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Old 10-23-2007, 08:50 PM   #1
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Default Europe - Winter Itenerary, Questions & Suggestions

Hello everybody. I'm 26 and will be backpacking Europe for the first time this winter all by my lonesome. I'll be spending 2 to 3 months over there, starting in late Nov.

I am trying to rush to get things in order to leave and needed some possible ideas and suggestions for my itinerary, and general questions about backpacking in the winter. So here goes.

I have a very basic idea of where I would like to go while I am over there. I believe I will be flying into Frankfurt cause its the cheapest flight I have found from LA, where I currently live. The one person I know in Europe lives semi close to Frankfurt, so I will probably spend time with him right off the bat. Other than that, I know I want to spend time where the climate would be milder, southern Spain, south France, Italy, possibly Greece...spend some time in the alps and snowboard at least a couple times. I would like to maybe spend xmas somewhere cool, and maybe someplace fun for new years. I will probably make time for Amsterdam, Prague, maybe Copenhagen. Also, I don't particularly have a ton of interest in the posh or cosmopolitan side of europe, if that makes any sense. Paris doesn't sound all that appealing to me.

Has anyone had any experience with seeing europe in winter? what they did, where they went, hostels they stayed at, hostels that would be good to stay at specifically for skiing/boarding, things they wouldn't miss, anything else i should know.

Or even if you didn't travel during winter, but have any suggestions for places to visit around those areas I listed or elsewhere, that would be appreciated.

Thanks again for the help, Its been a hustle to get everything set up and planned. Can't wait.
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Old 10-23-2007, 09:12 PM   #2
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I'm kinda in the same shoes as you. I've been to EU several times, but am getting ready to go in the winter for the first time. We are heading to Eastern Europe though! We will be in the Czech Rep. in Jan. If you are around! As for info, I have quite a bit on Italy, Belgium, Netherlands (Amsterdam for sure), Greece, etc.... I agree with you on Paris. We were there for 4 days, and I'm glad I went, but it was just OK to me. So throw out any questions. I have had other travelers share cool experiences about christmas in Warsaw, Prague, Brugge, Italy. And for New Years, if you want a truly crazy one, with bottlerockets being shot at random towards anything, go to Amsterdam. But I also heard Brugge for New Years.
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Old 10-24-2007, 03:08 AM   #3
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While frankfurt is cheap to fly to, theres not really much there so I wouldn't spend much time there. Where does your friend live?

I would spend the time before Christmas in northern Europe, where it will be comparatively warm - january and february usually get much colder. Maybe head straight to amsterdam from frankfurt, then go through Germany(definitely go to Berlin) to Prague. December in Germany is fantastic, every city has great Christmas markets and a really cool atmosphere.

Then maybe spend Christmas in Munich? ive never been but heard great things about it at christmas time. Then you're not far from the Alps for skiing/snowboarding - I love austria, i used to go skiing there nearly every winter when I was a kid.

Then after that you could head south for some warmer weather. I dont really know much about where to go in southern europe though, but Im sure someone else will have some advice for Italy/Greece
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Old 10-24-2007, 08:44 AM   #4
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I have heard the Christmas markets in Prague are spectacular.

While Summer is undoubtedly the season of choice for most tourists, I think Winter deserves a look. I arrived in January in Barcelona (for me, cold 45F (~8C) degrees) and booked it down to Malaga where it is was in the mid 60s. Andalucia was beautiful (but not exempt from snow, Granada had a dusting a day before I was to go skiing )

I was in Munich in February and it wasn't too cold just bleak (later that year I met up with my Dad and went back to Neuschwanstein and the ride was so different...there are mountains...who knew? ). but I didn't mind, as it is always schoen in die Hofbrauhaus.

Turin, Venice, Florence, Rome ranged from cold to cool from left to right. Paris was cold but perfect for walking. Just bring a coat and you'll be fine.

More important than temperature is the weather itself. I'll take blue skies and freezing over cool and bleak. Even if the rain gods aren't cooperating, Europe looks best at night, and it doesn't matter how cloudy it is. My only "bad" weather cities were Florence and Munich (but I still liked both tremendously)

My view on weather is a bit skewed (as is yours I'm sure) by living in Florida. I hate hot weather and really only enjoy the sunshine state about 5-6 months a year.


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Old 10-24-2007, 12:42 PM   #5
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This is great. I've been looking for this kind of info all over the internet about backpacking europe in the winter, and it just didn't happy i found this site.

pete - my buddy lives in a small town a few hours outside frankfurt. He is my dads friend and I have hung out with him a few times, but I dont remember the name of the town. I dont plan to spend any time in frankfurt. I think it will be cool to see small town Germany.

I think I am going to heed your advice of heading north first. I had it in my head that I would spend new years in amsterdam, but all the hostels are sold out or outrageously priced for the holiday, so going there first makes sense. In fact I like your plan for the first part of my trip....

Small town Germany
Back Through Germany, Berlin, Castles...
maybe back to germany, munich, black forest
Swiss, Austria - hit the alps
N. Italy - Florence sounds intriguing, Tuscany, Bologna, Parma (I like food)
S. Italy
Greece (maybe)
S. France
S. Spain

joe - I agree, summer is the choice for tourists. I want as little tourism as possible. I want to dive deep into the little american influence as possible. I grew up in upstate NY, where it seemed like we had 2' of snow all year, and Philly before moving to the sunshine of California. So I think I will have a handle on the weather.

Okay, so some more brain picking...I'm looking for as many cool or beautiful side trips from the big cities as possible. Anyone have suggestions? Also, I heart good food and beer but will be on a backpackers budget. Anyone have any input....Overall think Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations type of travel.
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Old 10-24-2007, 06:32 PM   #6
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Hi Adam and welcome on !

Got specifics from this thread :

Average temperature in January
North-West Europe 0 Celsius
South-West Europe 10 Celsius
Eastern Europe -5 Celsius

This is only an average... I was in Germany in January, and it was freezing cold ! -20 Celsius for 10 days !

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Old 10-27-2007, 09:40 AM   #7
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Welcome to the boards Adam. I think you should try to visit Paris. You only need to give it a couple days, you are right there and to miss it would be a shame. Also you have plenty of time in Europe that you may also be able to stop in Belgium...Brussels and or Brugge? I had the same ideas about Paris as you. I could care less. I am not big into art and stuff. But I am glad I went because I really did like Paris.

I don't know much about Skiing and Snowboarding, but I believe Switzerland & Austria can be pretty expensive. I think there is good skiing in Slovenia as well and it may be cheaper.

Why does Florence sound intriguing too you? I didn't like it and couldn't wait to get out of there. It is a nice city, but really all about its shopping and Art in my opinion. (Great food though)

As for side trips out of the big cities or just other spots to consider...
1. When in Prague, take a trip to Cesky Krumlov(4 hour bus ride, spend a night or too) and to Kutna Hora (1 hour train ride, good day trip)

2. In S. Italy (Naples - Amalfi Coast area). I based myself in Sorrento and did trips from there. I stayed at a camp ground which was cheap and clean. (not sure if it is open in the winter) I made trips to the Amalfi Coast, Capri Island, Pompeii, & Naples all from there.

3. If you have the time in Germany visit Dresden for a day or too. This was not on my original itinerary, but I enjoyed it. Cheap, good food. A decent "rebuilt" old town. And a very cool culture.

4. Any interest in Budapest, Hungary? This was a great city with a cool vibe. The Turkish baths are fun too...I bet in winter the dynamic between the warm water and cold air is amazing.

5. In N. Italy some good side trips from Florence are Sienna. There was this amazing Medevil themed restaurant that for 24 euro you got a 5 course meal and the food was great! Pisa is worth a visit just to take a picture of all the tourists trying to take their picture holding the tower. Also consider spending a few days in the Cinque Terra area. Not sure what the winter acomendations will be like though.

6. If you don't plan to go to Krakow, but still want to see a concentration camp, there is one out side Berlin called Sachsenhousen and one outside Munich but I forget the name right now. This is a disturbing and moving trip.

The best tips for food and beer...

It is cheaper in most Eastern European countries to drink Beer then it is to drink soda.

Buy beer from the supermarkets instead of at the bars and drink in the hostels. Buy enough for you for the evening and one or two extra to share with someone who didn't plan ahead. (Karma always pays off)

When in big wine countries, drink the wine. There is a reason why they are not known for their beer (Like Italy & France). My tip for wine (I know absolutely NOTHING about good or bad wine) Always buy red, because a bad bottle of red is better then a bad bottle of white. I always buy the cheapest bottle with the coolest label.

For food, get away from the main touristy areas. I got screwed a couple of times buy buying food in the tourist area. It is pricey and usually not the best. Walk a little bit away and you will have a better meal, better prices, and more local people and culture to experience.

Beware of the places recommended in the guide books. These are places that have been very frequented by people reading the guidebooks and are no longer as hidden as they might have once been. (Or as cheap and good)

Sorry I babbled a lot longer then I expected too...Hope some of this helps.
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