3 Weeks in Europe
April 19, 2004 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Let's say you're spending three weeks in Europe late this summer. The first week is in Denmark, the third is in Ireland. Where would you spend the second? You'd like to go somewhere off the beaten path (in other words not Paris, London, or Amsterdam), but don't want to spend too much time in transit. You'd rather go somewhere rural than urban, you have a limited budget, and you'd prefer culture to castles and cathedrals. Any suggestions?
posted by emptyage to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've always wanted to visit the Scandanavian countries, and think that would form a nice triangle for your trip.

Alternatively, you could try Estonia, Latvia, Poland or maybe somewhere in Russia (I hear St. Petersburg is fantastic). Another interesting spot would by Kiev in Ukraine. It's a really interesting city with plenty of culture and history.

Finally, if you don't mind a four hour flight: Istanbul. I was there in 2000 and loved every minute of it.

Hope that helps.
posted by smcniven at 10:10 AM on April 19, 2004

Groningen, Holland. All the freedoms of Amsterdam but without the tourists, crime, and dirt. It's a nice cosmopolitan college town in an otherwise rural area.

I would second the recommendation for Estonia, which I visited around 1992 and which definitely fits within your requirements. Also, like the other former parts of the USSR now getting back on their feet, it would be relatively inexpensive (probably).
posted by bingo at 10:15 AM on April 19, 2004

Second Istanbul, what a great place, but you want rural... how about Croatia? It's beautiful and fun, and you can probably get a cheap flight.
posted by chaz at 10:16 AM on April 19, 2004

Norway. The western coast is spectacular and Bergen and Oslo have a lot going on for their small size. I'm not sure how "rural" and "culture" (assuming you mean the arts) really go together, but as Europe is so small you're never far from a different culture anyway. For example, Prague, Budapest and Vienna are all are major culture capitals and within a few hours' drive of each other. You don't say where you've been before, or what your cultural interests are, which might help narrow it down.
posted by cbrody at 10:16 AM on April 19, 2004

Not sure when you'll be there... but there's a town (forget the name) north of Copenhagen that hosts the largest Fourth of July festival outside of the US. I believe this is the even't site.

One suggestion would be to ferry to the Danish islands in the North Sea... then to ferry down to Ireland, perhaps via the Shetland Islands.
posted by silusGROK at 10:24 AM on April 19, 2004

Glasgow and Edinburgh--easily doable on the way to Ireland--great architecture and museums in both cities, plus the countryside is just a few minutes away, so you could stay rural and enjoy urban culture.

(When in Denmark, don't miss the Louisiana Museum outside Copenhagen--modern art, in a fab setting--Humlabeck or something is the name of the town)
posted by amberglow at 10:30 AM on April 19, 2004

Consider Belgium. I heart Brugges a whole lot, but there's lots of countryside to visit, as well as the coast--think Oostende. How I love that country.
posted by Skot at 10:39 AM on April 19, 2004

stockholm? might be too expensive though. i always think of it as a very cool, somopolitan city, but i must admit i've never been there (well, not that i can remember - might have passed through it as a child).
posted by andrew cooke at 11:33 AM on April 19, 2004

i meant cosmopolitan. and i'm confused about wanting culture and rural. cows that discuss philosophy?
posted by andrew cooke at 11:38 AM on April 19, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas. Please keep them coming. Also, I'd really appreciate specifics (for example, where in Estonia?).

Thanks a million
posted by emptyage at 11:39 AM on April 19, 2004

Third the Istanbul suggestion -- I've been there twice, and it's a completely fascinating city.

Other ideas:

The Danish island of Ærø. I haven't been there, but Rick Steves' guidebook makes me want to go;



the "Romantic Road" of Germany -- take the ferry up the Rhine between Mainz and Koblenz, and couple it with a bus trip (the Deutsche Bundesbahn runs the bus line, so railpasses are valid) between Mainz and Munich -- lots of little towns and interesting views;

York, Edinburgh, Oxford, the Cotswolds in Britain;

Actually, you may enjoy Rick Steves' complete list of European "back doors" -- interesting crannies of Europe that haven't yet been discovered by the hordes. (Excepting the hordes of people that buy Rick Steves' books.)
posted by Vidiot at 11:44 AM on April 19, 2004

Response by poster: i'm confused about wanting culture and rural

Andrew: Yeah, I see what you mean.

To clarify, when I say "culture," I don't mean necessarily a country's intellectual/artistic achievements. I live in a big city, and have travelled fairly extensively. I've seen plenty of museums, cathedrals, architecture, etc around Europe & Asia. While I usually find those achievements interesting and enlightening, I typically find them less so than the people who produced them. Also, since I live in an urban area, I'd rather not spend my vacation in one.

Rather, I mean "traditional culture" as in the traits particular to a community of people that is unique to that region, with an emphasis on food, customs, dress, manners, etc. I guess I mean I'd like to go places that are rural, and that still retain a sense of what they were like 100 years or more ago.

For example, stateside, I'd include the coastal islands of Georgia/South Carolina (thanks to the Gullah influence), or the Appalachian communities as meeting this description.

Make sense?
posted by emptyage at 12:03 PM on April 19, 2004

Well considering your last post, you should consider a 2nd week in Ireland and spend it in on the Aran Islands (Inis Mor being the largest). It's a pretty small place (you could bike the length of it in a few hours) but you would probably get the "traditional culture" that you're looking for.

Of course you may already be going there, so I'll keep my trap shut!
posted by smcniven at 12:15 PM on April 19, 2004

The Faroes or the Scottish islands (Orkneys, Hebrides, Shetland) seem like they would fit your bill. Haven't been to any of them, but I recently read Andrew Greig's In Another Light, which evokes a strong desire to visit Orkney (and to go back to Penang!)
posted by cbrody at 12:17 PM on April 19, 2004

Czech republic, not Prague, but rather Cesky Krumlov.
posted by signal at 12:28 PM on April 19, 2004

I HAVE been to the island of Aero(see Vidiot above) and came into this thread to specifically suggest something like that. I would take the second week ferrying around various baltic islands. aero being one of them. Mon and Ruegen are some others off the top of my head, and make me jealous.

If you really don't want to spend half your trip on a plane or train, which I wouldn't I would really suggest spending MORE time in fewer places.
posted by darkpony at 12:46 PM on April 19, 2004

Stockholm is good, but it is a bit expensive, and it is definitely urban. There are, however, many train or boat trips you can take to the country which is barely a half-hour away from the city center (by my definition, Gamlestan). It's quite beautiful, really.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:25 PM on April 19, 2004

Vidiot: As Steves lists Blackpool, York, The Cotswolds & Bath as UK 'back doors' I'd be extremely wary of any of his other recommendations!

emptyage: I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned already but the Edinburgh Festival will give you lotsa culture altho' the city could be crowded.

Staying in Scotland, the North West (Malaig, Skye etc) will be stunning in the late summer. Good local culture too. The film Local Hero was filmed around here if you want a preview.

You can get to Glasgow pretty easily from Denmark or Gotenburg & it's an hour from Edinburgh by train. The West Highland line runs north to Malaig & is a great journey in itself.

Check Ryanair & EasyJet, & Virgin Express for cheap flying (there are others too) altho' if you book in advance British Airways can be OK.

Then there's The Alps, Czech Rep., Vienna, Norway etc, etc. You could get to Spain or Portugal without too much bother too...

Feel free to e-mail if you want more specifics...
posted by i_cola at 1:40 PM on April 19, 2004

I'll back up the Glasgow suggestion - friendly city, loads to do and see, and Loch Lomond is 50 minutes away on the train. Hell, if you want I'll even forward on some literature - of course I may be biased, it's my home town!
posted by snowgoon at 2:03 PM on April 19, 2004

I'm looking forward to hiking through the Austrian Alps and staying in the Hütten along the way this Summer.
posted by syzygy at 2:18 PM on April 19, 2004

Although Istanbul is my favorite city in the world, given your itinerary I suggest Holland, especially northern Holland , i.e. Friesland. Not so Much Groningen as Leuwarden and the small towns around it (Dokkum, etc.) Friendliest folk in Europe. Weird language (Frys.) Relaxed, and militantly happy to meet foreigners. Be prepared for a lot of invites to dinners at home...
posted by zaelic at 3:01 PM on April 19, 2004

How are you planning to get about? You could consider going up from Denmark to Sweden/Norway (ferries to both available) spend some time outside the cities where camping can be extremely cheap, ie free, but check up on the legal details as to where you can put your tent. Lots of gorgeous places but can be expensive for most living costs. From Norway you can ferry to the England/Scotland and then overland to get the ferry on to Ireland or probably have more chance of a cheap flight into Dublin as this is a common cheap flight option.
posted by biffa at 3:11 PM on April 19, 2004

Just to toss in my two cents, it's usually cheaper to fly from Norway than to take the ferry in my experience. At least, it is if you fly out of Bergen, which is where you'd likely be grabbing a ferry.

And I vote you head over to Norway, see the fjords....lovely country.
posted by annathea at 4:35 PM on April 19, 2004

And I vote you head over to Norway, see the fjords....lovely country.

I'll second this. I was just about to post the same thing.
posted by gyc at 10:55 PM on April 19, 2004

As Steves lists Blackpool, York, The Cotswolds & Bath as UK 'back doors' I'd be extremely wary of any of his other recommendations!

Point taken, i_cola...but those are definitely off the tourist radar (sadly) for 75%+ of US tourists. I've actually had good luck with Rick Steves' recommendations, and really like his guidebooks' style. His Cotswolds recommendations took me to Lower and Upper Slaughter and Stow-on-the-Wold...it was an easy way out of tourist-trap hell.)


Yes indeed, the fjords are amazing.
posted by Vidiot at 10:57 PM on April 19, 2004

I second the Friesland suggestion. I love the Netherlands, and that time of year, the north coast is beautiful. The islands (barrier islands) that form the Waddensee are very pleasant. Especially a nice break if you're between cities.

Oostende in Belgium has a beautiful beach, but the rest of the place is resort hell. High-rise apartments all along the coast. No sense of nature. The Belgians have no sense of zoning. South of Oostende, in France, is far more pleasant. (I am married to a Belgian from Flanders)
posted by Goofyy at 12:41 AM on April 20, 2004

Belgium is a zoning nightmare, I agree. Great food though, lots of culture, and if you like walking and drinking beer, there's the Pajottenland (one of the few regions that aren't a zoning nightmare) to consider. If you visit this site, you'll probably find some ideas.

Something else entirely: I love the Bourgogne. Great landscapes (especially the Côte d'Or, south of Beaune, around Meursault, Santenay, Pommard), great wines, great restaurants. There's some fine biking to do alongside the channels. Good luck!
posted by NekulturnY at 1:43 AM on April 20, 2004

where in Estonia?

It's across the Baltic Sea from Finland. You can take a ferry. It was the first part of the USSR to break off circa 1990.
posted by bingo at 8:55 AM on April 20, 2004

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