3 Months in Europe + East Europe suggestions?

Hi Everyone,

Last summer I took a 1-month backpacking trip around Germany (under the pretense of "improving my German") and was instantly hooked. I'm currently planning a 3-month trip for next summer but I'm getting the feeling that I may be planning too much for myself. Currently I have the trip split into three parts: Switzerland/Berlin, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. I'd appreciate any advice: too long/short in any places, connections that don't make sense, etc. Also, I'm not too familiar with Eastern European destinations (other than capitals), so I'd love any suggestions!

For reference about my taste:
- I absolutely hate overly-touristy places (strongly disliked Salzburg and Fussen, hated Venice as well... but that might be because it was a daytrip in August) and would prefer to avoid seeing things just because they're famous
- I prefer places that are different than my hometown of Vancouver (Dublin was dreadfully boring) or places that have a strong backpacking culture (Hamburg was surprisingly fun, but mostly because of the hostel I was in on the Reeperbahn)
- Grungy/alternative but alive seems to be my scene (fell crazy in love with Berlin and loved Dresden). I really loved Vienna though.
- Not a big fan of museums in general - I stopped visiting them about 2 weeks into my Germany trip. Pretty sick of castles too, so I'd only consider them if they were exceptional!

Extra notes:
- The trip is mostly planned around Berlin Pride (Mid-June) and the MS Dockville Music Festival in Hamburg (August 15-19ish)
- I have a friend who lives in Oslo, which is why I'm spending more time in Norway (even though everyone seems to think Oslo is less fun than the other Scandinavian capitals)
- I speak English/German/Cantonese, and will be travelling as a solo 20-something Asian woman

WELL with that out of the way, without further ado:
Late May
Frankfurt (1 night) -- arrival/get over jetlag/buy anything I realize I've forgotten
Luzern, Switzerland (4 nights)

June
Lugano, Switzerland (3 nights)
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland (5 nights)
Montreux, Switzerland (2 nights)
Basel, Switzerland (2 nights)
Berlin, Germany (11 nights) -- (Length of stay b/c of Pride and watching the World Cup with friends!)
Prague, CR (4 nights)

July
Budapest, Hungary (5 nights)
Bled, Slovenia (3 nights)
Zagreb/Hvar/Zadar, Croatia (2 night) -- Help?
Dubrovnik, Croatia (4 nights)
Sarajevo, Bosnia (3 nights)
Prishtina, Kosovo (2 nights)
Belgrade, Serbia (3 nights)
Kosice, Slovakia (2 nights)
Krakow, Poland (4 nights)
Wroclaw, Poland (2 nights)

August
-- Overnight train to Copenhagen --
Copenhagen, DM (4 nights)
Gothenburg, SW (1 night) -- En route to Oslo
Oslo, NW (2 nights)
Some mountains in Norway somewhere (3 nights)
-- Flight to Reykjavik --
Iceland (7 nights) - Reykjavik, Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon etc
-- Flight back to Oslo, train to Hamburg --
Hamburg, Germany (4 nights) -- MS Dockville Festival
Nijmegen/Leiden, NL (2 nights)
Amsterdam, NL (4 nights)
Ghent, Belgium (2 nights)
Bruges, Belgium (1 night)- - Pass Luxemborg City on the way to Frankfurt
Frankfurt (1/2 night)

Thanks in advance! :)

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
4925 posts

Hi Larissa,

My impression is that you are pretty much the opposite of most of the regulars on this site. I recommend you also spend some time on Lonely Planet, especially their Thorntree forums. Most of the folks there are younger, backpackers and more in tune with your style and interests. Sounds like a great trip!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3919 posts

Hi,

I did not count your exact days over there but make sure you don't exceed the 90 day limit imposed by Schengen. Upon arrival your passport is stamped (obviously). From that day on the clock is ticking towards the 90 days. If your total is ca 86 or so, for example, ie, you've built in a couple of days to spare, good....no problems. Stiff penalties can be imposed for going beyond, ie violating the Schengen limit. I certainly would not advise that...not at your age.

If all the legal stuff is in order, your itinerary is great. Good choices in visiting Poland. The hostel at the Krakow train station is one of the very best. There are also ferry connections available, such as that between Oslo and Kiel as away to return to Germany after visiting Oslo. Or, flying from Iceland to Hamburg is another option. In Berlin to see the World Cup there's the "Open Viewing" in Mitte on the huge screen.

Posted by James E.
USA
3238 posts

Yoj ought to count travel days as losy days snd not as a day in the destination location. Not thst they are really lost nut they arent really destination days either. Then you also need to look at how you are going to make those long haul trips. Back packing use to mean short distance travel on cheap carriers invllving a lot of small villages.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3919 posts

Hi,

One thing learned on my last trip in May was using the bus as a means. I suggest you look at berlinlinienbus.de esp for connections from Berlin and to a lesser extent Hamburg. This way you decrease your reliance on trains if you so desire and have the time.

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1239 posts

Way back in 2003, three of us toured Slovenia and Croatia by car. We didn't have the luxury of 3 months, just a few days. Bled was pleasant. Are you thinking of hiking, or visiting the nearby countryside? Three nights are probably plenty, and maybe 2 would work.

We didn't make it to Dubrovnik, but really enjoyed Split. Diocletian's palace in Split isn't like most museums or sights. As part of what was once the palace became a neighborhood with ordinary people building and living in it long ago, it's something to behold. We actually stayed just up the coast in Solin. Unless you do a just daytrip or one-day tour, you might want extra time for seeing Hvar or other islands off the Croatian coast (we didn't make it to any of the islands, either, in our short time there).

Bruges is touristy, but we found it worthwhile -- we also loved Venice, however. Have a great trip!

Posted by stefaniebeachesq
Florida, USA
18 posts

Hopefully you are checking this while traveling. Make sure to make it into Ljubljana, Slovenia, while you're in Bled. It's beautiful!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3919 posts

Hi,

Over all, it is a great itinerary, most of which I would do. . Still, I do suggest cutting out Ghent, the places in Holland, except Amsterdam (which doesn't appeal to me anyway), and add this time to Frankfurt when you're back for the Rückflug (the flight back), much more interesting to see the culturai and historical sights in Frankfurt. You can take the night train from Basel to Berlin, adds another day in Berlin.

Posted by feng.larissa
2 posts

Hi everyone, thanks so much for your replies!

Fred - I counted the days and it ended up being 94. I had no idea about the Schengen lmit, so thank you - you may have just saved my butt! I've decided to cut out the Hamburg festival, Amsterdam/Belgium entirely, and fly from Reykjavik back to the mainland of Europe. Great time-saving tips! As well, why would you take the bus instead of the train? Would you recommend then not getting a EUrail pass? I was going to get a 3-month one (which is about $1500 for youth), but it's sounding like perhaps the bus is cheaper AND more convenient.

James - You're right, I looked at the travel distances between places and some of them were over 10 hours. Not good at all. I'll work to add some spare days so I can stop somewhere in between!

Cyn - I was thinking of hiking, rafting, and maybe canyoning. I'm a pretty outdoorsy person, and I've mostly thrown Bled into the mix to take a break from all the cities and partying. Do you recommend any other places in Slovenia? :) I've also decided to do Split instead of Dubrovnik! The islands sound a little more fun, and Dubrovnik is a little too far down south, I think. Thanks for the fun history lesson!

stefaniebeachesq - I've added a night in Ljublhjiana ;)

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3919 posts

Hi,

The traveling you are doing in Poland, Croatia, Hungary is pretty cheap by train. Not worth getting a Youth Pass. If you were to buy one, I would suggest the Youth 2nd class German-Swiss Pass esp since you're dropping Holland and Belgium. By dropping Holland and Belgium, does that mean you'll fly from Iceland to Frankfurt? Spend a few days in Frankfurt to see the cultural sites, such as the "new" opera house (it's been there 30 yrs!), historical sights too and relax before flying back.

No need to worry about being a solo female traveler. I've seen numerous ones of all nationalities (German, Korean, Swedish, Japanese, etc) at hostels, Pensionen, B&Bs, etc, taking night trains in Germany and Austria, If they can do it, so can you.

From Wroclaw you're going to Copenhagen....long stretch. I've done part of that route. I suggest Wroclaw to Berlin Hbf, (ca 6 hrs or so), then to Copenhagen via Hamburg, which the main junction point up north.

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
1087 posts

Instead of flying to Reykjavik in the middle of your trip, you might check into flying Iceland Air to Europe and making a free stopover in Reykjavik. You may have to adjust your itinerary slightly but this could save some money & eliminate a couple of travel days.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3919 posts

Hi,

One comment about taking the bus over the train: the bus as a means is not bad at all. I've done it in Poland, Sweden, and Germany, where the ride was 1.5 hr max., very comfortable, satisfactory, no problems. Don't think they are like here if you choose the bus, ie, they are not like Greyhound.

The hostel chain I recommend in Budapest and Berlin is Wombats. It has a great reputation, lives up to it. Berlin's Wombats is located in the east where alot of the newer hostels are located. That in Budapest is one of the newest in the Wombats chain, a big modern place in the center if that location is important to you.

Posted by James E.
USA
3238 posts

@Fred, I always stay in an apartment when I go to Budapest but I have heard good report of Wombats for a couple of years new. I sat across the street from it last week and drank a beer. It's in a pretty nice looking c.1890 - 1920 apartment block in a remarkably good location on Kiraly utca. It is across the street from the entrance to the restaurants and bars of the Gozsdu Courtyard and maybe a ten minute walk to the nearest ruin pub or metro station.

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1239 posts

At Lake Bled you can rent a rowboat (we saw a rowing team racing across the lake too), and there's not much whitewater on the lake, but there must be some rafting in the area. I don't know for sure. Hiking the perimeter of the lake and the surrounding area is popular, though. Lonely Planet or other guidebooks (Rough Guide, maybe?) could provide more information on rafting or canyoning options.

Rick Steves' guidebook describes the karst geography around much of Slovenia, and the area is littered with caves. Two he mentions are Skocjan (which were great!) and Postojna (which we didn't get to). We really had parts of just 3 days total, and for such a small country there seems to be a lot we weren't able to experience. The Julian Alps probably offer a lot of activities and sights, but we'll need to find that out on our next trip!

As for bus vs. train, in addition to whichever has the better schedule and/or price, sometimes one has a more conveniently located station than the other for where you're going. Many places in France seem to have the bus and train stations next to each other, but in Spain 8 months ago, we found that sometimes one of the stations was an inconvenient distance from the center of town, and required a walk or a taxi after we'd arrived and were sometimes tired. Different places may have different situations, but if you can identify station locations for some of your destinations, that could prevent some surprises.