Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eastern Europe? Let’s Go!

               Checking out the square in Krakow

When checking out travel opportunities recently, I was reminded that many destinations in Eastern Europe are now travel hot spots, and at some very reasonable prices. We have traditionally traveled in the fall, spring, and early winter for the reasons of reduced prices and fewer tourists. Our trips have included November in Vienna, Thanksgiving in Tuscany, and Poland in the spring. Mary Ann and I have enjoyed generally good weather, although certainly not beach temperatures.

Prices for such locations are so cheap you can hardly stay home. Checking on two different websites I found that starting November 1, you can head for Budapest, Prague, Vienna, or Moscow for $1,500 for two persons from New York City and $1,900 for two starting from Seattle. These prices include airfare, hotel (usually for six nights), breakfast, and in some cases, transfers from and to the airport. Our travel pattern has been to often use these city destination city packages, and on occasion have added days when we wanted to stay longer. We always start with a city tour to get our bearings, and then explore on our own for the rest of the stay. Mary Ann has enjoyed these vacations as you get to stay in the same hotel for the week, and you don’t end up in a rat race of changing hotels each night with the unpacking and repacking that you sometimes find with on a traditional guided tour that often tries to include too much in too short of time.

As I thought back about the trips we have made, I realized I have never written about our trip to Poland. That adventure included a week split between Warsaw and Krakow, connecting the two with a train journey. The two cities are completely different due to their experience in World War II. Warsaw was nearly completely destroyed by the Germans and the Russians, and so the current city was completely rebuilt since the 1950’s. They have even rebuilt the “old town” as a replica of what was historically there. The old town and its connection with the “new town” are easily walkable and can be explored and enjoyed at a leisurely pace. There are a lot of tour opportunities (which we took advantage of) so you can visit the World War II memorial sites, the Royal Route connecting the very nice parks, and the public buildings to include the Parliament, Warsaw being the capital of Poland.

The train trip to Krakow was a real pleasure as it gave us the perspective of what the rural Poland was like, and the agricultural plains that tempted so many conquerors to overrun to the country. Krakow is very different from Warsaw. It has the feeling of a small town. This city has become the new discovery tourist destination supplanting the lure of Prague, Czech Republic. Krakow is a university town so it is loaded with beautiful Polish young people. The city was never destroyed in the war so it is quite a delight to explore. The old town portion is ringed with the city wall, and the moat has been made into a walking park around the entire historic section. Inside and outside the old town are the historic markets, churches, squares, castles, cathedral and a lot to discover. We thoroughly enjoyed Krakow, and if you have to make a choice between Warsaw and Krakow, Krakow is the one to visit. Krakow is clearly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The region around Krakow, in the southern part of Poland, is one area we would definitely return to for a driving visit.

If you are contemplating a trip to Eastern Europe and I can provide any insight or help, please send me an e-mail to So many places to travel and so little time!

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