Eastern Road » Review by Jessica
Overall, this was a phenomenal journey! I would definitely recommend it to MOST. If you're interested in culture, history, communism, WWII, sightseeing, etc. then this is your trip. If you are ONLY interested in alcohol and sex, maybe not so much. You can definitely get your drink on, but you need to think about if you really want to visit Auschwitz when you're hungover and if you really want to have a splitting headache when you're on a two hour bike tour of Prague. If you just want to drink and sleep, not your trip.
Overall tips: Poland is cheap - if you need to get gifts, get them in Poland! Always have snacks on hand, i.e. granola bars, because there are some days when we are just go-go-go and end up starving! Fly into Berlin and fly out of Warsaw, don't bother with the transfer from Warsaw to Berlin.
And as always, be on time to everything. The group WILL leave you and we will probably laugh about it, too. Don't be that person.
As far as the hotels go, they were all satisfactory and within reasonable distance to major centers. Those, like Austria and Budapest, which were not centrally located had easy public transportation. The only hotel location that was not satisfactory was in Berlin - a mile walk to the U-bahn station. Fine during the day, but a little sketchy at night.
More Specific Tips...
Germany: In Berlin, definitely do the daytime walking tour but the Eye Spy tour is a glorified pub crawl of two rather crappy bars. The Communist-themed bar was a let-down, mostly just red. The next place we went was disgusting. Next to the Berliner Dom, the Lustgarten has a great fountain that's perfect to cool off in. Don't waste your time with a big sit-down lunch in Dresden; grab a sandwich to go because you don't have long.
Czech Republic: In Prague, the walking tour is long but necessary. I skipped the bunker tour and didn't regret it. Definitely do the traditional Czech evening - in fact, do all the optional dinners. Aside from a good time, they're a bonding experience with the group. Kutna Hora is very small and the bone church is all there is so don't expect much. Get rid of your Czech crowns here. If you stop at the really strange amusement park/truck stop in the Czech Republic, just go over to the mall and get KFC. You won't be able to eat at the restaurants in the complex within the allotted hour.
Austria: In Vienna, enjoy your evening at Prater and definitely do some rides! And get the little sugared donuts. Climbing the Stephansdom was interesting, but there's just a small room at the top with some windows. History buffs should check out the Kaisergruft. Definitely take the Schnapps tour because it's cheap and you get three (or more) small shots as well as a trip to Schonbrunn Palace. The Mozart evening was fun, but don't feel bad if you decide to skip it. Definitely go to Tel Aviv Beach at night in Vienna - open air bars along with river! Save your Euros because Slovakia uses them, too, and you'll be there for two lunches. Hungary: Definitely do the river cruise.
Hungarian Parliament was beautiful, but you could skip it and not miss too much. The tour guide does bring you to Saint Stephen's Basilica, too, which is a good take-off point for the day. Go to Szechenyi for the baths but be prepared for a confusing system there - try and read about it online first. Go to the Shoes on the Danube Promenade, too - they're across from Parliament but hard to get to. Walk down the river away from Parliament and you'll see some pathways down to the riverfront. Tram 2 is easy to remember and a quick trip back to the Mercure. ChaChaCha offered a chill night out, but the place next to it is better. When getting in a Budapest taxi, set the price ahead of time.
Poland: In Krakow, do the salt mine tour extra, but understand that the mine is very much a tourist attraction. Beware if you have an elevator phobia though. Krakow is a great laidback town without a lot of big sites. The walking tour gets the necessary sites out of the way, then head to Old Town and visit the Cloth Hall for shopping. Definitely eat at Marmolada and get the fried meat pierogies - best I've ever had. Krakow is the only city I didn't take a taxi or public transport in because the hotel is so close! In Auschwitz, just be prepared for the emotions. In Czestochowa, go to the left inside the abbey to find the painting, but don't expect to get close. This is more of a really pretty and maybe miraculous bathroom stop. Still, definitely go inside and find the painting - it only takes ten minutes. In Warsaw, visit the Warsaw Rising museum, but other than that there's not a whole lot to see. Just enjoy the Old Town and have a nice, long lunch. Visit the PoleArt store that's in the square with the mermaid fountain. Don't skip out on your last night out because I think you'd regret it. Enjoy your last hurrah :)
Review written Aug 2013event 0.3