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Author Topic: Ideas in eastern Europe  (Read 2697 times)

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Offline Themistokles

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Ideas in eastern Europe
« on: April 09, 2017, 04:57:21 PM »
This is incredibly off-topic, but since that's also the name of the forum section, here we go:

Hi everyone!

A friend and I are planning to go by interrail down through eastern Europe this summer. We're looking for some cool places to visit, for example like Korver has made me want to see Meteora. Since I know many of you guys live or have traveled through this part of Europe, do you have any good ideas of places worth a visit in or around eastern Europe?

I'll attach a more specific question as well: I'm kind of thinking of Transylvania in this context. What places would you recommend in that area, preferably some slightly off the beaten track?

Cheers!
Come join me on a hike to St Edmea!

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"In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy." - John Sawhill

Offline matias93

Re: Ideas in eastern Europe
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2017, 08:01:02 PM »
By sheer curiosity (because I'm too far from there and won't have the money to go in at least a decade), I'm commenting just to see the interesting answers.  :P


And guess the more apropriate people to answer this would be the ones from Eastern Europe: kbieniu7, Tyberius06, Terring (is Greece considered part of eastern europe? all of this is very subjective), many others I cannot remember now  $%Grinno$%


And now, I'm noting how much accustomed to ST interface I've become, because was thinking on why the mention links aren't working  :facepalm:

"Lets be scientists and as such, remember always that the purpose of politics is not freedom, nor authority, nor is any principle of abstract character,
but it is to meet the social needs of man and the development of the society"

— Valentín Letelier, 1895

Offline kbieniu7

Re: Ideas in eastern Europe
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2017, 03:49:33 PM »
An interail trip! Yay, sounds great! Actually, there is the same idea going inside of my head, but... maybe a bit later ;)

As Matias has called me up (thank you for that!), I think I indeed might be able to give some advises in this topic.

It all depends on for how many days you want to buy your interrail ticket, how long breaks do want to make? And the most important question - what does "Eastern Europe" really mean to you and where would you like to start from?

You have written about Transylvania. Unfortunately I cannot write anything helpful in this matter about this region. Keeping with Eastern Europe, I could write my own proposition, of more Northern Eastern Europe.

As you are from Sweden, I assume, that you're plannig to start your trip around this place. If you want to do it all on rails, I think you might go trough Oresund bridge to Denmark and Germany heading Poland afterwards.

However, if you don't want to "waste" your time for Denmark and Germany, you might take a ferry (to Świnoujście near Szczecin or to Gdynia) or an airplane (Warsaw or Gdańsk) to Poland. Especially Gdańsk would be, in my opinion, a good place. There are often many very cheap flights (like even 10-20 euros) to Sweden and it's a city well worth visiting.

So, starting there:

1. Gdańsk. A beautiful old port city with Old Town in kind of Hansa-style architecture, soaked up with modern history of Poland.

2. Warsaw. Polish capital. Destroyed during WWII, rebuild with plenty of socialist-style architecture. Important: easily accesible from Gdańsk in around 3 hours.

3. Kraków. Apart of being my hometown ;) for many people tends to be the most beatufiul Polish city and a must-see for foreigners. Easily accesible from Warsaw in around 3 hours.

Those three above-mentioned cities would create a nice route through entire Poland north-to-south. Now, in my opinion, would be time to go to the Czech Republic. And that's where the stuff gets a bit trickier, because, eh... polish international railway connections are... poor. Especially from Kraków, there are only night trains (I don't like travelling by night, personally). You could head directly from Warsaw trough Katowice (a post-industrial city, also 3hrs from Warsaw), but if I were you, I would chose to see Kraków. And then:

4. Kraków->Czech Republic. Two ways for that: Kraków->Katowice (bus 1hr or train 2hrs) and a train to Czech Republic, or a direct bus from Kraków to Bohumin/Ostrava/Brno/Olomouc (~3-5hrs, extremely cheap from 5euros).

Now it's time to choose which city in Czechia you would like to see? In Moravia or Silesia (eastern regions of the country) you might head to:

5a. Bohumin - an important railway station, there are some local trains from Katowice arriving there. Nothing else, just a change point for further journey.

5b. Ostrava - a industrial city, however with a historical centre. As far as I know, a part of a steel mill is avaible for sightseeing.

5c. Olomouc - I read several times, that it could be the second most beatiful city in ČR. Just quoting, never been there.

5b. Brno - the second largest city, the capital of Region of Moravia. Known for the Old town and breweries I'm going to be there in two weeks for a while, I might write something more about it then, but for the moment - worth a try.

Now, we're in the eastern part of ČR, time to decide where to go further. You could go westbound to Prague, a city that is just AMAZING. For me, truly beautiful. However, here you're almost heading "back" to the Western Europe... I'd give up Prague this time (you can go there anytime you want, that's a place that is always a main destination). Istead of it, I would go further east and:

6. Vienna and Bratislava. It's less than 2hrs by train from Brno and there are plenty of trains in those two directions. So, you can go like ČR->Vienna->Bratislava or 6b. ČR->Bratislava->Vienna. I won't write about Vienna, it's pointless. About Bratislava: I've heard of many mixed opinions. Many of them states, that there's not so many interesting things to see (comparing to Vienna, Prague, Kraków or my next bet), however I believe it's worth a try. Espiecially spending a night there, because it's quite cheap (ok, entire Eastern Europe is cheap for Scandinavians) at least compared to Vienna and Prague. Sometimes used as a hotel base for 1-day trips to Vienna. Anyway, from Bratislava it is easily to reach another pearl of Danube river, which is:

7. Budapest. The capital of Gulash (joke) and the city of the oldest subway system in continental Europe. I've been there, however my opinion does not add anything, cause it's already considered to be among the most worth visiting cities in Eastern Europe. How long to stay there? Well, depending how long you can function among one of the most uncomprehensible languages of the EU (another joke). Actually, if you go from Vienna, you might have a stop in Gyor. Or from Bratislava wander somewhere trough Slovakian side of Danube and then to Budapest.

We reach Budapest, ride a metro and eat some Langos... and face the question what's next? From Hungary you might try to go to Romania, maybe reach Cluj-Napoka? Timosoara? See Transilvania? Or to Croatia to Zagreb? Now, we're in the place, that I have never been to and also don't have much to tell about those places. I could ask my friend, who loves Hungary and Romania, to give some advices, but I think our Hungarian and Romanian colleagues from this forum would be better advisors there. The question is, if you even want to go further. From Gdańsk it's been a week at least. Do you want to go back home by rail? Or take a flight back? I gave you my vision of an "Eastern European trip" seen by a person living and having travelled there. Of course, there are plenty of other ones: you can go to Prague from our stop in Ostrava/Brno and go back trough Germany to Western Poland, you might skip Poland and start in Romania goin trough Hungary, Slovakia and Czechia; you might visit Balkans or Baltic states. Whatever you are interested in, write! I, and other people there, would be very happy to help you in giving some advices. What is more - if you eventually take your trip ang go to or via Kraków - you might write and I'll could guide you around my city or wave you from the platform ;)

If you would like to see some other "hidden gems" places that are not just the biggest and mostly very-well-known cities, it's a little bit harder. But it is also possible to find, like The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, that lays just by the railway between Gdańsk and Warsaw. Literally, it is visible from the train window, even some Express trains stop there.

Anyway, from some other tips and facts of Polish railways that I can add to discussion, refering to different stories about Poland seen by foreigners that I heard. From my experience, I could say:
- it is safe. Travelling by train or bus is safe. I've travelled a lot and (at least during the day) have never felt in danger, even when travelling alone.
- many people speak English. Although not all train conductors would be proficient in English, on main routes you should have no problem with not speaking Polish. Especially when speaking about Gdańsk, Warsaw, Kraków, Katowice and other main connections
- trains are clean and in good condition. Around 10 years ago a lot of vehicles looked liked they had their best years long ago, but recently many new cars have been introduced
- when you buy a normal (not Interrail) ticket, you have automatically get also a seat reserved (in price). When IR you don't have one, but you could easily buy such in any ticket office in train stations (and it should be free, as far as I know)
- on the route Gdańsk-Warsaw-Kraków, there are Express InterCity Premium (EIP) trains, so called "Pendolino". They needs extra payment to board such train with IR, but there are also other trains with normal tariff
- trains like to be delayed. Although most of my trips finished in sheduled hours, you should plan with at least +30 minutes time marigin, in any case.
- the worst situation is when trying to find an international connection. To Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary the best way is trough Katowice (as I mentioned in my advises)

Ok, so that's all from me for the moment. If you have anything more you would like to ask - feel free to write it here or trough PM :)


« Last Edit: April 10, 2017, 04:09:22 PM by kbieniu7 »
Thank you for visiting Kolbrów, and for being for last ten years!

Offline noahclem

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Re: Ideas in eastern Europe
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2017, 05:31:02 AM »
Sounds like a fun trip man! I can recommend Finland if that counts as Eastern Europe but you might have trouble getting here (or around here) on a Eurail pass. That said, the rail trip I most want to take is from Narvik, Norway to the Swedish Bothnian coast (I think Lulea). And in the future there are rail development plans to connect central Europe to the Baltic States and to tunnel under the Gulf of Finland from Estonia to Helsinki.

I've not really been to Eastern Europe, at least beyond Vienna and Prague (or Greece if that counts) so can't offer a lot there. I'd love to see Budapest, the Adriatic coast of the former Yugoslavia, Warsaw & Gdansk, and especially Istanbul if you can make it that far. I had family that went to Bratislava and they've been outspoken about never going there. Anyway, doubt this is too helpful but hope you have a great trip  :thumbsup:

Offline Themistokles

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Re: Ideas in eastern Europe
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2017, 09:43:48 AM »
First of all, thank you to everyone taking an interest in this. It helps a lot to hear from people who actually know the area.

Kbieniu7: Thank you for your detailed advice! I have sent you a PM :)

Noahclem: Finland seems really nice but unfortunately a tad in the wrong direction, in this case. ;) Our original plan was actually, as you say, to head to Istanbul, but Erdogan kind of spoiled the fun. Currently the plan is to head for Greece instead and then turn around and go back through central Europe.

It'd also be interesting to hear from someone more from southeastern Europe, what are your thoughts on this? :)
Come join me on a hike to St Edmea!

Latest update: 7

"In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy." - John Sawhill

Offline deora

Re: Ideas in eastern Europe
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2017, 01:23:32 PM »
A Trip trough Eastern Europe?Sounds familiar,been through most of it when i was a Kid and my Dad and I spend several Weeks in various Parts of Romania.
Especially the more mountainous Areas were most impressive,and one of my favorite and fond Memories were when we stayed in Bad Herculane and Transilvania (nope,to my Disappointment i didn`t find any caped long toothed weird People...:D),Cluj-Napoca also is worth a Stay