July 6, 2015
I went to Barcelona with a friend in 2013. We went with Ryan air to Gerona air port.
Going on 30 cant wait
I THINK A WEEK IN BARCA IS WHAT YOU NEED?X
was it fun?
My Travels in Germany
Good old Germany…Where to begin! I lived in Germany for almost two years and have been to just about every corner of the country. I’ve had both good and not so good experiences there, but overall it was a really great experience. From Berlin’s crazy Love Parade in July, to Munich’s Oktoberfest, and any number of music and beer festivals the people here certainly know how to have a good time.
The second world war destroyed Germany. Most of the old historic architecture and cities were destroyed, with few exceptions. Many buildings have since been re-built but even now you’ll find construction sites repairing buildings that were destroyed in the war and of course many buildings which were neglected by the communists in the former Eastern Germany.
Hotels in Germany
Hotels in Germany fill up fast, in all the major cities like Berlin and Munich. Book a hotel reservation as soon as you know where you’re going! You can also book Germany Motels and other Germany Hotels.
Flights to Germany
Germany has many airports in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt. Frankfurt is the biggest, and the second largest in Europe so you’ll probably end up there. Flights to Frankfurt can be found pretty cheap if you go at the right time, and from Frankfurt you can also to connect to pretty much anywhere else in the world.
Top 10 Cheap Backpacking Tips
Pack Light. With backpacking, your mantra should always be pack light. …
Camp Out. …
Get a Hostel with a Kitchen. …
Bring Your Own Snacks. …
Buy a Train Pass. …
Walk, Don’t Take a Cab. …
Be Careful of Pickpockets and Scam Artists. …
Visit the Liquor Store.
LONDON!!! Please dont laugh but I spent 7 years working in London and living in the back off my van. Yes the back off my van. Only April to Oct but yes saving the money and backpacking in the winter many around Asia. Here sum tips for London if you wanna do it cheap? Get a Oyster card for the underground and buses, you get them from any corner shop and top them up in the station, never go to the counter and get ticket they only give you the high price. There are loads hostels in London around £ 15 a night. Or buy a van lol or buy a tent iv seen this a lot. I used to get the underground to Vaxhaul and walk to the site much cheaper than getting the train all the way. I got my food and drink in Tesco for the day and would see the sites every Sat and Sunday for free. Ok my treat was Costa coffee sit in £2. Then back to the van for a nice sleep with my Tesco food and only spent about £15 for both days Sat and Sunday. You can do any city cheap if you really want to.
SPAIN, I wanted to write my little story when I visited Murcia in Spain. Its cost me £ 78 return Easy jet from Gatwick London. I went in Jan for 3 weeks and the weather was 18-20c every day amazing. I rent my friends apartment next to the beach at £ 300 for the month, there are loads off apartments there for rent at this kind price. But I was shocked to see all the motors homes there on sites next to the beach all hooked up on there pitches. Why not 6 months there in motor home and 6 months in England. There are a lot English there and English news paper shops selling all the English papers. I got up had full English walk into the town got paper and food from Supermarket and had a coffee and would walk home and relax in the sun by the beach in Jan when England was freezing. Great food and wine and the people where very nice. If you had camper van you could live there very cheap in the sun.
TRAVELING AROUND EUROPE!!! TIME YOUR TRIP WISELY!!!!
If you decide to travel during the peak summer season, try heading east – the Balkan coastline, the Slovenian mountains and Baltic cities are all fantastic places for making the most of your money. When tourist traffic dies down as autumn approaches, head to the Med. The famous coastlines and islands of southern Europe are quieter at this time of year, and the cities of Spain and Italy begin to look their best. Wintertime brings world-class skiing and epic New Year parties. Come spring it’s worth heading north to the Netherlands, Scandinavia, France and the British Isles, where you’ll find beautifully long days and relatively affordable prices.
2. Take the train
Getting around by train is still the best option, and you’ll appreciate the diversity of Europe best at ground level. Plus, if you make your longest journeys overnight and sleep on the train, you’ll forego accommodation costs for the night. Most countries are accessible with an Interrail Global pass or the equivalent Eurail pass. Depending on your time and budget, choose one corner of the continent then consider a budget flight for that unmissable experience elsewhere. Make sure you check out our tips for travelling by train in Europe.
Rail travel Europe
3. Be savvy about accommodation
Although accommodation is one of the key costs to consider when planning your trip, it needn’t be a stumbling block to a budget-conscious tour of Europe. Indeed, even in Europe’s pricier destinations the hostel system means there is always an affordable place to stay – and some are truly fantastic. Homestays will often give you better value for money than most hotels so they are also worth considering. If you’re prepared to camp, you can get by on very little while staying at some excellently equipped sites. Come summer, university accommodation can be a cheap option in some countries. Be sure to book in advance regardless of your budget during the peak summer months.
4. Plan your trip around a festival
There’s always some event or other happening in Europe, and the bigger shindigs can be reason enough for visiting a place. Be warned, though, that you need to plan well in advance. Some of the most spectacular extravaganzas include: St Patrick’s Day in Ireland, when Dublin becomes the epicentre of the shamrock-strewn, Guinness-fuelled fun; Roskilde in Denmark, Glastonbury’s Scandinavian rival with a mass naked run thrown in for good measure; and Italy’s bizarre battle of the oranges in Ivrea.
ROME, is one of the most exciting and historically fascinating cities in the world, and a hugely popular location for gap year backpackers, especially those on InterRailing trips through Europe. The Italian capital does have a reputation for being a bit pricey, and as such many travellers shyaway. But with a little research you’ll quickly see that the Eternal City can easily be experienced on a budget – at least one relative to other cities in Western Europe.pexels-photo-219041
Affordable and centrally based hostels in Rome are abundant, and you’ll typically be looking at around €25 per night. Although there are loads to choose from, one which comes particularly recommended is Alessandro Palace. This friendly hostel opened in 1990 andwas quickly establishedas one of the most popular places in Rome for travellers on a budget.
The Bramble Bar & Kitchen – right next to the Alessandro Palace – offers good drinks (beers, cocktails, a list of fine Italian wines and a variety of spirts etc.) and authentic Italian cuisine. Also offers adiscount voucher (a 5% on food at dinner) to the Alessandro Palace hostel guests.
Get around Rome
Rome is blissfully easy and cheap to get around in. Although many of the main sites are clustered together, the city has understandably grown a bit during its2700 year history, so you’ll probably end up hopping on the Metro at some point to avoid a long walk. There are just the two lines – A (red) and B (blue) – which together straddle an X shape across the city. In the unlikely event that none of the stops are anywhere near where you need to be, there is a good bus system.
No one understands the phrase “Sticking to a Budget” quite like a seasoned backpacker. And if you’re next
destination is Europe, this phrase should be no exception.
Regardless of whether this is your first trip to Bali or your twentieth, as a traveler you will know that there is
always something more to see or do. The real secret to getting by cheaply as a backpacker, and making the
most of your time, is following what the local Indonesian’s do when travelling and backpacking. You’ll
discover that exploring the island as the locals do has a beautiful way of revealing Bali in its most pure and
authentic form; a side of the island that is truly untarnished from the demands of tourism, remarkably loyal
to its own culture and traditions.
With this handy guide to budget eating, living and travel, money no longer has to be the defining factor in
making this trip the adventure of your life.
As one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, the sheer mass of people bustling around the
island should come as no real surprise. Everyday thousands of tourists arrive ready to party, shop or be
pampered in massage salons right round the clock. With no scarcity of high class shopping malls, a strip of
clubs that could challenge Las Vegas, and more 5 star hotels than you could ever dream, you would be
forgiven for thinking that the only tourist market that Bali caters for is people with money to burn.
The first thing I need to tell you about so called solo travel is that you’re hardly ever alone!
That’s the great thing about backpacking – it’s a social thing to do.
No matter where in the world I’ve been it’s never been an issue to meet new people – hell I even met a guy on my first flight to Australia and ended up travelling with him for 2 months!
I took a 3 week trip to Thailand before I started my current adventure and literally spent no more than 45mins without someone to talk too during the who thing.
Unless you really can’t talk to strangers or you put yourself across as cold, boring or super weird making new friends on the road is no worries at all, and more often than not you’ll join these new faces to explore with – whether that’s on a day trip or making your way around an entire country or continent you’ll never be short of friendly faces.
And the people you spend time travelling with will more often than not become some of your greatest and closest friends – travelling is a very intense and unique thing to share.
Had great time in my camper in south off Spain traveling around, great people and food.x
POLAND. There is a peaceful land where time stops. Where you wake up to the sound of leaves dancing with the wind. Where you fall asleep hearing chortling frogs competing with chirping birds. Where before breakfast you go to your neighbour to get fresh milk and eggs from their farm. Where you keep getting lost in the tall grass of colorful meadows and you never get enough. Where in the evening you stand on the hill and admire the pinkish Sun slowly hiding from the Moon.
The green lungs of Poland, Masurian Lake District (in Polish called Mazury), the wonder of nature. The cleanest region in Poland. A place where my heart always leads me to and every single thing I see, a moment I cherish, begs a photo.
mazury masurian lake district warmia polska poland wioska wieś village east eastern europe backpacker glamping camping
When to go there glamping, camping or backpacking?
I would say that you should go there somewhere between June and August. The weather is beautiful, it’s sunny and the forests are so green! Bear in mind that this is the high season and bigger cities can be crowded.
For fans of winter and snow I’d suggest December to February. Remember that people can be more sluggish during this period and there’s not many things to do. You won’t be able to swim but you can ice-skate instead. Don’t forget some warm clothes as it gets quite chilly at night.
mazury masurian lake district warmia polska poland wioska wieś village east eastern europe backpacker glamping camping
Where to camp, stay or park your van?
The Masuria region is pretty safe and calm and so are the camp sites. All camp sites in Poland have basic facilities and are usually situated among beautiful landscapes. Here are some of the most popular places for camping:
Camping Ukiel in Olsztyn
Camping Kama in Mikolajki
Camping Echo in Gizycko
Camping Katno in Katno
A farm in Barczewo
You can also book your stay via AirBnb! I think it’s a very good option to stay with the locals (why? See here!)
An interesting fact is that in Poland glamping has become more popular in the past years. Glamping is a kind of camping in nature but in a glamourous way. You don’t simply sleep in a small tent, you sleep in a luxurious, spacious one instead! Why all that? To stay close to nature but in better conditions.
How to get to Mazury?
I’d strongly suggest a road trip as the landscapes and the curvy roads are stunning. I have been to Masuria literally hundreds of times and I can never get enough of this place. Each time we go, I walk the same paths, eat the same things, see the same forests, yet it is always unique and magical. Each sunset is breathtaking, each morning is refreshing, and each night is peaceful.
If you don’t drive or don’t have much time to spend on the road, the easiest way to get there would be to go by plane to Gdańsk or Warsaw (depending to which part of this region you’re going.) Then you can take a bus, the public transport routes are fairly well developed in the area.
Buses to the smallest villages go only twice a day so it’s good to have a bike. A strong flashlight is a must!
If you want a holiday in Germany, but can’t quite stretch to a luxury hotel, there are plenty of clean, comfortable, affordable accommodations available all over the country. And, we are not just talking about places for young travellers only!
Germany is actually the home of the hostel – the first hostel in the world opened in the Altenia Castle in 1912 after a German schoolteacher complained there was no adequate or suitable lodging for young people travelling on their own. In Germany a Youth Hostel is a Jugendherberge. There are normally signs in most towns and cities that direct you to them.
For the first 60 or so years, hostels were fairly primitive. They really were an adventure for the young and the brave. Facilities were Spartan. But times have changed. Today, right now in fact, a wide range of travellers choose and prefer hostels for their stay regardless of age or family status – this includes families on a budget to couples on a romantic city break and even older travellers as well. In truth, virtually anyone who wants more mileage from their travels in terms of meeting real people and getting a genuine feel for their destination opt for hostels.
Although one of the perks of a hostel is that you can often just turn up and get a room, it’s best to check out your options online before you travel. Especially if you travel in peak season when your desired hostel may already be booked up!
By booking hostels in Germany online, you can check availability and the hostel facilities, look at photos of the room, and get cheaper room rates – making the whole experience far less stressful if it’s your first time in a hostel.
Also remember, during Oktoberfest it is crucial that you book Munich hostels well in advance. As one of the biggest beer festivals in the world, budget accommodation fills up fast in this city.
The original type of hostel, the Youth Hostel, is aimed at younger travellers and large school groups, and many often have an age limit – you have to be under-25 to stay in one.
Most Youth Hostels offer basic, shared accommodation, with large dorms, shared bathrooms and lockers to keep your belongings in.
Some, such as the Yes! Youth Education and Sport Hostel in Hamburg offers a range of accommodations and activities for large school groups.
Similar to Youth Hostels but with a more diverse clientele, there are backpacker hostels all over Germany, especially in student and party cities like Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin. These normally offer a wide range of rooms, from huge dorms to private rooms and ensuite bathrooms.
They also have extensive facilities to cater for travellers on the road, with full-size lockers and security, kitchens, eating areas, cafés and bars, and social space such as lounges with TVs.
Many backpacker or ‘party’ hostels are “extra social” and geared towards a wild city break – with no curfews, an extensive events calendar, and mixers so you can meet like-minded travellers.
Cautionary note: If you’d prefer a quiet holiday, you may wish to think twice or else be prepared for loud, enthusiastic revellers returning late at night!
Today, hostels attract a huge range of travellers because of course, everyone likes a bargain. The MEININGER Hotel Frankfurt/Main Messe for example is a Frankfurt hostel that offers private en suite rooms as well as family rooms with cots. Rooms are modern and although there is a bar, it is not a party hostel
On the more upscale end of the spectrum, ‘Boutique’ or ‘Flashpacking’ hostels are popping up in the major cities. These are aimed at travellers with a bit more cash than your average backpacker, or for those looking for budget accommodation that doesn’t skimp on style or facilities.
Many of these hostels have their own stylish bars, and some may even have a Jacuzzi! The Pfefferbett Hostel in Berlin has facilities that would rival a hotel. Located in the trendiest part of Berlin, this ultra-cool converted brewery has its own beer garden and private rooms.
Guesthouses, & Pension-Garni
For a more at-home touch, there are a great many guesthouses and lodges in Germany, especially in the more rural locations. These are usually converted family homes, so you get an authentic taste of German life and can take advantage of home comforts such as sitting rooms and gardens. Often the owners will treat you like one of their family complete with home-cooked meals.
Bed and Breakfasts as known in the US and the UK are very rare. However Pension Garni are ubiquitous. They are usually small, family run hotels that offer a room for the night and a morning meal, and are great if you want a home-like place to stay with a little more privacy, as well as a delicious, full-scale traditional breakfast!
If you prefer your independence, have no interest in meeting other travellers or require specific business facilities, stick to a hotel. Larger cities make it easier to pick and choose your style of accommodation so if you need apartments, hostels, guesthouses or cheap hotels Berlin can cater for all travellers.
SPAIN. From artistic Barcelona to hedonistic islands, Spain has always been a favorite travel destination for Europeans. Holidays to Spain don’t have to be particularly expensive; both a good volume of tourists and recent economic changes in Europe mean that a few good deals can still be found.
Great food, a slow-moving pace, and miles of gorgeous coastline continue to draw people of all holiday budgets to Spain. Whether hoping to relax with your family or looking to dance the night away with strangers, one of these hotspots in Spain will suit your holiday needs!
Where to Go in Spain
Costa Blanca: White beaches and 320 days of sunshine a year are plenty enough reasons to visit Costa Blanca. Scuba diving, water sports, and excellent nightlife in Benidorm will make singles happy, while Aqualand — one of the largest waterparks in Europe — will keep families with children entertained. Terra Mitica, the largest theme park in Spain, is a short ride away.
Costa Del Sol: With 100 miles of coastline, Costa Del Sol is a popular destination in Spain year around, particularly for English tourists who flock there during the summer months. Golfers will appreciate the 50 world-class courses in the area, while all will enjoy the legendary Picasso museum located nearby in Malaga. Costa Del Sol is also a launching point for day trips to Gibraltar and Tanzier.
Gibraltar: While technically a British colony, Gibraltar is on the tip of Spain and is considered the gateway to the Mediterranean. The Rock of Gibraltar has over 500 species of flowering plants, and the nature reserve there is home to the only wild monkeys in Europe. Large warships belonging to the Royal Navy regular call into Gibraltar.
Costa De La Luz: You’ll find the sand at Costa de la Luz a little softer than on other beaches, and the culture a little more vibrant. The city of Jerez in the region produces more than its share of sherry and brandy; the distilleries can be toured. Formula One racing can be seen in Jerez, or you can take a short ferry ride to Morocco to find completely different food and culture.
Costa Dorada: Only a two-hour flight from the U.K., Costa Dorada is just south of Barcelona — one of the most beautiful and popular cities in Spain. Costa Dorada is the place to go for lively beaches, trendy nightlife, and a five-star experience. Many of the 19th-century mansions in nearby Blanca have been restored as luxurious hotels.
Costa Almeria: With a relaxing atmosphere, relatively undeveloped coastline, and large nature reserve, Costa Almeria is the place to enjoy nature and forget about work for a while. The salt flats, sand dunes, and a network of trails are perfect for exploring while you keep an eye out for rare birds. You’ll have plenty of room to walk or run on the more than 200 miles of pristine coastline.
While this is just a small sampling of choices for holidays to Spain, any of the above destinations are guaranteed to have you returning to Spain the following year.
Here’s a rundown of what should go in your suitcase:
Shirts/blouses. Bring up to five short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts or blouses (how many of each depends on the season) in a cotton/polyester blend. Shirts with long sleeves that roll up easily can double as short-sleeved. Look for a wrinkle-camouflaging pattern or blended fabrics that show a minimum of wrinkles. Synthetic-blend fabrics (such as Coolmax or microfiber) often dry overnight.
Pants/shorts. Bring two pairs: one lightweight cotton and another super-lightweight pair for hot and muggy big cities. Jeans can be too hot for summer travel (and are slow to dry). Many travelers like lightweight convertible pants/shorts with zip-off legs. While not especially stylish, they’re functional in Italy, where you can use them to cover up inside churches while still beating the heat outside. Button-down wallet pockets are safest (though still not nearly as thief-proof as a money belt). If you bring shorts, one pair is probably enough. Shorts can double as a swimsuit for men when swimming in lakes or the sea.
Underwear and socks. Bring five sets (lighter dries quicker). Bamboo or cotton/nylon-blend socks dry faster than 100 percent cotton, which lose their softness when air-dried.
Shoes. Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes with good traction. Mephisto, Ecco, and Rieker look dressier and more European than sneakers, but are still comfortable. Sturdy, low-profile tennis shoes with a good tread are fine, too. For a second pair, consider sandals in summer. Flip-flops are handy if you’ll be using bathrooms down the hall. Whichever shoes you bring, make sure they are well broken in before you leave home.
Sweater or lightweight fleece. Warm and dark is best — for layering and dressing up.
Jacket. Bring a light and water-resistant windbreaker with a hood. Neutral colors used to look more European than bright ones, but now everything from azure blue to pumpkin orange has made its way into European wardrobes. A hooded jacket of Gore-Tex or other waterproof material is good if you expect rain. (For summer travel, I wing it without rain gear — but always pack for rain in Britain and Ireland.)
Tie or scarf. For instant respectability, bring anything lightweight that can break the monotony and make you look snazzy.
Swimsuit. To use public pools, you’ll need a swimsuit (men can’t just wear shorts; and in France, men need to wear Speedo-type swimsuits — not swim trunks).
Sleepwear/loungewear. Comfy streetwear — such as shorts, leggings, T-shirts, tank tops, yoga pants, and other lightweight athletic gear — can be used as pajamas, post-dinner loungewear, and a modest cover-up to get you to the bathroom down the hall.
Documents, Money, and Travel Info
Money belt (or neck wallet). This flat, hidden, zippered pouch — worn around your waist (or like a necklace) and tucked under your clothes — is essential for the peace of mind it brings. You could lose everything except your money belt, and the trip could still go on. Get a lightweight one with a low-profile color (I like beige). For more, see my article on money belts.
Money. Bring your preferred mix of a debit card, a credit card, and an emergency stash of hard US cash (in $20 bills).
Documents. Bring your passport; plane, train, and rental car documents or vouchers; driver’s license; and any other useful cards (student ID, hostel membership card, and so on). Photocopies and a couple of passport-type photos can help you get replacements more quickly if the originals are lost or stolen. In your luggage, pack a record of all reservations (print out your hotel confirmation emails). Bring any necessary contact info if you have health or travel insurance.
Guidebooks and maps. Pack the travel info you’ll need on the ground (or download it into your ereader). I like to rip out appropriate chapters from guidebooks and staple them together, or use special slide-on laminated book covers.
Small notepad and pen. A tiny notepad in your back pocket or day pack is a great organizer, reminder, and communication aid.
Journal. An empty book to be filled with the experiences of your trip will be your most treasured souvenir. Attach a photocopied calendar page of your itinerary. Use a hardbound type designed to last a lifetime, rather than a floppy spiral notebook. My custom-designed Rick Steves Travel Journals are rugged, simple blank books that come in two sizes. Another great brand, with a cult following among travel writers, is Moleskine.
Small day pack. A lightweight pack is great for carrying your sweater, camera, guidebook, and picnic goodies while you leave your large bag at the hotel or train station. Don’t use a fanny pack — they’re magnets for pickpockets.
POLAND. For anyone who doesn’t know any better, Poland is pretty great. With beautiful cities all over the place and prices around half of what you’d expect to pay in Western Europe, Poland is a budget traveler’s paradise. It’s getting more and more popular along the backpacker circuit (particularly the party hotspot of old town Krakow), but even so, it remains comparatively quiet, considering all the old-world charm (and spectacular vodka) that’ll greet you at every turn.
And this isn’t even one of the famous places.
Part of the reason it’s such a positive memory for me is that years later, I met an American guy who had never been to Poland, and had grown up on American playgrounds, hearing Polish jokes all time, poking fun at his culture. He had no idea what it was really like. All I wanted to do was share what made Poland so enjoyable for me, and inspire him to go visit. I think I succeeded.
There are a million fun things to do in Poland, and although it’s becoming an increasingly popular expat destination, it’s also huge, so it’s easy to get away from the crowds. There’s lots to explore, lots of places to see, lots of pierogis to eat, lots of vodka to drink.
Onward we go!
Awesome things to do in Poland
(according to me)
1) Savor the old town charm of central Krakow
Sukiennice, Cloth Hall, Krakow, Poland
And you thought the Eastern bloc was all drabby grey concrete blocks, didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU?!?!
There’s a reason this is one of the most popular cities in Central and Eastern Europe, and for a lot of visitors to Poland, this is their only stop. It’s not how I like to travel, but it’s easy to see why. Krakow is one of the not-so-many cities in the region that didn’t get flattened by Team Hitler.
The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with many buildings dating back hundreds of years, including many of the major sites, such as St. Mary’s Basilica and the massive Cloth Hall on the town square, and Wawel Castle up on the hill, all of which date back to the 14th century.
But for plenty of visitors, it’s not so important how old things are, but how drunk they can get. And Krakow knows how to deliver, with some of the highest numbers of bars per capita of any city anywhere in the world. From tiny hole-in-the-wall places to snazzy jazz bars and fancy clubs, there’s evening entertainment all over the place. But it’s also authentic bar culture, due to the massive student population, unlike some of the seedier nightlife in other former Eastern bloc countries.
Krakow is often referred to as “the next Prague” for its similar combination of comparatively cheap prices, lively bar culture, and nearly millennium-old architecture. It’s absolutely spectacular. The world knows it, but it hasn’t lost its charm. Which is why it’s still called the next Prague, rather than another Prague.
PS: Krakow is obviously the sound of a spaceship laser gun. Just ask Calvin.
2) Get rejected by Face Control
Carpe Diem Club, Poland
For people who failed to seize the day the night before, or who had such a great time they want to seize another one. Photo by Rj1979.
People will tell you this is something that happens in Eastern Europe, but in reality, it’s something that happens everywhere on the planet. If you’re not cool enough to be in the club, they won’t let you in. But it’s a little different in Eastern Europe, where it’s actually called Face Control, thus implying that the reason they won’t let you in is because they don’t like your face.
My only experience with this was in Warsaw, where the bouncer let us know the club “wasn’t open yet.” In his defense, it was only 9pm.
(Sidenote: The girl who was “totally sure” she’d get rejected by face control had no reason whatsoever to be fearful.)
This is generally only a thing in the discotheque or nightclub scene, but if that’s where you’re heading, it helps to follow a few simple tips:
Be well dressed
Don’t be stumbling like a drunken idiot
Bring lots of ladies with you
If they tell you it’s “full,” just ask if there’s another bar in the area they could recommend instead.
That last one worked like a charm.
3) Savor the magnificence of Żubrówka Vodka
Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka
Accept no substitutes. Photo by Jojo.
If Poland is famous for anything, it’s for vodka. And they do this very well.
One of the most famous Polish vodkas is Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka, which is spectacularly good, and totally illegal in the United States. Apparently there’s a compound called coumarin in the grass used to flavor the drink that has potentially toxic effects.
Apparently no one took the time to consider the fact that alcohol will totally kill you too. Seriously, they banned a drink because it has trace amounts of harmful substances? It’s 40% alcohol! The alcohol will kill before the grass ever does!!!
Okay, rant over. I get very upset over my inability to purchase amazingly good vodka. But if you go to Poland, be sure to give this a try. It’s actually so good that you can drink it straight from the bottle. Well, I can, anyway. But it’s also mixed into cocktails along with apple juice, ginger ale, or other things.
It’s a distinctively Polish treat, and one of the very few things on the planet that hasn’t been made universally available through globalization, so it might be the only time you can ever sample the magic.
There are knockoffs available in the States (which, let me tell you, are absolutely horrible), as well as a coumarin-free version produced by the real company, but there’s no substitute for the original. Mmmmm.
4) Dig through the Wieliczka Salt Mines
Wieliczka Salt Mine Cathedral, Poland
Let me describe to you the most ingenious idea for reviving the fortunes of an old mining town once the mine has run out: Make it a tourist attraction!
And that’s exactly what the Wieliczka Salt Mine has become. You wouldn’t imagine that a museum dedicated to people digging for salt would become a popular tourist draw, but that’s exactly what it is. It’s an easy day trip from Krakow, and it’s just great.
The mine itself was in continuous operation from the 13th century up until 2007, and nowadays it sees over a million visitors a year, who take the tiny elevator down into the depths and explore the “buildings” inside, which include chapels, statues, and even a whole cathedral carved out from the rock. It’s fascinating, and entirely different from the usual pretty buildings that make up most tourist itineraries.
There’s plenty of beauty here too, of course, but it’s interesting to walk through something that was a real work site for hundreds of years. And for most of that time, no one had flashlights.
5) Somberly visit Auschwitz
Auschwitz concentration camp photos, Poland
Visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp is quite an experience.
So it’s not all fun and games in Poland. In fact, most of Poland’s recent history has been anything but fun, and nowhere is this painful history more visible than at Auschwitz.
I’ll save sharing my experience visiting Auschwitz for its own post, but suffice it to say it’s something of a disquieting experience, though I’ll make the quick point that it was a massive tragedy for huge numbers of non-Jews as well.
The (required) tour provides a great deal of information, taking the visitors through the showers and ovens, and other exhibits built later.
Particularly striking were the shoes, collected by the millions, and now piled behind a glass display. Every pair was a person. You can see which ones were the kids, the men, the women, and you start imagining stories, personalities, families, friends, and everything else that a real person has.
Of all the things to see in Poland, Auschwitz is a must if you’re anywhere in the area. It’s an easy day trip from Krakow, though the camp is large enough that the visit plus the drive will take several hours.
6) Confuse your friends by visiting sand dunes
Słowiński National Park sand dunes, Poland
Enter Sandman. Photo by Kapsuglan.
“Hey guys, I’m in Poland! Check out the sand dunes!”
No one will have any idea what’s going on.
Over at the Słowiński National Park in northern Poland, it looks just like the Sahara. You can take beach-like photos and annoy your buddies who thought you were going to a frozen wasteland because that’s all they think Poland is. Yay!
Campsites and hotels offer accommodation for those wanting to stick around a bit longer, and walking trails lead you through the park. Aside from the sand, there are forests as well, so it’s a nice place for the outdoorsy types to enjoy in between city visits.
7) Indulge your inner 7-year old boy at all the castles
Malbork Castle, Poland
Malbork, the brickiest brick fort in all of brickdom.
Despite the fact that most people associate castles with Western Europe, and their only image of Central and Eastern Europe is communist propaganda and bread lines, this part of the world has been at war with itself for thousands of years, and thus…castles!
Easily the most visited is Wawel in Krakow, since, well…it’s in Krakow. And no amount of vodka-induced hangover can keep people away. But there are plenty of other castles in Poland, some easily accessible, some a bit out of the way, and they’re all pretty great. I mean, all castles are great. If you disagree, go away and hide in a cave forever.
#2 is Malbork Castle, which also happens to be the world’s largest brick castle, just outside of Gdansk, way up in the north. It’s a popular one as well, and a great day trip from the city.
Lesser-known Polish castles include Książ (which is absolutely spectacular), plus the ruins of Chojnik and Krzyżtopór. And I’ll always vote in favor of visiting an out-of-the-way castle, since then you can get it all to yourself, and it’s amazing.
8) Confuse the intricately carved cheese for wooden sculptures
Oscypek Polish cheese, Poland
Seriously, what would you have thought this was? Photo by Reytan.
So I know this is a bit of a dumb suggestion, since it’s not that big a deal, but I love discovering distinctively local things, and “cheese that kinda looks like a neck massager or something” is something I’ve only ever seen in Poland.
And I had a lot of it.
This smoked, salted sheep’s cheese, made exclusively in the Tatra Mountains of southern Poland, and known as Oscypek, is sold all over, and makes for a nice backpacker snack that’ll last for a while and give you plenty of calories when you’re dumbly stuck in the middle of some train station layover town out in the semi-wilderness. It never happened to me, I swear. Shut up.
I almost feel bad eating it because it’s so decoratively carved, but then I bite into it and I don’t feel bad anymore.
9) Get your Tatra on
Tatra mountains in Poland
Mmmm, mountainy. Photo by Ogrodnik.
The Tatra mountain range offers spectacular hiking opportunities to fans of the outdoors, with beautiful forests, craggy peaks, tranquil lakes, and diverse wildlife.
And I was far too exhausted to deal with any of that. Night trains take a lot of out a person, and dammit, I was tired.
But I did hike in the Slovakian Tatras, and that was pretty neat. They’re the same mountains anyway. That’s my excuse!
But if you love the mountains as much as I love a good bottle of vodka, there are hiking opportunities all over southern Poland, particularly around Zakopane. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, there’s Orla Perć, which is considered the most challenging and dangerous of any hike in the Tatras.
Suck it, Alps.
10) Stay at an old lady’s house
Houses in Zakopane, Poland
Newer developments in Zakopane, though I stayed in a place that was somewhat similar, though older.
This is a tradition that might not be around forever. Back in the day (and that day is still somewhat here), tourist infrastructure was insufficient all over Eastern Europe, and many countries encouraged citizens to rent out a spare room to visitors. It’s the original AirBNB! Well, not the original, but…whatever.
It’s actually pretty neat. I was only able to do this a few times, and it’s really all over the place in terms of accommodation quality, and it’s not like you can see the room ahead of time (though you can say no once you get there), but come on, staying in an old Polish lady’s house? How can you say no?!?!
They hang out at the train stations in some of the smaller towns, holding signs that say “room” in several different languages, and although the language barrier was practically insurmountable (it helps if you speak German), they were always friendly, helpful, and happy to have a guest. And just like any mom, the Polish lady that hosted me in Zakopane offered me a cup of tea before bedtime.
Prices are similar to budget hotels or hostels (which, in Poland, can be very cheap), and it’s a great chance to get a look at “real” life, which is so often completely invisible on the backpacker trail. I enjoyed it every time. Don’t expect a fancy shower, though. Expect an authentic cultural experience. And a new Polish mom.
Share your favorite things to do in Poland!
So this was just my personal list, which should be rather obvious given its 10% vodka ratio, but I can’t possibly list every amazing Polish activity out there. If you’ve got any things to do in Poland that you’re dying to share, share ’em, and I’ll get to them on the next trip. Eventually.
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