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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Apartment find in Lviv, Ukraine
Stayed in a comfortable, secure, well-equipped, quiet and spacious apartment in central Lviv just 5 minutes from lovely old central square and a 5 minute walk to the Opera House, a must for any visitor. Two bedrooms, high ceilings, everything one could need. Here's the contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Auckland, NZ 10/04/2012
Germany, Poland & Czech Republic
Well another European vacation is in the books. Met my wife Serije in Munich enroute to Berlin. Rented a car for two weeks and off to Zagan, Poland to visit friends & family. Then to Krakow for a few days, followed by an overnight visit to Czestochowa. Next we went to Prague, Czech Republic for three days. Finally back to Germany visiting friends & family in Gunzburg, Nurnberg, and then back to Berlin for a few days before flying out.
Europe is such a great place to visit. The languages, the cultures, the food, the atmosphere, river boat cruises, horse carriage rides, the list goes on and on. Speaking of food, there was wild boar, rabbit, duck, goose, kielbasa, cheese cake and strong coffee. Don't forget the beer!
The best of all was getting to share the experience with my wife Serije.
Travel throughout Europe, take pictures, go with friends & family, visit friends & family. Experience an old world atmosphere combined with a new world flavor. A place where the old meshes well with the new.
You will have memories for a lifetime! ... Just GO!!!
Frank & Serije Partyka
Killeen, TX USA 09/06/2012
Krakow, Poland Guides
This was sent to Rick Steves and our wonderful guides from Krakow:
Dear Rick Steves:
We wanted to write you regarding a wonderful husband and wife team of guides (Marta and Chester Chmielowska) whom you recommended in your Eastern Europe guidebook. I am of Polish ancestry and this was a draw for our trip to Poland this spring.
We made arrangements with Marta via email – she was friendly, responsive and easy to work with! Chester served as our driver for two days.
For Day One, Chester took us to meet out guide at Auschwitz in the morning and then he drove us to the Wieliczka Salt Mine in the afternoon. We showed him one of your Travel Bites videos on our iPhone of the Krakow Countryside – are we correct in assuming that Chester was the driver when you filmed those videos?
On the second day, Chester served as our guide, driver, translator and fellow ancestry researcher in helping us find ancestors and family in Poland. We thoroughly enjoyed his company during these two days.
Thanks again, and as you say on your PBS shows – "Keep on travelling!"
Mike and Diane
Chicago, IL USA 06/25/2012
Poland & Slovkia
Just returned from a trip to Poland and Slovakia. This was a self planned and arranged tour with help from Rick Steve's guidebooks; Eastern Europe and Europe Thru The Back Door. What I would most like to relate is that I engaged a guide in Krakow based on Rick's recommendation-someone he had used before. His name is Andrew Durman and his contact information is as follows: www.tourservice.pl or email at email@example.com. You will find his tel phone numbers on the website. I was traveling alone so I felt a good deal more secure hiring someone who had been listed in one of Rick's guides though I am not sure of the date of the edition. Andrew provides a wide range of services from anything as simple as airport pick-up and drop-off to in-depth tours. What I most appreciated is that he is willing to tailor a trip or tour to suit your individual wishes. In my case, it was my wish to visit some lesser known areas outside of Krakow and to visit Levocha, Slovakia. He proved to be an excellent tour guide and imparts a wealth of information; more, I felt, than one would received from a "canned" tour. He also does extensive research in case someone is searching for their roots and family history. I felt completely secure traveling with Andrew and would not hesitate to do so again and I can't recommend him highly enough.
Patricia A. Smith
Knoxville, TN USA 03/27/2012
Just returned yesterday from a week in Portugal. It was absolutely wonderful! Off season travel is wonderful. met Soooo mnay nice people. Lots of brits. The portuguese people were good to us. Really didn't need to learn much portuguese but did because it's respectful and I enjoy learnign foreign languages(esp latin based). We arrived in Lisbon, saw Alfama, and the river/port. Wanted to see more but had train to Porto the next day. Porto was lovely but we'd learned we didn't care for port wine the day before. FORTUNATELY! they have PLENTY of other phenomenal wines, lots of vineyards and the prices! OMG, except for not planning and doing the VAT tax refund properly we made out like bandits. This was by far one of the best vacations EVER! When we left Lisbon after a day long trip to porto we spent 2 nights in Cascais- Muchaxo! LOVED it! obviously a swingin place in the 70's but we loved it last week...Sooo many interesting things to look at really a one of a kind place and talk about a bargain thru hotels.com. We did rent a car. And love american u turns and clover leaves after our driving experience but we did ok! AND I learned to drive a stick in the parking lot of Fortaleeza in Cape Sagres. We DID stay at Pousada in Sagres and LOVED it- 2 more nights...we had only booked one thru hotels.com BUT the guy from the desk came to find us the next am to give us a better rate. Portugal is very underrated. the scenery, food, architecture, people and beachs! We LOVED praia do Castelejo! As a breats cancer survivor(who had a GREAT recon surgeon ) I took some topless photos( actually more like topless under my coat behind some rocks...AWESOME beautiful beach! Boa Viagem!
Irving, TX USA 02/16/2012
I am currently living in New York City for the last several years, and I am originally from Romania. Back home I studied geography in college, which allowed me to travel extensively throughout the country, and I loved every moment of it. I went back with my American husband a few times, and he can not believe the secrecy surrounding tourism in Romania! We visited the Carpathian mountains with their beautiful resorts Sinaia, Brasov, and Busteni, the painted medieval monasteries in Moldova, Maramures with its old-world, wholesome charm, and of course, Transilvania, where I am from. We still have the exciting Black Sea resorts, Danube Delta nature preserve and the Western and Southern parts of the country to see together (which I myself have been to already), whereas every time we visit now we spend time with relatives and family, so we have less time to be tourists. We travel mostly by car which we rent from one of the big cities- Cluj, Bucharest, Iasi, depending where you fly into, and I am the guide. I will recommend a guide, being the big traveler that I am, I know the importance of seeing as much as possible, and learning the history and culture from locals. If you are adventurous, you can use the train: trust me the Romanian trains are faster than Amtrak in United States, and they have real sleeping wagons, if you travel over night. Besides the beautiful landscapes, friendly people, who in the big cities many speak some English, you can get a vacation at half price compared to anywhere else in western Europe. If you want to learn more about Romania, you can check out http://lonelyplanet.com/romania, an accurate traveling guide. Enjoy your travels!
New York, NY USA 01/06/2012
Szentendre - Up the Danube from Budapest
Szentendre was the perfect stop on our Hungary trip. It's on the banks of the Danube River a two hour boat ride north of Budapest. The town is small enough to walk everywhere but is stuffed with lots to see, do & eat. Great local handicrafts and we're still talking about the killer ice cream shop we found. Hot tip: we took the minibus out to the Skanzen open air folk museum, it was so convenient & cheap $3. The operator, Laszlo Budai, was very accommodating ... nice guy. Our hotel, Centrum Panzio, called him for us.
Seattle, WA USA 11/19/2011
To see the real Hungary, consider a 2 hour trip south from Budapest to Csongrad county. Picturesque Szeged is the largest city in the county (third largest in Hungary). Situated on the Tisa river, it is famous for its local fish dishes and salami. While you can stay in Szeged, there are other attractive options nearby. While researching family history my wife and I were fortunate to stay in Mindszent, a short train or bus trip from Szeged. There we were treated like royalty by József, the owner of Apor vendégház (guesthouse), 6630 Mindszent, Köztársaság tér 2/1, www.aporvendeghaz.hu. During October we paid less than $40 a night for a three star room. József also loaned us a pair of bicycles so we could explore the area around Mindszent.
Bill and Rosemary
VA USA 11/01/2011
Prague guest house/Budapest tour guide
Not exactly the right category (Fringe Europe), but wanted to sing the praises of some of the people who made our May 2011 3 week trip to Europe so special: Lida Guest House, owner/operator Jan: you couldn't ask for better, more personal service! From picking us up at the bus station, the helpful advice, and the sense of pride he has in his guest house & Prague in general, you can't go wrong with Lida Guest House. In Budapest, Andrea Makkay's tour service: our tour guide Sylvia was an absolute delight! We took the 8 hour car tour. Sylvia speaks flawless English, and has a genuine love for Budapest that seems to be contagious when you finish the tour! She is flexible & attuned to your individual needs. We plan to return to Budapest in the future, & I'm sure Sylvia has something to do with that.
Blairsville, GA USA 07/04/2011
Just back from the Balkans. Big thumbs up for Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia! We (2 women) felt very safe, people were wonderful and kind, food was fabulous, the sights were amazing and it was CHEAP! My only cautions, Albania is probably best for experienced independant travelers and you probably shouldn't drive there.
Kirkland, wa USA 05/09/2011
Maramures and Bocina, Romania
We spent 6 days with a private guide and toured the Maramures, an area of Transylvania known to have the last true peasant society left in Europe. It's like stepping back in time about 200 years! Lots of goat herders, wooden churches, horses and carts, and beautiful villages, steeped in traditions dating back hundreds of years. We also headed east, into Bocina, near the Ukraine border. The painted monasteries there are incredibly beautiful! We highly recommend seeing rural Romania, and hiring our own guide was very reasonable. We stayed in private homes and enjoyed wonderful hospitality. George Iurca was our Romanian tourguide.
Edmonds, WA USA 04/21/2011
Serendipity: Transylvania + Halloween + Dracula's Castle
I didn't actually plan to be in Transylvania on Halloween, it just happened that way. We made a short stop at what is now known as Dracula's Castle, at the time (1994) the locals didn't have a clue what that was all about - today, scheduled tour groups go there! Transylvania was beautiful, and when we were there, 5 years after they removed their dictator, there were more animal-powered vehicles than gas powered. Here's the link to my blogsite with photos.
Seattle, WA USA 04/05/2011
Student guide in Bratislava
A while back, Rick suggested using English speaking university students to escort you through their city. My family and I tried that last fall and had a very enjoyable experience visiting Bratislava. What these kids lack in factual details, they certainly compensate with their enthusiasm and flexibility. If planning to visit Bratislava and would like to use a student to take you through the city, you might want to contact Zuzana Barancokova (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Calgary, AB USA 01/30/2011
Malta - great destination
We spent Christmas 2010 in Malta...what an incredible experience! We stayed in Paceville, but traveled all over by bus (47 cents to Valetta.) Unfortunately Rick doesn't cover Malta so you need to get Lonely Planet. Amazing history dating back to 5000 b.c. But watch for Air Malta...very undependable and unhelpful.
J Scott Miller
Spokane, WA USA 01/29/2011
I have been to many countries in Continental Europe, and I lived in Ireland for 6 years but my favorite place has to be ICELAND! I was positively surprised by my experience; I had no idea what to expect. I traveled to Iceland in November and booked several day trips. The tour operators were consistenly on time and friendly and the staff at the hotel were lovely. The locals were so nice, even when they realised I could not speak their language or needed help. The bus drivers even let me ride free when I did not have enough change! One thing I did not like (and no harm to Iceland), was their cuisine. As a result, I travelled to the mall (Kringland) and ordered from the food court. I like going to malls because there are no "tourist traps" and you can see more locals. Iceland is a beautiful country and easy to travel around (provided you keep your sightseeing around Reykjavik). The weather in November is not THAT bad, but when you leave Reykjavik, make sure you wear a lot of layers[INVALID] it is windy and cold!!
Austin, TX USA 12/29/2010
While probably not a must for travelers limited on time and maybe more for German enthusiasts, the medium sized city in the former east of Erfurt is an undiscovered gem. The Christmas market is a particular blast. The city has an intact medieval center and a very very impressive cathedral. The street cars go everywhere even though you can easily walk anywhere. The town has history from Martin Luther's time. He studied at the monastery there. The east German flavor remains a little giving the town a funky hair spray style that I loved. Hard to describe unless you see it. There are some memorials to the victims of the holocaust in the form of signs in front of some building where the inhabitants where disappeared during the war. There is a great forest and fun, spray painted night clubs that are a tad behind the times in the coolest of ways. The train station is a major hub. I really loved Erfurt.
Forestville, CA USA 11/27/2010
Ohrid, Macedonia, Italy & Greece
Once again we had another great trip to Ohrid, Macedonia. This time we only stayed two weeks, then went to Italy for a week, back to Macedonia and finally to Greece for a week. I won't go into all the great reasons to visit Macedonia in this posting. You can see our previous posting from June 2010 for those.
Italy was wonderful. We went to Rome, Naples, Pompeii and Maratea.
As always, Greece was a joy. We went to Marathon, Athens & Thessaloníki.
We rented a car for the entire four weeks. We like to have the flexibility to go where we want and when we want as we travel. Worked out just fine. Car rental wasn't expensive, gas was reasonable, roads were good. Be prepared for many toll roads in Greece. Have change handy for toll stations.
Make plans to go to Europe/Balkans soon. You won't regret it.
Frank & Serije Partyka
Killeen, TX USA 11/10/2010
I found the best back door in Zeri, Italy. Zeri is a remote group of mountain villages in Western Tuscany. This area has wonderful food, hiking, WWII history and unspoiled scenery. It is good to take a map, RS phrase book and GPS. For more info. see the Zeri facebook page and google maps. And you will meet some of the finest people in Italy.
Broomfield, CO USA 11/10/2010
Romania and Eastern Europe
We just finished a 4+ week trip to Eastern Europe. Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Romania. Our second time in every place but Romania. We were in Romania for 10 days and spent 9 of those with a driver/guide. If you are going to Romania for the first time, I would highly recommend doing this as driving there is a bit different and we learned so much by having a driver/guide. We lucked out and had a fabulous guide. If anyone would like his name, please e-mail me.
Kirkland, WA USA 11/04/2010
Girona - Spain's Costa Brava
If you're in Barcelona, or anywhere near the Costa Brava in Spain, I highly recommend a trip to Girona. You can easily arrive there via bus or train. It's a quiet medieval town with an enchanting Jewish neighborhood. And definitely spend a night here - nothing beats wandering the quiet, empty, narrow, winding streets of Girona at night! More on my blog: http://bit.ly/bQwXeE
Chicago, IL USA 09/17/2010
Tour Guide in Prague
We had a spectacular history tour of Prague arranged by Katka at Prague Walker! Our assigned guide, Vendula (Wendy) Valesova, was wonderful. Her English was perfect and we had a very informative and emotional tour...in tears at various times, as we learned about the Czech march to freedom. We walked the actual steps of the Czech patriots who eventually won their independence from the Communist regime in the "Velvet Revolution" in 1989. I have never had such a tour. If you are in Prague, don't miss this opportunity, and please request Wendy. You wont be disappointed. Also, Katka arranged a car and driver that took us directly from the airport on our arrival in Prague to Cesky Krumlov...a wonderful, sleepy town about 3 hours south of Prague. It was great too, and the driver was fantastic (he did our return drive too. I would not miss Cesky Krumlov, but I definitely would not drive it in a rent car. Katerina (Katka) Svobodova PRAGUEWALKER www.praguewalker.com cellular phone: +420 603 181 300 email@example.com
J. Marc Lewis
Coral Gables, Florid USA 09/09/2010
Hurtigruten Boat Trips
We took the Hurtigruten ferry in Norway in June, and although we had a great on-board experience, we found post-trip communication with the company to be awful. We are due a refund because of a change in cabin levels, yet the company has continued to ignore all emails, calls and a letter from us asking for resolution. Our advice would be to get any problems resolved before you leave the boat.
Bothell, WA USA 08/31/2010
OK, so Marseille isn't exactly remote Siberia, but it seems conspicuously off the list compiled in Rick Steves' France book (a book that had frequent use from me during my recent travel), and that city is definitely worth seeing.
The most amazing fountain I've ever seen is there at the Palais du Longchamp, enfolded on either side by the long staircases of the Palais itself. I didn't see the Palais inside and the park behind it is mediocre, but the fountain is the most beautifully conceived and integrated with its surroundings I've ever seen. The absurdity of large bulls emerging from a bowl of water is minimized by the great proportionality of the large, classical ensemble and the way natural plant life is worked into the base. The fountain sculpture of galloping horses in the Lyon square in front of their Hotel de Ville has another great theme, but simply juts out of the side of the plaza like a cultural imposition. The Longchamp fountain is instead positioned in such a way as to make the Palais extend a giant set of embracing arms.
The view from the Notre Dame de la Garde is also the best view of a city we saw, including Lyon's and both the Montmarte and Eiffel Tower views in Paris which dwarf the sights and limit the scope. At the furthest top of the view position at de la Garde there is almost a 360 degree range, and all the sights of the city are within view from there or another wall. The city sprawls in a great layout of orange rooves rather than a congestion of dirty grays, and there is a view out upon the deep blue Mediterranean.
We didn't even see the Notre Dame de la Garde itself (due to time constraints), but it's there to see at that location, and there is a much more unusual huge cathedral down by the coast called the Cathedral de la Major. The Vielle de Charite is another remarkable structure tucked into the neighborhoods worth visiting, and I regret that another remarkable sight there of the nearby Callanques cliffs also had to be ruled out to save time for other things.
The city does appear quite poor, clotheslines out of the windows, dirty streets, and the reek of fish is strong at the Vieux Port main ship dock area. But that's also what gives the city a great deal of charm lacking in other southern coastal cities like Nice and Monaco. There's good reason why Marseille was given "European Capital of Culture" status for 2013, despite other drawbacks.
Dayton, NJ USA 08/04/2010
Is Rick snubbing Romania?
We spent 10 days in Romania and fell in love with the lace. We are also loyal fans of Rick’s shows and do not understand what is his problem with Romania. He was in Hungary, he was in Bulgaria, but jumped over Romania. Very strange for us. We spent a few days in Bucharest, but most of the time we travel through Transylvania which is a fascinating place. Brasov, Sibiu, and Sighisoara are medieval fortresses with many interesting things to do and see. The Romanian food is great, the roads are ok, the hotels are good and affordable and the people are very nice. I strongly suggest anyone interested in adventure and history to give Romania a try and I am sure they will enjoy it as much as we did.
Atlanta, GA USA 07/15/2010
Macedonia, one of the most overlooked European destinations. My wife, Serije is from Ohrid. We met in 1977 and the rest is history. Ohrid, is a very charming town on the shores of Lake Ohrid. In the Middle Ages, Ohrid was called the Slavic Jerusalem. Today, the modern town of Ohrid is a spiritual, cultural and tourist center. From Ohrid, it’s only a short drive to Albania and/or Greece if you desire to continue your journey through Europe. Each year Ohrid hosts the Ohrid Summer Festival which presents an exquisite dignity and a distinctive cultural richness of both Ohrid and the Republic of Macedonia. It’s also a part of the European Festival Association. Car rental is easier than ever these days and credit card acceptance is greater than ever. One tip when using credit cards is to bring several different ones with you. Depending where you go, they may not take AMEX. So have a VISA and/or Master Card with you also.
Other places of interest include Matka (near Skopje), as well as Mavrovo, Sveti Naum and many, many more cultural and vacation destinations. Just type these names into your search engine and links will appear if you're interested in any further information.
Even though my focus has been on Ohrid, the entire country and region is beautiful and worth a visit. The diversity of the people lends to the old world feeling you will have as you drink coffee in the cafés overlooking the lake or when you’re walking through the old town doing a bit of shopping.
If you haven’t been there, maybe it’s time to go there and if you haven't been there lately, well maybe it's just time.
Frank & Serije Partyka
Killeen, TX USA 06/15/2010
Great tour in Egypt
We recently returned from a wonderful trip to Egypt, including Cairo and a cruise down the Nile River from Aswan to Luxor. The entire trip was perfectly planned for us by Min Travel in Cairo. They provided us with a personal guide & a driver while we were in Cairo. They took us to the overnight train to Aswan and then met us in Aswan to take us to the cruise ship. The Nile Cruise was a beautiful experience. The ship, the staff and the meals were great. A representative from Min met us after the cruise, took us to the overnight train station in Luxor & then met us again when we arrived in Cairo. We arranged the entire trip with Min Travel via the internet. They require 75% of the fee (which was extremely reasonable) to be wired before we got there. They immediately e-mailed us when they received the money. We couldn't have asked for a better travel agency. Min Travel made our trip to Egypt just perfect!
Fair Lawn, NJ USA 06/07/2010
Iceland - Self-Guided Ring Road Tour
September 2009 - Iceland had always been on our "list" but in 2009 it looked like our best opportunity to visit the off the beaten path island in the North Atlantic. We contact tour operator tour.is - they offered a self-guided package including a car and hotel accomodations. They not only met but exceeded our expectations; our tour around the island was fantastic. From the moment stepped off the plane until we returned to the airport everything went like clockwork. The route suggestions and holiday inns tour.is booked were exactly what we were looking for and gave us a marvelous introduction to Iceland. A word to the wise - the shoulder season has some iffy weather. We'd suggest July or August for the best weather but know that it's going to be windy, beautiful and pristine. Bless-bless (Icelandic for goodbye).
Ron and Sheryl
Arlington, TX USA 03/14/2010
Great Tour Guide in Budapest
Budapest in January is not considered the best time to go, but having one of the best tour guides can still bring it to life. Barbara (firstname.lastname@example.org) certainly did this for me and three of my friends. I found her on this Graffiti page and contacted the commenter who wholly endorsed her. We were not disappointed. We booked a full-day walking tour to see the highlights of Budapest and it was like having a friend showing us around. We used public transportation to get around to the sights and mixed in with the locals (be sure to buy a day pass for the transport -- it's cheap!). She is upbeat, energetic, and very knowledgeable about the sites we saw. She also likes antiques so we hit it off quick since I share the same hobby. Of course, one of the benefits of visiting Budapest in winter is that that the tourist crowds are gone. I would definitely consider using her again as our guide in Hungary.
Austin, Texas USA 02/04/2010