Travel : Eastern Europe

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Travel : Eastern Europe

Postby bebebub » Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:33 pm

Anyone with advice/experience to share - Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland?
Is it safe to travel to Russia (Moscow)?
TIA

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Re: Travel : Eastern Europe

Postby Dnls_mum » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:34 pm

I went Prague (Czech), Budapest (Hungary) and Bratislava (Slovakia) last year.

We moved around on our own some of the times and generally seem safe if you stay within the main city sights and tourist areas. If I have to pick, I'll say it was safest in Prague, or at least feels that way. We spent 4 days in Prague, one of which we took a day tour to Kutna Hora to see the skull church. It was quite an experience. Must dos in Prague includes a visit to Prague Castle, then walk town to Lesser Town Square cross Charles Bridge and go into the Old Town. Watch the Arstronomical Clock at Old Town Square and sit down along the sidewalks for a meal and see the world go by. Food in Prague is cheap, and I feel is the cheapest compared to the other 2 cities. I did not enjoy the visit to the Jewish Quaters.

We were in Budapest for 2 days. I felt that Budapest was more beautiful than Prague. I wasn't really impressed by Prague. A visit to Buda castle and Fisherman Bastion is a must. You get a great view of Pest from there. There is also a St Mathias Church next to Fisherman Bastion. We took the hop on hop off bus and went to Heroes' Square. From there a short walk takes you to Szechenyi spa. It is worth a visit for the experience. It is true communist style at work where you wait in line to get an entry ticket, get in line to sent a towel etc. The indoor pools had different temperatures and each pool had different minerals. Not the luxurous Spa in Japan but is an experience. Nearby, there is also the pretty city park nearby. Andrassy street which links Heroes' square to the town is like a mini Champ Elysees. The Opera house is there too. Somehow the city of Budapest did not feel as safe as when we in Prague. Just a feeling and maybe also because there are gypsys there. At night, you must take an illumination cruise along the Danube to see the city lights. It is very beautiful. The view of the Parliament House from the river is fantastic. When we were there the Parliament house was close. We would have like to have been able to go in.

We were in Bratislava for one day. I love it! It is my favourite city. Very charming and pretty with nice cafes. Mayer Cafe is one of the famous ones. The Mayer Torte ( a cake ) is delicious. The city is dotted with cute and interesting statues. An arty city. But security here is probably the worst. I had my CC scanned. A guy brush passed me and held a devise across my handbag. A friend saw and told me so I cancelled all my cards immediately. It normally affects CC with RFIDs only, so no loss for me and it did not make me like the city less. This city is much less commercialise compared to Prague and Budapest, thus its charm. Not as crowded. The Bratislava castle is also very pretty all lighted up at night.
Last edited by Dnls_mum on Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Travel : Eastern Europe

Postby hquek » Fri Jan 18, 2013 3:55 pm

Went to Russia on our own about 7 years back (with hubby and no kids). That one is a different kettle of fish. It was doable on our own but at anytime, the place just felt more scary after all the online warnings. We were lucky in not being robbed or scammed but there was once in a village off Moscow (either Suzdal or Vladimir), a skinhead kicked my hubby (we were just waiting at red light crossing for lights to change and not even talking). Hubby wasn't hurt but we went back to hotel immediately and nothing further happened. But it was a very bad experience because we had no clue what to do if it was a serious attack. In St Petersburg, on our way to a cathedral, we saw a pickpocket gang handing a camera to an old lady selling icecream. 10 min later, the same guys were latching onto us pretending to sell cd/dvd - they come in twos and threes. We managed to run away with no loss but one of our jacket pocket zip was undone, that's how good they are. Just be aware of the possible scams and try to be unobtrusive as possible.

Foodwise also an issue because EVERYTHING was in Russian - we had trouble even order McDonalds. But because we stayed at private homes, we used to go to supermarket to buy food and cook.

transport wise, it's quite alright taking the tube and walking. But to buy long distance train tickets may be a challenge. i got my landlord to help buy the overnight train tickets from Moscow to St Petersburg because I heard it's complicated.

All the bad bits aside, Russia was an amazing trip. We only covered Moscow, St Petersburg and the 2 villages in the Golden Ring. The opulence was mind boggling - Kremlin/Red square, Catherine Palace, Winter Palace, Peterhof etc. I wanted to see the famed Faberge eggs and never thought in an instance they were simply placed in some dusty cupboards in the Hermitage. If you are interested in history, in seeing palaces and museums, then Russia is worth a try. Also, the famed metros are really really deep into the earth and some of them very beautiful.

If you want to know the accomodations, I will try to dig out - we stayed mostly in private accomodations. In Moscow, I can only remember the owner/landlord is called Pasha. In St Petersburg, the lady owner is very nice and there was a nice vodka dinner on our last night....just can't recall the name.

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Re: Travel : Eastern Europe

Postby hquek » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:04 pm

I went on a trip more than 10 years ago to Czech, Hungary and Poland so info may be dated. Czech was pretty amazing and felt easily to navigate; Hungary was alright also but somehow I didn't feel as much there. Poland - I visited Warsaw and Krakow.

Warsaw at that time was pretty modern. There were scarily big behemoth Soviet style buildings there and not very much sights to see - city was pretty bombed out by all the wars so castles (if any) were pretty empty. my gal friends and I felt that polish girls are very pretty but the way they speak fierce.

Krakow on the other hand feels more genteel, it escaped much of the bombings during the war. We stayed in a room (also private accomodation) off the square (went with some lady who was touting her room at train station). Most unforgettable was our trip to the salt mines and to Auschwitz and Birkenau. The concentration camps were left pretty much as they were and it's incredible to see what the jews and others must have gone through - the places they were massacred and the beds they had to squeeze into. (I like history so that was an attraction). At that time, we could still go see the exterior of Schindler's factory (it's a bit off the old square in Krakow) but it was closed - not sure if it's still there.

Food in krakow is another fond memory - we settled most of our meals in 'milk bars'. It's a bit like canteen and the food was amazing and cheap - berry type of drink, cold tomatoey soup with rice inside, etc etc.

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Re: Travel : Eastern Europe

Postby bebebub » Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:42 am

Thanks for sharing.

Dnls_mum,
Did you arrive at n depart from the same city?
Care to elaborate on the Jewish Quarters which you didn't enjoy?
U moved ard on your own during some part of the trip. By trains and buses? Any tips on how their transport system work?

hquek,
with the scary skinhead experience and many years on, do you think you will visit Russia again?

I'm concern with the security issue as I will be travelling with a female companion. Just the 2 of us. I would very much like to visit the places you mention in your post, but safety will be a major consideration. I don't fancy organised tours. Closest to East Europe, I've visited various parts of Germany before, travelling on my own. I like Berlin, but I didn't like the feeling I had when I traveled to the outskirts of the city (if you know what I mean). You reckon it is safe to travel on long distance/overnite trains in Russia?

The info on Krakow sounds interesting. I like history, but knows little. Will hv to read up on this.

Private accommodation refers to a room within someone's home, like B&B? Can view such accommodation online? Gee, dun think I will just follow "a lady touting her room at a train station" :nailbite:

TIA

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Re: Travel : Eastern Europe

Postby hquek » Tue Jan 22, 2013 9:57 am

hi bebe,

If you are just 2 gals travelling, i think that's ok. there's a bit of support. so long as you observe the usual safety rules (avoid quiet lanes yada yada), should be fine. I originally thought you may be going with young children - in that case, I think better to go with tour group (for russia at least). Usually I would think pp will help females more than men - at least the skinhead only attacked my hubby and not me. Plus you have been to other places like germany on your own.

On Russia, the hype about sleeping gas and crime on overnight trains seem overhyped. If it were adults only, yes, without a doubt I will go on my own again (I did a lot of Russian history in school). But this time in summer. That time I went in winter and sad to say, for eg like the fountains at Peterhof were closed. Be aware that the visa application itself quite headache but doable.

I've never felt unsafe in eastern europe. that time I was travelling with a gal friend only also. Those were the days before Internet hotel bookings started, but yes, by private accomodations I mean stay in a room in pp's house.

I don't usually go with pp from train stations, but that time I did; and once in Spain also. Turns out quite alright - some have shared toilets, others may have private toilets. if you are worried, bring bells (to attach to doors at night for warning). But these days with Internet, it should be easier to check up and prebook your accomodations.

Europe has always had a special place in my heart. Now that my dream tour was done (Russia), actually aiming for Croatia...but with kids, it's just that more daunting to think about. haiz....

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Re: Travel : Eastern Europe

Postby Dnls_mum » Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:29 am

bebebub wrote:Thanks for sharing.

Dnls_mum,
Did you arrive at n depart from the same city?
Care to elaborate on the Jewish Quarters which you didn't enjoy?
U moved ard on your own during some part of the trip. By trains and buses? Any tips on how their transport system work?


The Synagogue in the Jewsih Quater in Prague is quite an ancient one. Unfortunately, there is little instructions or literature to read and the people there aren't exactly helpful and there was no one to advise what the various attractions had and how the combine tickets can be used. We should have done more research before we went. As we have little knowledge of the Jewish religion, all was pretty meaningless to us. To truely appreciate it, it would be probably better if you had a guided tour of the place. Due to this experience in Prague, when we were in Budapest, we took a tour of the Synagogue. You can book it at the ticketing counter at the entrance of the synagogue. That visit was more meaningful.

We flew in to Prague and left from Budapest. We checked out various airlines and thought the connections provided by Luthansa was best. We arrived early in the morning in Prague after a short transit in Frankfurt. We left late afternoon in Budapest and returned via a short transit in Munich.

DH and I took a river cruise down the Danube, from Vilsofen in Germany to Budapest. We spent 3 nights in Prague and from there coach to Vilsofen with a lunch stop and time for a short walk around town at Regensburg (Germany). We embarked our ship at Vilsofen and from there was on a 7 nights cruise down the Danube, finally ending in Budapest. The ship was our hotel and mode of transport. We arrived each morning at various towns including Bratislava. Walk around town on our own after a short walking tour, then went back to the ship for meals and sleep. A very comfortable and luxurious way to tour the cities along the Danube. Extremely safe too. :smile:

This was our second river cruise. We took one in Amsterdam/Belgium in 2011. We love these river cruises! I am now considering taking the one in Russia from Moscow to St Petersburg or the one in Portugal. But this year cannot since DS1 has O lvl so very busy year, so maybe do either one next year. :xedfingers:

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Re: Travel : Eastern Europe

Postby bebebub » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:20 am

Dnls_mum wrote:
bebebub wrote:Thanks for sharing.

Dnls_mum,
Did you arrive at n depart from the same city?
Care to elaborate on the Jewish Quarters which you didn't enjoy?
U moved ard on your own during some part of the trip. By trains and buses? Any tips on how their transport system work?


The Synagogue in the Jewsih Quater in Prague is quite an ancient one. Unfortunately, there is little instructions or literature to read and the people there aren't exactly helpful and there was no one to advise what the various attractions had and how the combine tickets can be used. We should have done more research before we went. As we have little knowledge of the Jewish religion, all was pretty meaningless to us. To truely appreciate it, it would be probably better if you had a guided tour of the place. Due to this experience in Prague, when we were in Budapest, we took a tour of the Synagogue. You can book it at the ticketing counter at the entrance of the synagogue. That visit was more meaningful.

We flew in to Prague and left from Budapest. We checked out various airlines and thought the connections provided by Luthansa was best. We arrived early in the morning in Prague after a short transit in Frankfurt. We left late afternoon in Budapest and returned via a short transit in Munich.

DH and I took a river cruise down the Danube, from Vilsofen in Germany to Budapest. We spent 3 nights in Prague and from there coach to Vilsofen with a lunch stop and time for a short walk around town at Regensburg (Germany). We embarked our ship at Vilsofen and from there was on a 7 nights cruise down the Danube, finally ending in Budapest. The ship was our hotel and mode of transport. We arrived each morning at various towns including Bratislava. Walk around town on our own after a short walking tour, then went back to the ship for meals and sleep. A very comfortable and luxurious way to tour the cities along the Danube. Extremely safe too. :smile:

This was our second river cruise. We took one in Amsterdam/Belgium in 2011. We love these river cruises! I am now considering taking the one in Russia from Moscow to St Petersburg or the one in Portugal. But this year cannot since DS1 has O lvl so very busy year, so maybe do either one next year. :xedfingers:

You r the river cruise guru! River cruise sounds like a good idea to settle accommodation/transportation n safety issue in this case. But i hv budget constrain leh :sad: N I like to roam ard at own-time-own-target.

If I just want a short cruise on the Danube, where do you reckon is the best point to embark. Understand that Danube flows through a couple of cities?

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Re: Travel : Eastern Europe

Postby Dnls_mum » Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:31 am

bebebub wrote:You r the river cruise guru! River cruise sounds like a good idea to settle accommodation/transportation n safety issue in this case. But i hv budget constrain leh :sad: N I like to roam ard at own-time-own-target.

If I just want a short cruise on the Danube, where do you reckon is the best point to embark. Understand that Danube flows through a couple of cities?


The Danube is a major river in that part of Europe. We cruised from Vilsofen and Passau in germany to Linz, Melk, Durnstein, Krems in Austria, to Bratislava in Slovakia and Budapest in Hungary. This is just one popular section. It goes further south and north.

In Budapest, you can take night cruises on the Danube. A night cruise of the Budapest section of the Danube is really a must do in Budapest. The city is well illuminated by lights and the view of the parliament building from the river is so beautiful. You can also take a full day tour in Budapest to the Danube bend.

I personally like cruising the Wachau Valley (Austria) section of the Danube. It passes many quaint Austrian towns and vineyards and castle ruins. Very beautiful and peaceful sight. But I'm not sure if you can take a day cruise of that area.

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Re: Travel : Eastern Europe

Postby bebebub » Tue Jan 29, 2013 1:08 pm

Dnls_mum wrote:
bebebub wrote:You r the river cruise guru! River cruise sounds like a good idea to settle accommodation/transportation n safety issue in this case. But i hv budget constrain leh :sad: N I like to roam ard at own-time-own-target.

If I just want a short cruise on the Danube, where do you reckon is the best point to embark. Understand that Danube flows through a couple of cities?


The Danube is a major river in that part of Europe. We cruised from Vilsofen and Passau in germany to Linz, Melk, Durnstein, Krems in Austria, to Bratislava in Slovakia and Budapest in Hungary. This is just one popular section. It goes further south and north.

In Budapest, you can take night cruises on the Danube. A night cruise of the Budapest section of the Danube is really a must do in Budapest. The city is well illuminated by lights and the view of the parliament building from the river is so beautiful. You can also take a full day tour in Budapest to the Danube bend.

I personally like cruising the Wachau Valley (Austria) section of the Danube. It passes many quaint Austrian towns and vineyards and castle ruins. Very beautiful and peaceful sight. But I'm not sure if you can take a day cruise of that area.

:thankyou:

bebebub
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