I have just gotten back from the 14 Day Germany,Austria&Switzerland tour which was wonderful and thinking about where to go next year. I was thinking about the Best of Eastern Europe as people on this past tour and my Ireland tour told me to do this tour. If anyone has done this tour, please let me know any tips or thoughts you have about this tour. I have only been to Prague but not to the other places on this tour. When is the best time of year to go? Did you stay in Bled for a day or more after the tour ended? What kind of clothes did you pack and what did you do in your free time? I know nothing about the places the tour visits so I will have to start researching it, but in the meantime, I would love to hear what others think and did. Thanks for your responses.
Hi Ann, I didn't post before now because I hoped you would get replies from more experienced folks than me, but since that isn't the case I'll give it a try. I have only been on one RS tour, but it was the Eastern Europe tour (16 days when I did it) and it was amazing!! I loved every day of this trip and would never be able to pick a favorite. There was so much variety with the different countries and cultures and every day was a new adventure. Our guide did a great job of explaining the history of the various countries we visited and I was so impressed with the overall organization and efficiency of the tour. If you are interested in history, beautiful scenery and awesome food, you will enjoy this tour. I'll do my best to answer your questions.
I can't really say when the best time of year is to go since this was my first trip to any of these places. I did the tour that went from late May to early June and overall I thought it was a nice time to be there. I wouldn't say it was ever cold, I just occasionally wore a light sweater in the mornings. In Prague it was mostly sunny with one afternoon downpour (a literal downpour, don't think I've ever been that wet before unless I was wearing a swimsuit) Krakow and Budapest were both sunny and warm, Budapest was borderline hot, but manageable. I definitely should have worn more sunscreen though. We had rain at Plitvice (not cold, just wet) and sunshine in Rovinj, and both sun and rain at Bled. Other than the one storm in Prague, most of the rain was intermittent and didn't interfere with any activities.
As far as packing, I went carry on and took a bit of everything. I had one pair of jeans and one pair linen pants plus 3 skirts. Full disclosure, I spent 2 weeks in Scotland before going on this tour so I packed the skirts to wear with or without leggings for various climates. I might have had a different strategy if I were only doing the EE tour. I didn't need the leggings at all on the EE tour, but I was glad I had them in Scotland. I packed mostly short sleeve shirts (5, I think?) plus one LS to layer underneath if needed. I had 2 merino wool sweaters to layer over my tops plus a lightweight shell raincoat which (go figure) I was not wearing the day of the downpour in Prague. I didn't really need both sweaters in EE, but I did in Scotland.
I didn't stay longer in Bled after the tour, but I did go 2 days early to Prague. (between that and my 2 weeks in Scotland that was all the time off work I could manage) I'm sure I would have enjoyed more time in Bled, but I also feel that I got to see what I wanted to see, so I might consider spending a night or 2 in Ljubljana or ??? instead. Unless you just want to relax by the lake at the end of your trip, that would have been nice too. As for free time, obviously this is a personal thing depending on your interests, but I'll list the things I did that were not tour activities.
Prague- opera at the Estates theater, Lobkowicz Palace + concert, Klementinium concert, (can you tell I love music?) Jewish Quarter museums, Mucha museum, Museum of Communism
Krakow- mostly just wandered the cloth hall, the planty and a few churches
Budapest- Hospital in the Rock museum, House of Terror, Szechenyi Baths
Bled- hiked to castle, walked around lake, summer luge (so fun!)
Again, the activities can (and should) be tailored to your interests so definitely do some research before you go. I also watched some documentaries and read a bunch of books about the places I was going so I could understand the history better before I got there. There is so much to take in on this trip that I was glad I was prepared with at least some background info and an idea of what my priorities would be for my free time. Overall I highly recommend the tour and I hope this was helpful. If you have any further questions please let me know.
Thanks for your response Allie. I am thinking of taking this tour in the future.
I, too, appreciate Allie's response as I am already signed up for this tour next Aug/Sept. What a wealth of information! Thanks and I'll be watching this topic so thank you, Ann, for starting it!
Thank you for telling me about your tour, it was very helpful! It really sounds like a great tour and is on the top of my list.
My wife and I highly recommend this tour. We took the 16 day Eastern European tour in September of 2012. It was a fantastic eye-opening event into what were communist controlled countries. Each being interesting and beautiful in its own way. Our tour guide was excellent. We do recommend adding a day or two to either one or both of the start/end days. We found the last stop in Bled and Slovenia to be something we wished for far more time to explore. Prague is packed with tourists; but what a wonderful, beautiful city to explore, as well. For us September provided very good weather.
Hi Ann, I just returned from this tour on September 30th. I agree with everything Allie said, It was a fantastic tour and I am so very glad that I did it. It was my first RS tour and I could not have picked a better one. I loved every minute of it. In most places, it was very warm but we were told that it was unusually warm for that time of year. I think you just go with the average weather and hope for the best. I wore shorts and lightweight shirts every day. I never needed a jacket of sweater except a couple of times on the bus, but that was a welcomed relief!! The ONLY thing I wish I had done differently would be to arrive in Prague at least 1 day before the tour starts. For various reasons I was not able to do this and was exhausted the first night. After meeting the group, we immediately began a walking tour and had a late dinner. I would have enjoyed it more had I been rested. Other than that, it was all wonderful. I highly encourage you to go.
Thank you Lisa and everyone, this tour is on my very short list. I am convinced that I need to take this tour. Your insights and recommendations are appreciated. I loved Prague when I went several years ago and would not mind seeing Prague again. As for the other sights, that would be great to see for the first time.