Books: Innocents Abroad

A generation of would-be Hemingways went to Eastern Europe for inspiration--and found it

If you were going to chuck it all and strike out for an exotic foreign destination--no plans, no forwarding address, no regrets--Eastern Europe wouldn't necessarily be the first destination on your list. Picture the travel brochure. Weird alphabets! Crumbling infrastructure! All the boiled cabbage you can eat! Perhaps they had never heard of Paris.

And yet when the Iron Curtain went down in 1991, hordes of American slackers poured into East bloc cities like Prague, Cracow and Budapest, quaint, cobblestoned capitals where a recent college grad could sit in a cafe all day, smoke bad cigarettes, drink bad wine, bask in...

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