Eastern Europe

Why Serbia Gets My Vote For Friendliest Place in Europe

I love Europe, both Western & Eastern. But let’s face it, compared to much of the world it’s not the friendliest continent. I mean there are pockets of Spain (in my limited Spain experience, pretty much the whole pocket outside of Catalan) that are very hospitable… and many other great destinations I’ve yet to hit such as Portugal, Italy, Greece, etc. so granted this judgement is a bit premature.


And like all sweeping generalizations, it is inaccurate on it’s face because of the relative  nature of the question and the fact that the answer  very much depends on the individual experience.

But both of my experiences in Serbia were absolute treasures in my memory bank. I enjoyed Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic… Bulgaria is awesome, Poland was super and I made great lifelong friends in each of these places, but Serbia.. well Serbia is gritty and full of life and if you are a solo traveler, well, you are in for a treat.

My first time in Serbia I was that solo traveler and upon arrival by train from Budapest, a local but trustworthy looking and semi fluent English speaking gentleman grabbed my too large bag off the arrival platform, jumped on the bus with me and then took a good 1/2 hour of his time to assist me in finding the flat I had rented up a very steep hill.


Of course, I tipped him but I really had the feeling he wasn’t in it for the money. I’ve been hustled all over the world so I know a thing or two about getting hustled and this man was simply super friendly and eager to help this rare American visitor any way he could.

On my last trip in the summer of 2014 with my film crew taping for Raw Travel, I had a rare few moments to myself and I decided to go out and jog the streets of Belgrade. I was lost, winded and had slowed my running to a leisurely stroll to just take the city and it’s people in.

I could viscerally see the struggle on the faces of the Serbian people I met along the way. The families in the parks with young toddlers…. the grandmas and grandpas…It was a surreal but uneventful moment that probably shouldn’t have but brought tears to my eyes nonetheless. I still remember that moment as if it were yesterday.

When the 3rd Balkan War was going on in the 1990s, I was the blissfully ignorant, largely unaware American caught up in my own world of establishing my career and other, largely selfish pursuits like making as much money as I thought I deserved. Oh the folly of youth.


Visiting Serbia several years later made me more aware of the tragedy and long lasting repercussions of this and all tragic wars. Not just for Serbia but for all involved of course, all because a relatively few morally bankrupt, senseless, shameful “leaders” are out to save their sorry asses. What’s a few thousand crimes against humanity compared to that?

Serbia has yet to join the European Union and the economy leaves much to be desired. But its not the economy or even it’s history that defines a people or at least it shouldn’t be. When it comes to the friendliest spot in Europe, Serbia gets my vote. And I can’t wait to return.

Eastern Europe

Raw Travel Season 2 – Sneak Preview

First of all a big thank you for making our first season a big success. We exceeded almost every expectation and we couldn’t have done it without our very loyal friends, family, fans, affiliates, advertisers, vendors, staff and wonderful travel peers.

Hopefully we spread a little good, positive energy as well, something TV and we all could always use more of. I sincerely hope our “Give Back” segments struck a chord in a few folks and maybe, just maybe some lives have been improved as a result.

As we expand into Season 2 and 110 cities and almost 100 million homes we hope you’ll enjoy our more diverse locations (North & South America, Eastern Europe & Southeast Asia) and will follow our journey as we hopefully improve production and not only entertain a bigger audience, but impact them as well.

Here is a small taste of what you can expect during our Fall 2014 Season.

Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe – This Time, It’s Personal

In the summer of 2012, I spent a wonderful month traveling through Eastern Europe. I began with a week in beautiful Budapest, Hungary then took the train to the surprising Belgrade, Serbia then on to the kind of crazy Bucharest, Romania and ended my journey in historic and lovely Kiev, Ukraine. You can read about some of my journey HERE.

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The whole time, “Raw Travel”, then a project without a home, was not far from my mind.  I was pre-producing in my head everywhere I went. Making mental and physical notes of ideas for producing shows, showcasing Eastern Europe in ways I’d never seen on U.S. television and maybe even internationally as well. I was making valuable contacts as well.

Now, it’s time to return… but this time, with my crew and this time, pre-production gives way to the art & stress of actual producing. These are going to be our Fall 2014 episodes for Raw Travel’s 2nd season (2014-15). This is not a dress rehearsal friends, this is the real deal and we want to keep striving to produce better and better content.


Unfortunately, with the political situation being what it is in Ukraine, I won’t be able to return there this time, and Serbia, a place I fell in love with, may or may not be on the agenda depending on how the travel agenda works out.

But we’re definitely heading to Hungary and Romania and we’d like to know where YOU would like for us to go in Eastern Europe. Should Serbia be in our plans? How about the Czech Republic or Poland or Bulgaria. The beautiful beaches of Croatia or nearby Slovenia or Slovakia. Got some ideas for us while we’re there.. hit us up.

We’re in the heavy planning stages but we will be nailing things down in the next few weeks as we will be there in June-July 2014 filming. We’re wide open to suggestions, so hit us up on our Facebook, twitter or just send us a good old fashioned email.



Eastern Europe

Budapested in Hungary

Buda Castle

I arrived in Budapest, Hungary in a sleep deprived haze. As if to match my mood, it was gloomy, overcast and drizzling slightly, the only time it would rain my entire week there. Despite the lack of sleep, the adrenaline of the trip kicked in when I arrived at the apartment I had rented on Utca O (O Street) right in the heart of the action on the Pest side of Budapast. The city is divided into two parts by the Danube River, Buda and Pest. Buda is where the Buda Castle and beautiful cobblestone streets lie. It’s a more tranquil relaxed pace. Pest is the commercial center where most of the hotels, restaurants, cafes and nightlife take place.

On the Danube River

My first clue about Budapest came when I was walking around the City Centre. It felt a little like a holiday to be quiet honest without the chaotic traffic, horn blowing and the like that plagues so many urban environments. I remember distinctly that traffic was so light that my NYC urban instincts took over. I brazenly jay walked through the “don’t walk” sign. After crossing, I felt alone suddenly and looked back and noticed I was the only one out of a crowd of 20 or so people who had done so. All the Budapest citizens and other tourists waited patiently for the “walk” sign before crossing the deserted street. Hmmm, this was not my typical travel experience. Budapest, it seems is a law and order place.

Unless you like getting ripped off, avoid Taxis at all cost in Budapest…the tram is fast & cheap

Indeed it is. Oh you have a plenty of debauchery with pubs everywhere, wine drinking in the streets, gambling at casinos and I did get ripped off by almost every taxi I took. But overall it was relaxed, in control, with even the partying to the wee hours feeling sedate, relaxed and orderly. I never saw any drunk and disorderly people spilling out into the street. It was a no drama kind of place.

Perhaps it’s Hungary’s history as a the most westernized of all the old Iron Curtain countries. Before 1989, Budapest was the tourist destination for those from other more repressed countries in the Eastern Block like Romania or Yugoslavia came when they wanted to taste of the evil West.  Here they could eat at Western fast food at places like McDonald’s or even buy some coveted blue jeans! (though in many countries like Romania, it was outlawed to wear them).  Hungary still had communism and repression, but it was a special, more relaxed version of communism that they were somehow able to live with.

And of course, the fact that I was in the City Centre tourist zone most of the time had a lot to do with it as well, I’m sure. Yes, I of course ventured out of City Centre and certainly crossed the Danube to give Buda a go. But I never made it to the “Gypsy Quarter” or the 8th District where I really wanted to go and witness the nitty gritty side of Budapest. I had met a friend who promised to take me by bus (she didn’t trust me to go alone stating flatly that I would “definitely get robbed”) but in the end she canceled on me and by then I hadn’t any more time to reschedule.

I doubt very seriously her statement about “definitely getting robbed” in the 8th District being true. A little research online uncovers nothing but rave reviews for the so called “Gypsy Tour” and nary a report of robberies. Missing the reportedly wild and wooly 8th District was the one regret I had when I had to bid adieu to Budapest and continue on my journey by train to Serbia and then late Romania and Ukraine. Yet I was heartened by the fact that I plan on making many, many returns to Eastern Europe and Budapest in particular. It’s just too lovely a city to resist. But this time, no jaywalking… at least until I get to the 8th District.