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Eastern Europe (20ish days)

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Apr 30th, 2012, 08:41 AM
  #1
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Eastern Europe (20ish days)

Hello Everyone,
I am planning a trip for early Sept 2012 with my wife and mother. My mother has never left the country and just got her passport today. She is 65 but in good health with a bit of emphysema...so super active sports, or carrying heavy backpacks, are out.

I used to live in Europe and my wife and I have visited Europe several times, with our last trip (Oct 2011) being a driving trip from Zurich, to Munich (for Oktoberfest), then Prague, then Poland (Stalag Luft III), then Berlin, then Uden Netherlands (where I used to live), then Brussels and home. We rented a car for this trip and loved the freedom of coming and going when we wanted (not on a train timetable) and we could pull off the road whenever we saw something cool.

So...this trip we are planning to hit Budapest (5 days), Vienna (5 days), Bratislava (day trip), and Krakow (5 days). Again...my mother has never left the USA and she likes to slow things down a bit....take it all in. So I dont want to squeeze too many stops into our trip. The TENTATIVE PLAN right now is to fly in/out of Vienna. After Vienna, rent car to drive through Bratislava to Budapest, then straight north-ish to Krakow. I would like to break up this leg (Budapest to Krakow) with an overnight somewhere? Any suggestions for a small town with beautiful scenery/charm?

After Krakow, drive back down to Vienna with a stop for a night or two in a beautiful Czech town (again something small with charm).

Besides the famous concentration camp and salt mines in Krakow...I have NO IDEA what we should see and do around Vienna, Budapest and Krakow. Would love your suggestions!

We are also up to lengthing or shortening the DAYS in each City. I just figured 5 sounded good.

Here is the tentative driving path: http://g.co/maps/z8m99

Thanks everyone!
Sully
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Apr 30th, 2012, 08:45 AM
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Oh...and any suggestions on accomodations would be much appreciated! My wife and I will typically find something one step up from a hostel on the fringe of the centrum. Something high-value, low cost. I have heard that appartment rentals are a good idea...but havent ever looked into that. All my mom REALLY cares about is a private bathroom for the 3 of us. Having a single room with 2 decent sized beds is okay. Having a 2-bedroom apartement in the heart of the action would be awesome, but normally out of our price range.

Thanks again!
Sully
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Apr 30th, 2012, 09:05 AM
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Krakow is a small city, 5 days is way too long.

Have you thought of removing a day or two from some of the cities and adding Prague?
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Apr 30th, 2012, 09:08 AM
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Looks like a good plan. For the Czech Town I recommend the beautiful Telc. As I walked through the arch and turned the corner I gasped at its beauty! Here are photos of the town square. Scroll down to find the Telc section. Another recommendation would be Cesky Krumlov but Telc beats it for beauty and tranquility.

My Krakow favorites and must sees:

Krakow Under the Occupation Museum
Salt Mine
Collegium Maius
Ghetto and Podgorze
Franciscan church
St. Mary's Basilica
Hanging in Rynek Glowny (market square)
Shopping for souvenirs in the Cloth Hall
A walk in the Planty

There is so much more to see in Krakow. I'm presently writing my trip report and am not yet at the Krakow part but it will be finished before you leave on your trip. Meanwhile, click on my name to read about my first trip to Krakow. While you are in the TR thread you will see a response from Kwoo who also has a trip report on Krakow (I believe). Read her's too.

I can suggest a very reasonble tour guide for Krakow to take you around in her car. We hired her for the Jewish Quarter and Podgorze. She was fun and informative.

Take a look at threads under Poland for more information about Krakow. There' snot a lot posted here on Poland but there are some hotel recommendations and I recently saw an apartment in Krakow recommended for E80/night - it was a 2 bedroom so perfect for you.

I would not do Krakow in less than 5 days.
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Apr 30th, 2012, 09:09 AM
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Sorry, that post was sent too early.

From Vienna you could visit Melk Abbey and Schonbrunn Palace. Bratislava would take a day too, so that leaves you with two days in the city.
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Apr 30th, 2012, 09:10 AM
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Sorry - forgot the photo link. There's one for the CR and one for Poland.

http://modigliani.shutterfly.com/cze...kowfrankfurtpa

http://modigliani.shutterfly.com/poland2011
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Apr 30th, 2012, 09:50 AM
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Adrienne,
Telc is BEAUTIFUL...great pictures. When we drive from Krakow back down to Vienna, do you recommend 1 night in Telc...or just a drive-through day-trip? Thanks for the info on Krakow and the apartment as well.

RJames,
Should we stay in Vienna to visit: Schonbrunn Palace. Bratislava and Melk Abbey? I was thinking of visting Bratislava on the way to Budapest...leave real early and spend the whole day there?

Any suggestions on the route/stop-over between Budapest and Krakow?

thanks again!
Sully
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Apr 30th, 2012, 10:01 AM
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I have also never used a "tour guide". I have taken those hop-on hop-off busses before...but never a private tour guide. Do you recommend this highly for Vienna, Budapest or Krakow?

Any suggestions on car rental company?

As you can see...I'm pretty much JUST STARTING my planning. (-;

Sully
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Apr 30th, 2012, 10:21 AM
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Based on what you'd written earlier, Bratislava (day trip), I thought you'd planned on a day trip from Vienna. I don't know how long the drive from Bratislava to Budapest is, from Vienna it is about an hour. The Old Town is small and there isn't much to see/do in Bratislava.

Can't help with your question regarding Melk.

Schonnburn is very close to Vienna, you can see the palace and gardens in half a day. If the weather is good you may want to spend longer in the gardens.
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Apr 30th, 2012, 10:32 AM
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See Melk Abbey from Vienna. You can get a combo ticket... take the train there and boat/train back to Vienna.

It's gorgeous!
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Apr 30th, 2012, 10:38 AM
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I used AutoEurope to book a car for the Czech Republic. You can also check Economy Car Rentals. Be sure to tell the rental company that you want to take the car into other countries; some rental companies have restrictions. Also be aware of vignettes (stickers) needed for highways, especially in Austria.

I would spend the night in Telc as it's 2.5 hour to Vienna which means to me that it will be 3 hours driving and then turning in the car and getting to your hotel. It's 5.5 hours from Krakow to Telc, too much driving for a day.

I hadn't used private guides before the Poland trip but the prices are so reasonable and you get to ask whatever questions you want. It's nice to chat with someone who lives in the area. If you look at my trip report from last year's trip to Poland I descrive the private tour I had in Wroclaw. He charged 200PLN ($66) for 3 hours; our Krakow guide, Marta, charged 450PLN ($150) for the whole day until we were tired. She also does half day tours for about 60% of the full day rate. Considering that there are 3 of you that's only $50 per person for someone to take you around in the car and describe things that you might miss, even with guide books.

There aren't any HOHO buses in Krakow but there are little trains that take you around with canned commentary. I didn't notice the prices but they were not that cheap considering there was no "guide" to talk with, audio only - everyone who was riding in these trains looked rather bored.

There are lots of tour groups in Krakow; I used one to go to the Salt Mine because it was pouring rain and windy and didn't want to figure things out on my own with the bad weather. Google Krakow Tours and you'll see plenty of tour companies you can check out before you go.
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May 1st, 2012, 03:53 PM
  #12
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Updated plan:

Start Vienna, Austria: 5 nights
Bratislava, Slovakia: Drive through day trip on way to Budapest
Budapest, Hungary: 5 nights
Levoca, Slovakia: 2 nights
Krakow, Poland: 5 nights (maybe 6)
Telc, Czech: 1 night
End Vienna: Fly home
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May 1st, 2012, 05:50 PM
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Looks good. A good amount of time in each place so you can do a leisurely trip.

Regarding the train tours in Krakow, I said that I didn't notice the prices. I meant I didn't remember the prices. I did take note of them at the time and thought they were too expensive for what they offered.

During your drive from Krakow to Telc you might want to break your journey in Olomouc.
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May 1st, 2012, 06:58 PM
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It's a shame that you can't fit Cesky Krumlov into your plans. Wonderful, picturesque town! And has one of the few remaining baroque theaters in it's castle.
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May 4th, 2012, 01:51 AM
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You don't need a car for Vienna, Bratislava or Budapest, you'll just be paying to park it.

For a wonderful apartment in Budapest take a look at http://www.budapestvacationrentals.c...ion_Flats.html For things to do in Budapest click on my name for my two TRs including Budapest.

Levoca is a great choice. See http://www.wilhelmswords.com/eur2006/index.html for my visit to Slovakia. I stayed here in Levoca - http://www.uleva.sk/English/accommod...el_u_leva.html - back when it was a pension(no restaurant) and loved it.
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May 4th, 2012, 04:26 AM
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We were in Krakow last month, and I can report that the little trains (oversized gold carts, really) didn't seem all that popular, except for the ones offering the tour of Kazimierz because things to see are spaced further apart. I happened to find a flyer for the electric cars among our postcards and other treasures, and the price is listed as 30 zloty per person (~10 USD) for a 30 minute tour.
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May 4th, 2012, 08:06 AM
  #17
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We have been consulting with John, the owner of: http://www.budapestvacationrentals.c...ion_Flats.html

For our dates, Olive and Sarah are available. Neither of which has 2 bedrooms. Normally...a couch or pullout would suffice for my wife or myself. But I am bringing my mother on her first trip out of the USA. I dont want her sleeping on a pull-out couch if there is ANY chance of her being uncomfortable; from the mattress or feeling like a 3rd wheel in the living room. So...my search continues for a place with 2 real beds (either in the same room or 2 bedrooms).

The hotel in Levoca looks wonderful...but here is my thinking on that. It looks very much like a hotel. We were hoping to find something more homey/authentic/bed-n-breakfast style. I would absolutely love to find a home-owner who rents out 2 of their bedrooms. That would be a real treat for my mom.
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May 4th, 2012, 08:14 AM
  #18
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Our trip has once again changed based on flight prices. We are now firm on our dates, as I have purchased the tickets.

Budapest: Arrive 7th depart 12th (5 nights)
Levoca: Arrive 12th depart 14th (2 nights)
Krakow: Arrive 14th depart 20th (6 nights)
Telc: Arrive 20th depart 21st (1 night)
Vienna: Arrive 21st depart 26th (5 nights)
Budapest: Arrive 26th depart 27th (1 night)
Istanbul: Arrive 27th depart 28th (1 night)
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May 4th, 2012, 09:09 AM
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Adrienne has omitted two of the most fascinating sites in Krakow: (1) Nowa Huta - Stalin's utopian factory town; (2) the fantastic Arka Pana. We visited with Crazy Guides (http://www.crazyguides.com/) and had a blast.

See the St. Francis basilica and the stained glass by Stanislaw Wyspianski in it. This may be the "Franciscan church" adrienne referred to above.

Find out where da Vinci's Lady With an Ermine is being displayed. It was at the Czartoryskich Museum but the museum had extensive renovations. It may now be at Wawel Castle. See http://www.krakow-info.com/dama.htm. The painting itself is outstanding and when we saw it, it was not encased behind plexiglass nor surrounded by 100+ tourists like the Mona Lisa.
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May 4th, 2012, 09:17 AM
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Well, if you're going to be in Istanbul, I'd definitely take some time from Krakow and add it to Istanbul. I really liked Krakow the first time, but it had been well and truly discovered when I went back in 2004. If you allow one day for Auschwitz and half a day for the salt mine, you really only need another day or day and a half for Krakow itself.

Why don't you and your wife sleep on the couch and put your mother in the bedroom? The couch in Pierre/Leisel was plenty big enough.

I suppose you could try airbnb, or even couchsurfing, lol, but the place in Levoca is not that big, it felt more like a B and B than a hotel.
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