A Taste of Eastern Europe at World Travel Market 2013

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in the travel industry? Here’s a snapshot of Eastern European marketing at World Travel Market (WTM) 2013, ExCeL London. WTM is one of the biggest travel industry events in the world. It’s attended by members of the press and travel buyers. Check out the East European offering in the gallery below…

Bulgaria's Stand

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Bulgaria's stand showcased, among other things, their great ski facilities

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Cycle Through South Eastern Serbia

As the avid readers of Charlotte’s VVeb will know, I visited Serbia for the first time last year and was blown away by its beauty, culture, food and drink – everything this website is about!  If you aren’t so sure then perhaps consider taking an organised tour and  I don’t mean a bus tour…  There is a lot more to touring these days than coach trips!  For example, Travel the Unknown organise incredible hiking and cycling tours through Serbia’s valleys and gorges.  On such a tour you can discover the ghoulish skull tower of Niš, visit a 200 year old water mill, and stop off to rejuvenate your muscles in a Turkish bath.

Travel the Unknown Serbia Cycle Tour

Plus, you’ll have the chance to experience the cosmopolitan café culture of modern Belgrade and hike through remote regions of Serbia, sampling local wines, brandies, breads, meats and cheeses along the way.  While overnight you will stay in small lodges (pensions) and discover true hospitality in a traditional rural homestay.

There are currently two dates set for these tours (22 to 29 April; and, 16 to 23 September); however, if these don’t suit you, contact the company and they will organise a trip to suit your individual needs.  And if Serbia doesn’t take your fancy, Travel the Unknown offers lots of other touring experiences!

Find out more at Travel the Unknown

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Top 10 East European Christmas Markets

Christmas Markets are a true highlight of the advent period and are sure to get everyone into the festive spirit.  Head to one of the many markets in Eastern Europe to enjoy some real festive fare including local wine, beers, sausages and artisan crafts.  Here’s our top ten…

Vienna Christmas Market
Vienna Christmas Market

Vienna, Austria

During Advent Vienna is a city of nostalgia and romance with many concerts, nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets taking place throughout the city.  The most renowned markets include the Viennese Christmas Markets on Freyung, at Spittelberg, at Am Hof and in front of the church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche).

Prague, Czech Republic
Christmas is a special time of year in Prague and the Christmas markets (Vanocni trh) are a key ingredient in the Czech festive magic. The Prague Christmas markets bring visitors and locals together to share the holiday spirit in a true ‘winter wonderland’ setting.  The main markets can be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square with smaller ones at Namesti Republiky and Havelske Trziste.  Open 9am to 7pm daily.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

The Festive Fair, held in the Town Centre (Breg and Cankarjevo nabrežje embankments, Prešernov trg square) is well known for its vibrancy and cheerful atmosphere. Festively decorated green stalls, designed specially for the fair, sell a fine choice of products suitable for giving as gifts including food and drink, clothes and fashion accessories.  Open from 10am to 10 pm daily.

Nuremberg, Germany

Each festive season Nuremberg’s Old Town is decorated in its Christmas regalia and the tempting aromas of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, sausages and gingerbread create a truly unforgettable atmosphere. The Christkindlesmarkt is situated in the heart of the city which is steeped in more than 400 years of tradition providing an international showcase for all Franconian and German Christmas Markets.  While younger visitors can enjoy the Kinderweihnacht (Children’s Christmas Market) where historic steam-powered merry-go-rounds and other activities are waiting for them.  Open from 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursdays, 9.30am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays, 10.30am to 8pm on Sunday.

Cologne, Germany

Cologne holds an impressive seven Christmas Markets. The four largest Christmas markets are located at Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt (Home of the Heinzel Christmas Market), on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz (Fairytale Christmas Market). Every year these four markets attract almost 2 million visitors. Open every day from 11am to 9pm.

Berlin, Germany

With well over 50 Christmas Markets and advent bazaars every year, Berlin features prominently on Germany’s calendar of Yuletide events. A popular market is situated next to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church amidst the bustle of shoppers on the high street between the Kurfüstendamm and Tauenzien. The Berlin Christmas Market shown on the map on the left is WeihnachtsZauber situated on the Gendarmenmarkt. This is probably one of the most popular markets in Berlin and is well sited in terms of nearby hotel accommodation.  Open 9am to 9pm daily.

Budapest, Hungary

One of the most popular Christmas fairs in Europe awaits the lovers of winter programmes this year again in the heart of Budapest, in Vörösmarty Square.  There are more than 100 wooden pavilions, which sell unique high quality folklore and applied arts products. Christmas decorations, small presents, candles, gloves, woollen hats, wrought iron and woven products are also sold here, as well as other special articles that cannot be found anywhere else. You can experience the real wonders of winter while enjoying traditional products that have been evaluated by a jury, and satisfying your appetite at typical Hungarian buffets, which offer mulled wine, kürtoskalács (sweet Hungarian pastry), roast chestnuts and other market snacks.  Open 10am to 8pm daily.

Sibiu, Romania

Sibiu Christmas Market is one of the most popular events of the year in the city. Being the first traditional Christmas Market opened in Romania, it was first held in 2007, in the Little Square located in the downtown area, with a total number of 38 wooden cabins. In 2008 and 2009, Sibiu Christmas Market took place in the Large Square, one of the best places to be visited in the historical center of the city.  Open from 10am to 9pm daily.

Cologne in London, UK

Once again Londoners and visitors to the city can enjoy a taste of Cologne this Christmas at the London Southbank Christmas Market.  While wandering about, look for and find unusual Christmas presents such as amber and silver jewellery, hand-crafted toys, fragile glass ornaments for your Christmas tree, hand tatted laces, tin toys, candles in all shapes and sizes, hand-made ceramics and creative metal design.  Sip on a glass of glühwein or bottle of Kölsch”  and nibble on some gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds and candies or even a delicious crepe. Open 11am to 8pm Mondays to Thursdays, and Sundays, 10am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays.

Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia’s medieval capital is inherently festive and though temperatures do dip quite drastically this time of year, the city’s celebratory atmosphere does well to dispel the cold.  Tallinn’s Christmas Market may be one of the most recently established but it is now among the most well-loved in Europe.  December’s darkness is dispelled with colourful lights, music and an abundance of activity.  Head to Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, Raekoja Plats, and visit more than 50 merchant stalls featuring products by local artisans.  These stalls surround a beautiful Christmas tree.  Open daily from 10am to 6pm.

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Explore Eastern Europe with Wicked Campers

If you are planning on getting away for a significant amount of time on a budget then Eastern Europe is a great place to head.  However, transport and accommodation can still prove pricey.  That is until now!  People can now tour Eastern Europe with Wicked Campers. Perfect for those who prefer to venture off-the-beaten-track, the budget campervan company offers the required car insurance and relevant documents to cross the borders into the more remote parts of Europe.  The bargain campervan company based in the UK provides a choice of two-seater and multi-seater Toyota vans which come equipped with an all-important bed, table, basic built-in kitchen area, camping chairs, CD player or iPod/MP3 connection and plenty of storage space. For larger groups there is the option of hiring a multi-seater van with a tent.

Wicked Camper

What’s more, Wicked Campers has depots in Austria and Italy, only a short drive or ferry trip to Eastern Europe, where customers can pick-up and drop-off their campervan. It really could not be easier!

Customers are covered in the following Eastern European countries: Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey.

Prices for seven day round-trip hire in a two-seater van starts from £253. Valid for travel from 1 October 2010, the price includes pick-up and drop-off in either San Benedetto (Italy) or Verditz (Austria), insurance for one driver aged 25 and over, unlimited mileage and 24-hour roadside assistance. Prices in summer start from £453.

For more information, visit www.wickedcampers.co.uk or call 0808 234 8461

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Travel with Unknown Tours to Serbia

In a few weeks I am off to make my first visit to Serbia, so I was excited to hear that this is now easier than ever before because this year Travel the Unknown launched tours to Serbia.

Serbian Sunflowers

Once in the news for the wrong reasons, Serbia is looking forward to a new era, but the country still sees little in the way of tourists. Situated in the heart of the Balkans, Serbia stretches across two geographic and cultural regions of Europe. As a result the Serbian lands formed the crossroads for various past civilisations  (Roman, Medieval, Hungarian, Austrian and Ottoman) so it has vast architectural, religious and artistic heritage. No less than 26 nationalities still live in Serbia, each of them preserving their customs and folklore.

Visitors will discover an unbelievable wealth of historical monuments, churches and Orthodox monasteries in Serbia. The north of the country is characterised by Central-European lowlands with fields and meadows, while the south and central parts are mostly mountainous. While cutting a swathe through the middle is the mighty Danube River.

Travel the Unknown’s seven-night Devils Town & The Danube tour starts in Belgrade and takes in southern Serbia. Explore the bizarre landscape of red steep peaks in Devil’s Town, drink with locals in the rustic wine cellars of Rajac, discover the café culture of Belgrade, take a dip in the Danube, stay overnight in a Studenica monastery and experience a homestay in Tekija. The tour costs £1,400 including return flights to Belgrade, accommodation, ground transport, some meals, entrance fees to sites and a contribution to Climate Care to offset emissions.

Alternatively the operator’s four-day Serbia’s Secret North tour journeys through Serbia’s semi-autonomous northern province of Vojvodina which is vastly different from the south. Explore wide flatlands and plains, visit picturesque villages, discover the fairytale city Novi Stad and admire the architectural and cultural influences of the Austro-Hungarian Empire throughout this region. Price is £900 including return flights to Belgrade, accommodation, ground transport, some meals, entrance fees to sites and a contribution to Climate Care to offset emissions

For further information visit www.traveltheunknown.com or telephone 0845 053 0352

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Worldwide Food Centre in Aldershot

If you live in a big city you can easily take the availability of foreign produce for granted.  However, small specialist shops are popping up throughout the country, including in military town, Aldershot.  The Worldwide Food Centre is a relatively large shop located on Station Road.

Worldwide Food Centre

It stocks all manner of ingredients and goodies you could ever want from across the world but particularly boasts plenty of Polish, Turkish and Croatian food.

Here’s a snapshot of what you can find on the shelves

Worldwide Food Centre
Selection of honeys and preserves
Worldwide Food Centre, Aldershot
Selection of Polish Pierogi
Worldwide Food Centre
Selection of Polish Bread
Worldwide Food Centre
Croatian Vegeta
Worldwide Food Centre
Selection of Macedonian Ajver

The Worldwide Food Centre, Station Road, Aldershot, Hampshire UK

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Relais & Châteaux Expands

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Hotel Hertelendy Kastely

The prestigious Relais & Châteaux family has announced its continued growth with a staggering 31 new members and three new destinations in the 2010 issue of its Guide. This new influx includes two properties in Central and Eastern Europe: one in Hungary and one in Slovenia.

Hotel Hertelendy Kastely

In the heart of a 300 hectare park, surrounded by woodlands, between Kaposvar and Nagykanizsa, this sumptuous castle awaits you for a stay full of activity in unspoilt, restful nature. Horse riding, tennis, clay pigeon shooting, and even hot air ballooning can be enjoyed at this glorious castle. After plenty of physical exertion, guests can unwind in the spa and savour delicious local cuisine accompanied by renowned Hungarian and international wines.

Hertelendy Kastely Kft, 7541
Kutas-Kozmapuszta 0120/4 (County Somogy), Hungary

Tel: + 36 82 568 400

Fax: + 36 82 568 030



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Baltic Restaurant, London


Although I had eaten in and thoroughly enjoyed a meal at Baltic once before, I had never reviewed this particular restaurant until a few weeks ago.  Baltic restaurant, Jan Woroniecki’s second restaurant, has become London’s destination restaurant south of the river. Situated a stones throw from the Old Vic and the Tate Modern, it specialises in East European Cuisine.  Architect Seth Stein, has retained the building’s (originally an eighteenth century coach builders) beautiful and spacious design, providing a truly exquisite dining arena.  The restaurant offers an extensive food menu, a range of cocktails, draft beer served in iced glasses, and Baltic’s famous myriad of flavoured vodkas.

On arriving at your table the waiting staff present a selection of bread, a beetroot caviar spread, pickles and red peppers.  Having recently made my own beetroot caviar spread (Ikra Iz Svekly) I was particularly interested in sampling this.  This version was far superior to my own attempts.  The spread had a much finer consistency, presumably achieved with the aid of a food processor/blender, and a much more peppery taste which I think was probably created by using raw garlic and white pepper.


I then began my meal with a selection of blinis as from previous experience the starters at Baltic prove to be rather large and as it was a hot day my appetite was somewhat suppressed.  There are a selection of blinis on the menu but I opted for two smoked salmon (£6.50) and two aubergine and mushroom caviar (£5.00), an interesting option for vegetarians.  Both plates were particularly pleasing in presentation and taste, the blinis were not too doughy and most unlike those purchased from supermarkets.  The smoked salmon, sour cream and lemon were in abundance as was the aubergine and mushrooms pastes.


This was followed by a generous serving of beef stroganoff  with wild rice pilaf (£15.50) and for my dining companion, a plate of lamb shashlik with grilled aubergine and roasted red pepper, served with flat bread (£16.00).  The beef stroganoff was somewhat unlike beef stroganoff I have eaten elsewhere, including at restaurants such as NEP in St Petersburg.  It was indeed, therefore, quite unlike the stroganoff I myself make and am used to consuming.  Although I think I prefer a traditional take on stroganoff, rather than the more experimental at Baltic, this plate was at least interesting.  What made this dish different was the use of pickles and pepper in a sparse sauce which contained less mushrooms than would normally be used in stroganoff.  The taste was unusual but the cut of beef was fantastic, as was its flavour.


The lamb shashlik was by far the reigning dish of the day.  The meat had a wonderful flavour and was cooked to absolute perfection.  The dish could have only been improved by the addition of a tomato condiment popular in Georgia which is included in Georgian restaurant Ket’s (in St Petersburg) equivalent of this dish.

I enjoyed a particularly rich bottle of beaujolais with the meal and finished off with two ice-cold shots of cherry vodka.  I am not usually a fan of cherry vodka but this particular one was deep and intense with a sweet finish.  There could be not better way to finish off a meal.  The waiting staff were attentive yet did not make customers feel harassed and the tables are generally a reasonable distance from one another so you do not feel as if you are eating on top of each other.  Although many aspects of the interior are modern, I love the old wooden beams the property boasts and the traditional, velvet curtains just inside the door which is a particularly traditional East European custom, ideal for keeping the cold out in the winter.


While I think the restaurant fare is more ideal for the winter (although the menu is changed depending on the season) the menu does not do a bad job of satisfying a hungry Londoner with a desire for a little taste of Eastern Europe.  I do think that during the winter months the mushroom soup, pelmeni and pierogi are probably the most delicious food in London, if not the UK.


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What will you be taking away this summer?

Last summer I was stood in a queue in Zagreb train station on a Sunday morning getting ready to board a train to Sarajevo.  Balkan trains not being comparable to others in Eastern Europe, my travelling companion and I decided it best to stock up on snacks for the day’s journey.  We found ourselves standing in a queue with a vegetarian Australian girl.  When it came to the girl’s turn to order food from the bakery, she asked what vegetarian options there were.  She was met with a bleak response which to my travelling companion and I was not a surprise at all.  It was more of a surprise to find a solely vegetarian (although it did serve fish so I suppose it was really pescatarian) restaurant in Sarajevo.  The vegetarian Austalian was told by the young girl in the bakery that the only option was croissants.  After purchasing five croissants, the Australian boarded a train to Berlin.

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