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Trip Report Central Europe!

Just got back last night from a fabulous Central Europe two week trip, and would like to share my experiences with fellow travelers before the memories fade. First of all, I am still in a bit of a fog from jet lag, so please excuse my omissions, misspellings, etc. I know from the past that if I don't record my memories and impressions when they are fresh they will fade, and I don't want that to happen. Because, Central Europe, as it is more properly identified, is a simply wonderful destination.

Flew Seattle to Krakow, Poland via Frankfurt, Germany on Condor Airlines. Tickets seemed expensive and I had never heard of Condor, but all turned out great in that regard. Excellent airline. Frankfurt airport was not the best but no worries there. Arranged for a taxi to meet us at the airport upon arrival in Krakow through the hotel, Gloptrotter in Krakow. Easy peasy and cheap. Maybe $15?? Was out of the plane and in awaiting taxi in no more than 10 minutes. Really!

Easy small airport. Gloptrotter hotel a Rick Steves budget recommendation. Maybe $75/ night? Three nights. Perfect. Room large, totally clean, very old with balcony. Felt like 1930 to me. Very very central. Would stay again in a heartbeat.

Day one toured Krakow per Rick Steves itinerary.

Let me say now that whenever I can I follow pretty much whatever he recommends. I am not a rookie traveler. I'm 63 years old and have been travelling since college throughout many many countries. My style would best be described as something like "independent budget" . But I have been a fan of his teachings since I saw him at the X college at University of Washington when we moved to Seattle in 1980 and I continue to highly value his methods and values. So...for my wife and I, it almost always makes sense.

Anyway, back to the good stuff.

Krakow was just beautiful. And inexpensive in our opinion, (and most would consider me a cheapie). Day two was the Jewish ghetto in Krakow and Schlindler's factory. The ghetto part was what we were hoping for, but Schlindler's factory was somehow a tad disappointing. Possibly just too many people there. Slightly underwhelmed. But nevertheless....don't miss it.

Day three was Auschwitz, and it was everything we were hoping for and more. Possibly the single best day of the trip. Very somber and emotional, and again, the highlight of the trip. Used public transporation and the requisite Auschwitz tour guide that comes with your admission ticket. By the way, the guide we had was unbelievable. I remember reading somewhere where Rick said that the guides at Auschwitz take their work very seriously, and she totally did. Heartfelt presentation of what occured there.

Overnight train that night from Krakow to Prague. Lots of discussion of how to get to Prague from Krakow in blogs, etc. Soooo glad we took the sleeper train. Couchette for 2, maybe 10pm till 7am. Absolutely delightful. Loved it!! Without a doubt, I say take the train if you are doing this route. Arrived in Prague at 7am. Again, arranged for transfer through Pension Garland in Prague for transfer from train to Pension. Spent literallly no more than maybe one hour from the moment we stepped off the train to the time we had completed our check in at Pension Garland in Prague. Were on streets of Old Town in Prague by maybe 8am.

Will describe Prague, Vienna and the best of the best, Budapest, in a subsequent post. But I do want to add before I sign off that in central Europe expect all of the following:
tons of cigarette smokers everywhere
the most charming cafes you could ever imagine
cobblestones galore
excellent eating options
easy public transport
for us, no significant language barrier issues at all (we speak only English)

Hope someone out there finds this helpful.
Later

Posted by
6878 posts

That sounds like a great trip! I've been to all but one of the places you mentioned (grew up in Poland and later lived outside Vienna for a while too), so I really look forward to your Budapest report. You didn't mention it, but did you also visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow (that's another place I wouldn't skip if one has some extra time).

Were you actually able to sleep on the overnight train to Prague? I've been reading quite a bit about how this option is disappearing (I think some German linkages at least).

Posted by
2 posts

As it turns out, not squeezing in the salt mines option might be one of my biggest regrets. Had to make some tough choices, but have since departing Poland have heard that the salt mines is one not to miss. Too bad.

But as for the train, slept like a baby. Loved it. Rocked to sleep with a steady clickety clack.

Posted by
2051 posts

What a wonderful and comprehensive trip report! I hope to do a similar itinerary about a year from now so will be taking notes and making copies of your posted experiences and valuable information. Thanks for posting and I am looking forward to what's to come!

Sounds like a great trip.
I have just read a book about solo touring Europe by train and your report seems to mirror the story there. Can't wait to try this one day! Love Vienna, and have never made it to Auschwitz, but last month visited Jasenovac a little known camp in Croatia. Also heart wrenching!

Casey