One of the most fun activities to do with friends during the summer or really anytime is backpacking. For some college students it is like a right of passage. If you are into the outdoors, roughing it, exploring new places, and going into the unknown…well then this is for you. Imagine hopping onto a flight to Eastern Europe (only one of the coolest places on earth) and heading in any direction you please. One day you are in Moscow and the next you’re in Turkey. What a rush it is to wake up in the morning and not know the next place you will be. You’re in college, you’re young. Why not get out there now and explore far off places you have only dreamed of seeing? There is really no better time then right now.
Places to go in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is one of the most fun places in the world to visit. It is so different then the comforts of home and practically calls for backpackers. Yet you don’t have to travel outside of Europe to get the rush. Russia is an elegant country with some pretty impressive cities. It serves as either a jumping off point or a nice finish to your trip. Either way you will not want to pass this up. If you are interested in doing a little loop then check out Belarus, Poland, Austria, Budapest, and Turkey. Once you’ve stopped in at each of these countries you will really be able to say that you explored Eastern Europe. Another cool thing about being in Eastern Europe is that if you choose to bump over to Northern Europe or Western Europe you definitely can. Europe is one of the most easy to travel places in the world. Much easier in fact then the US. Below, in What To See, you will be able to read up on what exactly there is to do in the main cities of these countries and further read on what makes these places so much fun.
What to see in Eastern Europe
Moscow, Russia is one of the most elegant cities in Europe. With St. Basil and the Kremlin, this place screams royalty. Most of the important buildings are adorned with gold, gems, or a combination. Some important art work pieces are housed here as well. Then take the train to St. Petersburg. The second largest city in Russia and the location of the Royal Winter Palace. This city was founded by Peter the Great and was home to the former Czars. Right on the water, it is cool and calming. The history pours out of the buildings here. The Russian Countryside is also nice and if you have the time definitely should be checked out. While here grab some vodka on the go. It makes a great take-home gift too. Poland is fairly close and on the way to Austria. When in Poland head to Warsaw. Besides the lovely countryside, it is the only city worth spending some time in. Not only the largest city by population, Warsaw is also the capital with lots of interesting government buildings and historical monuments. Castle Square is the largest and most obvious sight. The centerpiece of this majestic city will take you away with the quaint, old buildings and open space. Tours around Old Town are very popular. There are companies that will take you around with a guide, which is helpful if you have never been before. And then of course there is the Royal Palace and castle. Worth a visit, there is usually no wait to get in and look around. Once you have seen Poland, which takes a few days, it’s off to Austria, like from the Sound of Music. Once the home of a singing nun, this country is now a tourist hot spot. Austria, in German, is known as the Eastern Realm. This is because there is so much culture and history. Just at the edge of Eastern Europe, this place is a perfect addition to any backpacking trip. This is much more for the outdoor lovers. The big thing here is outdoor sports and adventure. Biking, hiking, and water activities are what is hot here. Then there is the lovely Vienna. Capital of Austria, Vienna commands the presence of the entire country. Both in striking beauty and in the richness of its’ history. Point in case, the twenty-four hundred year old Venus of Willendorf statue. Spend a day at the Hofburg Palace, Belvedere, Kunsthistorisches Museum, and see the unique Hundertwasserhaus, which is a colorful apartment building. Budapest, located in Hungary, is one of a kind. The feel of royalty hits you almost immediately after arriving. At night this becomes much more apparent as most main buildings light up including the Buda Castle. Stay within Buda, Castle Hill, and Pest for the majority of attractions. Besides the usual museums and art galleries, Budapest offers much more to college travelers. Margaret Island is a great place to explore. Spend a day soaking up the sun and relaxing. Then head to the Parliament Building. This royally decorated building is adorned with lavish features. Most of what can be enjoyed in Budapest must be experienced by walking around the city, getting the local’s perspective. Finishing a backpacking trip in Eastern Europe in Turkey is the best part of the whole trip. You get the convenience of location as well as the Mediterranean breeze and Asian influence. Istanbul, the capital and largest city, has the amazing Hammas. A Hammas is a Turkish bath and a traditional activity in Turkey. Rejuvenate the body and relax your muscles in one of these comfortable baths, they are all over the city too. Turkish water pipes are a fun activity at night. At bars locals, sit around tables and smoke these hooka-looking pipes. Head to the coast and spend some time at the beach before heading home. It’s really the perfect way to wrap up your trip.
How to get there
Europe is most accessible through the train system. Fast trains like Eurail offer fast, comfortable trains as well as sleeper carts for night trips. It is the easiest and most cost effective way to get from one place to the other. Individual countries have other modes of transportation, like bus lines. In Turkey you can also take a Istanbul liner from the city to surrounding areas. As noted above you will want to purchase your eurail ticket ahead of time. Not only does this cut down on confusion, but it also lets you save money in the long run. The train from Russia to Poland is easy and a nice ride. From here to Vienna you will enjoy the picturesque countryside and view out your window. The benefit of taking a night train, also, is that you won’t have to pay for a hostel or hotel for that night. Thus saving even more money on your Eastern Europe backpacking adventure.
Eastern Europe travel tips
- Purchase a rail pass to save money on individual trips.
- Check the weather before leaving. Russia has a very different climate than Turkey.
- International calling cards may work in some countries and not others so it’s worth it to look into before traveling.