Travelling teaches you much more than any degree or diploma. At 21, you’ve just learned about enough to take on the world on your own, but still haven’t crossed over to the ‘zero mistake’ zone. This is your time to explore the world and make mistakes…mistakes that you’ll probably remember for the rest of your life, but fondly. Put your qualifications to its first real-world test as you take this graduation trip to these Eastern European countries and discover world culture in its raw state. By Sujitha Sundaram
The country’s capital, Bratislava is a tiny city full of culture, history, and art. I|f you are a foodie, this will be a playground for your taste buds. Eat your way through traditional delicacies like Bryndzové halušky (a national dish made of potatoes and sheep cheese, topped with fried bacon), lokse (potato pancakes), or veternik (choux pastries with vanilla and caramel filling). This is the time in your life you’ll enjoy road trips and can sit in a car for crazy hours at a stretch. Rent a car and zip past the Little Carpathian Wine Route between Bratislava and Trnava and sample local wines (because now you’re 21 and you can). Slovakia is a haven for adventurers and the dark and mysterious Slovakian caves are perfect to go spelunking through. Lastly, this is home to the world-famous Andy Warhol Museum of Art, set up by the artist’s family, that has a permanent showcase of 160 of his drawings and silkscreens.
The last dictatorship in Europe, Belarus is a must stop for history, art and World War II buffs. The iconic Khatyn memorial, a statue representing the only survivor of a Nazi attack, Joseph Kaminsky holding his son is a haunting re-visit to the horrors entire Belarusian villages faced at the hands of the Nazis. Extraordinary paintings and artifacts that were seized by Customs from smugglers in the 1990’s is on display at the Museum of Confiscated Art. A local beer brand, Alivaria offers a tour of its brewery where you can sample the various blends and finally settle on one as you enjoy a game of ice hockey, the locals’ favourite pass time.
Move over wine tasting, there’s a new fruit in town. Head to the beautiful Solta Island in Croatia, a 45-minute ferry ride from Split where you can visit the olive groves, factories, sample various types and sit down to a scrumptious meal accompanied by homemade bread and local wine. Go island hopping around the Kornati archipelago and stop at Brac for some water sports in crystal clear waters, Vis for authentic Dalmatian-Buzara style seafood and sail towards Porer for a stunning sunset.
Don’t miss Novak Djokovic’s homeland and its unique tourist offerings. Go trekking through the lush green forests of Fruška Gora National Park or relax at an Ottoman-era Turkish bath still in use in Soko Banja. Visit the city of Drvengrad, built exclusively as a movie set but now is a town dedicated to arts that hosts various film and cultural festivals. Another unique village is Donja Lokošnica, also known as the Kingdom of Peppers, where you can see entire houses covered in drying red peppers that perfume the air around. Head to Sirogojno for the local food and drink and make sure to buy your tickets for Exit Music Festival in the city of Novi Sad.
All this enriching cultural heritage everywhere might have bored you but summer is coming which means the Weekend Festival Baltic, headlined by The Chainsmokers, Martin Garrix and other EDM heavyweights. If, however espionage and torture is more your thing, the KGB Museum and Rummu Underwater Prison are must-visits. You can even pick up Soviet-era trinkets at the Soviet flea market. A bewitching land, bog shoeing through its marshy national parks is unique especially when you have to keep checking over your shoulders for wolves.