If you are looking for a city break with a difference, there are plenty of places to choose from in Europe.
From Warsaw, Kraków and Gdańsk in Poland, to Budapest in Hungary, and on to Bucharest in Romania, these countries are rich in history, architecture, and culture. If you get away from the beaten track, away from the cities, you will find some truly unique places, full of charm.
These countries that have something very important in common: a recent history with the Soviet Union, which has had a substantial impact on their cultures.
Although there are differences, and just like a French person would not like France to be thrown into the same bag as England as just being “Western European countries”, there are similarities too.
If we choose to go on holiday to these countries, many of us from Britain would be visiting for the first time, and it’s useful to know a little of what you might expect, and how to best fit in.
So for something a little bit different this month, we asked Agness and Cez from etramping.com, a popular travel blog, to give us their expert opinion on what you should – and shouldn’t – do when you are on holiday in these exciting places.
Not only have they travelled most of the region, but since they’re from Poland they have first-hand experience on the subject!
Here’s their advice for us:
Do: Enjoy the exchange rate, which is still reasonable
There’s no need to pinch your pennies while visiting this part of the continent. A thousand pounds will still get you a modestly lavish holiday here.
Remember that although Poland, Hungary, and Romania are all members of the European Union, they each have their own currency.
Do: Enjoy some unique sights
Are you passionate about folk tales and architecture? Take a trip to the Bran Castle (also known as “Dracula’s Castle”) in Transylvania, Romania.
Budapest in Hungary is also a nice place for some sight-seeing. Enjoy a ferry ride on the Danube and take some splendid photographs of the Parliament buildings along the way. A relaxing walk along the promenades will be just as satisfying though, if not more so.
Of course, you also have the opportunity to soak up the sun or have a swim. The Balaton Lake in Hungary is especially suited for that purpose. Otherwise, you can delight in a long walk on the Sopot Beach in Poland. If you’re in the area, you can’t miss the fantastic city of Gdansk.
Do: Benefit from the hospitality and cuisine
If you plan on visiting the countryside, you’re in for a treat. People there are fascinated by people from other countries, so you can definitely indulge in the traditional culture.
Prepare your taste buds for some traditional cuisine, as well. Cabbage rolls are a must-try, whether it’s “gołąbki” in Poland, “sarmale” in Romania, or “töltött káposzta” in Hungary. That last one is quite a mouthful! Goulash is also a favourite of the locals. Although it originates in Hungary, you can find it on the menu in almost all of Eastern – and even Central – Europe.
Don’t: Push into a queue, and don’t take offence
Our people are hospitable, but we are also very forward and honest. We will not hesitate to draw your attention if you push into a queue for whatever reason. (Of course, being British, you would never do this!). Having lived under the Communist regime, our population still remembers the dreary days of food lines.
One other thing to note when it comes to our honesty: don’t take offence to seemingly “rude” comments. 99% of the time they don’t come from a place of malice. If you have something on your face, or stuck between your teeth, we will tell you! So if somebody says this to you, thank them for their time, and move on!
And last, but not least…
Do: Act modestly
Many of our people appreciate kindness, modesty, and respectfulness above all else. Most will treat you in this manner, so you should do the same in return. Of course, there are some bad apples (as with anywhere else, for that matter). You can generally avoid those people if you don’t flaunt your wealth around.
One last thing: if you can, avoid political subjects – not because they’re taboo, but because you will never hear the end of it!