Until just a few years ago, most of my holidays have been to other continents and Europe has been left mainly unexplored. After having a random discussion some months ago with a friend about the different places we have been to, I started to think that it is rather strange that when living in Europe, I’ve been to all over south-east Asia, Australia, NZ and the Caribbean to name a few, but never been to places like Rome, Prague, Vienna etc. So I looked up the “Cities I’ve Visited”-app on Facebook and took a thorough look over Europe to see where were the places I have not yet been to, but want to go. The Balkans are high on my bucket list, but with only 11 days to spend, I decided it is not time for that yet. Instead, I looked up north from the Balkans to find three capitals near each other that were yet to be discovered – Prague, Bratislava and Vienna. And so the planning begun. Somewhere along the way also Slovenia was included in the rough plan. After spending hours looking up the flights, the hotels, interesting places to visit etc. the plan was clear, the journey shall go through Prague, Bratislava, Vienna, Lake Bled and Ljubljana.
After this came the hardest phase of making the plan turn into a reality, getting an OK signal from the significant other, my planned travel companion for the trip. I was surprised to get an almost instant approval to the plans and the booking begun. And then there was the waiting with final adjustments.. And then finally the travelling.
A couple of weeks ago I returned from the trip through the four capitals of Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Slovenia, and managed to have a glimpse of two smaller cities, Brno and Lake Bled on the way also. The 11 days spent on the road (or in this case, rail) were the best ones in a long time.
What comes to the selected destinations, I could not be happier with these. At first I was a bit worried that four countries would simply be too much and was wondering if it would be better to just leave Slovenia out this time. In the end, we decided to give it a go and see how the tighter itinerary would suit us. After all, it is only a two hour flight from Finland to any of the places so it is easy to go back if we’d feel like something was missed out. What happened with every city, however, was that every time we were about to move to the next one, we were more or less ready to go. Not once did we feel like we missed something due to the tight itinerary. And quite frankly, Slovenia, our last destination, was after all my ultimate favorite, so I’m super glad we decided not to skip it.
Before starting the trip, we considered renting a car for a few days but finally decided against it. After looking at the total costs, thinking of the pros and cons, it was clear that car rental would be useless. The price of renting and returning the car in different cities (let alone different countires) is so huge that it just did not make sense in this case. Train and bus travel being so cheap and easy in the countries we visited, we realized that these would be better for us. These days, it is super easy to find all the relevant information of the schedules and prices online in English in all of the visited countries that planning was easy.
Travelling through continental Europe is just so easy and especially in the eastern parts, also cheap, so no wonder travelling by train is so popular. Central Europe in the summertime is just packed with young people on their interrail. What we discovered during the trip is that after Vienna and Bratislava, many continue to Hungary and head to Budapest and skip Slovenia. I personally do prefer Slovenia and Ljubljana especially over Budapest, so if anyone is reading this post and is considering a trip across Europe, here comes my first hint, please people, hear me out: go to Slovenia! Do not skip it as it is one of the best countries I’ve visited in Europe. It is green, it is not crowded, it is cheap(ish) and a really easy travel destination and most of all it has this character one can’t even describe well. I will write a separate post about the places we went to in Slovenia, but I cannot emphasize this enough: Go! I have heard and read so many people praising the country and you can clearly see the tourism increase there, so it is good to go before it is as touristy as the other countries around it!