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Suggestions for former "Eastern Block" nations/cities to visit

I am wanting suggestions for travel destinations within the former "Eastern Block" in regard to the most beautiful locations, most welcoming nations/cities, best shopping, food, accommodations, and exchange rate, and which ones use the Euro, etc... Also, safety and theft is a big issue, so which countries/cities to avoid. I have my own ideas of what countries would be good choices, but want to get some independent and unbiased confirmation.

Posted by
990 posts

You'll get better and more targeted information if you give us some idea of where you're thinking about. There are quite a few countries that correspond to your "former Eastern bloc" description. If using the Euro is a deal-breaker, I think only Montenegro is currently on the euro. Personally, I wouldn't care one way or the other about the euro, though.

Posted by
990 posts

You'll get better and more targeted information if you give us some idea of where you're thinking about. There are quite a few countries that correspond to your "former Eastern bloc" description. If using the Euro is a deal-breaker, I think only Montenegro is currently on the euro. Personally, I wouldn't care one way or the other about the euro, though.

Posted by
1170 posts

Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia (former Yugoslavia), etc... I would like to hear stories, both good and bad, about these places in particular but not limited to these.

Posted by
1385 posts

All the countries already mentioned have their highlights that you can find out more about by reading the previous posts. Based on what has already been mentioned, I would skip Serbia if time is short.

Alternatively, the other former Easter Block countries all offer something to the tourist but may present difficulties in getting to and through. Albania, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine come to mind. Romania and Bulgaria are more touristy and probably easier to travel to.

Poland and the Baltics (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) are all wonderful and fairly easy to get around.

Overall, your question is extremely broad and covers a wide geographic area. I have traveled to all the countries above and didn't have any safety or theft issues and this was with kids. They all have their pros/cons - it will come down to how easy you want the travel to be, how much you want to spend, and if you are ready for a language barrier. The further East you go, the more difficult/challenging the travel becomes.

Posted by
290 posts

Estonia is not yet on the Euro, although the Krooni is pegged to the Euro, as are the Latvian Lats and the Lithuanian Litas.

Posted by
1170 posts

OK, I get the Euro thing, and it's not as important as the destination itself. But what, if anything, do people think of these destinations as places to visit? Any favorite countries or cities, and why?

Posted by
1385 posts

Here is my take going N to S

Tallinn - wonderful town with the castle and turrets, easy to get around

Riga - enjoyed it - could still glimpse the surly Russian service culture at times (this was 5-6 yrs ago)

Vilnius/Trakai - Easy sightseeing, good food, not yet overrun with tourists.

Poland: Warsaw, Krakow, Lublin: 1st two are definitely worth seeing and on most people's list when visiting this area. Easy transport connections between the two. Day trips from Krakow to the Salt Mine and Auschwitz easily doable.

Lviv - Unesco world heritage site. Magnificent old town. Not many tourists. Can present challenges if you haven't planned ahead and don't know how to read the Cyrillic alphabet.

Kyiv - More cosmopolitan than Lviv, big city with lots of churches/monasteries. A little easier than Lviv to navigate. If you like beer, Ukraine has extremely cheap been (think < 50c for a large can).

Belgrade - Not too many highlights from a tourist point (my opinion). Leave it for a future trip.

Bucharest/Brasov - Bucharest is a big city and you have to watch out for the cab drivers. Brasov is a wonderful town worth visiting. Bran (aka Dracula's castle is an easy visit from here). There are lots of other towns in Romania that are worth visiting but I haven't yet gotten to them.

Posted by
1385 posts

Part 2

Sofia/Plovdiv/Veliko Tarnovo: Loved Sofia. Nice city with interesting character - decent food and good transport connections. Can visit Rila Monastery from Sofia. The other two towns are nice tourist destinations that Rick covers in his book. I found it easier to make travel arrangements (train) in Sofia than the smaller towns due to lack of English. VT sits on the top of a scenic gorge.

Lake Ohrid - wonderful town on the lake worth seeing though lots of tourists from the former Yugoslavian states. Easy connections to Greece from here. Also Albania is close by. This is off the beaten path so go well prepared.

Tirana/Kruja - definitely for the more adventurous traveler. Difficult to get to and difficult to get reliable information. You won't find many toursits here. However, you will see a great deal of the Ottoman influence and the disparity between W and E Europe here. I enjoyed the food.

Hope this helps

Posted by
12752 posts

Poland does not use the Euro but the zloty.

I would suggest as top choice going to Poland, went there 3 times: 2001--Warsaw and Cracow, 2003--Gdansk (Danzig), Malbork (Marienburg), 2005--Torun (Thorn), Chelmno (Kulm). Had no problems with safety, but Warsaw Central Station was a bit daunting. These are lovely and fascinating cities, lovely people, good food. I did avoid taking night trains, such as from Berlin--Warsaw, Cracow--Berlin, Berlin--Torun as a precaution. I have yet to visit the two other places: Wroclaw (Breslau) and Poznan (Posen). The lower Vistula area which was the former West Prussia is most interesting. Going to Malbork to the Marienburg castle is a must-see as a day trip from Gdansk, the train stops at Tczew (Dirschau an der Weichsel) en route.

As regards to the exchange rate, each of the 3 years I was there the dollar had slipped relative to the zloty from what I had noted two years before.

Posted by
4637 posts

Czech Republic is one of the most westernized former communist countries. Currency is koruna. Right now is about 19 koruna into dollar. (Where are the times I got 38 koruna for 1 dollar; seems like progress is unstoppable). You will want to see Praha (Prague) the capital of the country. It has a lot of tourists (for a reason). To avoid crowds visit in low season and do touristy places early in the morning. Besides Prague you will want to see Cesky Krumlov- very picturesque almost fairy tale town slowly getting disneyfied. Nearby Cesky Krumlov is Ceske Budejovice german name Budweiss where you can tour original Budweiser brewery, taste the beer and compare with American Budweiser. I guess I don't have to tell you which one will win. If you are into beer then I also recommend Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsen (Plzen) about 100 kilometres from Prague. The most eastern part of the Czech Republic is Moravia (Morava). Its southeastern part is wine country. They have very good white wine. Visit Mikulov, Valtice, Lednice. Beautiful chateau and chateau parks. Check www.salonvin.cz . It's in Valtice chateau cellar where you can choose from 100 samples of the best wines of the C.R. and taste. In Slovakia the best scenery is in the High Tatras (Vysoke Tatry). Jagged peaks, crystal clear mountain lakes. It's like condensed Alps. Lot of trails from easy to very strenuous.

Posted by
811 posts

To add a little piece to the extensive amount of information already given, my husband and I just returned from a trip that included Budapest. Not only did we find it to be a very intersting city in terms of sights, but the people were over the top friendly, incredibly cosmopolitan and impossibly stylish (especially the women), and the value for money was among the best we've seen in our former Eastern Bloc travels. We ate like kings and drank like sailors for less than $20 (total) per meal. And not only was it insanely inexpensive, but absolutely delicious.

In a nutshell, I'd enthusiastically recommend it.

Posted by
44 posts

We did a trip starting in Budapest. See Angela above...agree with comments on city/food. and then moved on to Slovenia (Piran, Ljublijana) and down through Croatia, along the coast all the way to Dubrovnik. This whole trip was absolutely great. If you stay in/near Dubrovnik, I recommend going into the city at dusk - the night we did this thousands of birds were flying overhead and with the white twinkling lights as we crossed over the drawbridge bring back a memory I will never forget! BTW...the seafood was fantastic too.