3 weeks in Central/Eastern Europe

Old Feb 23rd, 2017, 06:45 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 17
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
3 weeks in Central/Eastern Europe

Hi Fodorian,

I am in need of your expert advice.

This December we are travelling to Milan and using it as a base to explore Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary (mainly Budapest), and perhaps to Czech (only for Cesky Krumlov) going through Austria. We are a couple (late 30s) with 8yo and 3yo plus mum and dad (late 60s - still fairly fit to walk).

We love driving due to its flexibility especially with kids and and this is our third time driving in Europe mainly western side but first for the countries above. I imagine it would be cheaper to drive for the six of us compare to taking train or bus but realize there will be some restrictions with the rental company.
My early routing plan is something like this:

Milan - Bled - Ljublana - Split - Dubrovnik - Montonegro (maybe) - Zagreb - Budapest - Bratislava - Cesky Krumlov (through Austria) - Halstatt - Milan

Few options I am thinking of:
- rent a car at Milan then drop off in Trieste before getting a bus to Croatia. Then rent car there and do the same for each country crossing via bus or train so to avoid restrictions and high cross border fee
- a mix between car and flying
- public transport all the way

My questions are:
1. What are everyone's experience in travelling between these countries?
2. Which options are best in your opinion?
3. We love old towns and we think Christmas is a great time to visit them. Can you share what your highlights and favorite towns during Christmas celebration?
4. we are thinking of flying to Copenhagen too for few days, not sure if this is feasible

Your input is very much appreciated.

Thank you very much.
Fly3r is offline  
Old Feb 23rd, 2017, 07:04 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 1,963
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Check with the various rental companies in Milan about what countries you're allowed to go to. Since you're bringing the car back to Milan (if you keep it the whole way) there could be no cross-border charges, but your contract will have to allow driving in all the countries you list.

Also be aware of the various "vignettes" - road-tax stickers that many countries require to be displayed on the car. See www.tolls.eu and click on the individual countreis on the right.

Also get the IDP (International Driving Permit), only available from AAA- see https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html
michelhuebeli is offline  
Old Feb 23rd, 2017, 09:29 PM
  #3  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,983
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm sorry, but I must say that I find this itinerary so ambitious (particularly with children) as to be extremely unpleasant. You are considering driving nearly 4,000 kilometers in 3 weeks? Have you determined whether that would actually leave you time to see / experience any of the things that make you want to see these places? I strongly urge to to get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, check their opening/closing times on the internet, and mark them on a calendar. Pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for getting to/from your lodging, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). Then see how things fit together.

And are you prepared to drive in winter -- with snow and sleet and ice and black ice, all of which can occur unexpectedly? I would think that you would need to have some serious back-up plans in case a storm that will interfere with your plans is anticipated, but you also need to consider what you will do if in the middle of no-where when a white-out hits.

I think you might want to go back to the drawing board and focus on options with good train connections. JMO.

Good luck!
kja is offline  
Old Feb 23rd, 2017, 10:23 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 2,779
Received 26 Likes on 5 Posts
Echoing many of the sentiments of the previous posters, my answers are:

1. What are everyone's experience in travelling between these countries?
In addition to the advice re: vignettes, some of the countries on your itinerary are non-Euro, but you can use Euros to pay for a vignette on the Euro-side country.

We live in Austria and regularly visit the neighbors in our personal vehicle. Make certain your hire cars have the appropriate emergency equipment, as requirements vary by country. The speed limits also vary slightly, so be certain to note them as you cross borders. Roadside stops for facilities are the cleanest in Austria; and the fewest in Slovenia and CZ (at least in our opinion). Your best bets are the facilities at petrol stations.

2. Which options are best in your opinion?
Personally, I would entirely rethink the itinerary. Dressing properly for Central Europe will require warm footwear (and layered outerwear) for everyone, and being mindful that cobblestones, when wet, can be slippery. All of that gear is a lot to drag in and out of cars, busses, and trains. Consider, as well, parking requirements for when you are driving and transportation to/from bus/train stations (with luggage).

Why Split, Dubrovnik and Montenegro in December? Temperatures might be mild and mostly likely wet, and it's not beach weather.

3. We love old towns and we think Christmas is a great time to visit them. Can you share what your highlights and favorite towns during Christmas celebration?

The Christmas markets in Zagreb, Ljubljana and Bratislava are small. Budapest at Christmas time is merry and bright with several markets.

Is there a particular reason you're not stopping in Vienna, home to one of the oldest Christmas markets in Europe (as well as being a twinkling and magical city around the holidays?)

Hallstatt in December can be a variable; if the city is fogged in or clouded over, your experience may not be what you desire.

Why not Salzburg and the Salzkammergut for Christmas time? Or Innsbruck? I have added our reports of visiting these destinations during the holidays for your consideration.
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...zkammergut.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...et-weekend.cfm

4. we are thinking of flying to Copenhagen too for few days, not sure if this is feasible.

I would not even consider it.
fourfortravel is offline  
Old Feb 24th, 2017, 10:31 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 1,963
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Can you step back and take a deep breath for a minute?

You're planning a very strenuous trip for the worst time of the year. The sun goes down before five PM, weather and conditions will likely be lousy - I wouldn't do this trip if my boss asked me to, unless I got double-time pay, danger money, and three months vacation time as compensation.

Go to Portugal. Lisbon has enough beauty and history and points of interest (including fun stuff for kids) to keep you enthused for at least a week (I was just there during the last week of November and the first week of December), and side trips and going up to the Porto region will provide more good times.

There the temperatures are mild, rain can happen but is not a freezing sleeting bother as it is in central/eastern Europe, and many sunny days were t-shirt warm.
michelhuebeli is offline  
Old Feb 24th, 2017, 04:09 PM
  #6  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,983
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I for one would not skip the Christmas markets if that's your priority -- I'd just pick fewer cities (so as to have time to actually visit at least their highlights) and limit the trip to cities that are connected by train. JMO.
kja is offline  
Old Feb 27th, 2017, 06:55 PM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 17
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks to everyone for your input. As I mentioned this is still very early stage planning so open to all your suggestions.

Hi kja, the total kms is nearly 3000kms, not 4000kms as you mentioned but thank you for pointing this out. We have driven from Rome to Paris for a total of just over 2000kms over 3 wks so you gave me a good idea on how I can narrow down the number of locations to visit. Also back-up plans are good idea too as you mentioned

Also we have driven in December, 2 years ago, driving across Germany and Austria (Vienna, Salzburg etc) visiting various big and small cities so we very much enjoyed that trip therefore thinking of going again.

Thanks fourfortravel for the input. I am aware that I stretched myself all the way down to Montenegro so maybe I’ll rethink the Croatia route. We fell in love with the cities from online photos and they probably were taken not in December, so you have a good points

We definitely love the atmosphere from Christmas market big or small and the snow. We enjoy off the beaten track and less touristy places like stumbling on Siena in Italy or Strasbourg in France, or Zaragoza in Spain. We enjoy the architecture, outdoor scenery, walking tracks, toy shops (a must for the kids), unique characters of buildings and shops but not so much museums or similar places (not with little kids). So any advice on these are much appreciated

I am aware car is not a good option for going into city but we will stay outside the city with connection to train or bus. That’s what we did last time but again I am conscious this is central/eastern Europe things can be a bit different.
Fly3r is offline  
Old Feb 27th, 2017, 07:44 PM
  #8  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,983
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
"Hi kja, the total kms is nearly 3000kms, not 4000kms"

Really? The mapping option I used is usually quite reliable -- and I didn't include any side trips you might want, or time getting into or out of cities, or any of the other things that will add and add and add to your time. May I ask, what mapping site you used to conclude that your trip is "only" 3K? What cities were you including, in what order, in the route you tested?

And BTW I would still consider 3K excessive for this trip, at this time of year, which (as michelhuebeli noted) would be during a time of year when daylight is at an absolute minimum.

Your trip, your call! Nonetheless, I repeat my recommendation to plot your trip on a calendar.


"we have driven in December"

Did you encounter snow, ice, white outs, black ice, sleet, etc.?

The real question here is whether you are experienced in driving in these very dangerous conditions, which can occur without prior warning. You are coming from Australia, right? I wonder if you are fully aware of what inclement weather really means to drivers.... If you do, really, understand, then I'm confident that you will forgive me for -- and fully understand why I am -- probing you about this issue.


Hmm... you think of Siena, Strasbourg, and Zaragosa as "off the beaten track." Fascinating.


Yes, things are different in any one country than they are in any other country. I think it would serve you well to do some research.

Good luck!
kja is offline  
Old Feb 27th, 2017, 10:40 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 2,779
Received 26 Likes on 5 Posts
Glad that you are still in the planning stages.

I do not wish to pile on, but whether your route is 3.000 or 4.000 km, your current plan involves at least 6 different countries, each with their own languages; currencies; driving nuances; weather influences; construction zones (plenty of those across Central Europe!); roadside facilities options, and so forth. It may "look" easy on paper, but when you're driving through rural Slovenia, daylight is fading, and your 3 year old needs a WC...

If your focus is on Christmas markets, why not select two or three places to base for a week each, with day trips from there? Find a holiday home with a fireplace that everyone can relax around after the day's outings; or, look into family-friendly hotels and resorts where you can have the space of an apartment and often either a half-board or full-board option, as well.
fourfortravel is offline  
Old Feb 27th, 2017, 11:11 PM
  #10  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,983
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
IMO, fourfortravel has just given you some extraordinarily wise advice.
kja is offline  
Old Feb 28th, 2017, 03:58 PM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 17
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Your replies are great and please do probe me as much as you can which is why I am putting the plan out there.

"And BTW I would still consider 3K excessive for this trip, at this time of year, which (as michelhuebeli noted) would be during a time of year when daylight is at an absolute minimum" - yes noted and will cut down more as I do further research. I based it on google map.

"Did you encounter snow, ice, white outs, black ice, sleet, etc.?" No I did not so I will put in place some plan b around this potential problem or look into public transport option rather than car rental.

Sure I use the "stumbling" word quite loosely as Zaragoza, Siena and Strasbourg are not common place that advertised here in Australia but you get what I mean.

I definitely take your point Fourfortravel on basing my trips on 2-3 places.

So the take home messages so far:
1. Cut down on countries/places to visit and hone in on christmas market spots - I'll do more homework on this with possibility to cut out Austria and Czech.
2. get public transport due to unfavorable driving condition during december month - I'll look into flying and getting train.

I will come back to you when I get more info.

Thanks heaps.
Fly3r is offline  
Old Feb 28th, 2017, 04:30 PM
  #12  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,983
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Sounds like a good idea!

You can get a good sense of your transportation options from rome2rio.com -- just be sure to confirm what you learn there, as it doesn't always capture seasonal variation.
kja is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
DanielR
Europe
31
Nov 14th, 2014 06:41 PM
ErnaGrobler4
Europe
11
Jan 8th, 2014 12:15 PM
EllaViv
Europe
3
Jul 3rd, 2011 08:35 AM
atlantamsc
Europe
10
Jan 12th, 2011 03:51 PM
kram
Europe
15
Oct 23rd, 2007 01:07 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:22 PM.