Fringe Europe: 2005
Everybody does Paris, Amsterdam, and the Cinque Terre these days. But what about fringe Europe: Norway's Spitzbergen, Portugal's Azores, Ukraine, Albania? If you're gone to the edge — and lived — here's your chance to talk about it. Thanks for the inspiration!
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Great Tour Guide In Romania!
I found getting a referral on tour guides for Romania wasn't easy. I checked several differenct sources and finally was able to narrow the search down to Liviu Tudor (Romanian Tourist Office referral in New York). Liviu, a retired engineer, was incredible as he met my group at the train station in Brasov at 6:11 a.m. on a Sunday morning to begin our 3-day tour of Transylvania. My group of 28 adults were very pleased with Liviu as he guided us through Dracula's Castle in Bran and took us to a place in Sibiel to have "Dinner with the Peasants" at Reghina Popa's. He also showed us many places that tourists normally don't get to see such as a visit to a Romanian Orthodox Church in Brasov to meet with the head curator of priceless Romanian documents (i.e., 1st Russian Bible was printed there). Romania, I feel, still hasn't been discovered by American tourists, but I would not hesistate to visit this beautiful country again. Sibiu, Sibiel, Brasov, Sinaia, Sighisoara, are some of my favor cities and towns in Romania. (Sighisoara reminds me so much of Rothenburg, Germany.) Get to Romania before it is truly discovered and the crowds follow.
Austin, Texas USA Thu 12/01/2005
Beautiful Sarajevo !
I've been in Slovenija, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia Herzegovina, and SARAJEVO was definitely one of the best places i remember from that trip.
You can see my photos about balkans here :
New York, NY USA Wed 11/16/2005
Bosnia & Herzegovina
I just returned from a trip to Turkey and the Balkans...and of the places that are sort of on the "fringe", I highly recommend Bosnia & Herzegovina. Mostar is an especially scenic town to visit--the famous Mostar Bridge has been rebuilt (though some buildings--mainly in the parts of town away from the bridge--still are heavily damaged from the war). Sarajevo has been well restored since the war too (note that many buildings in both Mostar and Sarajevo made it through the war too). There are beautiful mountains (though stay on established trails for now; but except for the landmine threat, the country is EXTREMELY safe)--and some had autumn foliage when I was there earlier this month (yet there's a very small section of Adriatic coastline where the tropical bougainvillea vine produces autumn color--in the form of its flowers). Of course, it's fascinating seeing the diverse cultures in this country (sometimes just a few meters apart with the juxtaposition of mosques and cathedrals in the cities). Note that if you're driving, signs are a bit sparse (and in the Srbska section--mainly in north and east parts of the country, the signs are in Cyrillic--but an hour or two of self-study of the Cyrillic script will help immensely) and police are strict with speed limits in towns (but this isn't a country to speed through anyway--both because of the scenery and the very curvy roads). I think Bosnia & Herzegovina is the next "Croatia"--the next Balkan nation to see a rapid surge in tourism--I say go there before it gets crowded!
Neighboring Serbia & Montenegro (especially Montenegro) look poised to gain more tourism too and have some of the friendliest people in Europe (as does Bulgaria, though that's definitely not "fringe" Europe).
I also did a day trip into Albania--must say they'll probably be "fringe" Europe for awhile (they still have frequent power cuts there, for one thing).
San Diego, CA USA Mon 10/17/2005
I'm 13 year old and I just came back from Ukraine with my parents. I loved it. I love traveling in general,(I'm 13 and I've already been to 15 countries, 10 off them overseas.) but Ukraine was somthing special. It seems that the majority of Kiev is parkland. It's cheap($.60 cents for a hamburger). If you rent an apartment you could pay $40-$50 for a night. Yalta is like any western resort town plus a little history. Odesa is a place where you could sit down at a cafe and people watch for hours. Kiev has a potential to be a city like Paris, with St. Andrews Church, the Cave Monastries, the Kreshatyk, the Hydropark which in fact had beaches on the Dniper River years before Paris even thought of the idea. Ukraine is a great place to travel with children or without, so get to this unknown destination before it gets westernized. Oh yeah, bring toliet paper too.
Chicago, IL USA Mon 09/12/2005
If someone want to see some Impressions from Romania check these Link and you can download a Videoclip is called Graffiti Romania !
If you follow the Link you must choose DOWNLOADTYP " FREE " ! on the first Page - than on the next opened Page scroll down and wait till the seconds are over and you can Download the clip with the right Mousebuttom !
Greetings to all
Cologne, Germany Thu 08/11/2005
Speaking of Moldova
Moldova now has a no-cost visa for tourists during early October each year. That's because of their wine festival--they want to attract more tourists that way. In 2005, the free visa period runs from Oct 1-15--very convenient for me as I plan to visit Moldova for a couple days then (as a little side-shoot of a Turkey/Balkans trip).
Here's where to go for more info:
So...if one has a desire to visit this "off-the-beaten-path" country, that's a good time to do it (and, maybe by then, they'll be a bit of autumn foliage too). (The only concern might be if this is too much of a success and hotels become full...I'll report back then if that's the case!)
San Diego, CA USA Sun 07/17/2005
I have spent the last year living and working in Romania. On a lark, my friend and I, with a 6'2" blond blue-eyed American we picked up in Suceava, decided to head to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.
Most people can't even find Moldova on a map. The country only has about 20,000 visitors a year.
We took the train to Iasi and were approched by a man offering to drive us to Chisinau for about 9 euros. We drove to the border where we bought our visas for $45 US. Then we drove to Chisinau where we were left in the middle of the wild central market.
Chisinau is beautiful and we felt very safe. While I speak Romanian and my friend speaks Russian, many people speak English and with a sense of humour, we could always make ourselves understood.
The food is much better than in Romania and the prices almost as cheap.
In a way, navigating Moldova is easier than in western Europe. If you want to go somewhere, you go to a bus station and find a minibus heading to your destination. No time tables. The bus leaves when its full and another one comes to take its place.
We went to see a 13th century monastry cut into a cliff, but the highlight was travelling to Tiraspol, the capital of Transdniestr, a country that doesn't exist. It claimed independence from Moldova in 1992, has its own military, stamps, cellphone network and currency. It was like being in the USSR all over again.
If you want to go someplace green, friendly and definitely off the beaten path, try Moldova. Wine lovers should especially consider the underground wine cities, with streets called "Merlot Avenue" and "Cabernet Sauvignon Drive".
Timisoara, Romania Sun 05/08/2005
Having family there, I've visited Serbia twice in the last 4 years. In fact, I'm going back this summer to a language shcool in Valjevo, a city located about 100 km west of the capitol, Beograd. Three weeks of classes, room and board, and cultural activities are costing me only $500 euros.
Despite being bombed by U.S. Air Force planes (doing duty for the U.N.) in the recent war, the people were as nice as they could be when they learned everybody in my tour group were Americans. We stopped along the road at a small, water-powered mill still being used to grind wheat. It was closed, so we went across the street to ask at the house if the miller was expected soon. He wasn't, but the man of the house ran out almost immediately carrying a tray with a bottle of plum brandy and tiny glasses, to welcome us.
Food and lodging is very cheap, many folks speak a little English, the countryside is beautiful, the monasteries are wonderful. It's not easy to travel without a tour, but tours are available. I'll recommend mine if you e-mail me. Due to the U.N. sanctions, the economy is stagnant but it means that a lot of people still live on farms or have strong attachments to the countryside, which is nice for a city girl like me.
Los Angeles, CA USA Mon 05/02/2005
Israel & Jordan
Just returned from 2 weeks in Israel and several days in Jordan. March 25 - April 12th. Absolutely lovely and I hope to return again asap. 3 of us went, had a private guide for most bits except Jerusalem/Bethlehem/HebronJerusalem--Stayed 6 Nights, Christ Church Guesthouse just inside Jaffa Gate. Primo location for all Old City sites, and not a long walk into the new city restaurants etc. Friendly staff, good breakfast, lunches and dinners. Loved all the sites and lines were way down. Easter at the Holy Sepulchre, things were busy with groups but still not too bad...When I was there you could walk on the Temple Mount but you could not enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque or Dome of the Rock. Bethlehem is fairly empty of Tourists as well. Wonderful experience; Although we had to walk across the checkpoint and get into a different taxi into the town.
Also saw Hebron which was eye-opening. Lots of Security at Mechpelah but all people very friendly.Dead Sea was wonderful, not too crowded, already hot weather! En route hit Qumran, Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and Masada-- Stayed in Ein Bokek.
Up the Coast saw Caesarea, Megiddo, Nazareth, stayed in Caesarea...Amazing! Then it was onto Carmel, Haifa, Akko...then into Galilee staying in Tiberias right on the waters of Galilee! Went to Tabghe, Capernaum, Golan Heights, Banias, Mt of Beatitudes, Korazim, Yardenit, staying again in Tiberias.
Crossed into Jordan via the Bet Shean Jordan River Crossing took 15 minutes tops. Went into Jerash (amazing, would not want to miss Jerash) and into Amman, staying one night in Amman. Then South we hit Mt Nebo, Madaba, Kings Highway sites (like the black iris), Kerak and a few views over Wadi Mujib and Wadi Hasa finally arriving to Petra. Stayed at the Crowne Plaza literally steps from the entrance. Everyone has heard about Petra but enough can't be said about how wonderful this place is! Also took a side trip down to Wadi Rum and Aqaba for lunch. Stayed in Petra 3 nights.Crossing back to Israel via the Allenby Bridge--would not recommend. Took 3.5 hours due to interrogations since no israeli's can use this crossing. Absolutely horrible efficiency here. Would probably have used he southern crossing if we had stayed in Aqaba.
Went back through to Tel-Aviv/Jaffa...absolutely loved it wish we had more time.
I found it a very safe country to travel through, with lovely people and some of the greatest sites in the world. Only thing we missed this trip that was a major thing we wanted to see was Jericho--just didnt have enough time!If you are curious about going to Israel or Jordan feel free to email me.
Matthew, Classics Major, University of St Andrews
St Andrews UK and Boise, ID USA Sun 04/17/2005
The Sierra Nevada is for serious walkers. We toured by car as I packed everything except the kitchen sink. The villages in the Alpujarras are small and farflung so most accommodation should be booked in advance to make sure of a bed. Hostal Las Perdices in Valor had only 8 rooms,but charged less than 30 euros [August 2003] for a clean double room with own bathroom. You were allowed use of their swimming pool 100 yards [uphill] where they also rent apartments.In August 2002 we turned up without a reservation and they had room available for a night. Just outside is a water trough where a farmer waters his mule on their way home in the evening after toiling in the fields.Trevelez is the village where jamon serrano is cured and is more touristy. The plaza at the bottom of the village has tourist shops selling souvenirs, serrano ham, and lots of whole hams , and restaurants offering "plato Alpujarreno" which is the local dish of ham,chorizo sausage,egg,black pudding and chips.At the top of the village[barrio alto] the streets are so narrow that cars park in a very congested little square and you must get out and walk onwards and upwards.My husband looked more than a trifle mutinous when he realised he had to get the luggage up the sloping streets on foot to the hotel. In the evenings the mules come down from the hillside with their owners, clip clopping home, usually followed by a dog , over the cobblestones. A friendly smile and "Buenas tardes" will bring a smile in return.Some houses still have chickens in pens beneath them.
There is a rough road ,now a track, from Capileira and Bubion over the mountaintop to Granada city and the Alhambra , but motorcars are no longer permitted. The long way round the Sierra is via the Puerta de la Ragua, a pass which leads to La Calahorra where there is a castle [allegedly one of the locations for "EL Cid"]and there is accommodation in the village. One building houses a 2 star pension, and a new 4 star hotel [jacuzzi etc]which share the bar, a nice restaurant and reception! We had booked into the pension and were very confused on arrival,wondering if we were even in the right village or if the pension had been demolished and rebuilt. We passed what seemed to be a deserted silver mining village before coming to Purullena and Guadix where accommodation can be had in cave hotels. The urbanisation of Granada city was a change and quite a shock from the rurality of the province and we decided not to wait for the 3 hours until the next available tickets to visit the Alhambra. Another day will do. It will still be here when the elderly farmer and his panniers on his mule followed by his dog,or the goatherd on foot and staff in hand, with his dogs and huge flock of goats obliging us to stop while they scurry across the road bells jangling from their necks are no longer a sight to be seen.
London, UK Thu 03/31/2005
To Peter from Amsterdam
Peter, when you live in Europe it is easy to get to Madeira. There are charter flights (package tours) from just about every country, and they are usually way cheaper than booking everything yourself. Usually you can also book "flights only" if you want a different hotel from tour company?s selection. You don?t have to use their tours, you can just use flights+airport transportation+hotel. Or just flights.To Azores there are charter trips at least from Scandinavian countries. Again way cheaper and faster than going individually. You could just take a train from Amsterdam to Copenhagen and go from there.
EU Tue 03/15/2005
My husband and I took a two week vacation to Eastern Europe, including Budapest and Prauge. However, the best town was Bratislava - the capital of Slovakia. It was small (two nights is enough) convienent, cheap, and relatively tourist free. We had wonderful food, including boar, venison and rabbit, never spending more than $20 a person, including alcohol! There is a resturant in the old town named "The Pumpkin". Eating there should be a requirement and they do have vegetarian food - a relatively new concept in Eastern Europe.We stayed on a "botel", a former cruise ship located on the Danube River. There are three such botels, all located within a ten minute walk of downtown. The Marina is by far the best and includes breakfast. The city has a definite Eastern feel, and it is still clearly recovering from Communism. However, there are wonderful castles, museums and an opera house which harken to many to recall a favorite Western city.Take time to wander. We got "horribly" lost on our first day and stumbled upon the most gorgeous blue Catholic Church, that tried as we might the next day, could not locate it. There isn't a lot of English spoken here, but you won't have any trouble getting what you want. The dollar has a powerful draw for this struggling country. We purchased all of gifts here because it was much cheaper than Budapest and Prauge, but the quality of their linens, pottery and wood crafts was just as fantastic. I wholly recommend this city and hope to see Steve include it in an updated Eastern Europe book.
Gaithersburg, MD USA Mon 03/14/2005
I wasn't sure whether Madeira qualifies as a "fringe" destination -- it's part of Portugal, after all -- but since the Azores are mentioned above, here goes.Well, Madeira is wonderful! I spent a few days there late last month. It's not exactly a beach destination, but that means much less Euro-style mass tourism (as opposed to the nearby Canary Islands) -- most visitors are middle-aged and older couples from the UK and Germany. The main island is incredibly rugged, and is criss-crossed with hiking trails. The scenery is somewhat reminiscent of Kauai, but with semi-tropical rather than tropical vegetation. And it's not particularly expensive, either; I stayed in a cliffside room with a stupendous view and a private balcony for only 85 euros a night (this was in February, though). The food is excellent, fresh, and cheap. Getting there is the hard part, but even this is becoming easier, now that a couple of low-cost European airlines (such as Air Berlin) fly there. From the northeastern US, there are direct flights to the Azores, from where you can also fly to Madeira. For anyone spending a month or two in Europe, Madeira would be a great place to take 'a vacation from your vacation.' Highly recommended.
Amsterdam, NL Sat 03/12/2005
Here's a personal account (with lots of travel tips) of a trip to Reykjavik:http://thisisreallyhappening.typepad.com
USA Thu 03/10/2005