So I'm thinking of hitting Eastern Europe as part of a bigger trip for up to a month, and I was hoping for some help on options.
Cafe's, music and markets are my thing- with a museum or two thrown in. Maybe a scenic train ride to boot.
I'm interested in quality not quantity, I figure that to actually see a place, you can't just dash in and out.
I was thinking up to four countries.
Any suggestions from fellow visitors and/or locals would be extremely useful- not to mention sincerely appreciated!
Quite an interesting expression.... 'Hitting' Easter Europe.
The amount of people I know that have gone there and instead, it's hit them. It's a very unique corner of the globe.
I'll go through your sightseeing likes first.. Museums don't come any more crammed together than in.. Where do you think? Moscow? Prague maybe? Possibly Former East Berlin? No, none of them. The unofficial museum capital of Eastern Europe is.. Kiev. There is no contest. Quite a big city too, around the same size as Warsaw, Budapest and Bucharest.
They have museums in Kiev for just about everything and everyone. A museum for the woman, another for the man, one for the children, a buttons museum, a museum of old uniforms, goodness knows how many war museums, a car museum, photo museum, the list is near on endless.
A scenic train ride.. There is nothing in the whole of Europe that compares to the one to two hour journey between Tirgu Jiu and Petrosani (pronounced Petroshan) in Romania. It is only a distance of some 50kms, but it climbs 100's of metres and crosses something like 50 bridges and through as many tunnels as it zig-zags backwards and forwards through the Jiu Valley alongside numerous rivers and waterfalls.
Music? For me it would have to be anywhere in the whole of Eastern Europe, especially in the little villages on a Saturday evening. That's when all the locals come along to the bars with their instruments and show off their vocal skills as well. Another great experience on the music front is a village wedding. If you happen be nearby at the time, then just sit, watch and listen. As soon as you're spotted, you'll more than likely be invited to join in the celebrations. Just mind out you know your way home in the morning after a cauldron of home made wine and fire water. There won't be anyone to assist you, because they'll all be in the same state as you're in.
Best (and most) markets? I think, for me, that award would have to be bestowed on Hungary. An incredible road to take from East into West, is the non-motorway route from Vienna down to the Austria/Hungary border and across. As soon as you're in Hungary, within 100 metres or so, for maybe 10kms along both sides of the road are little stalls selling everything from jams to ornaments and flowers to books. At night they each have their own unique lighting and none of them ever close.
Price wise, the cheapest country is Bulgaria. It reigns supreme on the 'cheap' front. Be it travel (all types, from internal flights to buses), hotels, hostels, eating, shopping, drinking, clothes etc. etc., there is no cheaper country throughout the whole of Europe. Try a Shopska Salad (a huge bowl of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and a mountain of cheese, smothered in oil and vinegar) with an extra large Rakia (awfully strong horrible alcoholic 45% stuff) before your main course in a village restaurant. The two together will cost you around 4-6Leva (€2-€3).
The Black Sea has some very good and not so good bits, just like every coastline. The parts I would recommend are pretty much the whole line down between Northern Romania and Northern Turkey. The region I would avoid personally is around Odessa. The sea there is just filthy and full of nasty things that if you accidentally pick them up through the skin, or internally, will have you on your back for days. Odessa itself is a lovely city and the Ukrainian people will love to show you round it for a few small coins or a drink or two.
Another country I really love in Eastern Europe, is Poland. It won't take me to tell you what the country and it's people went through near on 70 years ago. The scars and memories are still there in abundance and are well worth a visit.
Prague is a beautiful city in an equally beautiful country. If you plan to go there, try and do it out of high season. It is just awash with thousands of tourists in the hot months, as well as around Christmas time.
The Eastern Europe top spot for night life has to be (and this surprises a lot of people) Belgrade. The nightclubs are of excellent quality and there are many of them all over the city and it's suburbs. One word of advice.. Don't cross into Serbia in a private or hired car from an EU country without first checking you have Green Card insurance to allow you into Serbia. You won't get in without a G.G. and the minimum cost even if you're just passing through, which takes less than half a day, is €145. From your post, I'm guessing you're going to use public transport for your trip though. Just a piece of advice for others to read as well.
Croatia, you'll love, regardless of which part you visit. A little expensive compared to many other non-EU countries, but it has it's cheap areas and products if you ask around.
So many more countries I could mention but then if I speak about them all, it would spoil the surprises.
If I could narrow it down to four countries for you, then my choices would be Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and one to not everyone's liking.. Albania. If however, you want to do four in reverse order that border one another, so getting a single flight and working your way back before getting another one way to your next destination outside of Eastern Europe, then I would suggest in this order.. Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Poland.
Hope you like what (and who) you find. I'm sure you will.
Does anyone have any info on Latvia as we are travelling there next month?