Made in Europe – where the east becomes west

The eastern flank of Europe represents some of the most diverse rural and urban landscapes on the continent. From the Baltic nations in the northeast of Europe, down to the continent-straddling metropolis of Istanbul – it’s hard to imagine they are from the same continent. That’s the unique joy of Europe!

Completing our look at the staggering diversity of Europe, we have journeyed from the southern beaches of Italy to the rugged Atlantic west coast, up to the frigid Arctic circle, and finally the stupendously diverse eastern flank of the continent.

The freedom dividend
It wasn’t that long ago that the north-eastern flank of Europe was occupied by paranoid dictators. The capitals of Estonia and Finland are separated by around 50 miles of water, yet in the bleak decades of occupation, their paths diverged markedly. The beaches and nature were equally wonderful, but life was so very different on each side of the water. Now, 30 years or so on, the freedom from tyranny has borne fruit in the Baltic Nations, in the shape of thriving economies and societies. These countries now enjoy identity, pride, and prosperity – all the trappings of freedom.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are 3, freedom-loving Baltic nations that are unrecognisable from their days of brutal occupation. Their economies are cutting-edge tech and their people have rediscovered their cultures and traditions. Wonderful coastlines, endless islands, pristine natural interiors, and fairy tale towns characterise these countries. It is life-affirming to see the enthusiasm of the people, their determination to forge successful, independent futures for their nations. Offering great value for money, these nations offer superb meeting venues and hotels, as well as an extensive range of activities. An event highlight is the mock interception and interrogation by Soviet-era Latvian guards. The experience is both sinister and comical in equal measure, but points to the resilience of their nation character – being able to reflect on and benefit from this dark past – all the time offering a defiant jab back at the futility of Soviet occupation.

Istanbul in the southeast
Turkey has its own geo-political complexities which add to the alure of the country. This is nowhere more evident than in Istanbul, the cliché-ridden city that staddles the Bosphorus, and represents the cultural & geographic divide between Europe and Asia. Around 1/5th of the Turkish population lives in the Istanbul metropolis, this is a massive conurbation, an absolute shock to the senses in terms of sounds, smells, and sights. This pulsating urban hub is one of the great world cities, a city of contrasts – where Europe meets Asia via bridge, where religions co-exist, and the people lean either east or west – it is an absolute melting pot of diversity. Istanbul events inevitably take in the Bosphorus, the commercial and leisure waterway that dissects the city, the religious & cultural sights and the wonderful dining venues, either historic or waterfront.

The cultural, climatic and physical contrasts of the eastern flank of Europe are stark, from the thronged streets and squares of Istanbul to the desolate, pristine shores & islands of the Baltic nations. It’s hard to imagine that they are from the same continent and yet they are – Europe is truly the continent with it all.

Istanbul rooftop terrace over the Bosphorus
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