Jump to content
aberdeen-music
Sign in to follow this  
KimyReizeger

Travel in Europe

Recommended Posts

I'm planning on heading over in the next couple of weeks (cheap flight depending). The only clear idea I have is a few days in Berlin, otherwise, I've a month and an 'all-access' railcard to fulfill! Just wondering if anyone has any 'must-see' places to offer that differ to the guide books / general opinion. Main areas of focus (at this, most likely to change stage) would be Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Holland, Northern France.

Cheers

Ps, ever worked abroad NOT as part of a feeding sick elephants / behind a bar in Aus thing? I really want to work somewhere that could facilitate language learning, but I'm not sure how difficult it is to find relevant (hotel or something) opportunities without proper communication ability in the first place (assuming I'm not relying on the 'everyone speaks English anyway' attitude.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd give Poland a general bodyswerve - it's not a good place if you don't have a working understanding of either Polish/similar language or German. Warsaw is a complete dump, even by Eastern Europe standards and it just feels like they're still stuck in the early 90's. It's a pretty intimidating place - and because of the place being razed in WW2, there's not much of a 'must see' about there.

The Baltic countries are probably worth a visit if you can - the rail infrastructure is a bit crap there, but Lithuania in particular is ridiculously clean. Latvia has the most charm though - probably because it's a little bit behind Estonia and Lithuania in their development. In Riga, the tourist side of things isn't as developed as Estonia's and so there's more to enjoy - there's a particularly brilliant little museum in the old town called the "Museum of the Barricades", dedicated to those that built and manned the barricades during the events of 1990-1991 and the struggle for independence.

In Berlin, I'd recommend getting lost on purpose - it's a fantastic city, yet there's history screaming at you from all over the place. I'd also try and catch something at the Tranenpalast (Palace of Tears) before it gets torn down too. I also loved the Potsdamer Platz despite the fact that it's all new - walking from there to the Brandenburg Gate (taking in the location of Hitler's bunker and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) is very touritsty, but is a definitely must do in my experience. It's also worth taking a trip on the Spree if you can. I think the walk along the Strasse des 17 Juni and Unter Den Linden is unappreciated too - particularly if you do the entire walk from the monument (I forget the name) on the Strasse des 17. Juni to the Berliner Dom/Palast der Republik. The Tiergarten is nice at any time of the year, too. Apart from that, Berlin is absolutely ram packed of things to see of a historical context - though they are sadly hell bent on eliminating almost every trace of what East Germany left behind.

As for France - as far as I've found, the best bet is simply to explore. Northern France is a bit hit or miss though - if you're going to Brittany, then it's not really different - and the North East of the country is just industrial heartlands. I'd personally recommend heading down towards places like the Massif Central - far enough away from the Riveria to not be full of tourists, yet decent climate (if the Mistral isn't blowing, that is!) at this time of year. From there, you can also make a few side trips - for instance, the (Spanish) Basque Country is a beautiful place, San Sebastian (Donostia to the Basques) has a beautiful bay and a lot of charm. Generally speaking though, keep away from the coasts and the ski resorts and you'll be fine in France.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'd give Poland a general bodyswerve - it's not a good place if you don't have a working understanding of either Polish/similar language or German. Warsaw is a complete dump, even by Eastern Europe standards and it just feels like they're still stuck in the early 90's. It's a pretty intimidating place - and because of the place being razed in WW2, there's not much of a 'must see' about there.

Utter bollocks. Have you actually visited Warsaw?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm actually really excited at the prospect of going to Poland; not sure why, though it probably has a little to do with the number of Polish I've worked with..Probably end up in Krakow at some point, though also hoping to visit a friend in Szczecin (which is conveniently close to Berlin.)

Anyone ever gone fruit-picking?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Umm... I just got back from a few weeks in Eastern/Central Europe and Warsaw is really nice! It wasn't one of my favourites because it's one of the bigger and more skyscrapery (_) places but the old town is definitely worth a look and I think calling it a dump is somewhat over the top. Just be careful if you go to a museum called... I think... the History of Warsaw Museum on the main square, it's full of stuff they rescued from the war bombing and is pretty interesting for a bit but after the fifth floor and no place to escape from the guides who see you've finished a room and appear immediately pointing to the next one and saying, "PLEASE! :)" in a way you can't refuse, I kind of wanted to smash up their history.

Riga and Vilnius are really nice places like Cloud said, I preferred the latter because it seemed to have a bit more to do in the centre without losing too much quaintness to tourism, and there's a bit just off the main centre called Uzupis which was made by artists and musicians of the city: "In 1997, the residents of the area declared a Republic of Uupis, with its own flag, currency, president, constitution, and an army (numbering approximately 12 men)." The constitution's up on the wall there, I thought it was all pretty charming and not (yet) filled with wannabe bohemians (except myself).

Budapest is a really beautiful city if you're going that far, but unfortunately I coincided with 43 degree heat/no air conditioning ANYWHERE and release of Harry Potter 7 there so I can't recommend much apart from the baths (really good ones at Szchenyi near Heroes Square) and the castle bit over the river in Buda. The public transport system was a bit confusing and ended up being much more expensive than other places although I may just have been being stupid and not realising how to use it propaly.

Prague is my third or fourth home and I lav eet, probs would recommend everything the guidebooks say: the Old and New Town Squares, the castle (and the other castle Vysehrad), Letna park (Letenske sady) is nice for a walk and beer garden and then there's a nice view from the top looking down over Cechuv most and the city, and Cross club near Holesovice is my favourite bar, with lots of contraptions for decoration (like that woman's garden in Harriet the Spy) and usually some interesting music. There's a website called Expats.cz - Prague Jobs, Prague Community, Prague Real Estate in Czech Republic with job listings and loads of other useful stuff, I worked in Prague and it's quite hard to find an enjoyable job with no Czech at all but most of the hostel/hotel ones require excellent English and only conversational Czech. I'm not sure about anywhere else though. Oh and Cesky Krumlov is approx. half populated by tourists and very small but it's still worth going for a couple of days, to see the castle, go along the river in inner tubes and just wander about a bit.

Naturally, all of these places are also inundated with groups of men wearing "LEE'S STAG DO 2007" t-shirts and causing an unpleasant ruckus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
, I worked in Prague and it's quite hard to find an enjoyable job with no Czech at all but most of the hostel/hotel ones require excellent English and only conversational Czech. .

Nice, kinda hoping the old mother tongue might secure something!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I found it easy to travel around Poland and lots of people spoke good English. I didn't spend much time in Warsaw but went to Gdansk, which is an interesting city that seems to have been at the heart of much of European history. There's some great places in the countryside too. I'd recommend Bialowieza, 'Europe's last primeval forest', which is in northeast Poland near Bialystok. Slovakia is rather good too, and very cheap. The Tatra mountains are excellent for walking. Like others, I'd recommend Vilnius. I wasn't quite so keen on Hungary, a bit pricier and people weren't always as helpful. Probably the worst Eastern European country to visit if your vegetarian, although good if you're not. Finally, if you fancy some sun and sea, then you could do a lot worse than Croatia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd reccomend Ljubljana if you get a chance. Beautiful city and you can easily explore lots of other things Slovenia has to offer as a day trip from there. Good nightlife too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Utter bollocks. Have you actually visited Warsaw?

Yup, last year. Warsaw Central (can't remeber how to spell it in Polish) train station was possibly the most horrible, eerie, Stalinist (though built in the Brezhnev era and dedicated to him, I think...), run down dive of a place ever. Same goes for the international coach station - when the coach pulled up there, I thought that it was some sort of pisstake. I spent a couple of days in Warsaw and found the place utterly devoid of charm - same with the people, which was fairly confusing considering how friendly the Poles are here. Even the hostel staff where I stayed were of a ridiculously sour attitude, and that was one that got decent reviews on Hostelworld. Fair enough, I didn't go to Warsaw to be a tourist, I wanted to see the place how it really is - and I got the distinct feeling that it was just a concrete jungle, planned by some guys with aspirations to design cities in the Soviet Union. The place looks and feels decayed - and outside of the new skyscrapers near the central train station, there's really not much that screams "new", or indeed even historic. Even the Old Town is new - which I found to be personally rubbish compared to Tallinn's.

The only impressive thing (some might argue otherwise, given what it was used for) was the Palace of Science and Culture - despite it being from the Stalin era, it's still a bloody impressive building.

Of course, I went in the middle of winter, so it's probably entirely different in the middle of summer. But Tallinn and Riga (particularly the frozen river at time of year!) looked fine (apart from big, horrible factories on the Via Baltica and the badly maintained state of the road in Latvia) - and the people's attitudes were a lot more pleasant, even if they couldn't understand what you said.

It's all personal perspective though - what's horrible to one person might be nice to another. I quite like the Soviet-era planning when it's been maintained well (look at East Berlin for countless examples of how renovation has made the place generally quite pleasant, but Warsaw just screams of needing a bulldozer taken to a lot of it.

So Maxi...what exactly do you know about Warsaw? :laughing:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

years ago when the kids were raving to acid house and phil collins was still selling solo albums by the bucketload (i.e. 1989) i spent 6 months washing dishes in a hotel in germany. a very enlightening experience. i met loads of great people a lot i still stay in touch with and got to travel extensively around bavaria, switzerland, austria and even went to lichtenstein (well worth a visit if your in the area). bavarians are ace they just spend their days drinking beer not giving a shit! and who can blame them its a wonderful spot! the local beer festivals were particular fun!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yup, last year. Warsaw Central (can't remeber how to spell it in Polish) train station was possibly the most horrible, eerie, Stalinist (though built in the Brezhnev era and dedicated to him, I think...), run down dive of a place ever. Same goes for the international coach station - when the coach pulled up there, I thought that it was some sort of pisstake. I spent a couple of days in Warsaw and found the place utterly devoid of charm - same with the people, which was fairly confusing considering how friendly the Poles are here. Even the hostel staff where I stayed were of a ridiculously sour attitude, and that was one that got decent reviews on Hostelworld. Fair enough, I didn't go to Warsaw to be a tourist, I wanted to see the place how it really is - and I got the distinct feeling that it was just a concrete jungle, planned by some guys with aspirations to design cities in the Soviet Union. The place looks and feels decayed - and outside of the new skyscrapers near the central train station, there's really not much that screams "new", or indeed even historic. Even the Old Town is new - which I found to be personally rubbish compared to Tallinn's.

What a shite. Shock! Horror! A Stalinist station! In Poland! Whatever next?! It's all part of the experience. Besides, anyone who judges a city by its stations is in danger of being labelled an utter tosser.

I went last week for a couple of days and thought it was brilliant. There's not the same touristy feel as Krakow but there is plenty to see. The restored Old Town is really decent, the Market Square was a grand place to sit with a beer. I spent hours in the National Museum, and the Royal Castle is worth a visit. Catch a bus out to Winalow Palace and the Park, it is really worth it, especially if the weather is nice.

On top of that, the nightlife is the best I experienced in Poland, and there is loads of pubs, bars and clubs. I found the people really friendly and most people under 21 could speak English to some extent, and almost everyone knew either English or German.

I stayed in the Oki Doki Hostel which was small, cosy and had a bar!

Further afield in Poland, I only had a day in Krakow, but you could easily spend three at least. The old town was really nice, and there are loads of tours out to Auchwitz and the Salt Mines. I only managed the mines and it was really fantastic.

Apparently Wroclaw is worth a visit, but I found it almost impossible to get to the place without taking about 4 connections, but it should be easier going from Warsaw south.

In Czech Republic, Prague is worth a visit though I found it unbelievably "touristy". The main sights like Charles Bridge are beautiful, but almost everyone you pass is English or American. I reckon it would be well worth it to go to Ostrava or one of the smaller towns where apparently there are no tourists, cheaper prices and just as nice architecture.

The city I most enjoyed on my short tour was Budapest. There was a ridiculous amount to see, there were mimimal amounts of tourists and it was ridiculously cheap. If you fancy it, drop me a PM, I found some great bars and resteraunts .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What a shite. Shock! Horror! A Stalinist station! In Poland! Whatever next?! It's all part of the experience. Besides, anyone who judges a city by its stations is in danger of being labelled an utter tosser.

Well, considering it's a piss soaked shithole (with the cheer to charge for the worst toilets ever!), it's definitely worth criticising. Considering Tallinn's managed to do up their Soviet-era bus station (that is oddly like Aberdeen's) and even Latvia has reasonable stations, there's no excuse for Warsaw having such disgraceful arrival/departure terminals. I agree though, it is definitely part of the experience.

I stayed in the Oki Doki Hostel which was small, cosy and had a bar!

That's the place I was talking about for having surly staff - though the rooms were brilliantly designed. I can't remeber for the life of me what the theme of our room was - but the location couldn't really be much better. To be fair though, we were comparing the standard of service there to Franks Hostel (anyone that's been will know what I'm talking about) in Riga - and it just came across as being a bit flat, almost British in terms of service (ie, nothing spectcular, but efficient). Strangely it was still better than certain people working for the Raddisson in Tallinn when it came to answering easy questions that anybody in a city should know about.

How much are they charging there for beer now? It was around 60p-ish for a beer of some Polish stuff (guaranteed sore head, but not bad at all) when I was there, though it wouldn't surprise me if they've jacked up their prices given all the good reviews on the internet about the place.

Who knows, maybe Poland just simply sucks in winter :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's the place I was talking about for having surly staff - though the rooms were brilliantly designed. I can't remeber for the life of me what the theme of our room was - but the location couldn't really be much better. To be fair though, we were comparing the standard of service there to Franks Hostel (anyone that's been will know what I'm talking about) in Riga - and it just came across as being a bit flat, almost British in terms of service (ie, nothing spectcular, but efficient). Strangely it was still better than certain people working for the Raddisson in Tallinn when it came to answering easy questions that anybody in a city should know about.

How much are they charging there for beer now? It was around 60p-ish for a beer of some Polish stuff (guaranteed sore head, but not bad at all) when I was there, though it wouldn't surprise me if they've jacked up their prices given all the good reviews on the internet about the place.

Who knows, maybe Poland just simply sucks in winter :)

I thought overall the staff were quite pleasant, particularly the 6 foot blonde receptionist! I know what you mean though, some of the staff seemed a bit disinterested, but overall it was a good experience.

As for the beer, Happy Hour was 2 pints for 7 zloty which is about 60p each? I think.

One thing I thought was strange about Central/Eastern Europe as a whole was that cans of beer cost more than bottles. Weird.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Poland's great Cloud, don't knock it 'till you've tried it! I'd love to go to Warsaw or one of the bigger cities next time I go. I've got family near Kołobrzeg so I've only really seen the area around there (close to the Baltic coast and east German border), even just seeing the difference between Germany and Poland the moment you cross the border I'd say is well worth the visit, it's fascinating. There is a lot of poverty in the countryside though, the villages out there are slowly getting the cash injection they need, but very slowly.

Kołobrzeg's got a few sights worth seeing, like the old lighthouse. Or if you're into cycling there's a cycle path that starts there and goes all the way along the rest of the Polish-Baltic coastline I think, daresay you could get a train at either end? Koszalin is a lovely city too, some beautiful architecture there. Anywhere along the Baltic coast is beautiful in my opinion really.

Language barrier is a pain yes, but most of the younger generation have a good grasp of English as it's taught very early on in the school system, so I reckon you could probably get by.

Just remember "Nie rozumiem, Angielsku?" (or there-abouts)... hah!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can't we, for once on this site, get used to, and accept, that Cloud knows best about evenrything! For fecks sakeo_O

We're not worthy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rachie, I'd absolutely love to go to that part of Poland, just because of the differences with East Germany (that was subsidised by the West after reunification) and Poland (which was forced to suffer alone) would be fascinating to see. From what I saw from the train, there was a massive difference in the countryside once you crossed from Poland to Germany - Poland had a lot of rundown infrastructure alongside the line to Berlin, but (East) Germany looked so much better.

Kaliningrad (if one can be arsed with the Russian visa requirements) would be an incredible place to visit I think - I've always wanted to go, particularly as there's plenty of traces of when the place was part of Germany. It's also got quite the Soviet vibe about it apparently, even down to the big ridiculous abandoned skyscraper that was built on top of some historical castle.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×