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  1. #1

    Traveler

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    Oct 2010
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    MN, USA
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    17

    Where to go in Central or Eastern Europe?

    I have my next trip mostly planned, not quite 2 weeks in Italy with my mom. I keep thinking about where I would like to go next in Europe. After planning the last couple of trips with my family, I'm thinking it's time for a solo trip. I would either be looking at later in 2016 (October - early December) or early 2017 (Jan - April) for again about 2 weeks or maybe a little longer. I've been reading a lot of travel books and watching some travel videos but I would love to get some advice if any slow travelers have been to some of the destinations on my list below. These are the itinerary options I'm looking at:

    1. Budapest, Prague, Krakow
    2. Krakow, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Gdansk
    3. Romania - Bucharest, Transylvania, Brasov, Sibiu. I liked the idea of something similar to this place in Transylvania: http://www.transylvaniancastle.com/
    4. Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, maybe Montenegro. I feel like I should see Dubrovnik and Split but I'm sort of leaning more towards Zagreb and the Istria peninsula or focusing more on Bosnia and Montenegro.


    I'm interested in history, from many periods (medieval, renaissance but also 19th and 20th century) and architecture. I would prefer to get around mostly by train/bus with the occasional car rental where needed. I normally like walking and hiking although I wouldn't want to hike anywhere remote alone. I feel like Budapest, Prague and Krakow might be the easiest places to visit but I also like the idea of visiting somewhere quieter and a little more off the beaten track. I know between Dec and Feb most of the places on my list will be pretty cold, but I'm not sure if the sights would shut down? I'm from Minnesota so I'm used to cold but maybe October/Nov or Mar/Apr would be a bit better weather wise? Thank you in advance.

  2. #2

    Slow Traveler

    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Chicago, USA
    Posts
    286

    Consider Poland

    Two years ago my husband and I went on an organized tour of the Baltics, since half of his ancestry is Lithuanian. We left a couple of weeks early to explore the other half on our own, since Poland is very easy to explore independently (so are the Baltics, but I couldn't convince him!)

    Anyhow, we spent a week or so in Krakow and one in Warsaw, and it wasn't nearly enough! Krakow is outstanding, with its giant square filled with shops, food, carriage rides. We were extremely lucky in that, totally by accident, we arrived during a music festival in late August! There was music everywhere, in the square, the streets (free) and in every venue imaginable. We took a day trip to Auschwitz, one to the salt mines, and could have taken one to the mountains. Warsaw was also fascinating, with some great museums and the Old Town, which has been completely rebuilt the way it was before WW!!. It would be easy to include Gdansk on a Polish trip.

    Many people will also swear by Prague, which was not destroyed during WW2. It is probably the best example of Old Europe Metropolitan. Because of its beauty and character, it can also be crowded, especially during the main tourist season. It's still worth it.

    I haven't been to Slovenia, but people call its main city "The New Prague."

    I've been to all the other cities you've listed, but not since 1966 so I'd better not say too much. A lot can happen in 50 years! However, Dubrovnik still has its castle in the water, so I'm sure has still remained outstanding.

  3. #3

    Slow Traveler

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    Jun 2005
    Location
    Chicago, USA
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    286

    Trip Report


  4. #4

    Slow Traveler

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Location
    New Rochelle, NY
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    457

    Regarding option 4...

    Train service in Croatia is underdeveloped. Buses are okay - car hire is easy and all the highways are very well marked, thus easy to navigate from town to town.

    Dubrovnik, Split, Sibenik and Zadar are all worth visiting along the Adriatic Coast; each has historic sites from the Roman Empire through the Venetian and Austro/Hungarian Republics.

    Zagreb is very lively and fun. The cathedral is fantastic and the cafe scene is dynamic.

    The coastal towns in Istria are very special - Pula has that amazing Roman amphitheater and an old fort at the top of the city with fantastic views. Rovinj and Porec are like Italian hill towns set down at the shore of the Adriatic. The basilica in Porec is from the 6th Century - a UNESCO World Heritage site - and is absolutely a must-see. All of these places have pedestrian-only centers - nice places to stroll and people-watch. The sunsets along the Adriatic Coast are phenomenal, with that wide expanse of water stretching to the west.

    I've seldom encountered a language barrier in Croatia. Almost everyone under 40 speaks acceptable-to-excellent English. German is widely spoken in the tourist areas, and 90% of people in the Istria region speak Italian. The Croatians are very proud of their country and eager to help people there to explore.

  5. #5
    Premium Member

    Slow Traveler
    Alpinista's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Location
    Northern Virginia
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    1,669
    Prague would be at the top of my list for history, entertainment, and a general sense of enjoyment that seems to pervade the city.

    Budapest, to me, is more of a young person's city -- it has a lot of charm, but I told my 20-ish year old sons that they needed to find a way to get there to enjoy all the night life.

    Although not mentioned, Ljubljana is a hidden gem, but not a big enough city to hold your interest for more than a day or two. Unless at the earliest of latest of your time parameters, the seasons for your travel would not be conducive for travel to Lake Bled or the other surrounding sites. The same with Bratislava.

    Bucharest, to us, still had the feel of a Communist era city with a fairly drab selection of sights and events.

    If you want to look a little further afield, we did a trip from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius this fall that was absolutely fantastic. We used the LUX bus to travel between cities and enjoyed each city's unique attractions. We were fortunate enough to hit Vilnius during a huge weekend city festival, so that might have skewed our appreciation of that city, but all were great.

    We actually had a trip to Warsaw and Krakow planned for this summer, but set it aside so that we could go to Malta with our adult sons before sending them home and spending the rest of our time in Italy. The Polish cities looked wonderful, so even though we haven't been, this would seem to be a very good option too.

  6. #6
    I think you shouldn't skip Serbia, since there is a lot of recent history there like Bosnia. Since you'll see a lot of war memorials in Bosnia, it could be nice to see the other side of the war. I've been to both Serbia and Kosovo to do that, and talked to people in both countries to grasp their perceptions. It was a really interesting trip.

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