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10 replies
Eastern Europe, December 2008-January 2009
erinleighralph
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Hi everyone! I’m planning a solo backpacking trip (my first!) for this December/January. I got a great deal on a flight to Poland so that’s my starting point. I need some pointers on where to go/avoid and also some ideas on how over-crowded my current itinerary is looking. Help?

The dates in question are 10 December 2008 – 25 January 2009 (42 days). I need to be back in Aberdeen, Scotland for the 26th as I have classes, so I need to end up somewhere on the 25th with direct air connections to Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Right now I have:

10/12 thru 11/12 – Wroclaw, Poland
12/12 – Gdansk
13/12 – Malbork
14/12 – Warsaw (too little time?!)
15/12 thru 17/12- Krakow/Auschwitz
18/12 thru 19/12 – Prague, Czech Republic (again, too little time?)
20/12 – somewhere in Bohemia
21/12 – Salzburg
22/12 – Vienna
23/12 – Bratislava
24/12 thru 25/12 – Budapest (too short?)
26/12 thru 28/12 – Romania TBD
29/12 – travel to Istanbul
30/12 thru 1/1 – Istanbul
2/1 thru 7/1 – Greece (Athens, Meteora, Monemuasia (sp?), the islands?)
8/1 thru 9/1 – Dubrovnik
10/1 thru 12/1 – Sarajevo
13/1 – Zagreb
14/1 thru 15/1 – Berlin
16/1 thru 17/1 – Hamberg
18/1 thru 20/1 – Amsterdam
21/1 thru 25/1 – The Hague, Bruges, Brussels (train to) Paris, fly out of Paris

I’m pretty realistic that this is simply TOO MUCH STUFF. I’ve been thinking of cutting out the last section and flying out of Amsterdam and probably extending the stay in Prague and removing the “Bohemia” night. I’m also a little concerned about how the cost is racking up in terms of travel. A lot of the countries I’m spending a fair amount of travel-time in aren’t covered in the global or select eurail passes (Poland, Czech Republic, Turkey) so I’m not sure I want go that route. I’ve found excellent deals in Poland and a few overnight trains that I’ll take to save some $, but any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

19-23 November 2008Stockholm, Sweden <—it was AMAZING
10 December 2008 – 25 January – Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Nis (Serbia), Herceg Novi (Montenegro), Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam

Cil
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It probably is too much, partly because of the sheer amount of travel time that you need to account for…I love your destinations though. I would probably re-think the inclusion of Greece; that is a lot to take on, and once again, travel time, the mere act of getting from island to island, will be prohibitive, especially in winter, when ferries run less often.
I would give up Greece and spend more time in Croatia/Bosnia, and give more time to Berlin as well.

erinleighralph
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I was actually thinking of just going to Athens instead, so travelling on an overnight and then going back up. The islands seem quite difficult to reach in the winter, and honestly, who wants to go to the islands in winter, when it’s not at it’s most beautiful

This helps though, I just need someone with a more practiced eye to say “this is too much!” I think I will fly out of Amsterdam (buy myself 5 days in other parts of the trip) and try to stay more than a day or two in the cities. Less travel, more exploringSmile Thank you!

19-23 November 2008Stockholm, Sweden <—it was AMAZING
10 December 2008 – 25 January – Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Nis (Serbia), Herceg Novi (Montenegro), Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam

oldlady
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Skip Athens. Spend an extra 2 or 3 days in Istanbul and take a day trip or an overnight to Ancient Ephesus — IMO, the Turks do a much better job of preserving and displaying Greek ruins than the Greeks do.

lakers6902
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if it was me
id take a quater of the destinations out, so then your able to stay in each place for at least 3 days =]]
and also, if possible i would have nothing actually planned except my ticket to get home. this way, if you like a place so much and wish to stay longer, you can without having to worry about booked hostels or other paid stuff

erinleighralph
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I’m not really planning on buying any tickets or booking hostels in advance, but for the sake of my parents I was hoping to give them a rough itinerary. Also, this is my first solo backpacking, I’m a girl and it’s Christmas. I’d rather not end up somewhere homeless in eastern Europe unable to say anything but “English?!?!” Though I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I think I’ve changed it to:

Dec 10-18 in Poland (mostly the same, 1 more day in Warsaw)
Dec 19-21 in Prague
Dec 22 Vienna
Dec 23 Salzburg
Dec 24 Bratislava
Dec 25-28 Budapest (staying with a friend)
Dec 29/30 Romania
Dec 31/Jan 3 Istanbul
Jan 4/7 Athens
8/10 Dubrovnik
11/14 Sarajevo
15/16 Zagreb
17/20 Berlin
21/22 Hamburg (staying with a friend)
23/25 Amsterdam (flight home)

Any better? (See, still not willing to give up on Greece)

19-23 November 2008Stockholm, Sweden <—it was AMAZING
10 December 2008 – 25 January – Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Nis (Serbia), Herceg Novi (Montenegro), Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam

erinleighralph
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Ok. Now that I did a google of Ancient Ephesus I’m sold. Can you suggest a good way to get there from Istanbul? My Google-fu seems to find only flights. Thanks!

19-23 November 2008Stockholm, Sweden <—it was AMAZING
10 December 2008 – 25 January – Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Nis (Serbia), Herceg Novi (Montenegro), Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam

luv_the_beach
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Greece:

There’s a lot more to the country than Athens and “the islands”, and when we’re talking about the islands, it’s important to remember the sheer number and diversity of the islands: big and small, heavily populated and sparsely populated, touristy and off-the-beaten-track, near the mainland and far from the mainland, and so on. Differences range from Antikythera (a small, lightly populated island that’s relatively far from the mainland and will probably have sparse winter ferry service) to an island like Corfu (which is heavily populated, is very close to the mainland and has a busy international airport.) Ferry schedules are reduced in the winter time because of less demand, so this may inconvenience travelers who don’t have the time to wait until Thursday for the 3-times-a-week ferry to the mainland or to the larger island next door. But an island like Corfu, which can be reached very easily by frequent ferry service from Igoumenitsa is not prohibitive (yes, even in winter, service is frequent enough). Crete can also be easily reached, even though it’s far from the mainland, because it has a large population and 3 airports. Further, for travelers coming to/from Istanbul or Eastern Europe (Czech, Romania, etc), I usually suggest not to overlook Thessaloniki. Whereas Athens is the center of classical-era Greece, Thessaloniki is the center of Medieval Greece, and the city’s Medieval monuments are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along with the recent restoration of the old upper city (near the upper city walls, an area overlooked by visitors), the restoration of Aristotelous Square and Avenue, the gentrification of the Ladadika district and the restoration of surviving older buildings across the city, the bars and restaurants, the large student population that would normally be missing in summertime (including Erasmus students from across Europe)…it’s a great town and deserves a look. Don’t hesitate to skip Athens in favour of Thessaloniki. You can do a strictly northern Greece itinerary which would include Thessaloniki, Kastoria, Ioannina, and/or Corfu…all of them great scenic towns overlooked by tourists, and appropriate for winter time, along with Meteora. (Meteora and Corfu Town are also UNESCO World Heritage Sitges, btw). Skip the Aegean Islands and southern Greece (like Monemvasia) and revisit them in the summer time. Even Athens…I used to be one of the “skip Athens” people myself, but to be fair to the city: while little historical architecture was preserved relative to other European cities (Athens followed a car-centric, inncer-city neglect model in the 1950s/60s/70s just like American cities) a lot has changed and continues to change (4 years after the 2004 Olympics), ever since Plaka was gentrified and the city got a subway system, the changes have recently spread to areas once unheard of like Gazi and Psirri which are now trendy areas. Tourists don’t see the real Athens, they only see Omonoia and Monastiraki areas which are still gritty, but are the next areas slated for major gentrification.

That’s my two cents.

As far as your overall itinerary, you are still trying to see and do too much, even after you revised your itinerary. If you decide to keep Greece, I would recommend extending your time in the country to 7-8 days, and doing an itinerary of northern Greece, including Thessaloniki and Meteora, and your choice of a 3rd destination: Corfu, Ioannina, or Kastoria.


beach-lunch-siesta-beach-shower-dinner-nightlife-repeat

oldlady
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Quote:
. Can you suggest a good way to get there from Istanbul?
The tours do seem to be by plane. You can take the bus to Izmir, but it’s 10 hours, so you’ll want to have more than “a visit to Ephesus” in mind before committing to a 20 hour round trip bus ride. Your hotel or hostel will have tour brochures and will probably help you book a tour. The numerous travel agents in the Sultanahmet area sell bus tickets and tours.

michael_Dj
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erinleighralph,

I too am taking my first European backpacking adventure this year Jan 7th 2009 to April 07 2009. I think your goal is lofty and admirable! But remember you want to enjoy your trip & have memorable moments (not of airports, train stations, etc)

Here is my Itinerary: (note- it is flexible schedule)
07 Jan 2009: Netherlands- Amsterdam, Den Haag, and others plus visit family
01 Feb 2009: Germany- Muenster, Hamm, Hannover, Hamburg, Berlin, Potsdam, Leipzig, Dresden
01 Mar 2009: Czech Republic…..and on

Any feedback is greatly welcomed!

Cheers,
Michael

erinleighralph
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Michael,

You’re lucky to have that much time to travel! I think the difference between your itin. and mine is that I’m not spending as much time in each country, but probably will end up with the same amount of days per city. Unfortunately I can’t stretch out my trip (this is Christmas holidays!) but I don’t think it’s that ambitious. The lucky part is that I’m traveling alone so I don’t have to see all the crap you see when you travel with other people. And if I want to stay longer somewhere, I suppose I can.

Now that I’ve looked up travel connections &t it doesn’t seem so arduous; I’m taking a lot of sleepers so I’m not using a day on a train (I think I only lose 2 days total to travel!).

Thanks for your inputSmile

19-23 November 2008Stockholm, Sweden <—it was AMAZING
10 December 2008 – 25 January – Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Budapest, Bucharest, Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Nis (Serbia), Herceg Novi (Montenegro), Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam