I've previously posted a question concerning RS Best of Eastern Europe Tour. I think we'll be signing up for this tour, hopefully by Nov. 30th. We like adding several days to both ends of the trip. My "wish list" would be to have additional days in Krakow. And after reading comments about Gdansk on this forum, I would love to include it either before or after the tour. Realistically, Gdansk is so far north from the end of the tour, so I don't know if it should be saved for another trip. Would it be easier to fly into Munich or Vienna and then train to Prague? Could we include Salzburg? I have so many "destinations" in my head, that making a decision seems overwhelming. Hoping for solutions. Thanks. Carol
I'm not following you. You want to add Munich, Vienna, Prague, Gdansk, and Krakow to the beginning and/or end of your tour?
I'm not familiar with this tour - what are the starting and ending cities?
It should be easy to fly between Gdansk and Krakow. But how to get home from Gdansk? When I flew to Gdansk years ago to start a trip to Poland, I flew direct PDX to Amsterdam then booked a direct flight on to Gdansk the same day. Coming back the other way would be more tricky, perhaps impossible, but at worst you could stage a final night in Amsterdam or something before flying back to the US - and just fly Gdansk to that other city. But that adds yet one more night. What about flying home out of Warsaw? But that adds even more time...
I loved my visit to Poland. You could certainly do more than just Krakow and Gdansk there. I visited those two plus Wroclaw and Torun (all by train), the headed to Czech Republic for a few days. So you might think about doing Poland as a separate trip in the future.
Since the tour ends in Bled, you could easily take the train from Bled to Salzburg at the end of the tour. After Salzburg, travel to Munich to fly home.
I’d save Gdansk for another trip and start out in Prague. Alternatively, you could start in a city that has cheap flights to Prague or is within a short train ride and spend a couple of days there before traveling to Prague.
Can you put all your extra Poland days at the beginning so you don't have to backtrack at the end?
Putting Salzburg at the end of your trip is an excellent suggestion. There is an direct train connection to Salzburg from Jesenice, taking some 3,5 hrs. Jesenice is a short distance from Bled and could be done with a taxi without breaking the bank. It is one of the better train trips in this part of the world, going through magnificent mountain scenery after Villach, at the Austrian side of the border.
I took this tour. I flew into Prague a day yearly (highly suggested). At the end, I took the train from Bled to Salzburg, stayed overnight, then took the train to Munich and flew home. The route was primarily due to the use of frequent flier miles and my flight choices from the West Coast. If I was to repeat I'd probably choose to fly in/out of Amsterdam (direct flight from PDX) to Prague and then home from Munich. As was suggested earlier, you could fly to Gdansk prior to the tour and get a cheap flight from there to Prague to start, but a quick search shows no direct flights so you'll incur additional travel time. If it was me, I'd focus on Poland for a return trip (I'd go back to Krakow in a heartbeat).
For me (and this worked out well), I spent a couple of extra days in Prague at the beginning of the tour (including a day trip to Kutna Hora.) After the tour, took a quick train from Bled to Vienna and stayed several days there. Lots of other options for cities, but I would recommend an extra day or so in Prague.
My family is also planning on this tour. We had thought we'd fly into Vienna, spend a few days there, and then spend a few days in Prague pre-tour. But in my (very brief) search for flights, it didn't seem like there are a lot of nonstop into Vienna. Is Munich a better option? With limited time, I don't want to add Munich into the itinerary, but I also don't want to commit to flying into Vienna if it isn't a good option. Thanks for any advice/suggestions!
Carol, when do you hope to travel?
This tour, in my opinion, needs more Poland, more Hungary and I'd like it to include Romania - a
country overlooked by RS tours. Bulgaria has an RS tour, and that's a good thing.
I'd eliminate the "Adriatic" portion of the trip as parts are covered in the "Best of the Adriatic in 14 Days" tour.
I am particularly interested in Eastern Europe, and, in my opinion, this tour misses many marks.
Both Vienna and Berlin have easy, direct train service to Prague, each about 4 hours. Looking Up Train Schedules and Routes Online gives you the Deutsche Bahn train schedule link and tips for using it. I also encourage you to arrive a day early in Prague.
We took this tour this past September. Flying from SFO, we did round trip to Vienna (changed in Frankfurt going, and Munich coming back). We took the train to Prague arriving 2 days before the tour started. I highly recommend an extra day or two in Prague as you don't see everything on the tour. From Bled, we took the train to Vienna and spent an extra 5 days there. We caught the train at the Lesce-Bled station (as recommended by RS). Due to maintenance on the track, we had to go to Salzburg and change trains to Vienna. Normally you can change in Villach.
For convenience or efficiency, you may wish to explore more of Poland on a different trip. We did love Krakow, but it wouldn't be very convenient for going before or after the tour, in my opinion.
Thanks everyone for your suggestions mainly based on your prior experiences. One thing about travelers is they/we have strong opinions, generally speaking, which is why I posted my question.
Andrew: The trip begins in Prague, where we would probably spend a couple of nights prior to the tour since the city seems to be a favorite of many. Flying into Amsterdam (a city we like) and then direct to Gdansk sounds like a good plan. Can anyone weigh in on the ease of getting from Gdansk to Prague?
Laura, tonfromleiden: Good to know that traveling from Bled (Jesenice) to Salzburg is doable, and a scenic route. I thought perhaps at the end of the tour, we might want to spend a couple of nights in Ljubljana, but I see that going to Ljubljiana from Bled is the opposite direction to Jesenice. More decisions!
Ruth: We would book a tour near the end of August, and leave a few days prior to the tour.
Blue 439: You voiced your opinion, but your thoughts are the cause of my dilemma: I like part of the tour itinerary; not the whole (unlike Best of Italy, which we did last year and loved every stop). I also am not thrilled about the couple of 1-night only stops. I would love for the "Best of Eastern Europe" Tour to include more time in Czech Republic and Poland (only two nights!), rather than National Parks. I do love the outdoors and scenic locations, but would have wanted more time in Krakow. Not good especially when one of us is Polish.
We need to look into flying in and out of Amsterdam. Last year we flew home from Munich; such a long flight.
I've taken the Delta flight between PDX and Amsterdam several times (assume you are starting in PDX since you say you are from Oregon). It's always my first choice if I have a choice. It's a long flight, about ten hours each way, but it's direct and not susceptible to weather delays you'd have to worry about if connecting somewhere in the US. And each connection in the US adds at least a few more hours to a long travel day.
I'm not sure today what the connections would be between Amsterdam, Gdansk, and Prague. Schedules have surely changed since I visited Gdansk in 2012. I'd check Google Flights.
The closest station to Bled with service to Salzburg is probably Lesce Bled, which is not walking distance to Lake Bled, but you can get to Lesce Bled station by bus or taxi from the town of Bled. Still, backtracking to Ljubljana (a truly lovely city) doesn't add much extra time, maybe an hour each way tops (take the bus back to Ljubljana though, probably easier). Consider renting a car for a day or two in this area - driving in Slovenia is affordable and mostly stress-free. I'm not sure what stops you might make between Ljubljana and Bled on the tour, but there are some neat little towns in between like Skofja Loka, and the drive from Skofja Loka to Bled through the mountains via Jamnik and Kropa offers some breathtaking views. You can visit Skofja Loka from Ljubljana easily by bus but you would miss that beautiful scenic drive to Bled if you rely on public transportation.
Ljubljana is really lovely at night. It's a small city and doesn't take much time to see - it's more about the feel of the place, really. And unlike Prague, which is mobbed with tourists, Ljubljana still hasn't quite been discovered so it will seem peaceful by comparison.
For what it's worth, there are non-stop flights between Venice and Krakow. You can get direct service from Ljubljana to the Venice airports with GoOpti or DRD - it's a few hour ride.
I did the “Best of Eastern Europe” tour in 2013. Unfortunately, RS Tours has trimmed it down by a couple of days since then, including reducing Krakow to two nights from three. That makes it tight to fit in a visit to the Wieliczka salt mine, but it’s worth the visit if you can do it on the open afternoon in Krakow.
I’m not sure how much time you have before or after the tour, but with five or six days before, I’d pitch for landing in Gdansk for two or three nights, then taking a train to Warsaw for a few, and flying to Prague from Warsaw. From Gdansk to Prague is cumbersome either by land or air. Warsaw to Prague by train is also a very long day, but there are cheap and quick flights from Warsaw to Prague. Or, as Laura writes, Berlin and Vienna are each four hours by train from Prague on opposite sides. Dresden is conveniently between Berlin and Prague if you want to add another worthwhile stop.
On the other end of the tour, I suggest giving Ljubljana a few days. The train from Lesce-Bled station (which is closer than the Jesenice station) which goes to Salzburg and on to Munich actually starts in Ljubljana, so it’s a case of going 40 minutes the opposite direction to Ljubljana. Ljubljana connects to Frankfurt for flights home to North America. Lots of choices!
This website shows all the airlines and destinations to/from Gdansk. I was in Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow a couple months ago. Gdansk was my favorite.