One Month Backpacking Europe... Suggestions?
Replies: 21 - Last Post: Jan 4, 2012 8:30 AM Last Post By: Aribo
Jan 3, 2012 6:21 AM
One Month Backpacking Europe... Suggestions?Hello,
My husband and I are backpacking through Europe this September and into the first week of October. We have a general route of Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany again (Oktoberfest), Switzerland, France and the UK, we may also hit Italy, Hungary and/or Slovakia...
Does anyone have suggestions of things to do, place that are off the beaten track, experiences good or bad, things to stay away from, things that we must eat, etc... anything really, including places to stay.
Jan 3, 2012 6:47 AM
1I suggest that you dramatically cut back on your itinerary. A standard rule of thumb is that you should spend 3 nights in each destination which will give you 2 full days there (you arrive on day 1, wonder around on days 2-3 and leave day 4). This way you can ahve a proper look. If you want to use a specific town as a base for some day trips then you will have to stay longer.
You have a maximum of 35 days (5 week). If you spend 8 days travelling - and your current list has you travalling across a lot of countries, then you can stay in 8 places for 3 nights, with a couple nights spare. You have 10 countries (not specific destinations ) listed, so unless you want to spend a significant part of your trip in trains (or buses or planes) then you need to cut your list down.
I suggest that instead of "hitting" Italy, Hungry and Slovakia, you drop them all together. Also, IMO if you want to get off the beaten track you should cut down to 2-3 countries. The other parts of your question cannot be answered until you supply details about which cities, towns or villages you want to visit (although Munich is obviously one of them).
Jan 3, 2012 6:55 AM
2So, let's see... At least 8 countries in one month. Let's say that's 30 days and for practical purposes assume you visit one place in each country and that it takes one day to travel to the next.
That means you have 22 days to see 8 places, or less than 3 days in each place.
I hate to break the news to you, but you cannot see a country in less than 3 days, and even if you limit yourself to one major sight in each country, you'll find that 3 days is preciously little in places like London or Paris.
Getting to off the beaten track places takes time because, well, they wouldn't be off the beaten track if they were easy to reach from more popular places.
This forum is a great tool to help you fine tune your trip, but it's essential that you do some basic research first. Sorry if this sounds blunt, but the information you've given here shows that you have absolutely no idea of how much there is to see in each country, how long it takes to travel between places and so on. You also haven't given us any clue as to what your interests are, what budget you have etc. So how do you expect other people, who don't know anything about you apart from the information you provide in your OP, to give you advice?
How are we supposed to give advice on places to stay based on a list of countries? I know a few lovely places to stay outside Impruneta, on Texel island and in Erbalunga, but what would be the point of providing you with the details if I don't know if you can afford them or even if you'll be in the area?
Jan 3, 2012 7:01 AM
3Get a good guidebook and start reading up. Then come back with more specific questions.
Jan 3, 2012 8:29 AM
4I have a suggestion for the itinerary.
Fly roundtrip to London, this will probably be the cheapest option anyway.
Travel light! Forget those large backpacks, take one that you can comfortable carry when sightseeing. This will give you much more freedom to break your trip for a couple of hours at places to see a castle, a small town, a waterfall, etc. Many stations don`t have lockers and you don`t want to carry a large pack when sightseeing.
1-2. days London You`ll come back in the end of your trip anyway.
Night ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland
3. day Train to Amsterdam with possible stops on the way: Delft, Leiden, Gouda
4-6. days Amsterdam with a day trip somewhere nearby: Alkmaar, Hoorn, Naarden, etc.
7. day Amsterdam to Luxembourg via Maastricht and Liege. Stop in Maastricht and at Bourscheid Castle
8. day Luxembourg, train to Trier
9. day Train to Koblenz, ship on the Rhine to Bacharach, spend the night in Stahleck castle(a youth hostel)
10. day Train to Schaffhausen(Rhine Fall), Bern and Interlaken
11-12. Around Interlaken, for example: Brienzer Rothorn peak, Schilthorn peak, Lauterbrunnen Valley, etc.
13. Train to Venice via Spiez, Milano, short stop in Milano to see the Duomo
14. Venice, night train to Vienna
15-17. Vienna, perhaps a day trip to the Wachau: Train to Melk, ship on the Danube to Krems and train back to Vienna
18-20. Train to Budapest
21. Train to Kosice, short stop, continue to the High Tatra mountains by train to Strba and rack-railway to Strbske Pleso
22-24. Hiking in the High Tatra, visiting waterfalls, cable car to Lomnicky peak, etc., night train to Karlovy Vary(Karlsbad).
25. Karlovy Vary, Loket(spend the night in Loket).
26-28. Bus to Prague
29-31. Train or bus to Munich, Oktoberfest, possible day trips: Salzburg, Berchtesgaden, Fussen,
etc., night train to Paris
32-34. Paris, perhaps a daytrip somewhere, train to London in the evening
35. Fly home from London
Britain, Netherlands, Luxembourg(and passing through a tiny bit of Belgium), Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, France. Thats 11 countries not counting Belgium! World famous and also off the beaten track places, cities, rivers, mountains, waterfalls, castles and the Oktoberfest.
It`s just an example to balance the first 2 opinions and to show that it is indeed possible see many different places and cover a lot of ground in 5 weeks without simply rushing from one famous city to the next.
The key to this is good planning, travelling light and using night trains to cover long distances.
Jan 3, 2012 10:29 AM
5I don't agree with newbee. An example:
Day 10. Get up early at Stahleck - 6 hrs in trains and at hand luggage counters - 30 min in commuter trains or citybuses - 2 hrs at Rheinfall (minimum time if you want to explore the place) - 3 hrs in trains - local transport - arrival at your hotel at the mini railway hub Interlaken at 9pm or so.
Lunch and dinner: sandwich in the train
Jan 3, 2012 11:19 AM
6A similar thing applies to day 7:
day Amsterdam to Luxembourg via Maastricht and Liege
Amsterdam - Maastricht takes 2 hours 26 minutes
Maastricht - Liège takes 30 minutes, but there's only one hourly train
Liège - Bourscheid Castle via Ettelbrück is at least 2 hours 2 minutes by train + 15 minutes by bus (only 2x per hour) + 17 minutes walk.
Bourscheid Castle - Luxembourg Gare Centrale: at least 1 hour 5 minutes on foot, by train and by bus
I don't see how you can cram that into one day and actually see something.
it is indeed possible see many different places and cover a lot of ground in 5 weeks
I admire the effort you put into this sample itinerary, but from my own experiences I'm tempted to say travelling at this speed will get tiresome within a week. This sort of itinerary looks great on paper, but I bet by day 5 all you want is a day off.
Night trains are okay and a great way to save money, but if like me you have trouble sleeping on planes/trains etc., there is a chance you have to write off much of the following day because you don't have any energy left.
Jan 3, 2012 11:23 AM
7I also think Bristol-newbie's trip is a trip from hell. Can you imagine how you would feel after So many nights in a train, if you don't sleep well. Then for each major city, he has suggested a day trip or two, without leaving any time to actually see the city the tourist has spent hours in a train getting to.
It looks like something designed by someone who wants to test all the trains in Europe in the shortest possible time. Sure, you see many different places and cover a lot of ground in 5 weeks without simply rushing from one famous city to the next, but would you enjoy any of this vacation?
One example: 3. day Train to Amsterdam with possible stops on the way: Delft, Leiden, Gouda So you jump out of the train, rush around for half an hour in the vicinity of the station trying to see a memorable sight, then hop back on for the next stop.
And why fly in and out of London ?-- England is one of the rare places not on their list.
Jan 3, 2012 11:40 AM
8So you jump out of the train, rush around for half an hour in the vicinity of the station trying to see a memorable sight, then hop back on for the next stop
And where do you leave your baggage in the meantime? Sure, many main train stations have lockers, but you want to confirm that before you arrive. Delft, for example, hasn't got any.
Jan 3, 2012 11:44 AM
9Bristolnewbie is 32 years old. He may still have enough energy to rush to all the places in his post #4. Do-able? Certainly but you won't get to see much. The only good thing I suppose is bragging rights ... "Europe? 'been there, done that'"
Jan 3, 2012 1:09 PM
Day 10 is an extreme example I think. It`s probably the longest travel day on that itinerary. However I don`t think there`s anything wrong with arriving at 9pm or sandwich on the train. Some trains have resturant cars, and you can always spare 10 minutes in any town to have a quick meal, like a slice of pizza, sausage with bread. The Bern railway station for example has an excellent bretzel bakery, the Bretzelkönig.
Leave Amsterdam at 07:08 arrive to Maastricht at 09:34 (If you don`t like to wake up early that`s your fault, you`ll certainly have less time to travel if you spend valuable daylight hours in bed)
Leave Maastricht at 12:20 and arrive to Michelau at 15:26. You don`t have to go via Ettelbruck and don`t have to take a bus, you can walk up to the castle from Michelau station through the forest, it`s a nice walk. The castle is open until 6pm so you have plenty of time to see it. In the evening you can be in Luxembourg, have a dinner and stroll around the illuminated old town.
I think it`s a great day! You can spend almost 3 hours in an interesting Dutch town, that most foreign tourists never see, cross the Ardennes mountains on a scenic rail line, see an old castle with wonderful views, which is off the beaten track yet easy to reach by train.
Some people might get tired after 1 week, but I can only speak for myself and I don`t get tired from this travel style. Actually I do get tired physically sometimes, but I don`t mind. This travel style is obviously not suitable for fat and lazy people.
I usually sleep very well on night trains. Again I can`t speak for other people, but they`ll never know if they don`t try. Sometimes I can`t sleep in a normal bed either and I`m a bit tired, but it never stopped me from sightseeing and enjoying my trip.
I wouldn`t call any holiday a hell. If that is hell, than that`s the perfect place for me. So many nights in the train? Exactly 1 night on a ship and 3 nights on trains out of more than 30 nights. That`s not much and it`s ridiculous to argue: what if you don`t sleep well. What if you don`t sleep well in a hotel? I tell you if you`re tired you`ll sleep well.
Yes I suggested day trips, because some people are happy to spend 3 days in Amsterdam or Vienna and you`ll certainly find enough to see and do for a week, but some travellers might feel that 2 days was enough and prefer to see something else too.
It looks like something designed by someone who wants to test all the trains in Europe in the shortest possible time.
That`s not me, that`s another guy: http://gcerc.wordpress.com/
would you enjoy any of this vacation?
You bet, I would enjoy it much more than a week in the office or even on the beach!
So you jump out of the train, rush around for half an hour in the vicinity of the station trying to see a memorable sight, then hop back on for the next stop.
You don`t jump out of a train because that`s dangerous, you wait until it stops at a station! I don`t suggest to rush around, I suggest you spend a few hours strolling around Delft, another few hours in Leiden or Gouda before you arrive to Amsterdam. These are not large places and I`m not suggesting to see every sight from A-Z.
nd why fly in and out of London ?-- England is one of the rare places not on their list.
England is not on their list but UK is and England is part of UK.
That`s why I suggested OP to travel light. I travel with a small backpack which I can comfortably carry even during sightseeing. If you think your backpack is too small, think again! The backpack is the perfect size, but you take too much stuff.
Allright, so tell me how would you spend 35 days in these countries or fewer countries and let`s compare who can see more.
I also feel that somehow many people think that spending time on trains is tiring and lost time. First of all I don`t get what is tiring about sitting in your seat and relaxing. If you drive, cycle you can get tired, but in a train you can actually get a well deserved rest from walking and sightseeing. And you can see a lot of a country(especially if you avoid high-speed tracks) if your eyes or not glued to your Ipod or Iphone but to the window.
Last summer I had 5 days to travel from Budapest to Bristol. I did it by train, except for a short cruise on the Rhine between Bingen and St. Goarshausen. I travelled through 7 countries, althugh I stopped only in 3. I`ve seen 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites, 5 cathedrals(incl. the highest of the world), a monastery, a mikwe, several castles(most of them from outside only, but most castles are most impressive from outside anyway), the battlefield of Waterloo, Roman ruins, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe, 9 towns, a military museum and miles and miles of beautiful landscapes from the train and the ship. Believe it or not, I didn`t have to rush and I did enjoy it! I got up early every day, I didn`t have a sit down lunch every day and I didn`t see everything in these 8 towns, far from it, but I felt it was worth to rather spend a short time(1-3 hours mostly) at many places than a full day at a few places.
Jan 3, 2012 1:48 PM
11I`ve seen...castles(most of them from outside only, but most castles are most impressive from outside anyway)
That's just about sums it up and nothing more needs to be said.
Less is often more. If you don't get that then that's fine.
It's really pointless to argue on this forum but I would say to the OP...there are always 2 sides to the coin and its up to you to decide what suits you best. Some prefer slow travel and others, the opposite. Often it ends up being a combination of the two. Often, you start out fast and then realise towards the end of the trip that if you slowed down a bit and see more in less places, you would have had a richer travel experience. I have done both and prefer the slower kind as would most on this branch.
Jan 3, 2012 3:30 PM
12OK, guys I`ll try to think with your brains for a while!
We can summarise your rules as the following:
1. Less is more
2. Spend 3 nights at each destination and more if you want to do day trips
3. Avoid night trains because you might not be able to sleep on them
4. 3 days is preciously little in places like London and Paris
#1 suggested to cut it back to 2-3 countries if you want to get off the beaten track. OK, let`s not make such a dramatic cut, but let`s leave out 6 countries: Luxembourg(I know it was not in OP`s orginal plans anyway), Italy, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic. That leaves 5 countries UK, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and France. These are the more expensive countries by the way so OP will probably spend somewhat more than if he would include Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic. Less is indeed more in this case! Less countries, more money.
That leaves about 7 days/country in 35 days. Still pretty extreme for you I guess.
1-7. days in London because 3 days is way too less and I want to do day trips to Cambridge and Salisbury.
8. day Instead of taking the night ferry to Hoek van Holland the night before, let`s take the train because you might not be able to sleep on a ship. Start from London in the morning, arrive to Amsterdam in the afternoon, so that day is pretty much lost except for an evening in Amsterdam. If you`d take the ferry you could leave Londoon in the evening and be in Amsterdam next morning by around 10 am. You can save at least 4 hours if you take the ship and also an experience, because most people don`t travel by ship on the sea very often.
9-12. Amsterdam, because I also want to take a day trip to Leiden, because I didn`t want to rush and simply stop there on the way to Amsterdam.
13. Let`s go to Maastricht, but spend a whole day there, because 3 hours is way too less. Sorry for breaking the rules, I know I should spend at least 2 nights in Maastricht, because I have to see every church from inside and every museum, and spend hours sitting at a cafe, and half a day sunbathing in a park. I`d like to see Eben Emael fort, because my grandfather was a Fallschirmjaeger and took part in the battle, but unfortunately I can`t go there because it`s in Belgium. It`s true that it`s only 10 km from Maastricht and there`s no border control, but I can`t go to another country because I`d break the rules and 5 countries is already too many. So instead of going to Eben Emael I spend 2 full days in lovely Maastricht. I have no idea what will I do in Maastricht for 2 days, but I don`t want to end up seeing only famous places like Paris and Amsterdam. So 13-15. day Maastricht.
16. day I could go to Köln, stop in Aachen for a couple of hours, see the cathedral in Köln and take a night train to Basel in Switzerland, but doing this I`d break so many rules that I will end up in hell(I mean turn this trip into hell). So, I decide to skip Aachen and do it next time, when I can spend at least 2 nights there and travel all day to Switzerland, because I probably can`t sleep on a night train.
17-19. day Bern
20-22. days Interlaken, day trips to mountains, adventure sports, cruising on Lake Brienz, etc.
23. day Travel to München, but skipping the Rhein Fall as it is not exactly on the shortest way and I don`t like to rush. 1 hour is way too less to see a waterfall, I prefer to stare at waterfalls for hours and hours and hours...
24-27. days München and Oktoberfest
28. day train to Paris, arrive to Paris around 4pm. If I took the night train I`d have already eaten my lunch in a bistro and seen the Notre Dame by 4pm, but I don`t take chances. What if I can`t sleep well on the train and I`m so tired that my head falls into the soup in the bistro.
29-34. day Paris, day trip to Chartres
35. day back to London
Looking back I`m glad that I followed the rules and didn`t break them despite the many temptations. I`ve seen 5 countries, sorry I mean a little bit of 5 countries. London, Cambridge, Salisbury, Amsterdam, Leiden, Maastricht, Bern, Interlaken, Munchen, Paris, Chartres. It was great and I didn`t rush, all I miss is this:
And compared to my original "trip from hell" these:
I still regret that I couldn`t see all these stuff, but I finally understand that less is more and 2x2=5.
Jan 3, 2012 4:04 PM
13short stop in Milano to see the Duomo
and why not, to eat a panzerotto...
I personally appreciate bristolnewbie's efforts (post #4). I do remember my own first attempts to draft an itinerary for a similar ambitious tour :) I'll use the limited travelling experience I have since gained just to say that to each one their own. I'm no longer so young and fit to survive one of those itineraries but there are thousands of people who do, and many also seem to enjoy. In any case, I'm ready to defend any Eurotrip not including Cinque Terre and Pisa's Leaning Tower! My main objection is another one... Isn't it just too depressing being in a foreign country and eating a sandwich on a train for lunch and maybe also for dinner?!
Jan 3, 2012 4:37 PM
14I'm ready to defend any Eurotrip not including Cinque Terre and Pisa's Leaning Tower!
Don`t mention this, OP might realise they forget about this and want to go there! :)
Do you have any idea why is Cinque Terre so popular with Americans(maybe Canadians too)?
Food is your number 1 concern. Congratulations, you can be proud to be an Italian! :)
I don`t think the original itinerary is so rushed that you have to eat on the train. It might happen ocassionally that you eat a sandwich on a train, but you can also eat in a restaurant car if your train has one. If I choose to eat a sandwich or some other snack it`s not because I`m in a hurry, but because I can`t afford a meal at a restaurant. Eating on the train is better than eating in a revolving restaurant, because the background is always changing! :)
And sometimes you can share your meal with a stranger and try his food! :) OK, this never happened with me in Western Europe, but in places where people are more friendly and hospitable, like Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria, Egypt.
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