The town of Rosia Montana is shrouded in fog in Transylvania, western Romania. Photo courtesy of

I attended the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida annual picnic last weekend. When the group’s president asked for Returned Volunteers (RPCVs) to stand based on the region in which they served, only two of us stood tall for Eastern Europe. Actually, only one of us stood; the other guy just raised his hand.

Two babushkas in a horse-drawn cart.

With my usual enthusiasm and sometimes-uncomfortable energy, I walked up to the other Eastern representative (who, it turns out, served in Bulgaria). We shared stories of backyard moonshine, frown-face photographs, and homemade cheese. We also spent an hour preaching to the choir about why Eastern Europe is better than Western Europe. Not that I don’t love a romantic rendezvous in Paris (or Frenchmen in general), but Eastern Europe has a different kind of magic. I will share 11 reasons with you, because 11 is my favorite number:

They know how to do meat at the nighttime Christmas market in Krakow, Poland.
  1. Cheap beer
  2. Cheap street food (see meat picture below)
  3. Less touristy
  4. Cheap transportation, even to other countries
  5. Cheap hotels (sensing a theme?)
  6. Babushkas in horse-drawn carts (see image above)
  7. Borscht
  8. Squat toilets are actually more hygienic. (If you’d like a tutorial on how to use one, click here.)
  9. Hitchhiking is still common
  10. Dracula’s castle, the fake Dracula’s castle, Vampires, and spooky early-morning fog
  11. Fishnets are still in fashion

So when you’re planning your next trip to “Europe,” try Riga, Transylvania, Sofia, or Warsaw.  On second thought, you go do your “cultured” thing and leave these not-yet-overcrowded places for us.