Forget Middle Earth—Central and Eastern Europe’s salt mines, ice caves, mountains and castles are now on Street View

Throughout history, Europe has been a hotbed of culture, imagination and natural beauty. At Google we’re keen to share these elements with the world through our maps, so over recent months we’ve been taking all manner of Street View technologies—Trekkers, Trolleys and tripods—to capture some incredible places across the continent, focusing this time on Central and Eastern Europe. Here are a few highlights for you to explore:

Floating down the Danube river in summertime is a wonderful thing. But now you can also check out some of Hungary’s hidden gems in Google Maps. Take a look inside the National Theatre of Pécs and explore the beautiful Basilica of Eger, the second largest church in the country. In the capital, Budapest, you can walk among the trees and rose bushes in the little-known but spectacular botanical garden near the centre of town, or even climb a hill to get away from it all.

The magnificent National Theatre of Pec, Hungary

Czech Republic
If you’re lucky enough to have been to Prague, you may have seen the fairytale sight of Prague Castle from the medieval Charles Bridge. They’re too good to miss, so we added these sites and almost 30 others in Czech Republic to Street View including the gardens of the Prague Castle, Prague’s historic center, interiors of castles such as Cesky Krumlov and Spilberk, and beauty spots like Ceske Svycarsko and Krkonose National Park.

The interior of the Cesky Krumlov Castle, Czech Republic

In Slovakia, we’ve just released images of heritage sites like this wooden protestant church in Kezmarok and national parks like Velka Fatra and Pieniny. To get a feel for the history of the country, why not check out Branc Castle or Draskovic Castle in Cachtice? From the high turrets and battlements of the castles, you can then take a trip below ground and visit Dobsinska Ice Cave and Ochtinska Aragonite Cave which we added last year.

The church in Kezmarok

And finally, sink 100 meters deep into one of the most breathtaking places beneath the earth: the Turda Salt Mine, in Cluj County, Romania. Tourists around the world can take a tour of the mine—which is more than 200 years old—with our high-resolution imagery, from the comfort of their homes.

Turda Salt Mine, Romania

We hope you enjoy discovering some of the delights of Europe as much as we did.

Posted by Magdalena Filak, Street View team Continua a leggere

Bringing a fresh digital vision from “New Europe” to Brussels

While Old Europe ponders its approach to the digital future, New Europe is rushing ahead to embrace the web as a motor for growth and prosperity. This past autumn, together with Financial Times, International Visegrad Fund and Res Publica, we announced the New Europe 100 list of innovators from Central and Eastern Europe.This past week, many of these entrepreneurs came to Brussels to present their ideas to the European Parliament

The event featured real-life success stories :

  • Kamila Sidor, CEO, Geek Girl Carrots from Poland who runs a successful social innovation movement to encourage more women into ICT careers.
  • Michaela Jacova, Investment Manager, Neulogy VC from Slovakia, who supports aspiring talented entrepreneurs by awarding grants and matching with VC investors.
  • Paul-Andre Baran, Director, Biblionet from Romania, who helps provides free access to computers and the internet through public libraries.
  • Marcin Beme, CEO, from Poland, who founded a successful mobile platform offering digital audiobooks in Poland, Czech Republic, Hunagry , Spain, FInland, Sweden, Russia, Germany, France and Romania.
  • Gergana Passy, Digital Champion of Bulgaria, who advocates for a free access to the internet, e-skills and digital transformation across the society.

MEP Michal Boni, former minister for digitization in Poland, hosted the debate, which featured a keynote address from Vint Cerf, Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist. Policymakers from around New Europe attended, including MEP Janusz Lewandowski, former Polish EU Commissioner; MEP Antanas Guoga from Lithuania, and Prof. Ziga Turk of University of Ljubljana and Former Minister for Growth in Slovenia.

All listened to the entrepreneurs offering important lessons on technology­-driven innovation. Apart from sharing personal passion for ICT-driven innovation, the New Europe called on the politicians to create a positive environment for innovation. Their proposed ingredients include accepting business failures, attracting more women in ICT careers, increasing access to the Internet across the society, and simplifying rules for trading across the borders. Together, these measures represent a positive recipe for creating a true European digital single market.

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Throwing off the shackles of communism

A quarter century ago, the people of Central Europe liberated themselves, bringing down the Iron Curtain, choosing capitalism over communism, and democracy over dictatorship. This week, at an event in Prague, we unveiled ten online Google Cultural Institute exhibitions recounting the amazing and thrilling events from Poland in the north to Hungary in the south.

Communism represented an artificial transplant in Central Europe. Throughout history, the region enjoyed strong religious, economic and political ties with the West. The Museum Masaryk T.G. Lany brings its readers back to the founding ideas of democracy and freedom on which the Czechoslovak Republic was built through the legacy of the first Czechoslovak president.

All through the 1980s, pressure for change mounted. An independent free trade union called Solidarity swept through Poland at the beginning of the decade. Even though the government declared martial law to crush it, the light of freedom would only be dimmed temporarily. Dissidents appeared. Priests protested. Musicians revolted. The Czech Republic’s Vaclav Havel Library’s exhibition of black and white photographs captures not only the period of mass demonstrations in 1989 and the subsequent revolution, but also the visits and performances of cultural icons such as Frank Zappa and the US alternative troupe The Bread and Puppet Theater. For the citizens of Czechoslovakia, these first tastes of the Western world represented “the first free steps of a society.”

Starting in the spring of 1989, East Germans began fleeing to other Soviet bloc countries. The Hungarian government opened its border with Austria in May and the rush to escape was on. The Vaclav Havel Library exhibit captures the wave of citizens of the German Democratic Republic in September who inundated the surroundings of the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Prague, waiting in anticipation for longed permission to travel to the West.

In June, the Polish government legalized Solidarity and held partially free elections. Solidarity won a landslide and formed the Soviet bloc’s first non-communist led government. The Polish History Museum has created an exhibit called “Tearing the Iron Curtain apart.” It includes a photo of the symbolic meeting between Poland’s first non-communist Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki and the German Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Another exhibition from the Julian Antonisz Foundation shows experimental art from the communist era.

In November, the Berlin Wall crumbled and millions of Czechs crowded the streets. The Muzeum umění Olomouc has prepared a selection of images from photographer Petr Zatloukal, showing a behind-the-scenes look at the November events. The Muzeum policie České republiky showcases photographs of the uniforms of the riot police on 17th November 1989, as they watched, powerless, while millions of Czechs marched for their freedom. Dissident playwright Vaclav Havel emerged from prison to become president. The photographs from the Nadace Dagmar a Václava Havlových VIZE 97 exhibit maps Havel’s extraordinary journey from 1989 to 2011.

Slovakia also won its freedom and soon broke away from Prague to achieve full independence. Its the Museum of Crimes and Victims of Communism illustrates the path to freedom through photographs of unknown heroes who participated in country’s Candle Demonstration.

The sweep of the events accelerated and the shackles of communism were gone by the end of 1989, not only throughout Central Europe, but also in the Balkan countries of Romania and Bulgaria. The Balts, within the Soviet Union itself, soon would form a human chain hundreds of miles long and win back their freedom. In Hungary, the Open Society Archives, is bringing online one of the world’s largest archives from the Cold War, including propaganda films and surveillance documents, samizdat and opposition activist videos, publications and posters.

Take time to browse and learn. We believe putting historical material on the Internet and organizing it in a way that allows visitors to read and understand what it felt like to be in the midst of events not only gives more people access to important material but also preserves these perspectives for future generations. Today, memories of the Cold War may be fading and it is our duty to keep them alive as a reminder of the tremendous achievements of the courageous people of Central Europe.

PostePosted by William Echikson, Head of Free Expression, Europe
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Supporting New Europe’s digital advances

They threw off the shackles of communism. Now they are grabbing the reigns of the technology revolution. Together with Financial Times, International Visegrad Fund and Res Publica, we announced the New Europe 100 list of innovators from Central and Eastern Europe who are leveraging new technologies to transform the region in business, media, culture, science and politics.

In announcing the project, the Financial Times noted: “central and eastern Europe say the combination of a high level of mathematical education, low overheads and a globalised, westernised young generation makes for a heady and successful mix.” We agree. The New Europe 100 winners show that this former communist region is fast moving away from its old traditional manufacturing industries. They range from “a Hungarian doctor who has created a medical advice website driven by social media, a team of Polish students who have built an award-winning robot that could operate on Mars, and a Slovak inventor of a flying car. “

Check out the whole list at and read more about the project and its laureates in the newest Visegrad Insight. Follow it on Twitter @NewEurope100 and tag as #NE100 elsewhere.

The FT correctly notes that the the region still must overcome obstacles. Research and development activities is about one per cent of the region’s gross domestic product, according to McKinsey, the consultancy – half the rate in the western EU, and even behind 1.5 per cent in the Bric economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Our hope that the New Europe 100 project will help raise the profile of the region’s innovators. Recognition from being included on the list will, we believe, bring the initiatives attention, investor interest – and perhaps even potential business partnerships.

Posted by Agata Waclawaik-Wejman, Head of Public Policy, Central Europe
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Showcasing tolerance From Berlin to Budapest

At a time when racism is on the rise in Europe, reportedly reaching its worst level since the 1980s, it is more more important than ever to stand up against scapegoating of migrants and minorities. Two initiatives highlight our commitment to tolerance.

In Germany, we kicked off a new edition this month of the YouTube 361 Grad Respekt combating social exclusion and (cyber-)bullying. This YouTube youth competition runs five video camps across the country, helping students script and shoot videos. You can also participate from home using a webcam or make a video with your smartphone or tablet. Tell us all what makes you strong, talk about your experiences, give others courage, and inspire and motivate them to submit their own statement about showing more respect. Share the video and upload here.

Submissions from the five video camps will be presented one by one on until September. Keep checking the channel. After only two days live, the site had received more than 500,000 views!

In Hungary, we’re well into our second year of an exciting program called WeAreOpen. It’s rallying cry is: “Being open is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also worth it.” To date, more than 750 companies, communities and organisations, big and small, have signed up in support This year’s version launched in March with a social media campaign to counter hate speech. Musicians, actors, celebrities, and Internet users (including students, doctors and teachers) shared their own experiences, taking a stand against prejudice, showing support for Roma, lesbians, gays,, Jews and handicapped. Their videos have received more than 200,000 views on YouTube.

At July’s Budapest Pride march, WeAreOpen supplied an army of colorful balloons and invited everyone to join. The march was live streamed the on YouTube and more than 20,000 watched it live.

This year’s WeAreOpen 2014 features research from the Gemius consulting firm about diversity and tolerance at the workplace. It found that more than half of Hungarian employees have already encountered negative discrimination.

The virus of hatred, unfortunately, will not vanish. 361 Grad Respekt, WeAreOpen and many more initiatives promoting tolerance are urgently needed.

Posted by Richard Schuster and Mounira Latrache, Communications managers
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Music spreads across Europe with Google Play

Your music is supposed to be fun, but in reality it can be the exact opposite: a chore – moving files between computers, syncing across your phone and tablet, and lots and lots of wires. Google Play Music, an easier way to manage your music, offers a solution. It just has launched so you can listen to any song you want, whenever you want, on all of your devices. has just come to Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Russia and Switzerland.

All Access coverage is now spread pretty much across the entire continent. A first group of nine European countries last month received the service.

All Access is the first service of its kind that lets you store 20,000 songs from your personal music collection in the cloud for free; purchase new music from all the major record labels and thousands of indies to grow your collection; or get an unlimited pass to a huge library of music on all your devices with All Access, our monthly music subscription service. It’s all stored in the cloud so you never have to worry about losing songs or moving them again. You can add a new favorite track to your collection while you’re on your computer, and it will be instantly available on your phone and tablet. And you can “pin” all of this content to make it available on your phone or tablet when you’re offline without a connection.

All Access lets you search for and listen to any song from our library of millions of tracks, wherever and whenever you want. You can create an ad-free, interactive radio station from any song or artist you love. Or you can browse recommendations from our expert music team and explore songs by genre. The “Listen Now” tab puts artists and radio stations we think you’ll like front and center so you can start listening the minute you open your library. You can try All Access for free for the first month and pay only a modest subscription service each month after that.

With this launch, Google Play moves one step closer to being your ultimate digital entertainment destination, where you can find, enjoy and share your favourite apps, games, books, movies, magazines and music on your Android phone or tablet. Good listening.

Posted by Posted by Sami Valkonen, Head of International Music Partnerships, Google Play
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WeAreOpen brightens Budapest

Throughout much of Euorpe, intolerance towards minorities is on the rise. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights published data last year showing ethnic minorities face a high level of hate crime. More established politicians, not just the far-right, are increasingly scapegoating migrants and minorities.

We think that it’s important to remind ourselves and others – even in trying times – that diversity and tolerance are core to every community’s success. As a part of our efforts, we have joined with Hungarian companies to launch ‘WeAreOpen’, a diversity initiative in Hungary with a simple message: “Being open is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also worth it.”

The WeAreOpen website encourages other companies, organizations and other communities to stand up in support for inclusion and diversity by putting their logos on the site. At this month’s Budapest Pride march, we supplied an army of colorful balloons and oversized sunglasses and invited everyone to join. The march was live streamed the march via Hangouts on Air.

The initiative caught the public imagination. Record numbers of people turned up for the Pride march, three times more than in previous years. More than 17,000 viewers watched our Budapest Pride Hangouts on Air.

Since the ‘WeAreOpen’ website went live, more than 500 companies, organizations and other communities have joined. As well as local Hungarian companies, multinationals ranging from Morgan Stanley to Vodaphone, signed up. Whether you are Hungarian or not, please go ahead and speak up in favor of tolerance.

Posted by Richard Schuster, Communications Manager, Budapest
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Growing our Map Maker community in Europe

Exploration is at the heart of the summer season, and what better way to take part than sharing your knowledge on the places you love on Google Maps? Today, Google Map Maker is diving into summertime by welcoming mappers of Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to our ever-growing team of citizen cartographers in our quest to map the world.

With Google Map Maker, you can contribute your local knowledge to make a more useful and comprehensive map of the changing world around us. Begin in your neighborhood and try adding the building footprints for local shops and restaurants. Then, embrace your inner traveler and enrich the maps of national parks and historic landmarks. If you’ve got the itch for adventure, try adding campgrounds, beaches or your favorite hiking trails.

View Larger Map

Jajići, Bosnia and Herzegovina was a blank space on the map
before citizen cartographers put it on the map.

Whether it’s a cycling route through Budapest or a cafe alongside Prague’s Vltava River, each improvement to the map will help locals and tourists alike as they navigate your neighborhood this summer. Once approved, your contributions will appear on Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Maps for Mobile.

To get started, join other mappers on the Google Map Maker community forum, explore the Help Centre for tips and tricks, or watch mapping in real-time with Map Maker Pulse. Now, from the Heart Shaped Land, through Central Europe, to Swedish Lapland, you can help Google Maps to embody the rich culture and spirit unique to your homeland – starting today!

Posted by Kaushik Sridharan, Software Engineer
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Campaigning for Innovation in Central and Eastern Europe

Two decades ago, Central and Eastern Europe threw off the shackles of communism. Today, the region is among Europe’s most dynamic, and we recently held our first Big Tent in the region to investigate how Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary could play a leadership role in driving forward innovation on the web.

This newfound freedom encourages the region to embrace the Internet, Polish ministers said. “We prefer freedom,” Michal Boni, a former Solidarity union leader and present digitisation minister, repeated twice in the keynote address. Deputy Foreign Minister Henryka Mościcka-Dendys argued that new technologies helping “civic initiatives gain wider ground for their actions.” A concrete example is opening up public data. By examining online license plate records Zuzana Wienk, a Slovak anti-corruption campaigner, demonstrated the bidding for street cleanup services was rigged.

The Internet already is driving economic progress. At the Big Tent, we showcased successful Internet startups and social innovators. They ranged from Polands’ game startup Dice+ and audio books pioneer Audioteka to Hungarys’ to K-Monitor transparency project and presentation tools developer Prezi. From Slovakia, traditional Ultra Plast plastic maker showed how to leverage its net presence to boost exports.

At the same time, the region needs to improve its education and regulation. While universities produce excellent engineers, they rank low in equipping graduates with needed business skills. Too few offerings exist for adult education. “If there is no lifelong learning, there is no lifelong earning,” quipped Jan Figel, Deputy Speaker of the Slovak Parliament. Other panelists wanted to see government change regulations to make it easier for companies to take risks, to start new businesses and to wind them down if and when they fail.

Our Big Tent took place in the wake of revelations that the U.S. intelligence agencies had conducted an online surveillance campaign. Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond stressed that the threats to the open web are not always from autocratic regimes and that any limitations to freedom online should be set narrowly. He acknowledged the dangers of online radical and racist speech. But he said that the Internet offers the best vehicle for dealing with the issue – “counter-speech” denouncing the hate.

Most of the debate had an optimistic tone, with faith in future innovation. The audience appreciated a demonstration of Google Glass. Slovakia’s Figel, who previously served as a European Commissioner, tried on a pair and checked the weather in the European Union’s capital Brussels. It was sunny outside in Warsaw – and grey and overcast in Brussels.

Posted by Agata Wacławik-Wejman, Head of Public Policy, Central and Eastern Europe

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Celebrating the 50th country on Street View

Whether you’re planning a summer vacation to visit the Colosseum or exploring potential neighborhoods for your next move, Street View gives you instant access to the places you want to see — even before you leave the house. We launched Street View in 2007 in five U.S. cities to give you what we called a “feet on the ground” experience and have since been growing the program to make it more comprehensive, accurate and useful for everyone.

Today, we’ve reached 50 countries with the launch of Street View in Hungary and Lesotho and are significantly expanding our coverage in Poland and Romania, among other locations around the world. This is also the largest single update of Street View imagery we’ve ever pushed, including new and updated imagery for nearly 350,000 miles of roads across 14 countries.

Now you can take a virtual stroll through the historic center of Budapest, right along the Danube (the river that carves the city in two). See the Hungarian Parliament building or the famous Chain bridge.

Budapest, Lánchíd (Chain bridge)

Other Hungarian treasures to be discovered include the Széchenyi thermal bath, the largest medicinal bath in Europe, as well as the wonders of Buda castle.

Lesotho, an enclave surrounded by South Africa, is the only independent state that sits entirely 1,000m or more above sea level. Explore some of the mountainous imagery captured by our Street View cars, including the winding roads and lakes.

Leribe District, Lesotho

Other sights include the Lesotho Evangelical Church, which is one of Africa’s oldest Protestant churches, founded in 1833 by missionaries from Paris, and the traditional architecture in Nkesi, Maseru.

We’re also refreshing and expanding existing Street View coverage in France, Italy, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore and Thailand. And, we’ve added new special collections of a host of picturesque spots—using our Street View Trike technology — that include Portugal’s Pena National Palace, or the Sha Tin Che Kung Temple in Hong Kong or the Kilkenny Castle in Ireland.

Kilkenny Castle, Ireland

From the first handful of U.S. cities, to the now thousands of cities and villages worldwide, we’ve spent the past six years updating Google Maps for you. From Antarctica to Australia, from South Korea to South Africa, from the snow-capped peaks of Everest to the Great Barrier Reef, you can navigate more than 5 million miles of the world, without ever leaving home. So spin the globe and take a walk through any one of the 50 countries now on Street View.

Posted by Ulf Spitzer, Program Manager, Google Street View
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