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Top 5: Most Popular European Adventures for Cultural Discoveries

Posted on 2/16/2021 12:00:00 AM in The Buzz

Explore Sarajevo, and hear firsthand from locals who lived through the four-year siege that gripped the city from 1992 to 1996, on the #1 adventure on this list.

On every O.A.T. adventure, we seek out opportunities to explore the complexities of a culture from all angles—the good, the bad, and the ugly—through open conversations with local people to the firsthand knowledge of our resident Trip Experience Leaders. On these five adventures, you’ll come to understand aspects of European culture that might surprise you or take you out of your comfort zone … which is how we learn and grow as citizens of the world.

1. Crossroads of the Adriatic: Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia —18-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure

Our most popular independent video: Crossroads of the Adriatic - Curious Kotor, Montenegro

Curious Kotor, Montenegro

Discover Kotor, from the “floating” Our Lady of the Rocks church to the zigzagging Ladder of Kotor trail that overlooks the mountain-ringed bay.

Optional extensions: Pre-trip: Albania: Undiscovered Balkans—5 nights; Pre-trip: New for 2022: Landscapes & Culture of Turkey: From Cappadocia to Istanbul—6 nights; Post-trip: Serbia: Novi Sad & Belgrade—4 nights; Post-trip: New for 2022: New Republics of the Balkans: North Macedonia & Kosovo—7 nights

United as Yugoslavia after World War I, these diverse countries at the crossroads of Eastern and Western cultures coexisted peacefully—yet have been at the center of intermittent hostilities from the Middle Ages to the late 20th century. Over the course of this journey, you'll have the opportunity to meet locals and speak with them about this turbulent history. Discover what life was like during the Bosnian war as we learn about this Controversial Topic through the eyes of a survivor and learn how it continues to impact the daily lives of Sarajevo residents. In Sarajevo, dine with a family that has lived in “Sniper Alley” since before the siege of the city for a perspective of life before, during, and after the war.

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2. Sicily’s Ancient Landscapes & Timeless Traditions —15-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure

Our most popular independent video: Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa: Sicily

Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa: Sicily

Join Emmy Award winner Rudy Maxa for a tour of Sicily’s timeless treasures.


Optional extensions: Pre-trip: Puglia: Italy’s Undiscovered Heel—5 nights; Pre-trip: New for 2022: Bologna, San Marino & Florence—7 nights; Post-trip: Calabria: Southern Italy’s Hidden Heartland—5 nights; Post-trip: New for 2022: Amalfi & Naples: Terraced Cliffs, Turquoise Waters & Ancient Ruins—6 nights

Although the Strait of Messina separating Sicily from the rest of Italy is only 2.5 miles wide, Sicily seems a world apart—and locals think of themselves as Sicilian first and Italian second. Not only does the Sicilian dialect sound distinctly different, the cuisine differs even more—a blend of ingredients from Arab, North African, Greek, Italian, and Spanish traditions. But while the cultural treasures left behind by Sicily’s numerous conquerors were certainly a blessing, almost 3,000 years of foreign domination took its toll on the island. Having been exploited for so long, Sicilians built up a strong sense of kinship among themselves, as well as a deep-rooted mistrust of all sorts of government authority. This is originally how the mafia gained a toehold here. In Palermo, we'll discuss this Controversial Topic on a personal level from two people who are intimately familiar with it. We also discuss the antimafia movement in Taormina with the son of former journalist, Giuseppe Fava, who was murdered by the Sicilian mafia.

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3. The Baltic Capitals & St. Petersburg —16-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure

Our most popular independent video: Great Railway Journeys: Budapest to Warsaw

Great Railway Journeys of Europe: Budapest to Warsaw

Discover Central Europe by railway and see this complex region in a whole new way.


Optional extensions: Pre-trip: Poland: Krakow, Auschwitz & Warsaw—5 nights; Pre-trip: Copenhagen & Odense: Denmark’s Cultural Capitals—6 nights; Post-trip: Russian Capitals: St. Petersburg & Moscow—5 nights; Post-trip: Georgia: Villages, Vineyards & Vibrant Tbilisi—6 nights

Few regions possess a more turbulent history than Russia and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and we discover the multi-faceted culture of the Baltic region from many perspectives. In Tallin, we visit the site of Estonia's “Singing Revolution”—a series of protests in the late 1980s where thousands gathered and sang for independence from the Soviet Union. Near Vilnius, we visit the Museum of Genocide Victims—commonly called the "KGB Museum" because it occupies the former KGB headquarters—and view exhibits that serve as a memorial to the victims of the atrocities that took place here. En route to Riga, we view authentic machinery and propaganda at a Cold War museum. And during open discussions with local people, we also gain a firsthand perspective on modern-day challenges, such as non-citizenship for Russian Latvians and the contentious relationship between Russia and Estonia—the closest Baltic state to the border and most vulnerable to its influence.

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4. Northern Italy: The Alps, Dolomites & Lombardy —15-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure

Our most popular independent video: Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa: Milan and Lake Como

Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa: Milan and Lake Como

Join Emmy Award winner Rudy Maxa on a journey through Italy’s stunning Lombardy region.


Optional extensions: Pre-trip: Italian Riviera, Genoa & the Cinque Terre—5 nights; Pre-trip: The Swiss Alps: Lucerne, Bern & Zermatt—8 nights; Post-trip: Classic Venice: Murano & Burano—4 nights; Post-trip: The Balkans: A Crossroads of Civilization & History—7 nights

Italian culture intersects with German and Austrian traditions in Italy’s northernmost regions. In the small Alpine villages of Val Gardena, a valley nestled in the heart of the Dolomites, a trio of languages is spoken: German, Italian, and Ladin. An ethnic minority of about 35,000 people occupying five valleys of the Dolomites, Ladins developed their own language—unrelated to German or Italian, it’s the oldest language of Italy’s Alpine region. We meet with a Ladin-speaking Alpine hiking guide living in the Dolomitic valleys, who will share his insights on Ladin culture, how they came to settle in these hidden valleys of northern Italy, and why ongoing efforts to preserve their unique language is so important.

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5. Irish Adventure: Dublin, Belfast & the Northwest Counties —16-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure

Our most popular independent video: Planet Food: Ireland

Planet Food: Ireland

From hearty stews to perfect pints, take a mouthwatering look at the culinary traditions of the Emerald Isle.

Optional extensions: Pre-trip: Dublin in Depth—4 nights; Pre-trip: Scottish Highlands and Lowlands: Edinburgh, St. Andrews, National Parks & Glasgow—7 nights; Post-trip: Dingle & Killarney: County Kerry’s Rugged Coastline—5 nights; Post-trip: The Heart & Soul of Ireland: The Aran Islands, Tipperary & County Cork—7 nights

Ireland holds a controversial history that often goes undiscovered, and we'll uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly of Ireland's heritage though conversations with those who've endured these tough times. Upon the Emerald Isle, we'll trace the influence of the infamous Troubles across the country through exclusive experiences and local interactions—first exploring the era's influence on bustling Dublin before traveling to Belfast, where the heart of the period unfolded during the late 20th century. Explore Belfast via black cab, driven by locals who lived through The Troubles; then meet an ex-British soldier and ex-political prisoners who fought on opposite sides of the fighting to learn about the dark shadow cast by this conflict, and their shared hopes for the future.

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