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The Jewels of Eastern Europe - Books & Movies
RECOMMENDED READING 
  • Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends by Lonnie Johnson. This historical survey of Central Europe covers a region that encompasses contemporary Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia. Each chapter is thematically organized around issues or events that are key to developing an appreciation for the historical and political dynamics of the region, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • Embers by Sándor Márai. This taut and exquisitely structured novel by the Hungarian master Sandor Marai conjures the melancholy glamour of a decaying empire and the disillusioned wisdom of its last heirs. In a secluded woodland castle, an old General prepares to receive a rare visitor, a man who was once his closest friend but who he has not seen in forty-one years. Over the ensuing hours host and guest will fight a duel of words and silences, accusations and evasions.
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel by Milan Kundera. A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover -- these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. A magnificent novel of passion and politics, infidelity and ideas that illuminates all aspects of human existence.
  • A Romantic Education by Patricia Hampl. Golden Prague seemed mostly gray when P. Hampl first went there in quest of her Czech heritage. In that bleak time, no one could have predicted the political upheaval awaiting Communist Europe. Hampl's subsequent memoir, a brilliant evocation of Czech life under socialism, added to our understanding not only of Central Europe but also of what it means to be engaged in the struggle of a people to define and affirm themselves.
  • Prague: A Traveler's Literary Companion by Paul Wilson. The stories in this volume - many of which appear in English for the first time - will take you on a personal odyssey through the city's stormy past to its dynamic present. For the traveler who wishes to experience something of its essence, Prague illuminates the heart and soul of a great city.
  • Fin-De-Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture by Carl E. Schorske. A landmark book from one of the truly original scholars of our time: a magnificent revelation of turn-of-the-century Vienna where out of a crisis of political and social disintegration so much of modern art and thought was born.
  • Vienna, 1900: Art, Architecture, Design by Kirk Varnedoe. Borsi and Godoli's Vienna 1900 and Kallir's Viennese Design are complementary books on Viennese art 1880-1930. Kallir's, an expanded exhibition catalog, is succinct, covers more media, and is aimed at a more general audience. Borsi's book deals with the works of Otto Wagner, Josef Olbrich, Josef Hoffman, and Adolf Loos, all architects, and their followers.
  • History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s by Timothy Garton Ash. A series of 29 essays, sketches, and dispatches filed during the 1990s, its title coined by George Kennan in an attempt to capture the uniqueness of Garton Ash's work--journalistically contemporary and yet with a sense of significant historical perspective. Ash concludes with some wise words on what Europe might now mean at the end of the decade.
  • Prague: A Novel by Arthur Phillips. A novel of startling scope and ambition, Prague depicts an intentionally lost Lost Generation as it follows five American expats who come to Budapest in the early 1990s to seek their fortune. They harbor the vague suspicion that their counterparts in Prague have it better, but still they hope to find adventure, inspiration, a gold rush, or history in the making.
  • The Trial: A New Translation Based on the Restored Text by Franz Kafka. The terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. In his brilliant translation, Breon Mitchell masterfully reproduces the distinctive poetics of Kafka's prose, revealing a novel that is as full of energy and power as it was when it was first written.
  • I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal. In a comic masterpiece following the misadventures of a simple but hugely ambitious waiter in pre-World War II Prague who rises to wealth only to lose everything with the onset of Communism, B. Hrabal takes us on a tremendously funny and satirical trip through 20th-century Czechoslovakia.
  • Mozart's Journey to Prague by Eduard Morike. While on a journey to Prague with his wife for the opening night of Don Giovanni, Mozart is caught picking an orange on the grounds of a stately home. But when the resident family finds out who he is, they are so delighted that they invite him to their daughter's wedding. This vivid and imaginative depiction captures both the humorous and the more pensive side of the genius composer.
  • The Third Man by Graham Greene. The story centers on a pulp-fiction writer who is searching for an old friend in post-World War II Vienna. When he discovers that his friend died under suspicious circumstances, he becomes inextricably involved in the mystery. Graham Greene, recognized as one of the most important writers of this century, brings the reader face to face with fundamental questions of morality and personal loyalty.
  • Berlin to Bucharest: Travels in Eastern Europe by Anton Gill. The author, a multilingual Englishman, traveled through East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Albania in 1988 and 1989. His experiences and conversations with Eastern bloc citizens offer an intriguing introduction to the history, politics, and culture of each country--especially welcome since until recently these closed societies inspired very few guidebooks. Gill is sympathetic to the stubborn, heroic determination to maintain national identities, yet wary of passions which endanger minorities, an old and sad story in the region. He anticipates the current problems of "freedom" and the struggle to cope with economic and environmental burdens generated by Communist rule. This richly detailed, well-written book--caring and deeply felt, but not sentimental--gives useful background for tourists and for anyone with a serious interest in the region.
  • Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Rememberance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright. This story is a collection of memories and written reflections from the author, as well as her close family members, pertaining to some of the most cataclysmic events from the 20th century. Specifically the Nazi invasion in the authors native homeland of Prague and the attempted genocide of the city's Jewish population. This book, somewhat of a personal memoir, also centers heavily on the history of Czechoslovakia and many notable events in Europe during the Second World War. 
RECOMMENDED VIEWING 
  • Csinibaba (1997). Csinibaba, a Hungarian musical which is based on Gyula Marton's novel Bambi szalmaszallal, is a cut above your average recreation of the sixties. The appeal of the tunes has crossed the generational divide which Csinibaba portrays with the album selling just as much to hip young things as to 60s veterans in search of a bit of nostalgia.
  • Children Of Glory (2006). At the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, the Hungarian water polo team faces off against the Russians in what will become known as one of the bloodiest matches in the sport's history.
  • Czech Dream (2007). In 2003, filmmakers Filip Remunda and Vit Klusak masterminded and documented the largest consumer hoax in the history of the Czech Republic, a scam that drew thousands to a megamarket that didn't actually exist. Publicized by a renowned advertising agency via countless radio spots, fliers and more than 400 illuminated billboards, the store turned out to be nothing but a movie studio-quality facade in the center of a big green field.
  • I Served the King of England (2008). Writer-director Jirí Menzel helms this bittersweet fable of Jan Dite (Ivan Barnev), an opportunistic young waiter in pre-World War II Czechoslovakia. Shrewdly attaching himself to the rich and famous, Dite dreams of one day owning his own hotel. When a tragedy unexpectedly delivers his wish, Dite discovers that hanging on to his dream is even harder than achieving it. Julia Jentsch and Martin Huba co-star.
  • The Sissi Collection (2007) with Romy Schneider, Karlheinz Böhm. The Sissi trilogy presents through heartwarming storytelling and undeniable visual beauty a Cinderella story in scrupulous detail, in three chronologically biographical films. Made between 1955-1957 by German director Ernst Marischka, the films chronicle, in not-strictly historical terms, Elisabeth of Bavaria's marriage to her cousin, Franz Josef (Karlheinz Böhm), for which she is crowned Princess of Austria and, later, Queen of Hungary.
  • The Illusionist (2006). With his eye on a lovely aristocrat, a gifted illusionist uses his powers to win her away from her betrothed -- who's a crowned prince. But the magician's scheme soon creates tumult within the monarchy and stirs the suspicion of a dogged inspector.
  • Amadeus (1984). F. Murray Abraham earned a Best Actor Oscar for his imperious performance as Antonio Salieri, a mediocre composer whose churlish young rival, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce), wins immortality with his musical genius. Not happy to see his talent eclipsed, Salieri dons a disguise and deviously plots revenge, obsessed with muffling Mozart's maddening laughter. Milos Forman's masterful drama also won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director.
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Why travel with other women?
Many women do not have families or compatible friends who wish to travel. When going on a main-stream tour, women often find that most activities are geared towards couples and quite often they feel left out. Singles' tours are not always what women are looking for. If you do not have a traveling companion, there is also the issue of the expensive "single supplement", sometimes as much as 50 or even 100 percent of the tour cost. By going on women-only tours, women can easily avoid paying for the single supplement by sharing a room with another woman traveler.
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