I am currently studying in Germany so I want to travel around a bit after the semester break starts next month. I want to travel through the closer parts of eastern Europe starting with Austria(not really eastern Europe, but whatever). I would like to travel in this order: Austria, Hungary, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, and then Poland. I have a few ideas of places I would like to visit in them, mainly major cities/capitals that is. I've already been to Vienna over the Christmas break, so maybe try Salzburg this time. What I really want to know from all you experiences travelers is what other places can I visit in these countries, that maybe most people don't go to, which you've been to an enjoyed, maybe something off the beaten path. I would prefer these places to have hostels as well or maybe I might try to do a little bit of couch surfing, since I've never done it.
Thanks in advance
I have another question to go along with the above part, that I wrote early. Is it worth it to get a "European East Pass"? It costs approx. $335 Canadian for any 10 days within a month, so to be honest it sounds like a good deal for 5 countries. It's valid for the 5 countries I listed, but I've heard for example that train fares are quite cheap in the Czech Republic,so I don't know if it will actually save me money or not. Is this potentially true for the other countries as well?
Sounds like a nice trip.
You'll find Salzburg so much nicer than Vienna - I'm sure. Much cleaner and nowhere near as busy with choking traffic.
Forget the rail-pass altogether. It's just not worth the cost.
Eastern Europe has some of the cheapest rail travel on the planet. The secret is to buy internal tickets and cross the border on foot, before buying another fare for your onward journey. For instance, one ticket from Bratislava (Slovakia - not The Slovak Republic) to Prague, will cost you more than two tickets bought within the two countries. Either way, you'll 'Still' save money on not buying a rail-pass.
I always see those rail-passes as a convenient way of not bothering to see what savings are about - and just doing the train-hopping. It's a bit like a RTW air fare. Again, the routes and flights are all paid for in advance, but weigh up the cost against buying flights en-route. It's so much cheaper to buy 'As-You-Go'.
Poland should include a visit to Auschwitz. I'm sure you know what went on there - so you don't need a history lesson from me on the place.
Prague is a must - too. A very touristy city nowadays, but lovely. Bratislava has it's similarities with Prague - but isn't anywhere near as busy.
A trip up The Danube is always good. You can do one for a couple of hours, or a couple of days, it's up to you and your budget. It flows through Bratislava, so you haven't got far to go - if you fancy doing one. There are several points in Austria where you can jump on board as well. It's a mighty river of well over 1700 miles and it flows through 10 countries and four capital cities. No other river comes close to that.
Again, 'Never' book a Danube trip in advance. Just turn up and ask around. You'll find many deals - at different prices to suit your pocket.
Budapest is another city that you just have to see. It's split in two (again by the Danube) with Buda on one side - and Pest on the other. The traffic is a mad, so be careful - but otherwise, a bus pass for the day is really good value for money. It's a great city. On first impressions it looks huge, as you pull in by train (it's mainline stations are quite magnificent), but it really doesn't take that long to do a decent sightseeing trip or two, to different parts. I've done a trip along the Danube, picking up the boat from there. Some really good offers were to be had - and a lot cheaper than what UK brochures were charging for organising pretty much an identical itinery.
When you're in Austria, try and get over to The Tyrol. I don't know how good your German speaking is, but you'll find the accent over in The Tyrol - extremely different to in Germany, no matter whereabouts you are.
Depending on how your budget copes - and saving money on not buying a rail-pass, accommodation better than Couchsurfing should be within your daily spending limit. There are some excellent 1* hotels to be found in Slovakia and Poland for under €15 a night.
Don't expect to turn up and find them screaming out to you though. You'll have to look around on the net to seek them out. Also, it should be possible to book some of them without paying anything up front. So if you miss your train/bus etc., and then can't get there - you won't have lost any money.
Hope that's been of some help.
Thanks for all the info flyingbob! How would I know where to get off to walk across the border? The only place I've done that is between Germany and Switzerland. Do they have a border control there or do you just walk right in? If I were to go directly from Bratislava to Prague (which I intend on going to both), where should I get off to be within a short walking distance to the border? I was trying to figure the same thing out last night, because I wanted to take a train from Freiburg to the a town that is on the German-Austrian border, so that I could use my pass from there. Where can I find a website that allows me book tickets or see prices of traveling between different countries? I looked at a polish rail site and Czech site, but they wouldn't give me train prices for going from one country to the next. The DB gives the times, but it can't give a price. I was thinking of also taking some night trains as to save a night on accommodation.
Now here's someone who has their travelling head firmly screwed on.
It's doubtful there'll be inspections at the border crossings as every country you're visiting is within the E.U. However, there are 'Purges' from time to time - the same as when us Brits go from London to Northern Ireland. Sometimes it's just straight through, and on other occasions it's.... 'Open it up, what's that for etc. etc.' You shouldn't have too many obstructions though, if any.
I can remember the days of crossing from Hungary into Romania by road - and queues of 20-30 miles or more. Nothing a pack of Marlboro's didn't solve though.
Sure, unless you know the last station before crossing over, it could be a problem. Shouldn't take much sorting out though. I mean - hey, we're not talking about making a fortune here by buying internal tickets as opposed to an international one, but it's always a small saving - and all the small corners cut, result in a nice little nest-egg for that special night out that maybe you thought you couldn't afford.
When you're looking for fares, forget bahn.de etc. Go to the country's rail website directly. It'll have fares and times clearly displayed. If your route isn't there, as you say you've experienced on some sites - they'll have a 'Contact us' link where you can enquire about a particular train and fare. I've always found their enquiry pages very good - and extremely quick, replying within an hour or so.
Once again I thank you! I assume you have been traveling around for quite some time. To be honest I have some many places I want to see, not just the one's for this trip, but anyways. Would you say that the people I send inquiries to would understand English fairly well. That's another thing I forgot to ask. I obviously know that each of these countries have their own language, but besides Austria, would knowing German be helpful at all? I study German, but I definitely wouldn't say I'm fluent yet, but I can speak it well enough. I don't want to ask too many questions, but how long should I stay in particular places? Right now the plan is as follows: Salzburg-Budapest-Bratislava-Prague-Krakow(definitely want to see Auschwitz)-Katowice(maybe)-Warsaw. I will look for other places to go, but these are the places that I definitely would like to see.
I travelled in Hungary by bicycle approx. 2 years back, being able to speak German helped a few times.
I know English, German and Russian and with those three languages I can always make myself understood in some way in that part of Europe.
jizdenka.cz is a good site for gauging fares.
bahn.de and http://www.bueker.net/trainspotting/ will tell you the border crossing points.
Right now the plan is as follows: Salzburg-Budapest-Bratislava-Prague-Krakow(definitely want to see Auschwitz)-Katowice(maybe)-Warsaw.
That looks like a good route to take, including some of my favorite cities, with the exception of Bratislava. I agree with others in avoiding the rail pass as the fares are very cheap in that part of Europe.
Cesky Krumlov is also a gem inside the Czech Republic but is much more popular and more activities to do during the summer months but might be worth a day on your way from Bratislava.
English will get you further in most all of those countries than German, despite their proximity so I wouldn't worry too much about that. Also, each of your destinations have plenty of great hostels to choose from.
Let me weigh in on this. I think Salzburg is the most boring place on earth. Its really full of over 60+ pensioners and theres little nightlife. Wait til your retired to go. Or unless you love the sound of music. Do not go. Its nice to look at but offers nothing for a good time.
Budapest is good. I lived there for a while. so if you have questions PM me.
Bratislava is a great choice!just head straight there out of the gates. I love it there.
In fact the other choices are good. Except Warsaw, boring and not much going on unless you no locals.
In Prague try a day trip to Kahutna Hora, theres a macabre site of an old chapel.
[ Edit: Edited on 20-Jan-2011, at 01:51 by coldwarspy ]
As for me Budapest is the most beautiful and vivid city on your route - stay there for a couple of days.
Salzburg needs a half-day visit actually. It's beautiful but (I must agree with the previous posters) really boring.
Bratislava is nice but quite small - you should stay there not longer than one day, or to visit on your way from one city to another.
Think also about Wroclaw in Poland - it's very nice and the University there is a must see!
Krakow is definitely on your route. Visit Wieliczka salt mines at the nearest suburb abd you can also go to polish Tatra mountains from there if you like.
I'd argue about Warsaw - it's quite nice and has a wonderful king's residences worth of visiting.
I'm not sure if you have enough time but why not to visit the North of Poland up to the sea? Gdansk and Gdynia are wonderful small towns.