Here’s What Surprising Things You Should Know About Ukraine’s Neighbors Where Refugees Fled
Posted On April 8, 2022
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Ever since the “special military operation” on Ukraine has began on February 24, 2022 millions of refugees have fled from the country and have crossed to its neighboring nations by the west such as Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Moldova. These countries in Eastern Europe where Ukraine shares its borders were once called the “eastern bloc” or communist European states outside the Soviet Union. Together with Russia and Ukraine they all share East Slavic, Greek Byzantine, Eastern Orthodox and Ottoman cultural influences and during the “cold war” (period of geopolitical tension between the US and USSR, and Western and Eastern Europe) this part was known then as the “hidden” Europe.
For decades, this region was unknown for tourists. From the west part of Europe, the former eastern bloc countries have been something of a mystery but here you will discover some of the world’s most beautiful and fascinating lands where traveling there can become a unique experience. Let’s check out some surprising things you should know about the countries on Ukraine‘s western border where the refugees have fled.
Sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, this little dot of a nation is the least known country in Eastern Europe. Where at some point it was one of the republics that constitute the former USSR,Moldova shares many cultural and linguistic roots with Romania. And because it’s been “hidden” from the public eye for quite a time, if you are a culture or history buff with an inclination on fine wines, then here are surprising things you should know about Moldova.
It has the largest wine cellar in the world – the Milestii Mici– with a close to two million bottles of booze (or wines) in its vaults stored in 55 kilometers of underground galleries excavated when Moldova was a part of the Soviet Union.
Soroca, Moldova (pictured above) is the gypsy (free-spirited person) capital of the world where it has also become a tourist attraction due to the elaborate homes built by its rich residents that are inspired by famous landmarks such as the St. Peter’s Basilica.
Most Moldovans are trilingual meaning they speak three languages such as Romanian, Russian and Gagauz, an almost extinct Turkish dialect.
Home of the pierogi (Polish dumpling) and many world heritage sites, birthplace of Pope John Paul II and the famous composer Frederic Chopin, you know there is more to this country than meets the eye. The 9th largest country in Europe that shares its borders with seven nations including Russia and Ukraine, for the longest time Poland was under the radar of tourists. However, it has gained fame recently and many travelers are now discovering this wonderful country, so let’s take a peek on the surprising things you should know about Poland.
It is a much older nation than you might think which began in 966 when it was converted into Christianity by the pagan King Micszko I and founded the Piast dynasty until 1385. The Kingdom of Poland was once one of the longest and most powerful empire in Europe that extended as far as the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
Poland is home to about 500 castles scattered all over the countryside, the largest of these is the Malbork Castle in Gdansk. It is also considered the largest castle in the world completed in 1406 and is recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Despite of having sustained widespread destruction in World War II, this country has many beautiful cities such as Krakov and Warsaw; cobbled streets and Gothic churches. And speaking of Warsaw which was completely destroyed during the last World War, it was totally reconstructed using the painting of Venetian artist Bernardo Bellotto as model which was painted in the 14th century.
Ceausescu‘s communism, Dracula‘s legend, gymnast Nadia Comaneci...these are the things that come to mind when we think of Romania. But this land has so much more and it’s full of surprises- a country located at the middle of Central and Eastern Europe. Other than its rich traditions and interesting places to visit, here are surprising things you should know about Romania.
Peles Castle which is found in the mountain resort of Sireia, Romania was the first castle in Europe that was entirely lit by electric current with its source from the castle’s own power plant. Considered as one of Romania’s most beautiful castles, Peles served as the hunting lodge of Carol I of Hohenzollern, King of Romania.
Sarlota or Charlottenburg is a perfectly round-shaped village located near Timisoara, Romania. Built by German settlers during the second half of the 18th century, the houses are built in a round manner around the plaza at an equal distance from each other but you can only notice the shape when you look down from the airplane above.
Brasov, Rasnov, Sibiu and Bran are some of the beautiful cities of Romania‘s Transylvania region – an area of medieval castles, dark forests and snowy peaks. Bran is famous for its castle- Bran Castle– where Bram Stoker‘s most celebrated character, Count Dracula used to “live.” Brasov is well known for its Black Church, a Gothic one that got its name after a fire hit the town in 1689 that left its walls black from the smoke. Rasnov is renowned for its Old Fortress built in the 14th century by the Saxons (or Germans) perched on a hill offering a breathtaking view of the whole town. Sibiu is a Bohemian town noted with the old buildings with “eyes” (house of Marites/gossiper featured in Filipino social media) or attic windows and also the Bridge of Lies, a bridge that shakes when a person crossing over it is “telling a lie.”
Landlocked between Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Ukraine, at some point in the past, Slovakia was a part of Czechoslovakia until their peaceful separation or “velvet divorce” in 1993. It may be a small nation but it is home to the highest concentration of castles and chateaux per capita in the world. While it is sometimes referred to as an off the beaten path tourist destination in Europe, the fact is that Slovakia is a jewel and let’s take a look at some surprising facts you should know about Slovakia.
Bratislava which is Slovakia‘s capital has border with both Austria and Hungary. It is the only capital city in the world that shares border with two independent nations and Vienna, Austria is just 60 kilometers away.
If you think water geysers can only be found in Iceland then you’re wrong. There are active geysers in Slovakia as well and they spray out water at every 1 1/2 day to a height of 15 meters.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Slovakia takes pride in having a large number of castles and chateaux but the real masterpiece of all is Spis Castle, a Medieval work of art that attracts thousands of visitors each year.
The birthplace of some notable people like the composer Franz Liszt (Hungarian Rhapsodies), sculptor Erno Rubik (inventor of the game Rubik’s Cube) and magician Harry Houdini….Hungary is another landlocked country in central Europe famous for its spas and hot springs. The well known Danube (pronounced “da-nyoob”) River which is the country’s largest flows through it especially at Budapest, the capital. and while music is an integral part of Hungarian culture, they also love their spas, their “soaking” tradition came from their hot springs which they still swim in even to these days and now let’s check out at some surprising things you should know about this “cool” nation in the heart of Europe.
Since the Roman times, warm water in Hungary has been used not only for relaxation but for therapeutic purposes as well, in fact there are 1,300 hot springs in the country, 122 of them can be found in Budapest.
They don’t refer themselves as Hungarians but rather Magyars and they can only name their child after an approval from the Research Institute for Linguistics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
If you think mummies are only found in Egypt, you’re mistaken. At St. Stephen Basilica in Budapest is displayed the mummified right hand of King Stephen displayed in an ornate glass case. He was Hungary‘s first monarch.
When it comes to affordable destinations Eastern Europe offers a lot of options. They are often overlooked in favor of destinations and sites in Western Europe but they should not be. It has an immense variety of cultures and climates waiting for you to explore them at any time.