Eastern Europe trip, would welcome any advice

(19 Posts)
GoringBit Thu 14-Jan-16 16:15:59

I'm putting together a trip to take in a few Eastern European cities (well, what I think of as Eastern Europe), mainly ones that don't have direct flights to or from the UK.

I've worked out a route, London > Ljubljana > Belgrade > Skopje > Istanbul (Istanbul mainly for the convenience of direct flights back to the UK), allowing two full days at each; I've been to Istanbul before, so don't particularly need more time there, but am open to adding a day or two there. I've not been to any of the other cities. I've based the itinerary on direct flights, but am open to using the train, which I know I can do for Belgrade > Skopje.

I've been looking online for tips, but if you know any of these cities, are there any must-go-to places, sights, restaurants, etc. Or are there any cities that I should try to add in, maybe Sarajevo or Sofia? I've been to Budapest and Bucharest, and loved both, but don't want to include them on this trip.

Thanks in advance.

kiwifluff25 Thu 14-Jan-16 16:32:34

Hi GoringBit , of those I've been to Ljubljana, Istanbul a few times, and Belgrade (spent about 3 months there, wouldn't be in a hurry to go back though). I also lived in Bosnia for a while, and out of everywhere I've been there and Slovenia have to be my favourite Eastern European countries.

Slovenia is amazing, stunning, very western, and very safe and clean. Bosnia is the polar opposite (is stunning still), but fantastic because it's so different from the rest of Eastern Europe (food is lush too, I regularly ate out for around £2 including dessert and wine).

How much time do you have and what season will you be going in?

GoringBit Thu 14-Jan-16 16:54:34

Thanks, kiwi, that's really interesting.

I've priced up a trip from 1-13/6, with three nights at each. I need to avoid late March/early April and July/August, but other than that, have no date or time restrictions. I think the main thing is to have easy journeys from point to point, otherwise there's the chance that it'll become a chore. I see this trip as a taster of each country (albeit capitals aren't always representative of the rest of the country), with a view to returning to the ones that we most enjoy.

As much as I like beautiful cities, I'm also happy in places that are rough around the edges; in Riga, I loved the brutal Communist-era architecture as much as the medieval buildings and the art deco. Really, I just want to experience different places and culture - culture in the looser sense of the word. Good food will be a bonus, we're both quite adventurous.

Allinafankle Thu 14-Jan-16 19:52:08

Can I come? grin
I love Eastern Europe - my birthday treat each year is normally a city break somewhere like beautiful Ljubljana, Bratislava or my personal favourite, Belgrade. Yes it can't be described as beautiful but it's laid back, friendly, cheap and (at the moment) off the tourist trail. I've taken the train from there to Budapest in the past and I could have walked it quicker grin , but it was comfortable and arrived on time.
Desperate to visit Sarajevo next.

GoringBit Thu 14-Jan-16 20:52:47

Grab your coat, Allinafankle. grin

I wondered about Bratislava and Sarajevo, maybe I need to go back to the drawing board - or make them two of the stops next trip...

Maryz Thu 14-Jan-16 20:59:10

dd says if you go to Ljubljana you have to go to Lake Bled.

She inter-railed through all that area and more (not Istanbul though) and said Lake Bled is the place she would go back to. That and Bratislava. Apparently Zagreb is a dump, and they didn't go down the coast, though I've heard from other people that Sarajavo is meant to be lovely.

How are you getting about? If it's by train, be careful as the Slovenia/Croatia train links are very odd. Cheap, but iirc there are no direct trains between some places that you would expect them to be, Ljubljana Budapest for example takes something like 8 hours and only goes once a day.

emilybohemia Thu 14-Jan-16 21:04:11

Bratislava is nice and has the old town and the more rough around the edges city centre.

I don't know if Czech Rep is Eastern Europe as I think of it as central but obviously Prague is great. Also in Czech Rep, Brno is quite interesting, the second biggest city. Cesky Krumlov is beautiful and magical but has a bit of character too. It is my favourite place in the Czech Rep and well worth a visit, one of the nicest places I've ever been. Telc and Karlovy Vary, Kutna Hora is interesting and has a weird Bone Church. Also Lednice, Mikulov although they are closer to Austria. Luhacovic is a spa town with some pretty buildings but also some interesting ex Communist buildings.

Allinafankle Thu 14-Jan-16 22:07:48

I was in Bled in the summer and it is absolutely stunning. Easy to reach from both Ljubljana and other countries - we took a train on to Austria that continues to Germany and originated in - I think - Zagreb.

GoringBit Thu 14-Jan-16 22:42:02

Thanks all, Lake Bled looks gorgeous, that's going on the list, either this year, or next year, when I want to see more of Austria/Germany and around.

I've been to Prague and loved it, Brno is also on the (very long) wish list, I'd like to see more of the Czech Republic.

So now I have to build Sarajevo and Bratislava into the plans... grin

Maryz I've been working on getting around by plane, but would like a train journey or two. I've found seat61 very useful for rail travel information; as you say, some seemingly obvious routes aren't, but Belgrade to Skopje seems easy and quite cheap, around €24 first class, and of course stations are more central than airports, so I need to do more research.

Misty9 Thu 14-Jan-16 22:47:51

This sounds like mine and dh's perfect holiday. Pre kids grin
Now we have two, 2 and 4. Doable? If we restrict it to two cities? We don't like beaches or hot weather particularly...

Misty9 Thu 14-Jan-16 22:49:11

Oh, and we liked Zagreb. Amazing restaurant when we went called nocturno. So cheap and amazing food. It was a while ago though <wistful>

Lifeisdinky Thu 14-Jan-16 23:15:04

I would suggest Lake Bohinji in Slovenia - about 20Kms from Lake Bled but fantastic scenery and far far fewer tourists. Slovenians are so friendly and English was spoken everywhere we went
A variety of accommodation is available in the area - larger (but not large) hotels, pensions and rooms to rent (Soba) are plentiful in the villages by the lake (Stara Fuzina or Sredna Vas or Ukanc at the far end of the lake.) We spent 5 days there last summer and spent 3 lazing / sunbathing by the lake swimming in glorious, clear water - just typing this now is making me want to look at flights for this summer

I would also recommend Sarajevo - we went at Easter and it rained lots BUT a fascinating city and easy to get bus to Mostar, although the frequent stops to allow passengers to have a smoke and the lack of AC made the return journey laborious.

Somewhere if your train is going through I would suggest stopping is Pilzen in Czech Republic ( a visit to the Beer Spa is a must) , train to / from Prague took just over an hour
Another good trip (and great for Game of Thrones) fans is Split in Croatia - opportunity to visit the islands and have some fantastic wine.
Budapest I loved last summer - very, very good value for money - would suggest if you want to visit the Parliament that you book in advance from home- we didn't and all the tours in English were full.

I am visiting Moldova (Chisnau) in April and hope to visit Transnistria whilst there and after that perhaps Belgrade (been on my wish list for ages)
Apologies for the essay - travelled quite a lot in Eastern Europe in recent years.

GoringBit Thu 14-Jan-16 23:42:22

It sounds like Slovenia is worth a longer stay, Lakes Bled and Bohinji look gorgeous. Interesting to get such differing views on Zagreb, but I think it's another one for the to-do. I'm coming to the conclusion that for future trips, a road trip will be a better way to explore these areas in more depth.

dinky, I'm very interested to go to Chisinau, looks like it would link well with Kiev or maybe Bucharest. Transnistria sounds fascinating - a quick google search came up with this...

JassyRadlett Thu 14-Jan-16 23:54:51

Oh, I'm glad someone mentioned Bohinj - so much nicer than Bled. Loved Slovenia.

I'd do Ljubljana (plus Bohinj), Sarajevo (utterly brilliant), Kotor in Montenegro and build in more around that part of the Balkans. If you've already been to Istanbul I'd drop it and spend more time in the Balkans, flying back from Belgrade or Dubrovnik (well worth a visit) instead.

GoringBit Fri 15-Jan-16 00:00:25

I've been to Kotor and Dubrovnik, and loved both. I need to look again at alternatives to Istanbul, but there don't seem to be many cities that have flights from Skopje and to London, ideally Stansted not stagnated, stupid autocorrect but I'm enjoying looking.

JassyRadlett Fri 15-Jan-16 00:11:54

You could hop back to Vienna from Skopje? Then only an hour on the train to Bratislava, and easy reach to Stansted.

GoringBit Fri 15-Jan-16 00:41:13

Now there's a thought, Jassy, went to Vienna in 2010 and loved it. Will definitely look into that.

IHeartKingThistle Fri 15-Jan-16 00:47:21

Marking place!

Weddinebelle85 Fri 15-Jan-16 10:40:42

Slovenia has the most heavenly lakes, be sure to visit at least one!

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