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Planning a trip to Eastern Europe, could use your help.

Planning a trip to Eastern Europe, could use your help.

Old Feb 27th, 2014, 07:28 AM
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OK.. we are together now. The drive from Budapest to Zilina thru Bratislava would be fairly dismal.

The town of Banská Bystrica appeared cute. There is a very nice (traditional, cheap) restaurant just after town (heading north). I do not know the name - but it would stand out, I think. We had a good dinner there with our Slovak friends - it is their stopping off point for a break on the way from Bratislava to the High Tatras. Animal skins, tradition things which look touristy but just happen to be traditional.

Levoca didn't do a lot for me (frankly, no small Slovak towns ever did too much for me - as much as we love the country). We spent much of that day watching a trio of police officers track an apparently rabid fox through down town (which somehow just seemed to fit the town's yesteryear ambiance).

A worthwhile stop is the restored village of Vlkolinec. It may be a UNESCO site - not a place you can stay. Very interesting - a wee bit of a hike and enough to spend perhaps an hour in nice weather.

I have written a bit about rural Slovakia from our time living there. If you are interested, email me and I'll drop you a link. (my email is on my fodors profile).

One of our funnier memories was sitting outside in the village of Banská Štiavnica as the church bells started to peel for Sunday service. The song was "You took a fine time to leave me Lucille". My husband and I still laugh when we think of that....

Some of the villages in this area (Banská Štiavnica being one of them) have unreal "Stations of the Cross". They are outdoors and placed along hiking trails - sometimes leading up to a mountain top church. Keep your eyes peeled as you are driving.
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Old Feb 27th, 2014, 07:31 AM
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Correction, no need to email. My actual website is on my profile. I wrote about Bratislava and Slovakia under "home" and "travel".... In any event, if you get bored and want to check it out...
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Old Feb 27th, 2014, 02:31 PM
  #63  
Les
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Julie,

Thank you for the information.

I looked up Banská Bystrica - it looks like a good spot to stay for the night - only about 3 hours out of Budapest, which will leave us with a short 4 hour drive into Krakow the next day (plus the time that we'll certainly want to spend in Vlkolinec on the way).

It's a good thing I'm writing the names of these towns, rather than trying to pronounce them!

I also took a quick look at your web site - very informative and nicely organized. I'll have to devote some serious time to studying it - lots of good info there.

Off Topic): From your blog, I get the impression that you're not as thrilled with Hong Kong as I am. It's one of my favorite cities in the world. I could live there (if I could afford it) and be very happy. But I'm a city guy (born and raised in Brooklyn), and exploring cities is our favorite pastime when traveling. Looking forward to reading about the rest of your travels. We, too, were expats, living near Meersburg (on Lake Constance in Germany) for nearly 5 years, and we're avid travelers (40 countries on 5 continents, and counting). Life is good!
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Old Feb 28th, 2014, 06:50 AM
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Good deal Les... Glad to help...

I grew up on the Jersey shore (Manasquan)... We plan to some day come back and live in Philly. I just like my cities with an extra helping of grunge. We do love Budapest.

Enjoy a wonderful trip (will be interesting to see how a Brooklyn native likes rural Slovakia)...
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Old Mar 1st, 2014, 02:45 PM
  #65  
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Hello, again.

I've started a new topic on this forum, "Looking for recommendations for trip insurance."

If any of you following this thread have any recommendations, I'd appreciate hearing from you. Please post on the new thread; this one is getting rather long, and I'd like to keep it focused on my trip.

Thanks.
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 01:44 PM
  #66  
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Hi.

Well, things have changed (it's a dynamic world, isn't it?).
Thanks to Vladimir Putin, a travel advisary by my government, and the advice of the trip insurance company and my travel agent, we've decided to give St. Petersburg a pass, and replace it with a stay in Stockholm.

We've reworked the itinerary to incorporate those changes; it now looks like this:

Fly from Denver to Helsinki
(4 nights in Helsinki);
Travel to Stockholm (Plane)
(5 nights in Stockholm);
Travel to Tallinn (Plane)
(2 nights in Tallinn);
Travel to Riga (Luxury Bus)
(3 nights in Riga);
Travel to Vilnius (Luxury Bus)
(2 nights in Vilnius);
Travel to Warsaw (Plane)
(2 nights in Warsaw);
Drive to Wroclaw
(1 night in Wroclaw);
Drive to Dresden
(2 nights in Dresden);
Drive to Prague
(4 nights in Prague);
Drive to Bratislava
(2 nights in Bratislava);
Drive to Budapest
(4 nights in Budapest);
Drive to Zilina (or someplace else?)
(1 night in Zilina);
Drive to Krakow
(4 nights in Krakow);
Drive to Warsaw
(1 night in Warsaw)
Fly from Warsaw to Denver


As you can see, we were also able to add an extra night in Helsinki and Riga. We would have preferred to fly into Stockholm first, but Lufthansa wanted a small fortune to change the flights.

I'm now in pursuit of recommendations for a nice hotel in Stockholm (which Ill ask for in a separate post in the Sweden forum, to avoid making this thread any longer than necessary).

I sincerely hope this will be the last change to the itinerary, but I might have said that before. Oh, well!
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 01:52 PM
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Which country is that??? Even the US government, which is usually the most paranoid around, doesn't have a travel warning for St. Petersburg. For heaven's sake, no one is going to go to war with Russia over Ukraine, and it is at the other end of the country. Now, if you want to boycott Russia because you disapprove of Putin's behaviour, that is one thing, but this is the second post I've seen today from someone who is cancelling St. Petersburg because of the situation in Ukraine, and it makes zero sense to me. (But more time in Riga is cerainly a good thing!)
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 04:01 PM
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And you're not going until September???
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 04:10 PM
  #69  
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4 nights might be a bit much in Helsinki. I spent 2 full days there, and thoroughly enjoyed myself, but from what I read, many people have though far less sufficient. Still, you'll be recovering from jet lag and if you go prepared for a very leisurely first few days -- or with a good idea of the things you want to do -- I can imagine that it would be lovely.

Stockholm is lovely.

Enjoy!
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 06:25 PM
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thursdaysd, the United States government has issued a Travel Advisary (not a warning) for Ukraine. I have spoken at length with a couple of trip insurance representatives (one that represents Trip Insured, recommended by my travel agent, and one who works for Insure My Trip, which represents many insurance companies). I have explained to them that this was an advisary, not a warning, and that I* was not going to Ukraine.
After reading the fine print, they both (independently) stated that I would not be covered if I booked the trip to Russia while the advisery was in effect, even if it was later lifted. And if I went to St. Petersburg, none of the remainder of the trip would be covered, either. Consider, also, that the way things are going, there's a good chance that we would be unable to get Russian visas (which we can't even apply for until 45 days before we're going to be there, so we wouldn't know until then), given the retaliation that Putin is likely to put into effect. Also, our travel agent recommended against going there, and was agreeable to modifying the itinerary (even though we've already paid them).
A perfect storm, wouldn't you say?

kja, we're old and slow, which is why we plan long trips with ample time built in. And maybe we're giving Helsinki too much credit, but we love exploring cities on foot, and our feet are not as happy as they once were.
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 06:44 PM
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So the insurance company won't cover you for travel to country A because of a travel advisory for country B? Crazy... At least it explains why I couldn't find the travel advisory - I was looking at Russia. I don't take out that kind of insurance, so if it were my trip it would only be the visa that might be an issue, and that hadn't even occurred to me. I doubt Putin is going to do anything that would cost Russia income, and I expect this to be over well before you would be applying for the visa.

I'm all in favor of having a plan B - and C or even D - but it seemed awfully early to be switching to it. Anyway, seems to be a pretty good plan B.
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 08:38 PM
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thursdaysd, I'm glad that you think Putin is that reasonable. Just be happy you're not one of those Americans that was waiting to adopt a Russian child.
As for insurance, we don't generally take it to cover expenses that we haven't spent or are refundable (in fact, we didn't have any insurance for our 7-week trip to Turkey and Greece, because we didn't outlay any money in advance; we booked hotels in real-time, and we got our flights using my frequent flyer miles). However, between our flights and the part of the trip involving a travel agent (only the first 2-1/2 weeks of a 6 week trip), we're in for enough non-refundable bucks to make the insurance a worthwhile investment.

Plan B gives us a measure of
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 08:43 PM
  #73  
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Sorry, I guess I hit the submit button before I finished.
What I was in the middle of trying to say when I so rudely interrupted myself (you'd be surprised how often that happens) is that Plan B gives us a measure of certainty and peace of mind, and a whole lot less to worry about over the next few months. Plan A (the parts we omitted) didn't disappear, it's just hiding in the shadows, waiting to be resurrected at a later date.
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Old Mar 5th, 2014, 01:34 AM
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Hey Les... It's your vacation. Whatever gives you peace of mind, I would select. Personally, I do not go on vacation to increase my stress level. It still looks like a great trip.
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Old Mar 12th, 2014, 06:22 PM
  #75  
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OK, got my flights, got my hotels, got my itinerary booked. It's time to move on to the next phase of my planning - reserving a car for the 2nd part of the trip.

I could use your suggestions for a reliable car rental company (personal experience preferred). I'd also prefer to use a company that's based in the U.S., but this isn't mandatory.

I should point out that some companies (Budget comes immediately to mind, but I'm sure there are others) will not rent to me (in Poland) because I'm too old (maximum age to rent from them is 70, and I'll be 72 at the time of rental).

Looking forward yet again to your recommendations.
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Old Mar 12th, 2014, 06:34 PM
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You might look into gemut.com -- I've had great experiences with them. It isn't a rental car company, its a small company that arranges rentals, based in (maybe) Oregon (?), with 24-hour English-speaking assistance on a toll-free line. I've never found lower rates with any company (even considering discount options I have through several memberships) and the one time I needed assistance with a car I had rented through them while in Europe, they were incredibly helpful.
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Old Mar 12th, 2014, 08:45 PM
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kja,

Thanks for that info. I have contacted them (online) and requested a quote. I'll also contact them by phone tomorrow.

Let me know if you ever write a guide book - I'll be your first customer!
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Old Mar 12th, 2014, 08:59 PM
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LOL! It seems to me that most of what I've said to you is already in widely available guidebooks. Nonetheless, I'm glad that you think I've been helpful. I'll remind you of that when you came back with horror stories. ;-)

IME, gemut sometimes takes a few days to respond to inquiries -- it's a very small firm, so be patient!
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Old Mar 12th, 2014, 10:42 PM
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And BTW, I didn't mean to suggest that you WILL have horror stories! Quite in contrast, I trust that you will have a great time.
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Old Mar 13th, 2014, 10:24 PM
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kja, I called Gemut, left a voice mail. While I was waiting for a call back, I did some searching, found a good rate at Auto Europe, and I placed a hold on the car, since their sale ends Sunday (and I have the possibility to cancel at any time).

When Gemut returned my call (I spoke with Andy Bestor, very helpful gent,) it turned out that they actually handle the rental through Auto Europe (same exact car, very slightly higher rate), and that I could take care of any issues that might occur during my trip through Auto Europe.

So I kept the booking through Auto Europe.

Thanks again for your help.
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