Great places to visit in Eastern Europe

It always comes as a bit of a shock to the system to return to the UK after a holiday in sunnier climes.

Sunday, 10th November 2013, 9:49 am

The warnings, however, had been well advertised: there was a storm brewing in the Atlantic, and it was heading our way!

Except it wasn’t. I was on holiday in Hungary, a country about which I knew very little, other than the snippets remembered from A-level European history lessons. A country invaded routinely throughout history by Mongols, Tartars and Turks but which managed to be a partner with its neighbour Austria in ruling the old, widely diverse and sprawling empire of Austria-Hungary, which was only broken up at the end of the First World War.

Since the end of the Second World War, the country was a (reluctant) member of the Communist Eastern Bloc, known only, or so it seemed to me, for the most interesting (Magyar Post) stamps in my childhood stamp collection. Other than that, almost unknown .

Sign up to our daily Burnley Express Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Things changed, however, when the Berlin Wall came down and the “unknown” Eastern European countries became much more accessible.

I visited Prague 10 years ago and discovered a beautiful city, but also one of the coldest places I have ever been, where the national cuisine seemed to be based on suet dumplings. Nevertheless, a wonderful place.

Consequently, for years I have hankered after visiting other Eastern European countries. But only managed it now.

Checking out the weather throughout September as our holiday approached, I could not help noticing a steady fall in temperatures out there. It looked like being cold. While I was down South three weeks ago sweltering on the Ridgeway, Hungary looked decidedly chilly. Hardly surprising really in that part of the world.

How surprising then to find ourselves out there reecently sunning ourselves in the pavement cafés of Budapest.

What a fabulous place! Obviously the hot sunshine helped, but the architectural grandeur of the place easily exceeded my expectations. Beautiful churches, mighty fortifications, elegant bridges and tree lined avenues with an almost Parisian feel. On top of that, an abundance of superb beers and excellent cakes, meant it was easy to feel very comfortable there. I didn’t, want to leave.

But holidays don’t last forever. Eventually, we had to depart the unseasonally hot historic realm of Maria Theresa and come home to dear old Blighty ... And face the incoming storm, indeed to fly through it.

Fortunately, although the forecasters had seen it coming, their original predictions of its path of destruction were off the mark. While the south coast took a battering, Manchester got off lightly, though the airport as usual glistened with rain.

But boy did it feel nippy. I was only away a week but in that short time autumn really had arrived and I returned to a driveway buried under a carpet of fallen leaves, but thankfully with all trees still standing.