A Taste of Tradition in Eastern Europe

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According to Jan Rudomina, director of the Polish National Tourist Office in New Jersey, tourism from North America to Poland has picked up from last year when much of the tourism to Europe in general flatlined. Especially, Rudomina says, to the culturally rich cities of Krakow and Warsaw, and the coastal region of Pomerania Gdansk and Silesia, the “…four major regions of Polish culture and tourism.”

The culinary traditions of those areas add a delicious flavor to the cultural attractions. Poland Culinary Vacations has customized intimate cooking vacations throughout the various regions of Poland that combine elements of rural tourism with a slow-vacation approach. The company has demonstration-style cooking lessons in farm homes and acclaimed urban restaurants, plus stays in a historic castle or palace during the agricultural portion of the trip and top hotel accommodations while exploring the cities of Poland.

On the 7-day, custom-designed Cooking Your Way From Krakow To Zakopane program, for instance—$2,750 pp land-only—guests enjoy elegant and comfortable accommodations at the luxurious four-starVilla Marilor palace/hotel in Zakopane, and the four-star Hotel Turowka in Krakow. In addition, they visit local markets, learn crafts from local artists and enjoy hands-on and demonstration-style cooking lessons throughout the week. The dining focus is on delicious regional cuisine: freshly made meals and breads, plus wine, beer and vodka tastings, as well as visits to farms, where warm hospitality and Polish countryside experiences are a given. But man or traveler does not live by bread alone, so there are plenty of excursions into the region’s cities and towns to enjoy art and architecture; visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites; an excursion by raft through the Dunajec River Gorge, as well as the option to extend time in Krakow.

Brendan Vacations has a unique way for travelers to visit Warsaw and Krakow, as well as Prague at a reasonable price, with plenty of time for sightseeing and culinary adventures however and wherever they want to do it. The company’s 8-day Warsaw, Krakow and Prague Locally Hosted program—priced from $1,455 land-only—allows clients to spend two or three nights in each city at a hotel of their choice. A sightseeing tour will introduce them to the cities, then they have free time to discover more at their own pace, with Brendan’s local host available 24/7. The program also includes private airport transfers in Warsaw and Prague; train transport between cities; sightseeing with local guide and a walking tour in Krakow.

“It’s totally independent, travels every day and in each direction,” says Nico Zenner, president of Brendan Vacations. “This can really lend itself to people interested even in a culinary vacation.”

And because they’re totally on their own with their own time on their hands, “It’s up to the consumer themselves to turn this into the experience or adventure they’re looking to do. So if they want to do the culinary experience, the local host in each city can certainly give them a lot of advice on where to eat well and what markets to go to.”

Lot Polish Airlines has the most flights to Poland and is a member of the Star Alliance, which has expanded its connections in the U.S.


Simion Alb, executive director of the Romanian National Tourist Office in New York, says tourism to Romania recovered from last year, as well, reporting a 5 percent increase in the first quarter, with about 45 tour operators offering programs to the country.

“Many of the bigger operators, while they don’t have specialized culinary tours like those you can find in France or Italy,” Alb explains, “they do include the local food and cuisine, the local wines in their tours. We’re talking about having a dinner with a family that cooks the traditional foods or tasting the native grapes and wines—these kinds of offerings.”

Of course, one of the best things that’s happened to Romanian tourism over the past few years is the popularity of river cruising—many of which come to Bucharest from Vienna or Budapest. From there, they do extensions into some of the popular regions of Romania—the most popular being the Transylvania region.

“They will add maybe three to five days in Bucharest and Transylvania, because Transylvania remains Romania’s best-known region,” Alb says. “But we’re also getting lots of inquiries about the Painted Monasteries, which were built in the late-1400s and located in northeastern Romania.”

Kensington Tours features five different tours to Romania, including its 7-day Transylvania Explorer program priced from $1,316 to $1,477 that begins in Bucharest and continues on to the town of Sinaia and the beautiful Peles Castle, then on to Transylvania and Dracula’s Castle, Here, too, are two magnificent medieval cities: Brasov and Sighisoara, Dracula’s birthplace.

According to Nadiya Makarenko, East Europe destination expert for Kensington Tours, “All our tours are tailor-made, we are able to build in culinary aspects on request. In Bukovina, there’s a visit to a sheepfold where travelers can taste fresh milk and have traditional bulz (polenta and cheese made on a fire bed, excellent and traditional). In Transylvania, travelers enjoy wine tasting at local vineyards and ttzuica (plum brandy) tasting in Maramures. Local restaurants also serve traditional cuisine—sausages, bulz and cabbage rolls are all featured prominently.

“Transylvania is still the most popular and largely driven by the Dracula factor, but a favorite recommendation of mine for summertime travelers is the medieval festival in Sighisoara that happens every July. Sighisoara is a UNESCO Heritage Site and a stunning example of medieval architecture and heritage. It has the mysterious and deeply historic feel many experience in Prague.”

One of the biggest draws in Romania, too, are its lovely villages that seem almost frozen in time. Your clients can experience that for themselves on Kensington’s 5-day Maramures & The Romanian Traditional Village program priced from $910 pp. “Maramures attracts the more off-the-beaten-path traveler with an appreciation of nature, stunning mountain views and an interest in traditional rural life,” Makarenko says. “Travelers will enjoy the many small villages, immerse themselves in local, traditional life and see the beautiful old wooden churches, woodworking and crafts. Maramures is also a favorite for second-time visitors to Romania who have already experienced Bucharest and Transylvania.” Remind clients all Romania tours are private with a guide and driver so they can go with the flow.

Sky Team members Air France, Alitalia, Delta Air Lines and KLM fly to Europe, connecting to Bucharest.

Archived related articles

Heritage Tours to Europe (July 2011)

contact information

Brendan Vacations: (800) 421-8446; brendanvacations.com

Kensington Tours: (888) 903-2001; kensingtontours.com/agents/fit/Login.aspx or kensingtontours.com

Poland Culinary Vacations: (888) 703-8130; polandculinaryvacations.com

Polish National Tourist Office: (201) 420-9910; poland.travel/en-us

Romanian National Tourist Office: (212) 545-8484; romaniatourism.com

Travel Concepts International: (800) 762-4216; serioustraveler.com