Pro's: Landscape diversity, great climate. Hot springs, castles, scenic routes, fine wining and dining everywhere.
Con's: Can't think of any.
In a nutshell: Four very different, very rich cultures within a few hours by car from each other.
For over half a millennium, it all used to be one country, Europe's second largest, a European superpower, now but a name from a history textbook. Like Paris in the West, Vienna used to graciously preside over the Central European civilisation, reaching with its influence across distances and cultures. It was too busy managing its multi-cultural citizenry to endeavour an overseas expansion so the only far-flung parts of the empire were a tiny concession in Chinese Tianjin and Franz-Josef Land in Antarctica.
The high culture of the Viennese court percolated to Austrian dominions and beyond, softening mores, refining lifestyles and popularising such social staples as coffee, opera, ballroom dance, baguette, croissant, psychoanalysis and Jugendstil. Of fine wines - a sure sign of a mature hedonistic culture - the area has a lot, even if, undeservedly so, hardly with an international acclaim.
For centuries, Austro-Hungary kept steadily gaining political and territorial weight. The mostly peaceful expansion - the Hapsburgs prefered dynastic marriages to warfare - continued until it choked on Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1914 taking down the whole world with it in the whirlpool of WWI.
Nothing was the same after that. The empire tumbled like a house of cards, leaving in its wake a string of independent states, each with its own identity, yet still bearing signs and vestiges of the common past. This is what we went on search in the summer of 2006, enjoying along the way Mitteleuropa's best of worldly pleasures: food, wine, theatre, hot spring spas and the beauty of its cities and countryside.
Highlights of the trip:
Slovenia - Ljubljana, Triglav Mountains & Adriatic Coast
Italy - Trieste, Miramare Castle, Nudist Beaches
Austria - Opera In The Northernmost Italian Renessaince City
Budapest - Szentendre - Siófok - Keszthely - Hévíz - Ptuj - Nova Cerkev - Celje - Predjama - Trieste - Duino - Izola - Gorizia - Bovec - Bled - Ljubljana - Maribor - Graz - Sopron - Fertöd -Törökbálint - Budapest