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Eastern Europe Trip

Embark on a route through Eastern Europe

Have you already figured out your summer vacation? Or maybe you need some inspiration for where to go? Two years ago, in 2018, I went on an Interrail trip through Eastern Europe with the train ticket in one hand and the suitcase in the other. One month, 7 countries, 9 cities – the trip was unforgettable in many ways! We seeked out both nature and cities, bigger cities and smaller ones, long stays and short stays, action and relaxation – there’s something for everyone in this kind of trip. We simply bought an Interrail train ticket for four entire weeks (you can vary the duration individually) and simply drove from Krakow to Kosice to Debrecen to Brasov to Timisoara to Zagreb to Ljubijana to Bled to Salzburg and back home. If you don’t have any plans yet, read on to hopefully get inspired for your own next adventure.

Krakow - where history, legends and development melt together

1. Krakow

First stop Krakow, Poland. Krakow is definitely one of the interesting cities in Europe where history, legends and development melt together. This old, polish city is simultaneously charming, fascinating, beautiful and cheap which makes it perfect for a big city trip. The historic center, famous for its fascinating cultural attractions, is one of the most beautiful Europe has to offer and has even been adopted into Unesco’s World Heritage List. A monumental royal palace, a gigantic medieval marketplace and plenty of other historic monuments that catch the breath of most are amongst the things you can experience in Krakow. Krakow is also perfectly located to see other famous attractions nearby like the 700 year old Wieliczka Salt mine, also part of Unesco’s World Heritage List, and of course the World War 2 concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Both Krakow itself and the nearby sites are definitely worth to spend at least 4-5 days at.

Kosice -  this place is one of the most underrated cities

2. Kosice

Second stop Kosice, Slovakia. Kosice is Slovakia’s second largest city after the capital Bratislava and is located very close to the border of Hungary. You might not have heard of this city, I hadn’t either, which is what makes this place one of the most underrated cities and one of the hidden gems in Europe. It’s fairly small with a population of 240.000 inhabitants which makes it easier to get around, especially if you chose to stay near the central square. Being the economic and cultural center of the East the city is rich in both history and other more modern activities. In 2013 Kosice was announced as the European Capital of Culture and has continued to bloom ever since. The many colourful houses and the bustling café’s surrounding the central square made this city seem to be so busy, not too much though since it was not crowded by tourists at all. Kosice is a stunningly beautiful city where the pace is low and the mood exuberant.

Debrecen - the second largest city in Hungary after Budapest

3. Debrecen

The third stop on this trip is Debrecen, Hungary. Debrecen is Hungary’s second largest city after Budapest. If you have already been to Budapest you should as well visit Debrecen since this is a totally different side of Hungary. Debrecen was surprisingly charming and notably quiet, in good way, despite being Hungary’s second largest city. As the Capital of the Great Hungarian Plain, a region in Hungary, Debrecen makes a great city to be explored for one day or two and otherwise serves as a great base for exploring Eastern Hungary and the Hungarian Great Plain. As many old cities Debrecen is centered on an attractive main square surrounded by many impressive buildings as the Financial Palace, the County Hall and the most impressive art-nouveau building, the Hotel Aranybika. Due to its size of only 210.000 inhabitants keeps most of the attractions within walking distance.

Wandering through the historical streets of Brasov

4. Brasov

The next and fourth stop is Brasov, Romania. After coming from Debrecen the slow pace of life still continues in Brasov. While wandering through the historic streets of this medieval city it provides you with its relaxed and romantic vibe. Surrounded by the Southern Carpathian Mountains and resplendent with gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture Brasov is for good reason one of the most visited places in Romania. Situated in Transylvania, Brasov makes for an ideal base to explore other parts of Transylvania such as Peles Castle or Bran Castle which outside Romania is commonly known as Dracula’s Castle. However, Brasov itself offers a wealth of historical attractions since it was founded already in the 13th century and ‘til this day retains a distinct medieval ambiance.

Timisoara is the economic and cultural center of the west in Romania

5. Timisoara

Next up Timisoara, still in Romania. Timisoara is located in the very western part of Romania as the 3rd largest city in this country which makes it the economic and cultural center of the west. I didn’t know much about this city neither did I know people who have visited it. Yet, when we planned our Interrail trip back in 2018 it seemed fitting to drop by Timisoara on our way from Brasov to Zagreb. With no knowledge about this city I had no expectations either and was hence pleasantly surprised as it turned out to be a very good decision to stop by Timisoara. Timisoara is a wonderful city and a nice break from the bigger city trips. The charming Timisoara is often referred to as "Little Vienna", and the Austrian influence is certainly evident in its architecture, food and culture. Built around a series of beautifully restored public squares and lavish parks and gardens you can walk most places by foot in the central part. Take a stroll along the Bega river, enjoy a cup of coffee on the Union Square or go for a walk through the beautiful Rose Park, Timisoara has a lot to offer.

Zagreb is the cultural, economic and administrative center of Croatia

6. Zagreb

Zagreb is the 6th stop on our Eastern Europe Interrail trip and the 5th country to be visited. As the capital of Croatia , Zagreb is the cultural, economic and administrative center of this country. The city has a manageable size for a capital to be and offers both cozy cafes and classic museums. Despite being the capital city of Croatia, Zagreb is often overlooked and deselected by tourists who rather prefer to visit the coastal areas in Croatia. However, there is definitely no need to skip this city which has remained at the forefront of history and culture in Croatia since medieval times. With its crooked streets and various museums this city is perfectly made for strolling since most of the attractions are all clustered in both the Upper and Lower Town area. You will definitely find enough things to do to keep yourself busy.

Ljubljana - one of Europe’s greenest and most livable cities

7. Ljubljana

From Zagreb we go further on to lovely Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital and largest city, equally one of Europe’s greenest and most livable cities as well. After coming from East European countries such as Hungary and Romania the increase in wealth was clearly visible when we came to Ljubljana and with no further expectations we were pleasantly surprised by this lovely city. With a population of 293.000 inhabitants it is one of Europe’s smallest capitals, yet, even though it is only a medium-sized city, it offers everything that most other metropolis do while still preserving its small-town charm. It’s not too crowded, neither too boring. In the city center the car traffic is restricted leaving plenty of space for the pedestrians to stroll through the streets or along the banks of the river making it to the people-friendly city that it is.

Bled was the highlight of our entire Eastern Europe Trip

8. Bled

I bet you've seen this stunning picture of this bluish-green lake with a picture-postcard church on an islet in the middle of it all, that's our next stop Bled in Slovenia and definitely one of the highlights in both Slovenia, this Eurotrip and in general the whole Balkan area. And yes, it is very much the same in real life as it is on these stunning pictures. I've only been there this one time but I am sure to come back again in the future because I could never get tired of this view with the crystal-clear lake surrounded by breathtaking mountains as backdrops or the medieval castle clinging to the rocky cliff. My favorite thing to do probably was to walk around the lake and inhale its beauty from all sites and angles. Be sure though that you have enough time to walk these 6 km because you will stop what feels like every 100 meters to take pictures or just enjoy the view, and I do speak from experience.

Salzburg - the baroque city of culture and music

9. Salzburg

The 9th and final stop of this Interrail trip is the baroque city of culture and music - Salzburg, Austria - a city where Mozart has his home and where the city sets the scene for the movie classic “the Sound of Music”. The city got me with its charm right away from the minute we arrived in Salzburg and I dare say that anyone who ever immersed into this magical city will feel the same. With pastel-coloured buildings, narrow alleys and ivy-coloured walls it is no wonder that this charming city captivates the great majority of its visitors. We arrived at the time of the annual ‘Salzburg Festival’. This is the world’s most important festival for music, opera and drama and fills the city with well-dressed people and a festive atmosphere. It was established in 1920 which means that the festival is celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer!!! We spent 3 days in Salzburg and could easily have spent more days in this city which is also a great base for road trips to surrounding destinations.


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