Includes all of Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltic and Balkan States, Russia and South Caucasus.
4 and a half stars
Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History by Robert D. Kaplan
Countries: Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece
Blurb: If you don't know your Baltics from from your Balkans, then Balkan Ghosts is the book for you. Well known travel journalist Robert D. Kaplan wrote this, his third book, from his travels and experiences across the Balkan Peninsula in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and immediately prior to the Yugoslav Wars that began in 1991.
The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War by Tim Butcher
Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina
Blurb: A remarkable historical travelogue that blends the life of Gavrilo Princep, the man who shot dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand Karl Ludwig Josef von Habsburg-Lothringen in 1914, thereby setting in motion events that started the First World War, with that of the author's own experiences and memories from time spent reporting on the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995.
Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński
Countries: Poland, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Ukraine
Blurb: A beautifully crafted book detailing the author's travels through significant swathes of the old Soviet Union. Imperium begins with Kapuscinski's childhood in Poland and the resultant impact of living under Soviet rule, before fast forwarding to his 1950's Trans-Siberian adventure. From here Kapuscinski jumps again to the early 60's, where he visits what the satellite states of the Soviet Union which he collectively refers to as the south. Kapuscinski then details a number of trips made through Mother Russia after perestroika and as the Soviet Union disintegrates towards its own brand of demokratizatsiya. This is an amazing memoir from one of Poland's true greats and essential reading for anyone looking for a personalised account of travel through the ages across the Soviet Union.
3 and a half stars
New Europe by Michael Palin
Countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany
Blurb: The companion book to the TV-series of the same name filmed in 2006 and early 2007, Michael Palin sets off to visit those countries in what used to be called Eastern Europe, as they look increasingly to the west and inclusion within the European Union. Told with Palin's usual witty style, this is an enjoyable whirlwind tour that takes you through 20 countries that once were on the other side of the iron curtain.
Things Can Only Get Feta by Marjory McGinn
Blurb: A very pleasant book (of three in the "series") about two Scottish journalists and their Jack Russell, Wallace, who leave Scotland to spend a year in the South Peloponnese. Centred in and around the tiny village of Megali Mantineia, the writing come across as authentic in describing their adventures and experiences with the Greek villagers and other ex-pats who have relocated to this slice of paradise. Imparting a good amount of history of the region this is an engaging story that that entertains without ever coming across as being cheesy (unlike this review).
Tour de Armenia by Raffi Youredjian
Blurb: Having grown up in the United Kingdom, the author travels to his ancestral homeland to ride around the country on his bike. Youredjian's ability to speak Armenian and inherent pride of his Armenian origins, ensures that a better understanding of the country shines through, with regards its people and tragic past, which is handled with a deft touch. A light and relatively short read, the book doesn’t provide an in-depth account of the country’s history, but it is well-written and entertaining and instills a genuine desire to visit Armenia.
The Red Quest by Jason Smart
Countries: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Moldova, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Germany
Blurb: Jason Smart's first book is a very enjoyable read about his "quest" to visit all 22 countries that were previously behind the Iron Curtain. Concentrating mostly on the capital city of each country the books very much has a whirlwind feel similar to that of Kon-Tiki type European bus tours (If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium) but is saved, somewhat, due to a good mix of humour and historical background, mostly around the events that led to each country breaking free from their communist shackles.