The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

help throw span out of the country

(albeit temporarily)

Next year I'm hoping to go overseas a bit. The Trip (TM) will hopefully involve three to four months of gallivanting around Europe at a slightly more glamourous level than Scummy Backpacker.

Having never been closer to Europe than Ho Chi Minh City, I'm in need of a bit of friendly reader advice, namely:

If you were on a pretty tight budget, in terms of money and time,
what would you do/see in Europe?

Plans so far are to divide The Trip up into rough thirds - one third in the Mediterranean, one third in Western Europe, and the final third in the UK. Maybe start off in Turkey, head up to Russia (need to tick off Lenin on my list of Embalmed Leaders I Have Seen In The Flesh), then on to Greece. I'd also like to shoehorn in Morocco but maybe that's a bit ambitious?

Anyway, all and any suggestions much appreciated.


Aaron Bhatnagar said...

Yes - Its great to see Lenin dead.

span said...

It was certainly strange to see Ho dead, he really did look like he was just asleep. And he was taller than I'd expected.

Joe Hendren said...

First off, if money is tight, spend as little time in the UK as possible, or else find a friend to stay with. While I enjoyed Paris, Torledo and Barcelona, I often felt drawn back towards the east.

The walking tours in Berlin are fab, as is the checkpoint charlie museum about the history of the wall. There is also a walking tour centring on what life was like in east germany, but I was in Berlin on the wrong day for that.

The size of red square needs to be seen to be believed - its massive! Do try and get to St Petersburg too, its really pretty, and still one of my fav cities with a really interesting history.

I also enjoyed Poland (esp Kracow) and the Czech Republic. And Budapest has statue park, with all the old commie statues all together.

feel free to give me an email if you need any help or any futher suggestions of things to see :)

PS: Check out Ryanair and Air Berlin for cheap flights, just make sure you won't exceed their strict luggage limits.

Maria von Trapp said...

Slovenia - it's a must. It's cheap, friendly and lots of fun.

The capital Llubljana is beautiful.

And Budapest is AMAZING. Take a cruise on the Danube at night - you'll take a million photos of some of the most stunning buildings around.

stef said...

A warning with Russia. You're probably going to need a tour guide, and the visas are a pain the ass to get. I am looking at going over there via the transiberian next summer as I'm not too far from pacific russia.

Ohh see if you can do a stopover in china. Go see the dead Mao!

I recommend Poland because the hot guy in my Korean class keeps raving about it.

When are you thinking of going?

Apathy Jack said...

Have you talked to Anth and Beth - they'd know stuff.

Maria von Trapp said...

Be very, very careful in Russia. Don't go on your own. Read my blog as I've posted an interesting little story about Russia today ;)

Xavier said...

Definitely, Definitely, Definitely Berlin: Unter den Linden, Brandburg Gate, Check Point Charlie, Reichstag, Tiere Garten (Zoo), East Berlin, parts of the Wall, they have a wonderful commemoration of the Holocaust and the War as well. Absolutely must see. There is so much history there

Kate said...

Amsterdam!!! so much fun and so crazy - great modern art also.
Paris is fucking amazing and very dirty - I loved Paris so much
the UK is like NZ but if you like Art London is the schizz.

Rich said...

I'd avoid most of the tourist things in London - the art galleries are world class though. I personally think London is a better place to live in than visit - so much of the tourist things just looked to me (as a local) as a total ripoff attempt.

I would get out of London and see some of the British countryside. You really need a car to do that, however - particularly if you don't want to be stuck on a tour. Getting a bunch of people together to rent a car is a good scheme. I'd also recommend Ireland - again, Dublin is ok but I found the countryside more fun - especially Donegal - Derry is also very interesting.

Where else is unique: Berlin, the Alps, Greek Islands (it *is* possible to avoid the shag & vomit brigade!), Barcelona, Iceland (the latter is really expensive to get to unless you get a cheap Icelandair transatlantic flight with a stopover).

Anonymous said...

Don't pass Croatia... It is really really beautiful, esp around Split, Trogir and Dubrovnik and Cavtat. You can easily spend a month there espeically if you like sailing. But if you don't, then it is still OK.
if you get there at the right time, it can be quite cheap. Accomodation is the main cost.

Prague is beautiful but expensive.


span said...

wow, thanks everyone! keep 'em coming!

in terms of the UK the original plan was to spend maybe a week in London to go to art galleries and i am totally hanging out for the British Museum (luckily we have a few free beds available so it shouldn't be too hideously expensive.) Then hire a car to trip around England, Wales and Scotland and also head over to Ireland. I want to go to Portmeiron (sp?) to see where they filmed The Prisoner (I am not a number!) and also to the town with all the second hand bookstores.

Really interesting to hear about Eastern Europe as it is so much cheaper than Western and I suspect in many ways more interesting. When other members of my family did their OEs it was prior to the fall of the Wall and a whole different ball game.

In terms of dates we are looking to go in April-ish and come back around August/Sept. The rough plan is to work from east to west, doing the UK last and flying home from there. We've been saving so it will be all travel, no work (fingers crossed)

More tips please! You guys rock :-)

stef said...

Since you are going during summer why don't you fly into Beijing spend a few days doing the local sites there (very very cheap) And then do the transiberian into Moscow and go from there. Gulags baby, gulags.

Joe Hendren said...

While Prague is getting more touristy and expensive, it would still be far cheaper than somewhere like Paris or London, especially if you are prepared to stay at the campsite on the outskirts of town (just a tram and tube away its not too bad)

But anywhere else in the Czech republic is seriously cheap. Another place I loved was Cesky Kumalov - imagine a nearly complete little medieval town that is totally chill and a wonderful respite from the big cities. Its the kind of pituresque spot you don't feel guility for blobbing with a book by the river for a few hours. I also stocked up on 50c 1.5litre soft drinks and 13c museli bars - I was still eating my Czech museli bars in really expensive places like Switzerland! Beer is as good as Germany, and cheaper!

I agree with Maria about Budapest - at first it seemed a little grimy (in a good sort of a way) but the place very quickly grew on me - it has a beauty all of its own, and the parliament building there is a real sight to see.

Do check the latest with the visa situation for Russia - while it still might be a bit bueaucratic compared to other places my impression is that it is improving. With you and michael looking after each other I am sure you would be fine.

Chaucey said...

In Europe I enjoyed PRAGUE the most, and it IS cheap. Prices are comparable to prices here in NZ.
Michael and I have both got lots of details about it on our websites (, and
Krakow in Poland was a bit run down still, but very very cheap, and worth going to to see concentration camps.
In Britain itself we enjoyed York very much, and we also liked staying in a country cottage in a village, which was actually very good value accomodation.
let me know if you want any more info on any of the places described...

Joe Hendren said...

One thing I liked about Kracow was that it is yet to be turned into a tourist trap. I can't remember it being 'run down' but in some ways I can appreciate that if it reflects how Poland is at the moment - for me that is part of what makes travel interesting.

There is definitely more to Kracow than the concentration camps - I hope you went to the 'cloth' market (a whole variety of stuff). The salt mines are nothing short of amazing - especially the large catherdral carved out of the rock 130m underground!

Some Pics I found

Cheezy said...

I recommend Portugal. Particularly Porto - it's prettier than pretty much any other city I can think of (including Florence... and it's cheaper!) and you can do these 'tours' (i.e. pub crawls) of the port lodges where you can get completely trollied for nothing! :) Nice weather, lotsa history, people are friendly without being over-friendly... Yeah, Portugal is nice...

Cheezy said...

PS: My mate did the Portmerion ('Prisoner') tour and loved it. I'd like to do it myself... But he did say that the only slight disappointment was not being able to afford to stay in the town itself. The tours have rendered it ball-bitingly expensive in terms of accomodation... so staying in one of the little villages outside is the way to go for most of us...

sagenz said...

the old buildings in western europe will still be there but 30 years older when you visit them and are old and rich. fly into budapest on wizzair from whereever you fly to & base yourself (London?). they have flights down to 5 euro each way Lon-Bud if you are prepared to fly at a cheap time. luton is not bad access from london. szentendre and visgrad by boat are worth visiting, as are as many thermal baths in budapest. rudas was built by the turks 300 years ago but women not allowed :). train it up to krakow, going to auschwitz will make you understand why wars get fought. warsaw got bombed and there is not much to see realistically. train it back to prague. you can buy train tickets cheaper locally than on the net.
spending time in eastern europe will also help you to see what happened with socialism in action and why all the young are strong capitalists now.
you could fly one way prague to wherever
scandinavia best left for another lifetime if you are on a budget

Ghet said...

A friend of mine went to Slovenia for an archaelogy conference this year and she just loved it. Me, I really would love to see Portmeiron because I have trouble believing it's real.

CutFoldGlue said...

Actually, I'd avoid Western Europe and the UK altogether. You get a LOT more bang for your buck elsewhere. I'm a fan of Eastern Europe - We were in Estonia over the New Years, it's really nice in the old town and v quick to go to lots of interesting sites. Also Lithuania & Chezch Rep you can live like a king for cheap and see a lot of unusual stuff. And if you can get into Belarus you can see a real mess of a country. Fun!

Badaunt said...

I'm with everybody on Eastern Europe. I was in Europe (for the first time) this year, and wish I'd had more time in Slovakia. Bratislava is lovely, and CHEAP. I wanted to see more of the country after that, but we had a schedule...

The Man says to check out pensions and guesthouses, but he hasn't been in Europe for ten years.