AS THE EURO GOES . . .
Eastern Europe is being held hostage. Except it’s not by communism anymore. Countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Hungary were once dependent on the largesse of their neighbors to the East. Long gone are the days of Soviet meddling and social experimentation. Today these countries find themselves pretty much on their own. It hasn’t been an easy transition, and, for the most part, these countries have muddled into somewhat functioning democracies. Now, however, the region faces a massive economic threat thanks to the sovereign debt crisis in Europe that began in 2010 in Ireland and then spread to Greece and then Portugal, Italy, and Spain. Regardless of the ultimate resolution, the effects will be felt in these weaker peripheral economies the most. And that will provide both crisis and opportunity.
A visit to a place like Prague in the Czech Republic will give you the impression that these markets are anything but emerging. I recall driving from the airport in Prague through miles of ugly Soviet-era apartment buildings wishing I’d never come. But, once in the old town, everything changed and I was amazed at the wonderland that lay at my feet, literally. The Mala Strana area (little or lesser side) of Prague was so named because of its position on the left bank of the Vltatava River. It’s a walker’s paradise with restricted vehicle traffic. You are surrounded by outstanding examples of Baroque ...