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Old 12-01-2005, 06:39 AM   #1
 
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I just returned from a short trip around Eastern Europe. I will give a brief overview of my trip and what I liked and didn't like of the countries that I visited. I was using a Rail Pass, but only for Germany. I think I may have paid around $140 US and that gave me 4 days of travel. I would highly recommend this for anyone traveling in Western Europe. However, travel through Eastern Europe is much cheaper just buying a ticket at the station. I didn't pre book any of my hostels but I would highly recommend booking of a hostel to anyone with a semi - concrete schedule in mind. I was kind of just wandering and ended up spending a lot of time looking for a place to stay. My trip started in Munich, Germany.

Munich: I stayed at the Wombats Youth Hostel. Nice hostel with friendly staff. Kind of pricey for a hostel but very clean. Good location, very close to the train station and not too far from the usual tourist attractions. I went around and looked at the touristy stuff and that night I ended up at some club on the far end of town. I then took a train to Salzburg, Austria (Salzburg was included in the German Rail Pass) I then switched trains and was on my way to Ljubljana, Slovenia. ($45 USD)

Ljubljana: I arrived in Ljubljana expecting to stay at the Hostel Celica because of the good things I had read about it. Unfortunately, it was completely booked but they were able to recommend Alibi Hostel. Nothing too special about this hostel. Clean, cheap, and well located right next to the three bridges. Close walk to food, nightclubs, and tourist attractions. I went to a club called Global which at first I was denied entry because of their supposed 25 + rule. (I am only 22) but I went back about an hour later and was let in no problem. I then got on a train to Zagreb (Aprox $25 USD)

Zagreb: I got to Zagreb and stayed at the Omladinski Hostel. Absolute dump. Very unfriendly staff, terrible rooms and even worse bathrooms. All in all this city was nothing very special at all. I spent most of the day walking around the city and that night I hung out at the casino in the Sheraton Hotel. I then got on a bus to Sarajevo (Aprox $20 USD)

Sarajevo: To start off, the bus ride from Zagreb to Sarajevo is incredible. I was lucky enough to take a day bus so as I was able to see everything along the way during this nearly 12-hour bus ride. The landscape is riddled with the effects of the recent war. Sarajevo is a wonderful city. Friendly people, beautiful scenery, and breathtaking mosques. There are many excellent tours available that will give you a better understanding of the people, the history, and the conflict. I stayed at the Hotel Orient right next to the Turkish Quarter. Somewhat deserted hotel but nice and clean nonetheless. Unfortunately I became quite ill during my time in Sarajevo so a good majority of my time was spent in my hotel room. My next stop was Belgrade, Serbia. It is kind of a hassle to get on a bus to take you to Belgrade from Sarajevo. I first had to take a taxi from my hotel to the Republic Sprska (the Serbian section of Sarajevo) and go to the dilapidated train station. THERE ARE NO BUSSES FROM SARAJEVO TO BELGRADE. The Republic Sprska is completely different than the main part of Sarajevo. Everything is in Cyrillic and generally run down. I finally tracked down someone who spoke a smattering of English and was able to purchase a bus ticket for less and $20 USD. Keep in mind; even though Republic Sprska is in Bosnia, they don’t like to take Bosnian Money. It would be helpful to have some spare Euros or Dollars to exchange. Make sure that you get rid of all of your Bosnian money before you leave because you won’t find anywhere that will exchange it for you. The bus was clearly an old Soviet bus on which no one spoke any English. As my luck would have it, after about 5 hours, the bus broke down and the rear seats had to be removed and the rest of the ride was spent smelling the very strong exhaust fumes coming from the back. Wonderful scenery along the ride and some interesting stops.

Belgrade: I arrived in Belgrade and was immediately impressed with the city. A very well kept and upscale town. The first night I could not find a hostel so I stayed at the Hotel Prag for about $30 USD. The next night I stayed at the Balkan Kangaroo, which was about 10 Euros a night. Pretty dingy place but the owner was really cool and just kind of hung around. You could get away with pretty much what ever you want in this hostel. There is one small sheet of paper to identify the hostel and therefore there was only one other person staying there. The staff was great but the hostel could use some work. Belgrade was by far my favorite city during the entire trip. Great people, superb nightlife, and a nicely kept pedestrian zone. From Belgrade, I was on my way to Budapest, Hungary. Or so I thought. When I got to the train station, I was told that there was no train until the following day but I could take a bus to Novi Sad and catch a train from there. I thought why not? I got on the bus and arrived in Novi Sad a few hours later. I then realized that my train did not leave until 12:30 that night. It was 6:00 PM at the time and left luggage closed at 7:00 PM. So, not wanting to wander around with my large backpack and daypack, I sat in the airport drinking 1.5 L bottles of beer from the one small store for the next six hours. I finally got on the train to Budapest and slept for the next few hours. Like Bosnian money, nowhere in Europe will exchange Serbian money. Literally nowhere. Keep that in mind.

Budapest: I arrived in Budapest in the early hours of the morning. Nothing was open and I was being constantly hassled by taxi drivers and people who wanted to exchange money. I had no real plan on where I was going to stay and after a few hours of wandering around this city I had had enough. I got on a train and headed for Bratislava, Slovakia.

Bratislava: I checked in to the Down Town Backpackers Hostel, which was a nicely laid out hostel with young, helpful staff. The only problem was that I was put in a room with an old man and his 6 young daughters ranging from 5-8 years old. I made the most of it and headed out with some other travelers that I had met staying there. Nightlife was mostly nonexistent during the week and most of the places we stopped at were ghost towns. So we sat and drank cheap beer late into the night. The next day I left for Prague, Czech Republic.

Prague: To start out with. For all of you people who think that by going to Prague you will get a taste of “Eastern Europe” you will be sadly mistaken. In my opinion Prague has turned into the likes of most large Western European cities. I don’t know if you consider that a good thing or a bad thing but I was headed into Prague with my head full of stories of cheap beer and well, cheap everything. What I saw however was something every different. I couldn’t count the number of McDonalds and KFC's on every corner. Some streets had one of each visible within 100 meters. The entire town was so overrun with tourists that it was almost sickening. I literally had to push my way through all of the people standing on the Charles Bridge. (And this was in October) I could not imagine visiting this capital city during the summer. And everything was priced comparatively to Western Europe. Yes, the city had some cool bars and small hangouts and very large disco’s but these places were all filled with bratty kids who though that they were experiencing the “far east” of Europe. The city left a bad taste in my mouth and I have no plans on ever returning.

All in all, I had a great time on this trip and I was able to do it in a little over two weeks. I didn’t really have a budget and my main goal was to check out as many cool bars and discos as I could. I was traveling by myself during the entire trip but I was fortunate to meet lots of cool people. Traveling alone can be lonely at times but it also provides you with the absolute freedom of doing what you want whenever you want. If anyone wants to know anything else about my trip feel free to ask. I will answer any questions that I can. People on this board and others were so helpful to me in planning this trip that I hope I can return the favor of someone thinking of traveling along the same route that I did.
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Old 12-01-2005, 06:55 AM   #2
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Nice report, Chris. Thanks for the tips on Sarejevo, Belgrade, etc.

Your reports shows that there are almost as many ways to travel as there are travelers.

> I didn’t really have a budget and my main goal was to check out as many
> cool bars and discos as I could.

Not exactly how *I* would have done E.Eur, but hey! There's no one "Right Way" to travel, and your method is every bit as valid as my "check out the historic sights and scenery" method.

Sorry you didn't like Prague or Budapest...I enjoyed both.

Any more tips you can think of for Bratislava or Llubljana, I'd appreciate it. They're both on my travel short list...

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Old 12-01-2005, 07:34 AM   #3
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Great report! Thanks.
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Old 12-01-2005, 07:54 AM   #4
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Thanks for the report.... I will keep it in mind if I ever make it to Europe!!
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Old 12-01-2005, 07:58 AM   #5
 
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Mike-

I did the whole museums, castles, and churches thing on my last trip to Europe in 2000. Just trying to kick back and relax and have a good time on my most recent short little trip.

As far as Ljubljana and Bratislava, they are both great cities that can easily be done in 2-3 days each. Both are relatively inexpensive. If you are planning on going to Ljubljana, make sure that you make reservations for Hostel Celica. I was in the lobby for a few minutes trying to get a room and I was very impressed. Well constructed, clean, and it looked like a good crowd of people. There is a large castle in Ljubljana that overlooks the city with some pretty spectacular views. I guess Ljubljana is famous for its pizza. Food was generally good and inexpensive. As far as Bratislava, The Downtown Backpackers Hostel was great. Maybe a bit pricey for a budget traveler at aproximatley $25 USD a night but clean, cozy, and centrally located. I am big into Soviet architecture and if you wander a ways from the city center there is much to be seen. Both are excellent places to visit and I would highly recommend them both for at least 1-2 days.
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Old 12-01-2005, 08:49 AM   #6
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yeah i was just there in prague last week and got the same feeling, but i did love budapest! yeah and try exchanging romanian money! i think i still have like 20 us dollars worth in change!
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Old 12-01-2005, 06:25 PM   #7
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man thats awesome!! answered a few of my questions there
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Old 12-02-2005, 07:41 AM   #8
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Hey Chris, thanks for putting your ideas out there! It's a shame that you felt a bit jaded after only a few hours in Budapest but I know where you're coming from - there was a few times on my travels I felt that way and moved on as a result. I also felt that Prague was a bit 'spoilt' with tourists and not exactly a true representation of the east, however it was beautiful nonetheless. It is also expensive in relation to smaller cities and towns in the east. I also agree that Bratislava is a quiet city with not too much to offer in the way of nightlife BUT there is cheap beer to be found!

ev
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Old 12-02-2005, 09:33 PM   #9
 
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EV- I guess part of the bad experience I had with Budapest was due to the fact that I had sat in the Novi Sad train station for 6 hours, then sat on a train for another 6 hours, drank a countless number of large plastic bottles of beer only to be faced with crazy taxi trivers and other lunatics when I got off the train. I mean, I was trying to exchange some Serbian money at the money exchange and taxi drivers were actually walking into the exchange office with big bundles of Forints trying to head me off before I got to the counter. I think that it definatley has potential but frankly, I just wasn't really in the mood. As far as Bratislava, there is a definate potential for awesome nightlife on the weekends. Cheap beer at small little pubs during the week and such and a few potentially good discos for the weekends. Prague, definatley a beautiful city but the tourists are ruining that place. German field trips, Italian elementry soccer teams traveling around and of course, the large host of American tourists with the attitudes that give us a bad name. I did check out a cool museum in Prague. It was a museum of Czech communism. Convienently located between two McDonald's and a casino. Took a while to find but very very interesting. One more thing, the prostitutes in that town are crazy. I had one guy staying in my hostel room that was robbed of about 300 dollars and a camera without even knowing it. They have a elaborate, and well rehearsed system for ripping off the unknowing tourist. I might try and go back someday but my plans for the future remail focused on South Asia and the Middle East.

Chris
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Old 12-03-2005, 05:32 AM   #10
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Great report, thanks !

Are you from Afghanistan or live there currently ? Just curious...
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Old 12-03-2005, 12:35 PM   #11
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Thanks for the reviews! Sounds like a great trip.

I spent 4 days in Bratislava and I liked it a lot, but my experience was quite a bit different. I was visiting a couple of friends there and had my own place to stay out in a residential part of town, and they took me to somewhat lesser-known places and pubs where great food, cheap beer and good atmosphere was plentiful. Unfortunately I didn't get to spend as much time in the city center as I would have liked, but when I go back again I'll spend more time for sure.

Mike, I recommend taking a bus from the city center-- near the bridge-- out to "Hrad Devin" (aka Devinsky Hrad). It's about a half-hour ride into the countryside with a lovely little village and great ruined castle with a LOT of history behind it. You can read about it here and see my photos of it (and Bratislava) here.
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Old 12-04-2005, 12:25 AM   #12
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did any of the hostels have lockers for ya bags n shit? or did you just leave them in the dorm rooms?

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Old 12-04-2005, 08:10 AM   #13
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Hey, thanks for the tips, Chris and Jeanie.

Now that I fly free to a number of European cities (with my new USAirways bennies), I plan on dropping in on some of these Eastern European cities and countries that have escaped me so far.

Cool pics, Jeanie...you know me too well!

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Old 12-08-2005, 06:15 PM   #14
 
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Atchoum- I am in Afghanistan with the US Army. This is my second time being here and the place still facinates me. Hopefully soon it will be safe again for traveling. I would like to come back some day when I am out of the army.
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Old 12-12-2005, 09:16 PM   #15
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thanks for your review, i am starting a similar trip starting in 2 weeks. a lto of things you said werer helpful thanks,
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Old 12-12-2005, 09:37 PM   #16
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I'm going to europe this summer but i don't know how far east i will get. i'm thinking about actually just waiting and doing an E. Europe trip next summer so i can dedicate time to it. anybody got input on this?
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Old 12-13-2005, 04:35 AM   #17
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Dedicate time to it, far too much to see and do to squeeze it in. I spent a month out there and only saw a portion of E. Europe, I'm hoping to go back next summer to do the rest .
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Old 01-10-2006, 08:28 AM   #18
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Nemesis - definitely don't short eastern europe, it's too fascinating to cram.

Chris - thanks for all you're doing in Afghanistan.
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