Favorite Spa: The “massage service” at the Hotel Humboldt – Karlovy Vary, Czech, which left WG bruised and limping for a week following, fearful of ever again getting a massage. Second choice would be the numerous dental offices/spas dotting Karlovy Vary. I dont want to get my wisdom tooth pulled and body exfoliated at the same place and never could figure out the connection in offering these same services in one locale!
Favorite Breakfast: Gerbeauds – Budapest
Least Favorite Breakfast: Hotel Tokay. They ignored us for 1 hour while we waited patiently for our breakfast to be served, drinking our coffee, etc. Then we were told that, in spite of the fact we’d been waiting since 9am for our breakfast, the kitchen was now closed as it was 10am. Eventually, after arguing extensively in French with their receptionist who didn’t speak English, only French & Hungarian, we received breakfast 30 minutes after the breakfast hall had closed.
Favorite Lunch: U Fleku – Prague
Least Favorite Lunch: The rest of them – as we opted to skip lunch the rest of the days of our trip in lieu of large (read as “muffins-stuffed-in-the-pocket-for-later-free) hotel breakfasts and nice dinners out. The hearty Eastern Europe cuisine didn’t allow room in our tummies for both lunch and dinner! Thus, my poor husband starved at lunch time, occasionally giving into his hunger pains by grabbing hot dogs and sandwiches on the run. Once I ordered a salad for lunch at a cafe in Prague only to discover Czech salads have no lettuce.
Best Dinner: Inside a cave in Prague – Santa Klara
Worst Dinner: When our Middle-Eastern styled restaurant in Karlovy Vary turned into a Discothèque Party Night for water-bong smoking Czech teenagers before we’d finished our dinner.

 

Best Drink Discovery: Palinka
Worst Drink Discovery: the naturally warm spa water bubbling from the earth in Karlovy Vary
Favorite Food Discovery – Dumplings each day of our 1st week in Eastern Europe
Least Favorite Food Discovery – Dumplings again each day of our 2nd week in Eastern Europe
Best Beer: A dark, rich and creamy ale with a 2 inch head sold only at U Fleku – Prague

Worst Beer: Accidentally ordering a non-alcoholic blond in Bratislava

Best Wine: Tokay Aszu
Worst Wine: The Czech Wines which had a slightly sulfurous aftertaste

Best Dessert: Pastry in Krakow, Poland on our last day before returning home

Worst Dessert: Homemade Noodles dripping with butter then piled with a mountain of ground poppy seeds. I believe the quote uttered from my lips upon the first bite was “It tastes like dirt.”

Best Antique Shopping: Cesky Krumlov (close sec
ond is Budapest). Budapest would have won this slot except for I found significantly lower prices in CK.
Worst Antique Shopping: Prague

Best Tourist Shopping: Budapest Central Market Hall – paprika, peasant blouses, and foie gras.
Worst Tourist Shopping: Prague’s overbearing t-shirt vendors (and the authentically dressed Czech dolls they sold)
Best Cultural Attraction: Hungarian National Museum – Budapest — and did I mention that it’s Free!!!
Worst Cultural Attraction: The commercialization in Prague at the Jewish Cemetery and surrounding synagogues.
Best Petrol Stations: Hungary – As the Hungarians refuse to indulge in take away coffee, each gas station, big or small, boasts a Beaux Arts style (or similar), warm and cozy coffee bar brimming with pastries and espresso.
Worst Petrol Stations: Lukoil

Favorite Aspect of the Trip – Spending time with my husband, WG, before his busy period at work.
Least Favorite Aspect of the Trip – It’s over!!! That sad fact, plus the cheating, lying and thieving of all of the Prague taxi drivers. WG and I decided that, in order to be a taxi driver in Prague, you must go to school to learn to be unscrupulous!

I hope this list wets your appetite for more Eastern European Travel Tales!

Be back soon!

The Antiques Diva

Saint Louis or Bust…

ate Breaking News from The Diva News Network: The Antiques Diva™ , a European Art & Antique Shopping Specialist, sends her friends and readers to do their art shopping this September 7 – 9, 2007 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Antiques Diva claims in a shocking admission that “sometimes shopping stateside is as much fun, perhaps even more, than shopping overseas, especially when you take into consideration the current dollar to euro exchange rate.”
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This summer, as I’m on holiday being spa-ed and massaged in the antiquer’s bargain basement euphoria of Eastern Europe, it appears that I might ought to have considered looking stateside for my vacation instead of gallivanting east without nary a thought to traveling back in the good ole USA. Every time I pick up a magazine or newspaper it seems I’m reading about a particular event that is happening just a days drive away from where I grew up “home on the range” in Oklahoma.

Europe is agaggle talking about the Saint Louis Art Fair – calling it “America’s Art Fair of the Year” and you might imagine that more Europeans will be flocking to Missouri this fall than have since St Louis hosted the World Fair in 1904. Expectedto attract over 150,000 attendees from near and afar, the fair offers not only paintings, but also work from well-known and emerging glass, fiber and ceramics artists, original drawings and pastels, wood creations, hand made jewelry as well as mixed media and digital art works.

Of particular interest to me, as a collector of “found art”, is the work by mixed-media artist Madonna Phillips, who not only has an incredibly cool first name, but will mostly likely have the coolest stall at the show. Madonna’s methode du jour is to use “found objects” in her artwork. An artist after my own heart, she digs through estate sales, thrift shops, and yard sales to uncover random treasures (such as vintage photos,torn bits of clothing, printing press letters, shoe strings, and even kitchen spoons and tools) and then puts all these bits she buys to good use when she presses or sews them into her paintings and collages. She shares my personal home decorating strategy, stating that the vision for her artwork is “not only to reflect the passage of time, but alsoto present my life experience”.

Antiques Diva Roving Reporters, La Reine Russell and Mrs. Dr. Thompson, will be on the scene at The St Louis Art Fair this September to give us feedback and advice on whether we should pack our bags for next years event. While La Reine gallivants around the world almost more than anyone I know, she is currently stationed in Clayton, the chic suburb of St Louis where the event will be held in their town business center. While she is staying in her own St Louis style chateau, she recommends you stay at , (the hotel in which La Reine presided during the 5 months it took to finish building her home).

Dr and Mrs. Thompson (the only other people I know who travel as much as La Reine) add that you can’t go wrong with staying at the charming antiques filled boutique hotel, The Seven Gables, where they spent their wedding night. Of course, Mrs. Dr. Thompson adds that her stay there was before she spent almost a decade living in Europe and Asia and so she also remembers being just as impressed with the free cookies handed out at the nearby Doubletree Hotel as she was the antiques at The Seven Gables. Other hotels within walking distance of the fair are , The Crown Plaza and The Daniele.

While I haven’t been to any of these hotels, I’ve been assured that they are worthy of The Diva Seal of Approval. In fact, there are apparently a billion places in the Clayton area that would meet my approval. La Reine and The Thompsons are gushing about the Napoleon exhibit at the St Louis Museum of Art. And though both amies already have a house full of treasures purchased in Paris and all over Europe and Asia, they are currently stocking up on a plethora of great-priced, authentic, European antiques at Three French Hens Antique & Design.

According to La Reine, “the art on sale at The St Louis Art Fair is rumored to be a tad on the expensive side and the weather has been scorchingly hot in MO, so should you be planning a visit to the St. Louis Art Fair come with a few extra dollars in your pocket and be prepared to face the sweltering heat.” She continues to say that the best way she knows to beat the heat is to hit the Ted Dewes Frozen Custard stall at the fair. If I know Mrs. Dr. Thompson, she’ll be dead-set upon taste-testing every flavor under the sun. Ted Dewes is almost as popular with the tourists in this mid-western city as the St Louis Arch! Now the only thing you have to decide is one scoop or two. Heck, you’re on vacation… why not three?Should you know of an art show, flea market, fun fair or simply sensational shop that my readers needto know about, please email me at and tell me all a
bout it! Send photos and you could see your face & friends in the pages of The Antiques Diva™!

Happy Shopping,

The Antiques Diva