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European Vacation

haimehhh

Active Member
#31
Anybody got any favorite spots to see on the Continent
Bratislava and Krakow are high on my list of places I've been. Bratislava is very small, but there is a lot to see, especially if you appreciate good food (goulash, dumplings, great soups and stews), beer, and the most beautiful women you'll ever meet in your life. Not an exaggeration. A '6' there is a 10 in any other country. Also great history, especially related to Communism and the WWs.

Krakow has a TON of history. It is larger than Bratislava and obviously they speak Polish opposed to Slovak (which is like Britannic English vs American as it compares to Czech language). Krakow is not too big to walk around in a day, and has great public transportation– including to and from Auschwitz-Birkenau which was a sobering but powerful thing that I recommend to anyone who ever has the chance to see. Also there is the world famous salt mine which is amazing. The food here is also awesome– my favorite was a huge slice of sourdough, layered with lard that had bacon bits in it, the layered with sliced dill pickles, grilled onions, and kielbasa. All, with a beer, for $3.00 (12 polish zlaty). There are these chain bars that have 1 euro beers/shots/drinks and my friends and I made a point to visit each one in a single night– bad idea, but good time. The castle is also a must see. Also beautiful women here and a lot of WWII history, though Krakow has been peaceably taken over in numerous conflicts through out history.

Went to Prague in the same trip, think a MUCH larger, Vegas-y version of Bratislava. The women are beautiful but not very talkative to foreigners cause there are so many tourists constantly. Excellent beer gardens, food similar to Bratislava. Must see the castle at sunset, hike up (or ride the funicular) to the large tower, and walk along the river. There are awesome bars stuck in the wall along the river that don't open up till about 2000 hours. Everyone brings their own bottles or buys drinks there and DJ's spin music for people of all ages while the sun drops and things get rowdy! Cool jewish quarter here, as well. There is an awesome rock bar that I can't remember the name off just off the main square. The bartenders pour free shots down your gullet, whip rowdy patrons with crops, and are gorgeous. Overall, just be prepared for large throngs of bachelor party-ing, college-aged, loud English/Irish, Aussies, and Americans.

For all of these I recommend AirBnB. There are loads of options and few scammers– just really open, nice folks looking to make some $ off spare properties. The deals are usually much better than hotels or hostels.
 

ryan1234

Active Member
#32
Had great times in France. The people were mostly very nice, especially if you spoke a little French and were aware of their history (we thank you for Lafayette...) The French police even helped us out tremendously by giving us a motorcycle escort to a wine tasting festival in Reims when we could not find it.

BTW, the exchange rate has really moved in our favor the past year - and should only get better for the forseeable future.

Anybody got any favorite spots to see on the Continent?
Since we're stationed here, we usually bounce to a new country every few weeks on the weekends. Since January, we've hit 15 different countries... will be 20 by the end of the year.

If anyone goes to England, come stop by The Eagle in Cambridge. Bring a squadron zap and shoot me a message, we live not too far from there and I'll come have a pint! It's a really awesome place for military aviators, lots of awesome history burnt into the ceiling.

In July, we did a cruise to Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia... which was pretty cool, but not quite as cool as we'd though it would be. We spent two days in St Petersburg... which was meh. They were having some Russian Navy celebration there, which was cool to see.

We just got back this weekend from Berchtesgaden. Went up to the Eagle's Nest, etc. The Eagle's Nest is seasonal and not exactly what I thought it would be, but glad we went. That area is definitely a place everyone should go. Great food and beer, great scenery. Recommend taking a trip into the Salt Mines while you're there. Sounds weird, but it was pretty awesome. You can fly into Salzburg and stay in Berchtesgaden or by Lake Koningsee, both are pretty spectacular.

If anyone goes to Bruges, Belgium, I recommend eating at Ribs and Beer as well as finding the best bar in Belgium called De Garre, it's hidden down an alleyway... it isn't super easy to get to, but absolutely worth it.

If you're in Italy and find yourself around Maranello or Florence, recommend renting a Ferrari. We rented a 458 and a California and drove through Tuscany. Pretty cool.

Obviously cool places in each country, but those are a few highlights off the top of my head.
 

villanelle

Nihongo dame desu
Contributor
#33
Had great times in France. The people were mostly very nice, especially if you spoke a little French and were aware of their history (we thank you for Lafayette...) The French police even helped us out tremendously by giving us a motorcycle escort to a wine tasting festival in Reims when we could not find it.

BTW, the exchange rate has really moved in our favor the past year - and should only get better for the forseeable future.

Anybody got any favorite spots to see on the Continent?
I think Scotland is gorgeous beyond words. Edinburgh was nice, but just sort of another large European city in many ways. The Isle of Skye is breathtaking and standing on the battlefield in Culloden is something anyone even semi-interested in Scottish history should appreciate. The museum there is very well done.

If Scotland counts as The Continent, what about Iceland? We loved Reykjavik. We went in winter and got to see the Norther Lights, hike a glacier and more very cool stuff. Because we've done so much European travel, this was great because it was just so different. The scenery there in winter is otherworldly, and I'm sure it is gorgeous in summer as well.

Venice is a place people seem to either love or hate. I loved it. You need to find the tourist streets and then simply wander two or three streets away, and it is a different place. Something about the elegant decay of a place that was once one of the most important in the world is so serene.

I really liked Vienna, though it's difficult to say why. Seeing an opera (standing room, which is a cool experience and is much cheaper than real seats, and allows you to easily leave whenever you want because it is opera, after all) at the opera house there was very cool. Great museums.

Dubrovnik, Croatia is a beautiful little city. Walking the city wall is great, though the city probably doesn't warrant more than a day or maybe two.

I don't know how anyone could be bored in Rome. I think we were there for 5 days, and easily could have filled several more. I usually have a limited tolerance for museums, but the Borghese was wonderful. You need reservations and are limited to two hours inside, which was fine by me as that's usually the point I am museum-ed out anyway.

Barcelona also has a ton to offer. We found the Hop On/Hop Off bus there to be one of the better ones in Europe. We also did an amazing food and wine tour. I like the Spanish reds more then the Italian.

We just got back yesterday from Lisbon. It's not a city with a ton of major sites to see, but has good food, great nightlife, and is wonderful for just wandering and enjoying. We had drinks at the Port Wine Institute. The waiters were old guys who seemed bothered by doing their jobs, but they have dozens and dozens of ports of varying kinds that you can purchase by the glass, ranging from probably 4Eu to 30+. There's also an old market area along the waterfront that has produce and fish stalls on one side, and prepared food on the other. We ended up there on a food tour and wished we'd had time to go back.

Berlin is a wonderful city. Tons to see and even if you aren't a huge history buff, it is very compelling. We did a tour with Fat Tire Bike tours on day one. It was a great way to get the lay of the land and see all the major sites on quick stops.
 

squeeze

Harrier Dude
pilot
Super Moderator
Contributor
#34
PM me if you want Italy gouge. I'm going on 18 months being stationed here and have been all over. That, and my girlfriend runs an Italy-specific tour agency.

Edit - I might write out a long post with info for all. Heading out at the moment.
 

revan1013

Death by Snoo Snoo
pilot
#35
]
Anybody got any favorite spots to see on the Continent?
I live in Belgrade, Serbia now. It's a completely hidden gem of a city. It is becoming famous for its nightlife and crazy party scene (think nightly benders on floating barges on the Danube). It's cheap, the food is similar to Greek or Turkish (grilled meats and bread), and the people are very lively. It's the heart of the Balkans, and if you want to get to do historical stuff, you can't beat a 2 millennia-old fortress that is now a large park overlooking the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. If you're into urban development, history, art, this is an awesome place to be. There's graffiti everywhere, and lots of murals and urban art, but it doesn't feel dirty at all.

I could talk about it for ages. But I love living here.

I'm also a huge fan of Turkey, but with travel restrictions, going there again is on hold. Lived there for 9 months and would go back in a heartbeat. That's saying something considering I lived in a "boring" city, Ankara.

Amsterdam was a blast. Rome is amazing.
 

Pags

Well-Known Member
pilot
#36
I live in Belgrade, Serbia now. It's a completely hidden gem of a city. It is becoming famous for its nightlife and crazy party scene (think nightly benders on floating barges on the Danube). It's cheap, the food is similar to Greek or Turkish (grilled meats and bread), and the people are very lively. It's the heart of the Balkans, and if you want to get to do historical stuff, you can't beat a 2 millennia-old fortress that is now a large park overlooking the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. If you're into urban development, history, art, this is an awesome place to be. There's graffiti everywhere, and lots of murals and urban art, but it doesn't feel dirty at all.

I could talk about it for ages. But I love living here.

I'm also a huge fan of Turkey, but with travel restrictions, going there again is on hold. Lived there for 9 months and would go back in a heartbeat. That's saying something considering I lived in a "boring" city, Ankara.

Amsterdam was a blast. Rome is amazing.
Are you doing Olmsted?
 

nittany03

FUBIJAR
pilot
None
Super Moderator
Contributor
#37
Oh, is it ever. See Rome and die? They weren't kidding. The only redeeming quality of Naples is the train station, because that's how you get to Rome. Had 3 days there; wish it was three weeks. I need to get back. So much history; if you're a history geek like me, you just can't take it all in. Our hotel was no more than 3 blocks from the Colosseum, Forum, the Arch of Titus, and in walking distance of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The Vatican Museums are worth a whole day just to themselves, and St. Peter's is one of the most gorgeous sights I've seen in my life. The scale is just overwhelming; you can't appreciate it without standing there. Michelangelo's Pieta is sadly behind bulletproof glass since some nutjob went after it with a chisel. If you go there, take the tour up to the cupola of the dome. What a view of the city.

The Sistine Chapel is also amazing, yet partially ruined by a bunch of Vatican docents with bullhorns continuously (and ironically) blaring "KVIET PLEEZE! KVIET PLEEZE!" Dude. Shut up. I'm trying to be awestruck here. The Pantheon is in a bit of a more run-down section of town, but nothing that felt dangerous or anything.

I love Rome.
 
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xj220

Will fly for food.
pilot
Contributor
#38
Bratislava and Krakow are high on my list of places I've been. Bratislava is very small, but there is a lot to see, especially if you appreciate good food (goulash, dumplings, great soups and stews), beer, and the most beautiful women you'll ever meet in your life. Not an exaggeration. A '6' there is a 10 in any other country. Also great history, especially related to Communism and the WWs.
Yeah, I've heard different things about Bratislava...
 

haimehhh

Active Member
#40
Yeah, I've heard different things about Bratislava...
ahaha, one of my all-time favorite movies.
While i was there a bratislava friend of mine took us to a slovakian rap group's album release party at Nu spirit (there are two nu spirits, one is a club– not as cool– the other is a bar in a brick tunnel– much cooler and nobody but bratislavans, make sure you can order in slovak or czech. For anyone whose seen Hostel, too– it was actually filmed in a town near Prague.
 

Hozer

Jobu needs a refill!
None
Contributor
#41
Oh, is it ever. See Rome and die? They weren't kidding. The only redeeming quality of Naples is the train station, because that's how you get to Rome. Had 3 days there; wish it was three weeks. I need to get back. So much history; if you're a history geek like me, you just can't take it all in. Our hotel was no more than 3 blocks from the Colosseum, Forum, the Arch of Titus, and in walking distance of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The Vatican Museums are worth a whole day just to themselves, and St. Peter's is one of the most gorgeous sights I've seen in my life. The scale is just overwhelming; you can't appreciate it without standing there. Michelangelo's Pieta is sadly behind bulletproof glass since some nutjob went after it with a chisel. If you go there, take the tour up to the cupola of the dome. What a view of the city.

The Sistine Chapel is also amazing, yet partially ruined by a bunch of Vatican docents with bullhorns continuously (and ironically) blaring "KVIET PLEEZE! KVIET PLEEZE!" Dude. Shut up. I'm trying to be awestruck here. The Pantheon is in a bit of a more run-down section of town, but nothing that felt dangerous or anything.

I love Rome.

(culture bullshit)...and the table wine and brushcetta is pretty much awesome too. And they don't leave the house unless they're dressed to the nines.
 

squeeze

Harrier Dude
pilot
Super Moderator
Contributor
#43
(Disclaimer: I am currently serving as a PEP officer with the Italian military. I have been stationed here for 18 months and have managed to see a large portion of the country during multiple seasons)

So here's my "executive summary" on Italy. If you want more specific info, feel free to PM me. This is just my opinion on my experiences here.

There is a lot more to Italy than the standard Rome-Florence-Venice vacation that many people take. That is not to say those aren't great destinations if you have a limited time and want the most bang for your buck.

Florence - Florence is probably my favorite city in Italy. It's beautiful, small enough to easily get around, has an amazing depth of art, food, and architectural history, and is perfectly situated to serve as a base for any trips out into Tuscany or further. I would recommend budgeting 3-4 days to cover Florence with at least 1 day set aside for exploring the Tuscan countryside. If you're into the Renaissance, there really is no better place to be. The best times to go would be anytime between April/May and September/October, EXCEPT for August. August is a bad time to tour pretty much anywhere in Italy, as that's when the Italians generally go on vacation, so a large amount of businesses are closed. That, and it's hot.

Florence has a train station that has high speed trains (www.trenitalia.it) that connect to all the major cities, making it an easy 4 hour ride to Venice, 2ish to Rome, 1 to Bologna. The Florence airport is a 20-ish euro cab ride into the city center. Don't bother renting a car (except to explore the countryside) as you can't drive in most of the center, and it's a small enough city to walk easily.

Rome - Rome is big. It's Italy's largest city with 6 or 7 million people and all the associated madness of such a city that also intertwined with lots and lots of ancient stuff. Rome has a little bit of everything for anyone. There is all the ancient Roman stuff too see, there are the traditional markets in places like Campo dei Fiori, there's a good nightlife in Trastevere, Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori, and so on. People write books on Rome alone, so feel free to go get one of those. Wherever you go, I recommened bringing really comfortable shoes, as you will wind up walking a LOT in Rome. It's very spread out and using the metro or cabs can be a hassle. I don't particularly like Rome all that much. It's VERY touristy, very busy, and just too much for my tastes.

With that said, Rome is an easy place to start or end a vacation because FCO is a very-well connected international airport and pretty much every US provider flies in/out of there. Don't drive in Rome - it's just not worth it. Use the cabs or walk once you're there.

Venice - Venice is neat, but it's easy to cover in a day or two. I've been once with my parents. We spent two nights and about 2.5 days there. By the end we were just kind of wandering around, because we'd seen most everything. Do a private boat/walking tour, go in St Marks, ride a gondola if you want, go to Murano, have a Bellini at Harry's, and maybe treat yourself at Cipriani. That's Venice IMO. It's also unnecessarily expensive compared to the rest of Italy.

(to be continued...)
 

squeeze

Harrier Dude
pilot
Super Moderator
Contributor
#44
Some other places worth noting

Naples: Naples is dirty and crowded, but it has good food (it's the supposed home of pizza). Vesuvius provides a nice view and Pompeii and Hercolaneam are good for a history fix. For the military traveler, there are regular flights in/out of Capodichino, which doubles as a US base and the Naples Airport. If you're time-limited or want to keep in a smaller area, I would skip Naples itself. You can get a better South Italy experience in several other places.

Amalfi Coast: Beautiful. Positano is the only town I've stayed in down there, but I've seen a good chunk of it from sea and air. It's small, cute, and relaxed. There's fantastic seafood (eat at Da Adolfo) and it's the home of Limoncello. Positano is awesome. Google pictures. If you go there, you're likely travelling through Naples. It's a short trip from Naples down to Sorrento, and along the coast. In the right weather it's a beautiful drive along the ocean.

Modena/Maranello: I'm a huge car nerd, so if you want your Ferrari fix, I can recommend this. Modena is also the home of balsamic vinegar, so you can do tastings and tours there just like the wineries in other parts. There are two Ferrari museums, one at the factory in Maranello, and one in Enzo's old garage in Modena. It's also really easy to rent one and tear around the countryside. I rented a 458 for an hour (500 euro) and it was well Worth it. Bologna is home to Lamborghini and Ducati if that's more your thing. The Whole pianura, or the Po river valley, geographically speaking, is rather bland, so don't expect lots of pretty hilltop castles and Tuscan-style villas. It's the industrial heartland of Italy.

Milan: Never been, but I know a lot of people who have. It's got a duomo and is the mecca for high-fashion if that's your bag. I don't really have any desire to go for whatever that's Worth. On the plus side, it's near Lake Como, so it makes sense as a connection.

Puglia: This is the "heel" of the boot and the region I live in now. It's largely 'undiscovered' tourist-wise, but a great place for food and beaches. The food down South is much simpler than the heartier dishes from the North. Fewer ingredients, but lots of flavor. You have some of the best beaches in Italy - this is where many Italians travel to during the summer - both on the Adriatic and Ionian. The Gargano peninsula (the spur on the heel) has tons of beaches and caves along the water that can only be explored by boat. Rent a gommone (RHIB) and wander the coast. There are a ton of little towns dotted all over that each have their own particular charm (Matera, Polignano a Mare, Otranto, etc...), but are not as tourist-centric as some of the major cities, and therefore great deals. The South is much more agrarian than the North, so it has a much more lax lifestyle and is a little poorer and less modern than other zones.

Sicily: Taormina is cool and has fantastic views. Siracusa is a cool little seaside city a bit further South down the coast that has a lot of ruins and is good to checkout if you're in the area. Noto is a cute little city that does this crazy flower festival in May (?). Catania is a big city, but has a giant fish market and some good areas to check out on the waterfront. Palermo, outside of the main piazzas, is dirty and sketchy as hell.

Sardegna: Most beautiful water I've ever seen. Porto Cervo is on the northeast coast along the "Costa Smeralda" and nearby some Island nature preserves that are well Worth checking out. Porto Cervo itself is EXPENSIVE as hell, but it's easy to stay outside of it for a lot less. Rent a boat and sail around to check out all the Amazing water and beaches. I can't emphasize enough how Amazing the water is there.

(part 2 of probably 3)
 

villanelle

Nihongo dame desu
Contributor
#45
I liked Sorrento even better than Positano. And there are wonderful, quite villages just up the hill from Sorrento where you can stay much cheaper and get away a bit. The one we stayed in was Saint... Something, I believe, which is no help at all. We took the bus in and out of Sorrento, and had a bus pick from the tour us up there and drive us to the dock for a day trip to Capri. I liked Capri, but preferred Sorrento (and Positano). It was worth a day trip though.
 
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