Eastern Europe Trip
In September 2008, we traveled by motorcycle to Eastern Europe for four weeks. Traveling from Germany, we visited, in this order:
Highlights and biggest discoveries of the trip:
- German is a far more useful language than I ever dreamed. People spoke it almost anywhere we went. What I shame I don't...
- People were just so kind, sometimes having us follow them in their cars to a road we were looking for. Stefan has decided he has to be kinder to people because of what we experienced on this trip.
- Southern Poland is beautiful, modern, and worth a couple of weeks exploration. Krakow is amazing (beautiful, fun, great people), and Auschwitz-Birkenau will make the past all-too-real.
- The Wieliczka Salt Mine is interesting... not my most interesting underground experience ever, but I'm glad I was at such a famous site.
- Slovakia has some jaw-dropping scenery and great camping. It's scenery is like Austria, and everyone speaks German, but everything is way cheaper.
- The wine in Hungary is ROCKIN'.
- The Hortobágy Bird Clinic in Hungary, which treats injured storks, hawks, eagles, buzzards, swallows, crows, and kestrels, as well as the vast plains that surround such.
- Staying in a "zimmer frei" -- a room for rent in someone's house; it was always cheaper and nicer than any hotel.
- Camping Aurel Vlaicu, in Romania, with its excellent location, its charming Dutch hosts, and THE POOL.
- Sarmizegetusa Regia, the hard-to-get-to Dacian ruins in the heart of Transylvania, Romania
- The muddy volcanoes of Romania near Buzau, close to the village of Berca
- BULGARIA. Every blessed inch of it!! The clean, open beaches of the North, the rugged but friendly Shuman and its wonderful local beer and the big statue over-looking it all, its monasteries, the dreamy old town of Plovdiv, the adorable village of Melnik... BULGARIA! I love you! But Bulgaria needs camp sites...
- In Macedonia: the vast and amazing Roman ruins of Stobi on the main road that leads from the Danube to the Aegean Sea, and Heraclea Lyncestis in Bitola, as well as the Old Town in Ohrid and the dreamy Sveti Naum monastery at the Southern end of Lake Ohrid, near the boarder with Albania.
- The more than 600,000 mushroom-like bunkers all over Albania, the vast and amazingly well-preserved ruins of Butrint at the Southern tip of the country, and the crowd-free white beaches of Dhërmi.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina - not just Mostar, but the back country as well. Beautiful, very, very friendly people, and a reflection of what positive things international intervention can do on a huge level.
- The Southern Coast and inland area of the North in Croatia, with its beautiful vistas and more very friendly people. I could have spent a week in Croatia.
- The sweet, fat kittens at Auto Camp Kupari in Croatia.
- The too-beautiful-for-words Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. I want to stay overnight in Kotor and see the stone village at night.
- Picturesque Slovenia. We didn't stay overnight here, but it was a gorgeous country to drive through.
- Austria from the Autobahn: expensive, but lovely.
- Putting into practice what I preach in transire benefaciendo: "to travel along while doing good."
This is my experience in Eastern Europe, in September 2008. It will not necessarily be yours. These are personal blogs full of opinions -- these are not a series of newspaper articles. I make no claims to being accurate nor impartial. But I hope I come from a place of honesty and sincerity.
- Leaving Albi for four weeks. I hated it beyond hated it. And so did she, since Stefan wasn't here either.
- The shameful, disgusting conditions regarding dogs, as well as the trash everywhere, in Romania, conditions that rivaled what I experienced in Italy. There is NO excuse for this. None. The fear and desperation in the eyes of the dogs amid the garbage... for shame on the people of Romania.
- Not as bad, but still rather awful, was the trash and pitiful stray dogs in Albania and Macedonia. Did I mention that there is NO excuse for this?
- So many Romani kids not in school in most of the countries we visited... knowing how much the cards are stacked against them by everyone, both outside and inside their communities...
- No camp sites in otherwise perfect Bulgaria
- Some of the roads of Albania. YIKES!!
- Apollonia, Albania; don't bother!
- Hotel Class, on Autostrada TR-DR, KM 11, Vore, outside of Tirana, Albania. CLASSLESS!
- The cold (flu?) I got with three days to go in the trip.
- Riding in the rain or the fog. It bites. It's ruins the day.
Lonely Planet Eastern Europe was fantastic for recommending things to see and essential in many other ways for this trip, but NOT for places to stay, particularly hotels; few options are provided, and if you can find them (there are no directions), they will already be fully booked.
The menu guides in the Lonely Planet Eastern Europe Phrasebook proved largely unhelpful; what the book has listed as common dishes for a country seem to be foreign to any local we showed such to; usually, no one ever had any of the dishes profiled in the book. If you are going to work in any Eastern European country, it's a handy book to have, but you don't need it for just passing through.
For food orders, what proved most helpful was Stefan's Langenscheidt OhneWörterBuch. 500 Zeigebilder für Weltenbummler (without words book), published by Langenscheidt. It's a small book of icons to help you order in a restaurant, get the right room at a hotel, say you want to ride a camel, whatever. It not only helped with ordering food, waiters found it really funny. Sadly, it's not available in the USA. You can try Point it: Traveller's Language Kit - The Original Picture Dictionary, a no-words book available in the USA.
Pictures of the adventure: from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, and from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia.
Here's the full travelogue for our Eastern Europe trip.
If you have read this blawg, PLEASE let me know.
Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing --
without comments, I start to think I'm talking to cyberair.
Also see: For Women Who Travel By Motorcycle (or want to). Includes information on packing and accommodations.
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The personal opinions expressed on this page are solely those of Ms. Cravens, unless otherwise noted.