Two weeks floating in Eastern Europe
July 12, 2005 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about Eastern Europe...

My travel plans for Morocco fell through and I'll be going to Eastern Europe with a friend instead. I don't know anything substantive about the area and am, in all honesty, finding it difficult to get motivated. We've already planned to go to Budapest, Prague, Vienna, and do not require any extra info about those places, but after that it's two weeks in the air. Possible destinations include Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia. Questions are thus:
What are some things to do, places to go?
What kind of response can I expect as a chill, non-boisterous and considerate yet curious American?
Anything else I should know... ?

posted by whatitis to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I went to Hungary last summer, and I can tell you that Budapest is by far the most beautiful big city I have ever visited (beats Rome, Paris and London by far, IMO). I'm usually not such a fan of old buildings and monuments, but in Budapest I was drooling. And once it gets dark, all the pretty things light up. It was exceptional. Skateboarding along the Donau at night just obeserving the pretty things, the people, the history and the culture is perhaps the closest to zen I have ever been.

Don't go to lake Balaton. It's absolutely nothing special, and I hardly met any Hungarians there at all; it's packed with (mostly German) tourists, and bad food soaked in fat.

I asked about hungary here, and got some really good answers from a Hungarian living in Budapest. Unfortunately that link will likely require a free registration, but it'd be worth it for you, I'd think.

The second best advice from that thread likely applies to all of Eastern Europe: "Bring lots of wovels."
posted by cheerleaders_to_your_funeral at 10:00 AM on July 12, 2005

My biggest hint for travelling in Eastern Europe is to learn a few key phrases (please, thank you, beer) in each language. We found that speaking the native tongue (even if you mangle it a bit) is the quickest way to get someone to warm to you.

We loved the Hungarian "wine country" and had some great rustic meals there (thick spicy goulash and crusty bread....mmmmmm).
posted by jrossi4r at 10:07 AM on July 12, 2005

Go to Dubrovnik.

It may be hard for you to get to, given your itinerary, but it is a mindblowingly awesome place, beautiful to the point of nonsense, and strikingly different from Budapest, Zagreb, Ljubljana, etc. It's essentially a Mediterranean dreamland (albeit on the Adriatic), with oranges and kiwis growing, extraordinary fortified walls, and delicious food. Fantastic pasta (due to its proximity to Italy), delicious seafood, great ice-cream (hooray for sladoled!), and much cheaper than comparable cities in Italy or Greece. Cheaper, too, than Budapest (in my experience), and certainly Prague or Vienna.

Croatia, in general, was incredible - so diverse, friendly, and picturesque.

I found Sarajevo to be remarkable, haunting, devastating, and absolutely + astonishingly rewarding. A glimpse of another culture, a city ravaged by war, gorgeous and strange and well worth the trip. The bus-ride south from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik is also amazing, with yawning mountains that you wind through, transforming into open fields and then the gemblue sea.

I was a little let down by Budapest, to be honest. Handsome, but not the wonder that I had hoped for. Prague was beautiful but revoltingly touristy - like really, really touristy, even in November. Avoid Bratislava, other than perhaps for an afternoon in the old town and another taking the journey out to the serene Danubiana Gallery.

Zagreb was cool but you needn't linger. And although I visited Croatia, Slovakia, Bosnia and the Czech Republic, I didn't hit Slovenia. I'll be going there this August, though, to make up for my negligence. I have heard wonderful things!

(If you go to Croatia/Bosnia, be sure to have a cheese burek! Ooh yum! And did I mention the sladoled?)

Feel free to email me if you want any further advice or info.
posted by Marquis at 11:02 AM on July 12, 2005 [4 favorites]

I'd urge you to consider Krakow, Poland while you are in the neighborhood. It's a jewel of an old city, miraculously spared from WWII carpet-bombings. It is also a very interesting place to visit, very happening at night - there are something like 10,000 bars in the area shared between the old town and Kazimierz (the old Jewish ghetto - alas, the jews are mostly extinct in Poland these days). If you go to Krakow, it is only a short trip to Zakopane, wherein you can do incredible hiking in the High Tatras mountain range, and even cross border to Slovenia if you are so inclined (be careful to not do so on accident, you will be detained and hassled on the other side). Other Malopolska towns are also very charming, and once you get out of Krakow, you are pretty much off the tourist track.

My impression of Budapest was much the same as Marquis' - it was pretty, and Szobopark was pretty interesting, but overall it didn't charm me as much as some other places. Say, how about a visit to Istanbul? You are certainly close enough to it, and that is a city you will never forget.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 12:52 PM on July 12, 2005

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