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The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us

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Francis Tapon travelled for 3 years visiting every Eastern European country - all 25 of them. Here, he mixes insightful facts with personal anecdotes to examine the region's history, food, languages, sites, stereotypes and drinking habits.


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Francis Tapon travelled for 3 years visiting every Eastern European country - all 25 of them. Here, he mixes insightful facts with personal anecdotes to examine the region's history, food, languages, sites, stereotypes and drinking habits.

30 review for The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us

  1. 4 out of 5

    Andrzej

    Can be a bit controversial for some readers, but it has its charm. Confronts historical and statistical data, usually from Gallup polls, with the opinion of locals. Chapter about Poland looks to me quite informative and realistic. My opinion could be valuable, because I live there for over 40 years. If other countries are similarly well investigated then this book is a must read for anybody interested in the world.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    I LOVE this book- it's not a travel guide, exactly, but a culture guide- beware, though. The author spares no one in his offbeat, sometimes deprecating but often hilarious descriptions of the people and places he costs as he "couch surfs" across Eastern Europe!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christi Winkelman

    Despite the moments where I felt like I might be reading Biff's travelogue (from Lamb by Christopher Moore) I'm still giving this a 5 star review. It's lighthearted enough that it doesn't bore you. Each chapter finishes with a summary of what his collective experiences in that area taught him. It's not a travel guide but essentially a wandering adventure that reveals a different side of Europe that some of us may not be familiar with. Mostly because people on vacation tend to be interested in wh Despite the moments where I felt like I might be reading Biff's travelogue (from Lamb by Christopher Moore) I'm still giving this a 5 star review. It's lighthearted enough that it doesn't bore you. Each chapter finishes with a summary of what his collective experiences in that area taught him. It's not a travel guide but essentially a wandering adventure that reveals a different side of Europe that some of us may not be familiar with. Mostly because people on vacation tend to be interested in what they see and not necessarily what they can understand about the area and it's people. While not comprehensive, it is a good book to get ideas and start the conversation of what life looks like in different parts of Eastern Europe. Given how ignorant many of us are about European geography and a general political or historical impact of those regions, I think the simplification was on target for the general audience. However it makes me hungry for something more in the line of Howard Zinn. (If you have suggestions I would love to hear them!) Basically I would recommend this book for purchase to most people if the author removed the sexual or horny tidbits. With over 700 pages I would not recommend reading this in one shot. It was more enjoyable reading in spurts. Otherwise it's a good book on traveling to places sometimes off the beaten path, the types of food/personalities/cultural differences you can expect in each area, and an attempt at understanding (and in some cases the path to overcoming) misconceptions or stereotypes.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Francis Tapon

    I am Francis Tapon, the author of this book. I'll reflect on my own book while trying to remain as objective as possible. No book will be loved by all. Here are the pros and cons of The Hidden Europe. PROS: - It's comprehensive: 25 countries, 25 chapters, 736 pages, 330,000 words, took 7 years to write, based on several years of traveling in each country at least twice. - It's profound, yet light: the book tackles heavy subjects (like history, nationalism, and wars), but interjects humor througho I am Francis Tapon, the author of this book. I'll reflect on my own book while trying to remain as objective as possible. No book will be loved by all. Here are the pros and cons of The Hidden Europe. PROS: - It's comprehensive: 25 countries, 25 chapters, 736 pages, 330,000 words, took 7 years to write, based on several years of traveling in each country at least twice. - It's profound, yet light: the book tackles heavy subjects (like history, nationalism, and wars), but interjects humor throughout so that it doesn't feel like a boring textbook. - It's fast-paced, modular, and fun to read: Despite its thickness, the book flows fast. It's modular so you can easily skip sections or entire chapters without being lost. - It's a fun personal travel adventure: The book has titillating scenes on the one hand and adventurous romps on the other. CONS: - It will offend Eastern Europeans who are very sensitive about their country: some jokes that will make most people laugh won't be so funny to those who were born and raised in that country. Fortunately, the book doesn't spare anyone. Nationalists are a common target of ridicule, so if you're a close-minded Eastern European nationalist, you will not like this book. - If reading about sex makes you squirm, then beware that 1% of this book has sexual scenes (rated R, not X). Although they make up such a small percentage of the book, they are memorable (as evidenced by many of the critics mentioning them). - If you dislike authors who describe how people look, then you might dislike the book. The most sensitive readers say that the book "objectifies" people. Nobody complains that the book objectifies men even though the book describes how many Eastern European men look. Still, a few women have disliked how the book describes women. - The information can be overwhelming. At times the book hits you with a bunch of surveys and facts that may be hard to digest if you're not into knowing such details. On the other hand, if you want to see the supporting evidence for some controversial claims, then the details are critical. Also, the wealth of information makes the book a perfect book to re-read. If you're on the fence...you should sample the book for free on Amazon or Google Books. Reading the intro and a chapter or two will give you a good idea of what the book is like. CONCLUSION: If you enjoy Bill Bryson, you'll love this book. If you love to travel and explore, you'll adore this book. If you're interested in Europe, this is a must-read. It's educational, provocative, and amusing. Get it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Florence

    I decided to read this entertaining book because my family & I had a month trip booked to Eastern Europe. I wanted a quick preview on the countries we would be visiting. Because of a family emergency our trip was cancelled, but I still had a three month experience there by reading this book. It was an easy read and certainly makes me more comfortable with the idea of spending time in any future travels there. It was interesting to note what Tapon's priorities were versus those of ours. I find it I decided to read this entertaining book because my family & I had a month trip booked to Eastern Europe. I wanted a quick preview on the countries we would be visiting. Because of a family emergency our trip was cancelled, but I still had a three month experience there by reading this book. It was an easy read and certainly makes me more comfortable with the idea of spending time in any future travels there. It was interesting to note what Tapon's priorities were versus those of ours. I find it comforting to see Tapon's comments on similarities of the Slavic languages; I recognized many Slavic words Tapon used as examples. I agree with his comments on the left over communist traits in the Ukraine, where I visted a few years ago. What a wealth of information!I certainly admire his tenacity to produce this book. Couch surfing might not be my style, but I can see that it certainly would help to get to know the locals, which makes one understand and learn about the culture of a country more easily. Reading this book may well change the path we finally take through Eastern Europe. I totally agree that "most of us own too much crap, spend money thoughtlessly, and become enslaved by the toys we thought we needed............ the next time you need to reflect, travel longer and farther."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This is a long book; however, I honestly don't see how it could be shortened. Francis Tapon traveled to the 25 Eastern European countries to asked the locals: What can Americans learn from your country?. Is it an authoritative history? No, is it a scientific treatise? No. I do think it was worth reading, although at times it did seem to get bogged down with statistics and language lessons. One of the things that he says in his conclusion section is worth quoting: "The failed communist experiment This is a long book; however, I honestly don't see how it could be shortened. Francis Tapon traveled to the 25 Eastern European countries to asked the locals: What can Americans learn from your country?. Is it an authoritative history? No, is it a scientific treatise? No. I do think it was worth reading, although at times it did seem to get bogged down with statistics and language lessons. One of the things that he says in his conclusion section is worth quoting: "The failed communist experiment is, perhaps, the most important lesson we can learn from Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe teaches us that while authoritarian regimes may satisfy our basic needs, the downsides outweigh the benefits." Pros: Tapon really has visited 25 countries, including Finland, which he readily admits is not a part of the Iron Curtain countries (just it is in the Eastern part of Europe, geographically). Tapon gives some good history and explains some of the incomprehensible Balkan countries. Cons: He uses some profanity, though not over the top, irreverent in a lot of ways, and a bit of a sexist. I think this is a good introduction to the region. Since I am an historian, I recommend reading other books to supplement this one (always good to read multiple books on a topic).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Caio Abramo

    I will keep this short so as to not waste more time with this book than I already have and hopefully prevent you from doing the same. - It lacks focus. It isn't a travel guide, it isn't a travel log, it isn't a serious or semi-serious attempt at comparative cultural analysis, it isn't a popular history guide, it isn't an amateur economical study. It tries to be all of this, glued with comedy and self-help advice, the result being this clumsy behemoth of 736 pages. If you think that's not too bad I will keep this short so as to not waste more time with this book than I already have and hopefully prevent you from doing the same. - It lacks focus. It isn't a travel guide, it isn't a travel log, it isn't a serious or semi-serious attempt at comparative cultural analysis, it isn't a popular history guide, it isn't an amateur economical study. It tries to be all of this, glued with comedy and self-help advice, the result being this clumsy behemoth of 736 pages. If you think that's not too bad for covering 25 countries, I'll mention but one of the books' many excesses: "debunking", in 18 points, myths about Hungary (most of them stemming from one single wacky Hungarian author). As authoritative counterpoint to the loony, author quotes an email from his buddy "Alex". Rigorous! - Author's humour is cheap, unimaginative and facile. Typical teenager American humour. - Author's grasp on sociological, historical, geographic and economic issues is deficient to say the least, basically high-school grade. This wouldn't be a problem if he didn't try to tackle these issues several times per chapter. He offers data in the most superficial manner, usually from only one (and the same) source. His historical "theories" aren't even worth it for the laughs. - Ridden with extremelly sexist remarks that even made me (a white Latin American male) uncomfortable. He objectifies every female he encounters, which adds nothing to the narrative. At least he doesn't diminish their opinions. A particularly nasty example: twice in the Romania chapter he mentions with surprise (and much transparent envy) how this one hot female married an "ugly" man. - Hard to not read it as a pro-capitalist pamphlet. Despite being given evidence to the contrary, author is incapable of offering a reasonable or even thought-provoking analysis of socialism/communism as it affected Eastern Europe. At each chapter he repeats the tiring mantra: capitalism is da best! - The one thing that could be interesting about this book, a serious attempt to discuss national and ethnic "stereotypes", gets completely botched by the author's ignorance, simplistic ideas and downright bigotry. To prove this last tag, I leave you with the pearl that finally made me drop the book for good: Romanians are like Africans who can't seem to break out of their cycle of corruption, laziness, and disorganization.(p.603) Bottomline: it has very little to inform about Eastern Europe that you can't find (better) online. As a personal account it's great, if you're looking for yet more opinions of typical white male Americans.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    This is not a travel guide nor is this a tome of the typical travel writing. Instead it's a fascinating historical, political, socioeconomical and anthropological account of one man's travels through one of the most misunderstood and unknown areas of the world. My husband bought this book for me before we moved to Europe because one of our primary goals was to use our new home as a launchpad into some of these countries you wouldn't necessarily hop a 18-hour plane ride for. I'll be honest, it to This is not a travel guide nor is this a tome of the typical travel writing. Instead it's a fascinating historical, political, socioeconomical and anthropological account of one man's travels through one of the most misunderstood and unknown areas of the world. My husband bought this book for me before we moved to Europe because one of our primary goals was to use our new home as a launchpad into some of these countries you wouldn't necessarily hop a 18-hour plane ride for. I'll be honest, it took me about nine months to finish it. But it was a widely accurate account (at least for the countries we have visited thus far) of Eastern Europeans and the lands they inhabit. It was incredibly helpful and insightful to read about each country before we traveled to it, or in some cases spark our interest to go there. If you like history and want to learn more about this part of the world in a condensed fashion, this is the book for you. If you are curious about Eastern Europe and may want to explore all it has to offer, this is the book for you. If you're searching for a romantic account of Eastern Europe with wordsmithing like "Under the Tuscan Sun" or a substitute for the Lonely Planet Guide as you plan your trip, you will be disappointed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Wilfred

    Brilliant book. It isn't just a plain travelogue - it is a brilliant mixture of history, economics, politics and travel writing. I suppose I am a bit biased because I am also fascinated with Eastern Europe and also have travelled to some of these 'hidden' countries.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Donna Fry

    I bought this book after deciding to do a spot of backpacking around Eastern Europe this coming Autumn. Although this was of particular interest to me personally due to my proposed adventure, I think that all Western Europeans and beyond should be made or perhaps more appropriately offered the opportunity to read this book. It eliminates many common misconceptions about 'Hidden Europe' and has a great balance of anecdotes, history and fact. I pick it up and read it and re read it again and again I bought this book after deciding to do a spot of backpacking around Eastern Europe this coming Autumn. Although this was of particular interest to me personally due to my proposed adventure, I think that all Western Europeans and beyond should be made or perhaps more appropriately offered the opportunity to read this book. It eliminates many common misconceptions about 'Hidden Europe' and has a great balance of anecdotes, history and fact. I pick it up and read it and re read it again and again. I also thrust it upon ignorant friends and family members when they look at me in horror as I tell them of my travel plans. Thanks to this book I am even more excited and reassured that I am doing the right thing with my Eastern European travels and considerably more knowledgeable about the places I am going to explore.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Thomas

    Captivating My search for a deeper understanding of my Eastern European roots led me to the discovery of this amazing bookšŸ˜Š. The britannica.com was my traveling companion through the journey meeting the personae and learning (and many times, relearning) lessons from the regions. Truly a worthwhile experience.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karen!

    Allow me a few bits of preface to this review: 1. I love traveling. 2. I love reading. 3. I love reading about traveling. 4. I love reading about places that I haven't visited and getting inspired. 5. I love reading about the entertaining misadventures of others. 6. I love reading about the happenings of number five during travel. So, when I say that this book was terrible, I am not just talking for the sake of hearing my own voice. The introduction was the best part of this book. Well, the first few pa Allow me a few bits of preface to this review: 1. I love traveling. 2. I love reading. 3. I love reading about traveling. 4. I love reading about places that I haven't visited and getting inspired. 5. I love reading about the entertaining misadventures of others. 6. I love reading about the happenings of number five during travel. So, when I say that this book was terrible, I am not just talking for the sake of hearing my own voice. The introduction was the best part of this book. Well, the first few pages of the introduction was the best part of this book. The writing style is patronizing and tiresome. The author seems to think that we are stupid...or at least as uneducated as he is. Some background is warranted and even welcome, but I picked up this book because I was interested. The title, the cover and table of contents has clued me in to the fact that you will be discussing Eastern Europe. I can find that on a map. He sensationalizes everything. The story turns into a catalog of poor life choices and instances of unpreparedness "but it's okay, because...". Each country gets its own chapter, which is fine, but the subdivisions of each chapter are inconsistent and oft irrelevant. He glances over interesting things and focuses on the stereotypes that he feels can be reinforced. The final section in each chapter made me die inside. Just go yourself. You'll come out knowing more and will actually be able to engage in an intelligent conversation about the region, unlike the author.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Potty

    Like the author, I've also traveled around Eastern Europe, though, in my case, only for two weeks. After reading, I could make sense what's really going on in Eastern Europe, how Eastern European think things (in most case, "pessimistic"), what the traditional cuisine was all about, and so on. I admire his all attempts and efforts to deeply understand local folks. If you wanna travel around Eastern Europe, you have to read this before leaving.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wolf Stundl

    Francis offers historical as well as contemporary insides about eastern European countries in his uniquely humorous way. A condensed evaluation of the state of several countries behind the former iron curtain. Check out his other book "Hike your own hike." too.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hana

    It was potentially fascinating: a country-by-country tour of Eastern Europe. Alas, Tapon's book is full of rants, sexist digressions on which country has the 'hottest babes', R-rated trips to various saunas with aforementioned hot babes, four letter words in multiple languages....There were some interesting factoids, but not enough to save this 700 page disaster.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cherity

    On one hand, I really liked the book. I've read it from cover to cover (and this is a LONG book), and I couldn't put it down. I'm originally from Eastern Europe myself, but, as the author rightfully noted, we, Eastern Europeans, often don't know a thing about our neighbors. I, for example, knew very little about Balkan countries, so I learned a lot. On the other hand, I did not like at all that often the author was very chauvinistic. The descriptions of women in the book are extremely sexist and On one hand, I really liked the book. I've read it from cover to cover (and this is a LONG book), and I couldn't put it down. I'm originally from Eastern Europe myself, but, as the author rightfully noted, we, Eastern Europeans, often don't know a thing about our neighbors. I, for example, knew very little about Balkan countries, so I learned a lot. On the other hand, I did not like at all that often the author was very chauvinistic. The descriptions of women in the book are extremely sexist and offensive. I also did not like the propaganda of living "simple life" without owning things and traveling like nomads. It's a great way of life for some people, but the books describes it like the only right way of life, so I found it offensive, too. Each chapter about a country has a list of the country prominenent or interesting features. Sometimes, the feature that is listed for one country is actually true for many Eastern European countries (as I have visited quite a few of them, I have some idea), but the book creates an impressions like its something unique to one country. Funny fact: describing Ukraine-Russia tension the author says that this tension would never erupt into a real conflict. Well, I was reading the book exactly as the Crimea annexation was happening.

  17. 4 out of 5

    John Evanofski

    I read this before my own European adventure. Tapon focuses on one country at a time in little-known Eastern Europe telling of his experiences that are often comic and always entertaining and then leaves little anecdotes about what we could learn from the countries as well as some general tips. This book made me really want to travel all over Eastern europe so I'm making stops in Budapest and Prague to find my own little adventures.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    This book opened my eyes to a lot of different perspectives from different Eastern European countries. Although no author can give a completely objective view on any country, I felt the author certainly gave an intelligent attempt at depicting many of the main ideas that make up each of these countries and their current situations. He also makes the book more lively with his honesty and sense of humor. I think it is a must read for anyone interested in knowing more about Eastern Europe and some This book opened my eyes to a lot of different perspectives from different Eastern European countries. Although no author can give a completely objective view on any country, I felt the author certainly gave an intelligent attempt at depicting many of the main ideas that make up each of these countries and their current situations. He also makes the book more lively with his honesty and sense of humor. I think it is a must read for anyone interested in knowing more about Eastern Europe and some of each of it's countrie's current issues and attitudes. Most of these countries are still defining themselves anew after well over a decade of being without communism. Tapon has some interesting insite as to how each of them are adjusting economically and politically as well.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lexie Huber

    I found the writing uninteresting and shallow. I read through the first 5 countries, but couldn't go any farther. His insights were far from insightful and I could care less about how sexy the babes in the sauna were or how he saw his soul mate on a train platform. Truly disappointing since the subject matter is so interesting and could have been wonderful with a different author.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Monicaaa

    2018 Update: If you feel like reading my original review from 2013/14, it is below. As I used to ramble a lot when I first started writing reviews, here is a three part summary of my final thoughts. I will not be adding anymore commentary on this book in the future, as I feel like I've spent too much time on it: 1. The book is advertised as having something to teach the reader about Eastern Europe. The book doesn't really teach you anything new that you wouldn't have learned either in high school 2018 Update: If you feel like reading my original review from 2013/14, it is below. As I used to ramble a lot when I first started writing reviews, here is a three part summary of my final thoughts. I will not be adding anymore commentary on this book in the future, as I feel like I've spent too much time on it: 1. The book is advertised as having something to teach the reader about Eastern Europe. The book doesn't really teach you anything new that you wouldn't have learned either in high school or online. When he does drop a fact that you may not have known, he doesn't mention any sources for it. 2. The author spends much of the time objectifying the women he encountered on his travels, from a woman in a sauna to a woman that is too hot for the man she's decided to be with. He also spends a lot of time thinking he knows better. He knows exactly how Eastern Europe can reconcile and get along, because to him it's so obvious and Eastern Europeans are just stubborn. It's not like there's any history that caused bitterness between the people there... The author thinks it's just so easy to get past overlapping histories of genocide, famine, gulags, war, etc and just get along. 3. In the four years since I last looked at this review, I have one huge thought. Save yourself some time and avoid this travel memoir. The length doesn't justify the content. There are far better travel books out there that don't demean the places or people that they write about. Original review posted December 2013. Comments added 5/22/2014: My exact thoughts while reading the book: "It started off good. Author definitely has favorites. I don't understand why he uses the words "hot babe" or "hottie" to describe women. Feels demeaning and sexist. That and the chapter on Poland was terrible. Facts were wrong, the language was slammed, and the dumb Polak jokes were out of line. What's keeping me reading is the interesting facts in each chapter, not the actual message of the book." To get this out of the way: I am Eastern European. My family is from Poland, we got back generations, etc. That being said I had problems with this book as a whole not just the section about Poland. I'll be putting my opinion on that section at the end as to not let that be a bias for the rest of my review, because the author mentioned people having a problem with the chapters with their heritage. I should have known from the beginning that this book wasn't from me. His sexual exploits were thrown at me from the first chapter about Finland, which included a story about an older woman and a sauna. This continued throughout the entire book. I found it extremely unnecessary. His sex life tells us nothing about what "Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us." If he thought the reader would find that relevant, then he was mistaken. His writing was also extremely sexist and objectified women. I have no interest in where the best looking women are or how hot he found the latest woman he came into contact with. I understand that he was telling the story of his travels in Eastern Europe, but it could have been done in a less sexist way. I found many of the sections to be double-edged swords. While they included a ton of really neat information about the country he was in, they also felt insulting. There was one chapter where he literally had absolutely nothing good to say about a country he was in. I felt like I couldn't trust much of what he said history wise, because there was no sources for his information...which wouldn't have been a problem had I not recognized the following: The section about Poland had facts wrong. I've studied the history for years, and I literally cringed when he got stuff wrong without bothering to check them. There was also his opinion on how everything in Warsaw was fake. The city was destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. It was rebuilt after the war. He felt deceived by the Old Town in Warsaw. That it lied to him about being authentically old. If he wanted to see old authentic buildings, he should have gone to Krakow which wasn't leveled to the ground and almost the entirety of the city is old. But there was no mention of Krakow in the book. UPDATED 5/22/2014- The author does mention Krakow in the book, but complains and rails against Warsaw for so long that I was really irritated that since he loved old buildings, authenticity, and history so much (as evidence from his other chapters), that he focused so long on a city that was devastated during WWII and not on the city that survived. I found the writing of the book superficial. It wasn't so much what Eastern Europeans could teach us, but what Eastern Europe could do to make itself better and what Eastern Europeans could do to get along better. It was written with an air of self-righteousness, while also ignoring thousands of years of history that made these countries the way they are now. He thinks he knows exactly what will make Eastern Europe better instead of looking at what makes it unique already. If it was so easy to get countries to get along, than wouldn't it have happened by now? In his own review, he mentions that people who are nationalists or come from a country in Eastern Europe won't like this book. I may come from Poland, but I don't like this book based off of a ton of many different things. His objectification of women, tangents, self-righteous attitude and how he manages to both compliment and insult most of the countries he visits. I wouldn't enjoy this book even if I wasn't Polish. As a whole the writing was far too lengthy. Some countries deserved more pages and others didn't need that many pages. There was many unnecessary tangents and rants. Sometimes I really loved sections of the book because of the wit or the background information about the country. But my eye rolling was constant. I finished the book. I consider it an accomplishment. All in all this book was about a 1.5 star book(but I can't give half stars so it stays at 1), only because it was really interesting in some parts and made me want to do more research of my own. While I couldn't stand the majority of the book, it gave me something to think about and some things to research on my own afterwards. I will not be picking up any of Tapon's other books. I can find the same urge to research and travel from books that are much better written. Additional comments 5/22/2014 I don't doubt Tapon's travel abilities. It's a way I want to travel some time in the future. When I read books and start to dislike them, I rarely put them down. I trudge through them so someone can't say "Well you didn't finish it, so you can't accurately criticize the book." I started disliking the book before the Poland chapter came up, but kept reading. That in mind, I do think that Tapon has potential as a travel writer. The book essentially mislead me. I feel as though I would have enjoyed it much more if it was marketed as a travel memoir about his travels throughout Eastern Europe, instead of a book that was marketed with something to teach it's reader. I wanted more from this book, and instead I felt I was let down as a reader. Additionally, I rarely write reviews right after I read books. I finish them, wait a bit, see if my opinion on the book changes, then proceed to write a review. Many of my books are borrowed from the library, so because of my review writing process and library borrowing limits, I rarely have the book next to me to cite directly. I give examples as best as I can, but cannot give page numbers.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rejoice Tapon

    I read this book in about 2 weeks because I read slowly and English is my 5th language. It was very educating. For the first time, I knew a country like Latvia even exists. I am from the Sahara and have lived in a village for half of my life. So naturally, I didn't know what Finland or Slovakia is or where they are located until I read this book. I am very happy I did. I love it and the humor in the book makes it even better. For example, in Latvia, there's a hilarious part where Francis is watch I read this book in about 2 weeks because I read slowly and English is my 5th language. It was very educating. For the first time, I knew a country like Latvia even exists. I am from the Sahara and have lived in a village for half of my life. So naturally, I didn't know what Finland or Slovakia is or where they are located until I read this book. I am very happy I did. I love it and the humor in the book makes it even better. For example, in Latvia, there's a hilarious part where Francis is watching a man and his girlfriend having a romantic time together on a frozen pond. He fantasizes that the ice breaks and the man disappears in it and that Francis rushes to save the girl. It's silly, but the way he writes it is really funny. Lastly, I've noticed that some women claim that the author is sexist or objectifying women. What they don't tell you is that Francis also objectifies men. In other words, he describes them physically. If that's objectifying, then he is guilty. But I like to know how people look. It helps me imagine how they look. I suggest reading the free sample on Amazon. The first couple of chapters have these famous "sex scenes" that everyone talks about. It's is funny because sex is just a tiny portion of the book - maybe 1-2%. So relax, read the sample, and I don't think that you will be disappointed.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Great resource, particularly for people who are curious about lesser known history and cultural attractions in Europe. I want to meet locals and find wonderful out-of-the-way or eccentric things, but the trouble is having the time to do it on my own. That problem is solved with this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jason Jauron

    The book is long, but most academics will not have an issue with it. Mainstream readers will struggle due to the myriad of anecdotes the author chooses to include. I read this less as a travel book and more as a personal glimpse into the daily lives of an otherwise forgotten people - the different peoples and daily lives of the formerly communist Eastern Europe. In that regard, the author scores high marks. But part of this book seems to have been ghostwritten by Richard Laymon (no offense) and Ian The book is long, but most academics will not have an issue with it. Mainstream readers will struggle due to the myriad of anecdotes the author chooses to include. I read this less as a travel book and more as a personal glimpse into the daily lives of an otherwise forgotten people - the different peoples and daily lives of the formerly communist Eastern Europe. In that regard, the author scores high marks. But part of this book seems to have been ghostwritten by Richard Laymon (no offense) and Ian Fleming (no offense). The sexual references and innuendo and consistent female stereotyping did not belong, nor enhance the book in any way. Perhaps an attempt to lure reluctant mainstream American males - because nobody from the U.S. is visiting this area - so maybe he decided to spice it up to increase readership. And why the author wanted to brag about his sexual conquests (his term) seems a mystery to me and a little "high school boys' locker roomish." Because my enjoyment of this book got Nancy Kerrigan'd every time one of these little "Penthouse letter" vignettes appeared. Peace. J

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dina

    Egotistical, condescending and poorly written Seriously,this melange of factoids,self absorption and Western eccentricity may be the worst travel book I have ever read. It could easily have been edited to half and been better ,if not for the self centered awareness of the author. If I could give it no stars ,I would

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I felt as if the author has given me great insight into the people and culture of the countries I have visited or will be visiting next year.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Signora

    Interesting glimpse into Eastern Europe!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    See my complete review here: http://outsideways.com/article/hidden... See my complete review here: http://outsideways.com/article/hidden...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Krista Hendricks

    A very human book. We are all the product of our experiences in life and the interactions that we have with other humans. With that in mind, It makes sense to me to approach some of the controversial subjects covered in this book from an anecdotal approach. Some people have criticized this, but I wonder if those people have spent time traveling outside of touristy areas or have attempted to get to know local people or have difficult conversations about recent (or past) events and politics. In th A very human book. We are all the product of our experiences in life and the interactions that we have with other humans. With that in mind, It makes sense to me to approach some of the controversial subjects covered in this book from an anecdotal approach. Some people have criticized this, but I wonder if those people have spent time traveling outside of touristy areas or have attempted to get to know local people or have difficult conversations about recent (or past) events and politics. In the age of social media, we have come to appreciate individualsā€™ daily online stories, open letters, sharing of friendsā€™ posts/photos etc., but many readers reject this well-researched book for being too anecdotal and opinionated. Thereā€™s always something to be learned from someone and their life experiences even if you disagree with them or have had vastly different experiences. This isnā€™t the typical guidebook nor a work of historical fiction that can benefit from artistic license and I donā€™t think it should be compared with such books. I found it in the guidebook section of my public library and picked it up precisely because it seemed so out of place. Different and out of place have their charm when examined for what they are and not compared to something they arenā€™t trying to be.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    I'd love to give this book a great review. In terms of the information provided and the author's ability to see history from multiple angles, it's great. Some of the stories are both fun and informative. And I understand that there needed to be some stereotyping involved -- he even acknowledges this. But Tapon's consistent sexism and treatment of women as objects is, for lack of a better word, disgusting. Women are constantly rated in terms of their hottness. He describes his sexual conquests fo I'd love to give this book a great review. In terms of the information provided and the author's ability to see history from multiple angles, it's great. Some of the stories are both fun and informative. And I understand that there needed to be some stereotyping involved -- he even acknowledges this. But Tapon's consistent sexism and treatment of women as objects is, for lack of a better word, disgusting. Women are constantly rated in terms of their hottness. He describes his sexual conquests for no real reason other than to portray the women of certain countries as predatory. He does interact with women, but often saves the "difficult" questions for men. It's an antiquated way of viewing the world and obscures the actual decently researched and fairly well-written views about Eastern Europe that he's presented. Unfortunate and it makes me unable to recommend this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stanley

    One traveler's stories from his trek through all the countries in Eastern Europe -- filled with plenty of history and cultural observations along the way. This is coming with me on my next trip to Europe.

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