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October - 5 nights pre and 4 nights post Frankfurt

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Last year, I solicited for feedback about adding on to a business trip in mid-late October – thread here http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/3-nights-in-october-berlin-munich-or-belgian-cities.cfm - and got really great responses, and led to a great 3 night trip to Bruges and Brussels ahead of my work trip to Frankfurt.

This year, I think I’ll be able to add time prior to my trip AND after, which expands my options but is also making me crazy!! My interests remain similar (museums and homes/palaces; great urban cityscape and/or rural scenery; forest, river or water set cities a plus; love good food at range of price points but food not highest focus for this trip). I have 5 nights prior to Frankfurt, and 4 nights post Frankfurt to play with. I’ll also be celebrating my 30th birthday on the first leg of the trip, so I’m really trying to come up with a solid itinerary. This will likely be solo. I’m a fast-ish traveler in terms of pace: my time is limited so I hit the ground hard, usually don't suffer jetlag, and pack in as much as I can.

I’m focused on urban centers since weather can be iffy in October: if I get a nice day to head to adjacent appealing countryside, I’ll seize it. I’m hoping to visit new cities, so removed London, Paris, Nice, major cities of Italy, Amsterdam, Bruges and Brussels from contention. My brain also believes I should stick to central-ish Europe, so I ruled out cities of Spain and Portugal. I’m flying from New York, and would prefer nonstop or an easy one stop flight back on whatever open jaw route I end up choosing.

I would love feedback on what I’ve come up with so far as my options to pair places around Frankfurt, because while I have two favorite ideas, neither make the most sense logistically.

PRE: St Petersburg POST: Berlin – this is probably the idea I am leaning towards, with caveats. Last year Berlin’s appeal was alluding me, this year I am much more interested in the 20th century history it has to offer, combined with Museum Island, potential for Potsdam, and pretty low accommodation prices for nicer hotels relative to other major cities. 4 nights is probably a bit tight for Berlin, but I would keep the 5 nights for St Petersburg, which has vaulted onto the top of my wish list to visit. The Baroque architecture, the Hermitage, the ballet, the canals, the palaces… all the famous aspects have completely captured my imagination. I realize it’s expensive, although hotel rates look pretty low in mid-October. My only concern is should I save St Petersburg for a larger trip with Moscow, which I have some interest as well? Is it worth jumping through the hoops for the visa to not even visit Moscow? My own counter argument is that my travel patterns and frequency of trips has greatly changed in the last year, and I continue to expect my traveling to reduce a bit over the next decade and/or become more oriented to domestic travel based on life changes. So if I want to see St Petersburg, now might be the time. I like the combination since there’s so much European history to absorb between the two cities. I would fly between St Petersburg and Frankfurt, and train from Frankfurt to Berlin.

PRE: Transylvania POST: Berlin – The other area I’ve always wanted to go to is Transylvania, and I would put this as my second favorite idea. With 5 nights, I’d break my own idea to stay in cities and spend a night in Bucharest and the other 4 between Brasov/Sibiu and just experience the area a bit. Mid October seems like a pretty decent time, and as with St Petersburg, I may not want to wait for a longer trip to Romania that will not likely come. I just have a general desire to visit Transylvania and soak up the atmosphere, but there’s no one attraction pushing me to go. In some ways I worry about possible boredom, but I enjoyed rural Iceland in winter so this should speak to that part of my personality as well. Fly from Bucharest to Frankfurt, train from Frankfurt to Berlin.

PRE: Berlin POST: ???? – Getting to Berlin first and adding the extra night would definitely help maximize time on the ground in Berlin. The trouble is what to pair afterwards. No one attraction or thing is driving me to prioritize one place above another. I would probably love Prague for its scenic beauty, and just deal with the gobs of fellow tourists much like Bruges. Budapest intrigues me and I also look at images of its cityscape and get excited. Both would be good for a 4 night first time taste, but neither is lodged in my brain the way St Petersburg/Transylvania are. I’ve thrown around Vienna, Zurich, Munich, but they aren’t sticking in my brain for whatever reason. Is there another city I should be considering based on my interests, ideally with a 6 hr or less train from Frankfurt, and nonstop or easy one stop connection back to New York?

Short version: 5 nights St Petersburg, 4 nights Berlin, with work in Frankfurt in between: great idea or save St Petersburg for some unknown time in the future? Transylvania as a better alternative for the 5 nights pre Frankfurt? Or, 5 nights Berlin and where for 4 nights that will give me museums/homes/palaces/urban cityscape/river or water views in mid-late October?

Thank you!

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