Felicity Long
Felicity Long

Now that 2019 is behind us, it's interesting to look back at the travel trends that have shaped the decade in European travel.

One that jumps out at me is the continued emergence of destinations in Eastern Europe onto the radar of American travelers. This is a trend we're familiar with.

Consider the meteoric rise of Prague and Dubrovnik, Croatia, for example, from rife with political unrest and war-torn to A-list tourism status just since the 1990s -- to the point that both cities are now struggling with overtourism.

More recently, Slovenia has emerged this past decade as one of the most environmentally friendly destinations in Europe -- Slovenia is the world's first green country, according to Netherlands-based Green Destinations -- and as a foodie hot spot, thanks to the international star power of Slovenian chef Ana Ros.

Ros' Hisa Franko restaurant in Kobarid, Slovenia, is considered one of the best in Europe, and her career has been featured with much fanfare on Netflix' Chef's Table.

Three of the newest entries into the international spotlight are Estonia, Lithuania and Georgia. 

Tallinn, for example, the tiny capital of Estonia, has developed such a reputation for gourmet dining that the city is giving its neighboring Scandinavian capitals a run for their money. Tallinn has its own Michelin-starred chef, Matthias Diether, who helms the restaurant 180º, but anyone who has visited the city can tell you that even hole-in-the-wall eateries are serving up stellar cuisine. In fact, the foodie scene is so established at this point that the ultraprestigious Bocuse d'Or Europe gastronomic competition will take place in Estonia in May. The event will attract big-name chefs from around the world and will be broadcasted live to more than 20 million people.

Meanwhile, Lithuania is garnering attention, spurred in part by the popularity of Vilnius, its capital, as a filming location. This year alone, projects included "Catherine the Great" with Helen Mirren; "Chernobyl," the chilling HBO hit miniseries; and "The Last Czars," directed by Bafta Award-winning filmmaker Adrian John McDowall.

The country is also an emerging foodie destination in its own right, and it is a standout for adventure travel enthusiasts, thanks to its forests -- 33 percent of the nation's terrain consists of woodland -- nearly 30,000 rivers and streams and 6,000 lakes.

As for Georgia, you don't have to be an oenophile to appreciate the destination, but it sure helps. Home to one of the oldest winegrowing cultures in the world, the distinctive orange-tinted, organic varietals are so sought after that they are slowly but increasingly finding themselves on the shelves of gourmet wine shops in the U.S.

Travelers can try the wines for themselves at the New Wine Festival -- an event aimed at promoting Georgian wine and related culture -- which has attracted so much attention that it's now an annual event every spring in Tbilisi, the country's capital.

As we look forward, it will be interesting to see who's waiting in the wings. Are Riga, Latvia; Sofia, Bulgaria; and Bucharest, Romania, ready for their close ups? We'll be watching.


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