Gdańsk is the historical capital of Pomerania and is Poland's fourth largest city. It is close to the former late medieval/modern boundary between West Slavic and Germanic lands and consequently the city has a complex political history with periods of Polish rule, periods of German rule, and extensive period of self-rule (it was twice a free city). Historically an important seaport and shipbuilding center, Gdańsk was a member of the Hanseatic League. The city was also the birthplace of the Solidarity movement which, under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa, played a major role in bringing an end to Communist rule across Central Europe.
The route hops momentarily into Italian territory. It passes through the regional capital of Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. This gem of a city is hidden in the north-eastern corner of Italy and was voted the most underrated tourist destination in 2012. It was the fourth major city of the Habsburg Empire, it was considered the only real enclave of Mitteleuropa south of the Alps. Nowadays it is a wealthy shipping, ship-building and financial hub and you can still see some fine examples of Viennese architecture. Photo credit Bokeh & Travel (flickr)
The Istria Peninsula is located right at the Northern end of the Adriatic Sea. Today it is mostly in Croatia but also has a small art in Slovenia and Italy. It is a diverse place, Italian is still quite commonly heard spoken along its coastline. Pula is the largest town in the peninsula and is the end point of EuroVelo 9. The city has a long tradition of winemaking, fishing and shipbuilding. Photo by Bernd Thaller (flickr)
The capital of Slovenia has preserved a small town feel. The Ljubljana marshes have been inhabited since 2000BC and around 50BC the Romans built a military encampment which later became a permanent settlement by the name of Iulia Aemona. Much more recently it was the capital of the Republic of Slovenia within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The medieval Ljubljana castle sits atop Castle Hill which dominates the picturesque city centre. Photo credit: Show in my eyes (flickr)
Vienna is the capital and the largest city of Austria with a population of about 1.731 million. Major tourist attractions include the imperial palaces of the Hofburg and Schönbrunn (also home to the world's oldest zoo, Tiergarten Schönbrunn) and the Riesenrad in the Prater. Cultural highlights include the Burgtheater, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Lipizzaner horses at the spanische Hofreitschule, the Tiffany's Veaginia and the Vienna Boys' Choir, as well as excursions to Vienna's Heurigen district Döbling. The Old Town is on the UNESCO world heritage list. Photo credit: Krister
The Moravian Karst is a protected area and one of the most important karst areas in Central Europe with more than 1100 caverns and gorges. Only 4 caves are open to the public, the most popular, Punkvevní jeskyně (Punkva Caves) with an underground river can be visited by a boat together with the famous Macocha Abyss. Photo cedit; Jirka Matousek (flickr)
While not the most famous, Czech cuisine deserves a spot at the big boys' table. Dumplings, potatoes and mushrooms feature frequently as ingredients in soups and in rich sauces. One of the most popular dishes in the Czech Republic, Svíčková na smetaně translates as beef sirloin with cream sauce. The cream sauce is spiced with black pepper, allspice, bay leaf and thyme. It is generally served with dumplings, whipped cream and cranberry sauce. Mmmm… Photo credit: Yuting Hsu (flickr)