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Europe for the first time...

TriglycerideTriglyceride keep cool my babies! PExer
so I have my passport taken care of and my airfare..my travel bug bite infection has risen to a critical level and now it's an obsession. There is really a wealth of information, I've gathered it but I don't know how to extract it and organize it. I feel like everything is being hurled towards me all at once and I don't know where to start...

I know most of you have been to Europe before, may it be as a tourist or as a traveller. I prefer to be a traveller and be a local during my travels and not get stuck with tourist traps and jacked up accomodation prices.Hostels, Penzione and B&Bs are fine with me.

I am thinking of exploring Europe in at least 9 weeks, no more than 12 weeks. I want to avoid the summer crowd so it'll be around February-May of next year (god-willing).

I was wondering if I can ask your opinion about this tentative itinerary by country, if I were to explore Europe in 12 weeks. Keep in mind, I've never been there before and my ideals are quite distorted :) Currently, I am so inlove with the idea of backpacking through Europe that it's hard to think of anything else, so pardon me :)

UK-Republic of Ireland-Benelux-France-Spain-Portugal-Switzerland-Germany-Austria-Hungary-Italy-Greece-Romania-Poland-Czech Republic-Denmark-Sweden-Finland-Norway

I'm flying in at the UK and Flying out of Norway. I'm thinking of the homebase+day excursion method. Excursions would be city-countryside, historic sites, museums.

can anyone suggest any must-see places in Europe? Here are some of the things I want to see. It is not set in stone however. If you have been there, please share your experiences.


UK
London
Stonehenge
Bronte County (Haworth)
Shakespeare Home and Hathaway
Cambridge
York
Edinburgh

Ireland
Celtic Ruins
Galway
try a pint of Guiness (:P)

Spain
?

Portugal
?

France
Eiffel Tower
Notre Dame
Mont St. Michel
Giverny

Germany
a leisure ride over the Rhine for castle-seeing
Neuschwanstein Castle
Berlin

Switzerland
Jungfrau region
Gimmelwald

Austira
Vienna
Salzburg

Italy
Venice
Rome
Palermo
Capuccin Catacombs
Cinque Terre
Tuscanny
Herculaeum
Pompeii

Norway
Fjord fjord fjord

Amsterdam
Van Gogh Museum
Coffe shops

anyway...thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you. Please tell me about your trips. Please give me tips..just anything..thank you again. :D

I know the UK isn't covered by the Eurail, is a contry pass justifiable?

...I'm thinking of going to these places using the Eurail...
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Comments

  • heymikeyheymikey SCAN THIS... PExer
    Currently, I am so inlove with the idea of backpacking through Europe that it's hard to think of anything else, so pardon me
    Yeah, I sure know what that feels like. Several months before I left, I could not concentrate with my studies. Heck, my grades even deteriorated a bit (though still above average).

    Will you also be graduating from university? Anyway, I´ll try to answer your questions...

    As for the itinerary, keep an open mind. I know I did. At first, I only planned on going to Spain, France, and Italy. Two days from now, I´m going to Prague. There will be situations along your trip where you might change your itinerary, such as all trains are full and booked for several days (although I don´t think that will happen given the months you mentioned), you want to see more of the place, your passport gets stolen and you have to go to the embassy in a different city, etc. All those things can happen. I met these 3 Norwegian guys who wanted to go to Paris but the trains have been fully booked for several days. They decided instead to go to Brugges. I met this Mexican guy whose passport got stolen in Barcelona. He had to go back to Madrid because the Mexican consulate in Barcelona was indefinitely closed. I loved Munich and Berlin so much, I decided to stay for 1 more day in each city. Any of these situations can happen to you.

    Anyway, your itinerary seems to be quite a lot for 12 weeks unless some of the places you mentioned are just day trips.

    Home-day trip excursion is a great method. I should have done that at the very start (I changed to that method after a couple of weeks travelling in Spain).

    Since you are a student (from what I understand from your previous post), grab an ISIC card. It is well worth it. Reductions are usually 30-50% discounts. Sometimes you get in for free such as Seville´s alcazar where if you weren´t a student, you would have to shell out €6.

    The BritRail pass is good only if you will be travelling extensively in the UK. Given your list, you probably are. Try getting only the "5 days in 2 months" flexi pass.

    Which eurailpass will you be getting. In Spain and Portugal, trains are cheap. You will be needing that in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, and the Scandinavian countries.


    Here are websites that you may want to check out:
    EuroTrip forum
    Train schedules -- very important when travelling by train. You can check if it requires a reservation and if it is a direct train.
  • TriglycerideTriglyceride keep cool my babies! PExer
    hey mikey! how's your trip so far? :D it's great to know that what I'm feeling is...well, has been felt by other people. I have one more semester to go this fall but all I can think about is Europe! My friends are getting sick talking about it already :D

    I'm also teaching myself some basic German, Italian and French..I decided to try to ask the locals for directions in their native tongue (in a broken way)..I know most Europeans speak very good English but...

    I'm thinking of buying a 15-day Flexi Pass...

    ah yes, ISIC card. I'm also going to join Hostelling International.

    :( ...really, it sounds alot? ..I'm thinking of going on a day trip to Hungary..but you're right, I simply couldn't cover Europe in such a short period of time..I don't want my memories to be a blur of..cathedrals..museums...

    I'm going to be done in school this December (Hallelujah!!!!!)

    oh I forgot, I want to go to Siena in Italy.

    have a fun ans safe trip! And thank you for posting. I will definitely check out those web sites :)
  • TriglycerideTriglyceride keep cool my babies! PExer
    oh and about lost items, according to what I've researched, they say it's best to keep a copy with you all the time.

    do you drink the local tap water or do you buy the bottled ones?
  • illuminaillumina L'enfer, c'est les autres ✭✭✭
    Hey, Reena! Buon viaggio! Bon voyage! Buen viaje! :D ...I'm sorry I can't actually offer any info, since I've never been, although I do plan on going in the near future.... Just reading all your plans...wow, I'm so glad you have an opportunity to explore...for 12 weeks at that. :D

    (And if I get to go to Siena, I'd want to study there.... ;) My friend did just that, and she loved it. )
  • BaLdoMarOBaLdoMarO Member PExer
    9-12 wks covering all those countries is a tall ask. For 9-12 weeks I would be more inclined to visit the primary European sights and spend more time appreciating them. France, Italy/Vatican, UK,Spain, Germany and Switzerland should be enough for your time frame. Otherwise, you'll experience information overload.
    If you really want to visit all those countries, it may be cost effective to join a European bus tour (Contiki for under 35s, Trafalgar, Cosmos etc...) This eliminates the need to book accomos at places you intend to visit and the hassle of booking transportation to get you from 1 destination to another. The other advantage of this touring is you're given a European 'buttering up'- a European crash course, so to speak, so you can have a European sampling on all major sightsees.

    Europe, though small in size in comparison to other continents, is layered with so much history, drama, sightsees and monuments. One will need to return to Europe in 2-3 occassions to fully appreciate its breathtaking sceneries and appreciate its varied cultures.
  • BaLdoMarOBaLdoMarO Member PExer
    Oh yes... Heres a qusi-finished list of the must vist places in Europe:

    Paris -drama, art, architecture, history

    Provence district- lavender fields, parfumeries, ancient cities. provencal markets

    au Midi (Southern France, particularly Nice, Cannes)- the beach, the joie de vivre, the sun and mingle with the super rich and the super laid back

    Monaco-Casino and the Grand Prix. On a NORMAL day, this place is ghoulishly EMPTY.

    Florence-Italian Riviera via the Cinque Terre- BEAUTIFUL! Florence, in my eyes is the most romantic Italian city. Cinque Terre is super and the Italian Riviera is dramatic (Genoa and San Remo)

    Venice- visit this in the off season as summer and spring are the most crowded months

    Rome- St Peters Basilica, Sistine Chapel, The Italian Forum, The COlosseum, the pasta...Too many to list..Bellissima![/I]

    Fluelen, Switzerland- Incredibly ROMANTIC
    Vienna- Romantic, steeped with history, beautiful architecture

    Innsbruck- Colourful buildings, Ski, Tyrolean Folklore

    La Palma - beautiful Tropical getaway.

    Barcelona- Fun, Artsy, Infectious

    Bilboa- Artsy, Seafood

    Seville- Food!

    Neuschwanstein Castle- Perhaps Germany's most iconic landmark

    Berlin- The Germans have done an OUTSTANDING job gentrifying Berlin. It is seasoned with so many avant garde buildings and the art scene is very alive.

    London- because you just have to! The shopping centres here are spectacular. This is referred to as the sheikhs shopping wonderland, and boy it doesnt disappoint.
  • CaRaMBaCaRaMBa Administrator PEx Moderator
    Triglyceride, naku I want to go to Europe too! :) A friend told me na gabi ka mag-train ride, to save on accomodations. Tapos merong mga train tickets na accepted in several countries, parang unlimited yata?

    Kaka-excite naman!
  • heymikeyheymikey SCAN THIS... PExer
    I wouldn´t advise you to join HI for the following reasons:

    1) HI hostels are usually far from the center of the city. You would most likely pay for transportation in getting there.

    2) During the summer (which I know will not affect you), school groups usually book HI hostels, which means that it will be overrun by school kids who can be very noisy at night. I have experienced this off-hand in Seville when these little fuckers won´t shut up at around 2 in the morning.

    3) HI hostels usually feel institutionalized with no character at all. It feels more like a school dorm than an actual backpacker´s hostel.

    4) HI hostels usually have curfews, sometimes around midnight or as early as 10PM. If you want to go clubbing or whatever, this may be a problem.

    On the other hand, HI hostels are most likely clean while independent hostels are usually a hit-or-miss, although most of the independent hostels that I have stayed in were clean.

    Independent hostels vary in quality, unlike HI hostels, because they are not governed by a single institution that have their sets of guidelines.

    Some independent hostels are party hostels. You can pretty much tell that they are party hostels if they have a bar in the hostel itself. Others are pretty laid-back. Some of the popular hostels are the following:

    Circus -- Berlin (www.circus-berlin.de)
    Flying Pig -- Amsterdam (www.flyingpig.nl)
    Pink Palace -- Corfu (www.thepinkpalace.com)
    Balmer´s -- Interlaken (www.balmers.com)
    Wombat´s -- Vienna (www.wombats.at)

    Some hostels can be quite crazy. The hostel that I went to in Amsterdam had the smell of marijuana on the hallways. Plus, the day before I left (and also the day when I left), there was a crew filming a porno movie just outside the hostel. :lol:

    Since independent hostels vary so much from each other, go to www.bugeurope.com for reviews from fellow backpackers who have stayed in their hostels. I will be submitting my reviews on that website of all the hostels that I went to on that site once my trip is over.

    By the way, you do not need to book your hostels in advance. For flexibility, just grab a list of the hostels in that particular city or grab them at the tourist information center, and just call them up for availability. I have met several people who made no reservations whatsoever and they managed fine. I even met this girl who arrived in Amsterdam on midnight and she was able to find an available hostel room. Quite scary, by the way, if you are a woman travelling by yourself.

    If you will be buying a 15-day flexi, don´t use them in Portugal, Spain, and Italy, unless it is an overnight jouney to another country (say Barcelona to Paris). Also, make sure you ride in one of those high-speed train at least once. I rode the German ICE train several days ago, and it was really nice. They had personal TV screens on every chair and a bar nearby serving food (though quite expensive).

    I mostly buy bottled water simply because it´s cheap. I would usually consume about 1 or 2 bottled water (1.5 L) in a day, and bottled water usually costs around 15-80 cents in supermarkets. Sometimes, I would use those bottles and fill them up with tap water, which is safe to drink.

    Since you are travelling during the months of February to May, you have to keep in mind that some attractions will be closed or have shorter opening hours, so make sure that the places you want to visit will be open. I would suggest you start south (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece) and head north so by the time you get to the Scandinavian countries or the Alpine countries, there wouldn´t be much snow.

    Have fun planning your trip. I know I did.
  • heymikeyheymikey SCAN THIS... PExer
    Originally posted by Triglyceride
    I know most Europeans speak very good English
    You will be surprised to find out that this is not necessarily true (except the UK of course). In big cities, such as Paris and Berlin, you probably won´t have a problem. But if you will be venturing out in smaller towns, you will have a hard time finding someone who can speak English. Southern Europeans usually don´t speak much English. Northern Europeans such as Germans, Swedish, Norwegians, etc. usually do. It´s probably because English is a Germanic language, together with German, Swedish, etc. unlike French, Spanish, and Italian which are considered Romantic languages.
  • heymikeyheymikey SCAN THIS... PExer
    Originally posted by Triglyceride
    oh and about lost items, according to what I've researched, they say it's best to keep a copy with you all the time.
    Yes. What I did was make 2 copies on important documents. I left one copy of each with my parents and other copies with me separate from the original documents.

    Get a money belt and store all important documents there. Place it under your shirt and guard it with your life. You will be fucked if it´s lost.
  • burnik2001burnik2001 Member PExer
    I agree with mikey about the copies. You never know. The money belt will make your life easier (except when you go to the bathroom).Fortunaetely youll be dealing with one currency only for the majority of your trip (EURO), UNfortunately, pababa ng pababa yung US dolar so lugi ka.

    It is my personal opinion that you are trying to see too much in a short time span. Hindi ka mageenjoy kung ganyan. Relax, take your time. You can always go back.

    Since you are flying to the UK check out ryanair or easyjet for cheap flights (cheaper than train fares in some instances) to different areas.

    Be cautious in Eastern Europe. There are groups of racist skinheads in the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland, Hungary and Germany. Although they usually pick on the romany gypsies and africans, there have been reported cases of Asian tourist Bashing ( see ROMPER STOMPER). Stick to the tourist areas in those countries to be safe.
  • Kaiser88Kaiser88 ultreya PExer
    My must-sees in:

    Tuscany - Siena, Chianti towns (vino!), Lucca, Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, San Gimignano, Volterra, and of course, Florence.

    Liguria - i agree with BaLdoMarO, Cinque Terre is absolutely gorgeous! spend at least 1 day visiting the 5 coastal villages. you can even hike from 1 village to the next.
  • heymikeyheymikey SCAN THIS... PExer
    Triglyceride, have you read Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door 2004: The Travel Skills Handbook?

    It is a very useful book for first-timers.
  • TriglycerideTriglyceride keep cool my babies! PExer
    OH WOW! thank you guys for posting!

    yes, I've read R. Steve's Europe through the back door. I'm also currently reading Europe by Eurail.

    ..you know, hostels are ok with me. I know that they're dormy and it has curfews. Most of my trips would be day trips. I'd probably do some night "excursions" at the UK and the Netherlands (because I have friends and family there). ..but then again, I'll take your advice on being flexible and not set my excursions and itinerary in stone.

    ..and about cramming Europe into 12 weeks, I know, it sounds so much, I would most likely trim out parts of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe....and save it for next time...

    ...oh I've heard so much about Cinque Terre, there is just now ay I'm gonna miss that place.

    Packaged tours
    I can't really afford those.

    Casinos
    been to Vegas, Reno and Cache Creek, not really my thing..but thanks :D

    Ibiza
    any info about it?

    Sleep Sacks

    did you guys use this? I'm thinking of just making one myself

    what can I see in Spain and Portugal? I know it sounds rather silly. What can I see in these countries that I can tie to our Philippine history?

    Night Trains
    I am also considering that as well, that way, I'll be well rested when I wake up the next day at my destination.

    not using Eurail in So. Europe

    why is that?

    Eurostar
    wouldn't this be a hi-speed train?

    renting a car

    ...I'd like to try Germany's autobahn :D...has anyone rented a car and driven there?

    Greece

    any info about it?

    THANK YOU AGAIN FOR POSTING!

    HI VIC!
  • TriglycerideTriglyceride keep cool my babies! PExer
    thanks again for all of your suggestions.

    ...burnik - what you said about Neo Nazi got me a little concerned..hmmm..

    Siena - part of the reason why I want to go there is to pay pilgrimage to St. Catherine (I went to high school in Siena College).Vic, do you mind telling more about your friend's stay in Siena? Wow! Study in Siena..I mean, I also went to Siena for academic reasons but that was in Taytay Rizal! :D Siena Italy however - now, that's a totally different story! You should go do it, girl! :up:

    Flying Pig - I've heard alot about this hostel.

    Lavenders in France
    so they "bloom" all year-round? Can anyone tell me where's that place where they have sunflower fields?

    anyone here been to Halstatt, Austria? and Berg Eltz in Germany?

    thank you again! :)
  • istarbaksistarbaks Member ✭✭✭
    Originally posted by Triglyceride
    not using Eurail in So. Europe

    why is that?

    it's cheaper to buy point-to-point tickets. it is better to use your flexi-pass on long or overnight train trips. but that is on the case of flexi-pass. there are other kinds of eurailpasses that offer more options.
  • TriglycerideTriglyceride keep cool my babies! PExer
    Originally posted by istarbaks
    it's cheaper to buy point-to-point tickets that using your flexi-pass. it is better to use your flexi-pass on long or overnight train trips. but that is on the case of flexi-pass. there are other kinds of eurailpasses that offer more options.

    hi Istarbaks :wave: really? hmmmm....because the 15-day flexi pass is whopping $950+...thank you, I would definitely consider that.

    have you taken any of the buses in Europe?
  • istarbaksistarbaks Member ✭✭✭
    bus? no. i thought that they were time consuming. though maybe a slim chance, i couldn't afford to get stuck in a traffic jam so i used the trains. the trains are (almost) always on time.
  • sentimentssentiments certified traveholic :p PExer
    try this:

    www.virtualtourist.com

    tons of info , i tell you.......

    just type in your destination and all the tips, may it be tourist traps or packing list, will be all under your nose......

    buti ka pa sure na....... me, trying to save pa...... haay..... so if ever matuloy ako mga after 2 years pa (sana umulan ng pera, hee hee)
  • TriglycerideTriglyceride keep cool my babies! PExer
    istarbaks: I'm planning of making the most out of the trains myself but I guess I'm a little iffy about car-renting...

    sentiments - I'm 98% sure that I could go..:D . I'll be cutting back on concert tickets this year (I'm such a concert geek) and will live on ramen noodles for a while...

    plus, I told my family (Lolo, Lola, Mom and Dad..Aunts and Uncles....) that I'm accepting donations for my European trip. :D
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