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What's really special in Eastern Europe in July?

What's really special in Eastern Europe in July?

Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 01:49 AM
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What's really special in Eastern Europe in July?

I have a little over a month and would like to explore a bit more of Eastern Europe. I'll be leaving Essen, in West Germany, on 2 July (after a week or so there attending Wagner's Ring Cycle). I'm flying back to Sydney, out of Amsterdam, on 5 August. I'll be travelling alone and using public transport.

Here's what I like:
- slow travel - at least 3 or 4 days in any one place - could be up to a week or two if there was something special on
- getting a sense of how locals live - much more than visiting churches and monuments
- getting a feel for the history, music, art and culture of the place (can include churches and monuments - also bars, galleries, concerts, theatres and local happenings)
- good food. Not 5 star restaurant artsy good but local specialities using seasonal ingredients good
- if I can pick up some opera performances I'm super happy. Not far behind: chamber music (especially contemporary composers), individual voice or choral singing (including church music), modern dance.
- I also love mineral/spa baths.

I have a tentative idea of a bit of a circle through Leipzig, Dresden(?), Wroclaw(?) Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk, Lubeck, Hamburg, Frisian islands and back to Schiphol. I'm also tempted by Riga, Talinn, St Petersburg but feel this is spreading myself too thinly. I could do a completely different sort of circle which included mainly those, of course.

I was in Berlin last year, so think I'll miss that this time, although I really enjoyed it, especially East Berlin. And Prague the year before for a James Joyce conference, plus earlier stays in the Czech republic so that's of less interest this time too. I've never been to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia or Russia, and have spent only limited time in East Germany, so these are the areas I'm thinking about.

Any good ideas? Not so much for an itinerary as such, but rather for special things in during July in these areas - I'd choose a couple and create an itinerary around them.

Your suggestions will be eagerly received, thanks in advance.
SydneyCloseup is offline  
Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 02:35 AM
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Of course I have to recommend Dresden, but I am biased as I am a local ;-) And Leipzig is also an excellent choice.

Too bad you'll be travelling in July, it's just after the opera season ended. Maybe you can catch FIDELIO in Dresden on 4 July, but that's it. And the (excellent!) Moritzburg chamber music festival takes place 5 - 19 August However, you might want to check out the Festival "Sandstein und Musik", they have a chamber music concert scheduled in the Schloss Graupa (where Wagner composed parts of LOHENGRIN, museum also) on 7 July with Mira Wang and Jan Vogler performing (Mozart, Ghys, Ravel). And there will be more around here, I am sure.

Weekend 13/14 July is "Schlössernacht" - if the weather co-operates this is a wonderful event: http://www.dresdner-schloessernacht.de/

www.frauenkirche-dresden.de will tell you about events in the Frauenkirche. 7 July is Beethoven's MISSA SOLEMNIS, there are several organ recitals also in those weeks.

The Neustadt district is where the locals go for partying, clubbing, ethnic food. Excellent (more local) food is to find here: http://villandry.de and www.koenig-albert.de

Locals hang out along the river in summer. Plenty of beer gardens, city beach(es) etc. Good addresses: www.schillergarten.de for restaurant/beer garden and www.purobeach.de

More later if needed,

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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 02:54 AM
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I realize you're looking for events, but what was really special for me in July was breathing in the pine-scented air at three in the morning, walking from the deserted bus station into Druskininkai, Lithuania. It's a spa town, although I was visiting for Grutas Park.

It's wonderful that you have a month for this; for me, justwandering was wonderful and I really enjoyed my farm stay in Kaunas, partly due to the glorious weather.

Here's my trip report just for a bit of info, as there isn't enormous amounts here on this region: http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-july-2006.cfm

The picture version is here: http://travel.webshots.com/album/554398583VMJIOD

For schedules and lists of events, a great resource is www.inyourpocket.com
Amy is offline  
Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 04:13 AM
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Most beautiful plave in EE for me
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 11:59 AM
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Qwovadis, I wasn't planning to go that far south this time, maybe another year.

Ingo it's highly likely I'll spend some time in Dresden, I haven't seen a Fidelio for ages so that's appealing, and the Missa Solemnis sounds great too. They may just bookend the Dresden stay, with other things slotted inside. (Or maybe the Schloss Graupa concert ... plenty to consider here)

Amy, I read your trip report with great pleasure. I haven't yet followed up all the links but I'll certainly do so. You've definitely inclined me to look very closely at including Lithuania. And I'm not really looking specifically for events, although I find them useful as a starting point. I often use them as the ostensible reason to go somewhere. Once I'm there I like to wander without too much of a plan, rather with a general idea which is constantly modified by whatever happens.

Back I go to have a look at your links. I'm sure there'll be more questions but you've both given me plenty of leads to go on with. Thanks a lot.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 12:24 PM
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Isnt't it Estonia which is known for its summer concerts of choirs? Bit of shady memory but one of the Baltic states should be famous for that...
In general, early July is still close to midsummer, and the White Nights are really something the more North you go. You already experience this in Northern Poland and the days get longer the more you move up the coast towards Estonia. It's just a short hop by plane from Germany to the Baltic states or Poland. Whichbudget.com usually gives you a good idea which connections exist.
The only caveat should be to avoid renting a car across borders. This usually incurs a steep fee. Better to move between countries by train or bus.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 12:38 PM
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Cowboy 1968 I think you're leading me astray! Here I am trying to resist the urge to hop madly from one thing to another and you come up with the highly seductive white nights. It's great and I'll add it to the list of things to look at. Eventually I'll whittle the travel back to manageable proportions. I always flounder in the early planning stages, there are so many options.

Totally agree with your rental car comment. I try to avoid them when I'm travelling alone anyway, I'd rather look out of a train window than focus on a road.
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Old Feb 4th, 2012, 06:35 PM
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After a bit of thinking and research I've refined my plans down to the following. I haven't yet researched whether transport connections work, so there are sure to be more changes. But it's something to work with. I've allocated about 4 days to each place. That will get adjusted up and down in different places, 2 or 3 days here, 5 or 6 days there etc, but it gives me an overall pace that's not too bad.

Re transport - I'm thinking train/bus for most parts, flight from Riga to Amsterdam and perhaps for other longer hops if there's no easy night train connection.

June 22-July 2 Essen, Germany (Ring Cycle)
July 2-6 Leipzig, Germany (decided Leipzig rather than Dresden)
July 6-10 Wroclaw, Poland
July 10-14 Krakow, Poland
July 14-18 Lviv, Ukraine
July 18-22 Warsaw, Poland
July 22-24 Druskininkai, Lithuania - for a full spa day,
July 24-30 Vilnius, Lithuania, may include a visit to the Curonian Spit and a stop at Siaulial, en route to
July 30-Aug 3 Riga, Latvia
Aug 3-5 Amsterdam with friends and family, depart 5 Aug

I've decided not to go any further north than Riga - St Petersburg, Talinn, Helsinki will be for another trip, when I'll wrestle with the Russian visa requirements.

Does anyone have any further ideas on any part of this? I'm not wedded to big cities, this is more to give me a sense of how my movements might go. Amy, you'll see I've drawn heavily on your experiences. I haven't yet looked at where you stayed, that'll be later.

I'm also not sure how feasible it will be to go Krakow - Lviv - Warsaw. It just looked do-able on the map. Visas are not an issue as I have an EC passport.

I'm hoping to do a mix of homestays, apartments and ho(s)tels. I like having a room to myself, and I prefer to have access to a kitchen where I can. That often leads me to apartments for longer stays (Essen) and hostels which have single rooms for shorter ones (Wroclaw etc). I also like hostels for meeting other travellers and getting good information about places in real time. I'm not at all interested in five star, predominantly business-oriented hotels. They still say 'work' to me!

I belong to a great organisation called Women Welcome Women World Wide (5W) and I'm hoping to stay at least some of the time with members in Leipzig, Warsaw, Krakow, Vilnius and, perhaps, Siauliai. It's not always convenient though, and sometimes you just want time out, so even in those places I'd love to hear about any of your accommodation 'finds'.

And, of course, anything else that's special to do/see/hear etc anywhere in this region.
SydneyCloseup is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2012, 08:25 PM
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I'm a bit envious; looks like a great trip! Can't help much with logistics for what you're doing, but it does seem that the bus service is pretty widespread. By the time I reached Kaunas I splurged on a driver/guide (from the farm stay place) for Curonian Spit and Siauliai, so not sure how good transport is in that area. Lithuania was very appealing to me, and I've now found out that my grandfather immigrated from Radviliskes, on the road between Kaunas and Siauliai. (Still don't actually know his ethnicity, though; it's listed as Russian, Russian-Pole, and Lithuanian in different sources.)

Have a wonderful trip; I'm booked for my first Oz trip during part of that time, so I'll be having some fun, too!
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Old Feb 16th, 2012, 03:26 PM
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I see that you missed Gdansk in your itinerary this time, but you can consider it for your next visit. If you are interesting in choral singing so the best month is May. Many of choirs from all over the world are coming to take part in Choir Festival Mundus Cantat in Sopot.
Sopot is SPA and is located 12 km from Gdansk.
Of course it is possible to attend the choirs concerts in churches in July but in May the concerts are performed in almost all churches in Sopot with final concert on Sopot pier or in the Forest Opera.
Very interesting event is Organ Music Festival in Oliwa Cathedral. The concerts are performed every Tuesday and Friday in July and August.
Lots of happenings and events is performed during the Dominic's Fairs in first part of August in Gdansk.
Kind regards
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Old Apr 1st, 2012, 11:17 AM
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I would like to express my suggestion you to try and visit Lviv in Western Ukraine. It is only 300 km from Warsaw, so it will not take you too long.
I live here and can tell you - you will not be disappointed! Lviv is not so big, but very cozy and comfortable. Its central part is more than 300 years old! If you are willing to see how locals live – this is the place to you; all these 300-years old buildings are occupied by average people and this makes Lviv alive, on the contrary to Krakow or other polish cities, which look like toys.
It also has magnificent opera theater and you will be just on time for several plays.
I hope you will decide for Lviv as it is worth your attention!
VyshniaIgor is offline  
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