Vacation Bleg

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I’ve been meaning to take a real vacation for a couple years, and just haven’t gotten around to planning one. But I’m set now on taking one the first couple weeks in May. I’m also set on the general area — Central/Eastern Europe. I know I want to spend some time in Prague and Budapest, and then I’m thinking I may wind down the Dalmatian Coast, then possibly fly to Bucharest for a few days before flying back home.

Prague and Budapest are the only definite destinations in all of that. Not sure yet how doable the rest is. But if any Agitatortots familiar with that part of the world have advice, recommendations, ideas, suggestions, please feel free to send them my way. I don’t speak the language in any of those countries, so I can’t get too far off the beaten path. But in the past, many of your not-in-the-guidebooks reader suggestions have been pretty great.

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58 Responses to “Vacation Bleg”

  1. #1 |  matt | 

    +1 on Bratislava, but the deal with it is they (random thieves) may want your car unless it’s a Lada. Food is all strangely gray like the Soviet-inspired architecture, yet surprisingly delicious (unlike the Soviet anything). People (ok, the women, yeah, I was single when i was there) are beautiful and friendly. It’s considered the red-headed stepchild of the more prosperous Czech Republic, but overall a neat experience. When I first went (by car, with Austrians, in the 90’s), the border guards obviously hadn’t seen many USA passports and one by one came and looked in the window to get a peek at me. Interesting.

    Go to Vienna. I know it’s a “been there done that” kind of city for lots, but it’s just got lots of character. Good beer a SiebenSternBrau. Plus there’s the Wiener Riesenrad (big ferris wheel in a Six-Flags-esque park where they play weird french hip-hop and serve beer).

  2. #2 |  Kevin |

    In Prague, have a beer in a place serving beer since the 1400s (well 1500), but still pretty old. And old clock in the town square is cool too.

    U Fleku.

  3. #3 |  Robert S. Porter | 

    I’m going to make an argument for Bucharest. In my opinion it is the second best city in Europe (after Berlin). It could possibly be because of my personal background and interests, but Bucharest is simply fascinating. It isn’t the most beautiful city by conventional standards (though it has some stunning buildings like the Creţulescu Palace and Romanian Athenaeum), but the interplay between pre-war and Ceaușescu eras make for some very, very interesting walks. Likewise the sheer scale of the communist planning is something to behold (see, for example the Piața Victoriei or, most famousy, the Palace of the Parliament).

    In general, though I’m a huge fan of Eastern Europe and you can’t really go wrong there.

    The Dalmation coast is simply stunning and Dubrovnik is not to be missed. But it must be noted that the central, walled city, while beautiful, is one of the worst tourist ghettos around. Totally worth seeing, but incredibly busy. I found the old walled city in Kotor, Montenegro almost as nice and not as busy. As others have said a trip to Mostar, in BiH, is recommended as is Sarajevo which has a great nightlife if you’re into that kind of thing.

    I will also agree with the people recommending Bratislava. It’s a great little city that you should visit, especially if you’re going to be in Budapest, which I found only moderately interesting.

    Personally, I would leave Prague for a different trip, or connect it with other places in Central Europe (Germany, Poland) and focus on the Balkans/Eastern Europe exclusively.

    And ignore those recommending Scandinavia. While there are a number of good things about places like Copenhagen, they are dreadfully bland and remarkably boring for the tourist.

  4. #4 |  T. Reed | 

    If you can’t get laid in Prague, you should kill yourself.

  5. #5 |  Jeremy | 

    I have kicked around quite a bit of Eastern Europe.

    Budapest was amazing. I agree with staying on the Pest side of the river. Make sure you visit the Cave Monastery, pretty amazing place.

    Bucharest was nice, but I must admit that I had a much better time in Budapest. If you make to Bucharest, there is an amazing tourist area that is original village houses and buildings brought from all over Romania and placed together to make replica villages.

    Sofia was the same as Bucharest. Great place, but still not as beautiful as Budapest.

    If you get a chance, L’vov in Ukraine has some beautiful building and is a great place to relax. Kiev is another place I highly recommend. I lived there for a while between contracts in Iraq. If you make it to Kiev, make sure to try the borsht and visit the WWII museum. Also, the most beautiful women in the world can be found walking down Kreshatik Street in Kiev.

  6. #6 |  Joe Vladeck | 

    I’ve spent a lot of time as a solo traveler in many of the places you mentioned.

    First, skip Bucharest. Truly a depressing city — your heart will be smashed to smithereens by the packs of stray dogs roaming the city. The only nice thing I have to say about Bucharest is that it made me truly understand the horrors of totalitarianism; the city is like a crumbling museum about the old regime, with huge blocs of identical apartment buildings and pathetic monuments to greatness. (The mock arc d’triumph is so depressing…)

    However, your other ideas are great and I second all the positive comments about Budapest, Prague, and Croatia. If you go to Budapest, make sure to visit the baths — I can’t think of the name of the big one, but it’s worth a visit as you can’t find anything remotely analogous in the US. The islands off the Dalmation coast are phenomenal, Dubrovnik is ridiculously beautiful (though it gets a little dull after a day or two), and Istria is springtime is amazing.

    Vienna’s boring, though the architecture is remarkable. And there are the most remarkable statues of war heroes, which makes sense. I actually think of Vienna, Budapest, and Bucharest as a spectrum — I found Vienna too western-ized and well put together, Bucharest too Soviet-bloc and depressing, and I thought Budapest was the perfect balance.

    Finally, I’ve never made it to Kosovo or Bosnia, but I’ve heard from a number of friends that they’re phenomenal places to visit. You can day-trip to Bosnia (Mostar?) from Dubrovnik. I think there must be something about cities and small countries that are recently recovering from war and calamity that translates to an insistence on enjoying life.

    Hope this helps.

  7. #7 |  Graham J. | 

    I’m coming late to your post, but I wanted to let you know that I went to Budapest last March with my girlfriend (as part of a two-week Budapest-Vienna-Salzburg-Munich-Berlin-Warsaw odyssey), and it was literally the best time of my life. Budapest was such an incredible city to explore, and in the spring parts of it can seem almost deserted (but I mean this in a good way).

    I don’t know if you already have a hotel booked, but if not, I highly recommend Le Meridien. It’s right on one of the main squares, and if you book it through the right source (read: Kayak), you can get a really incredible deal on what is truly a five-star hotel.

    Make sure to visit the Karpatia restaurant. We found it only by accident, though it turned out later that it is in fact in some of the guidebooks. It was definitely one of the best meals of our lives. Make sure to sit at the cafe in the square by St. Isztvan’s Cathedral and order the Dreher on tap. Dreher’s available everywhere there, and it’s the only beer you’ll ever need to order. And Budapest in general is pretty cheap. A pack of real Camel cigarettes was 250 Forints – roughly $1.26.

    Eastern Europe may very well be one of the last real gems of European travel. I would also recommend Berlin, if you get a chance. The only way I can describe it is that they have their shit together – both in the political and cultural sense – and to me it felt like kind of the perfect city.

    Also, Warsaw was pretty cool. The Old Town, destroyed during World War II, was completely rebuilt to the original medieval specifications, and it feels hundreds of years old. Communists were shitty designers, but they could certainly build.

  8. #8 |  Another Vacation Bleg | The Agitator | 

    […] all were so helpful with ideas last time, I figure I’ll see if you have any suggestions about a little planning quandary I’ve […]