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  1. #1
    aspiring tri-national
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    Berlin, Prague, Vienna -- help and ideas?

    In October, I'm taking grownup daughter to Berlin, Prague and Vienna for 10 days. I've never visited any of these cities and this is sort of a leap of faith, that we can do this in a fun and not extravagant way.

    I'll take any and all suggestions from people who really know these cities. (Tinami, for once I will listen to you you are well-travelled.)

    Hotels, trains in between the cities, fun or interesting things to do that might not be at the top of the typical tourist guidebook, although we will do those things too. We both particularly like music, history museums and excellent food. A trip outside a city is fine to recommend, too, if there's a particularly beautiful place to go that can be done on a day trip.

    Given the dollar-Euro exchange rate we are also looking for bargains.

    And where else would I start my research other than FSU?
    "Youth and vigor is no match for age and deceit." -- Prancer

  2. #2
    AYS's snark-sponge
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    I've got Berlin covered for you. Just let me know what info you want.
    Congratulations 2014 World Ice Dance Champions Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte!!!

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    In Vienna take a guided tour of the Hofburg Palace. The interiors are amazing. If you have any interest in history I recommend this. Also great is the Schonbrunn Palace, especially the gardens. Don't bother eating at the any of the famous pastry houses like Demel, Sacher etc. - they are very touristy and overpriced and you can have the same pastries elsewhere. For good food, a little bit outside the city are tons of vineyards that all have restaurants called "heuriger". All of them have great food - try a goulash!

    ETA: The forums at fodors.com usually have great recommendations for bargains, restaurants etc. You can also read people's trip reports to find tips on hotels and transportation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueRidge View Post
    I've got Berlin covered for you. Just let me know what info you want.
    BR got to this before I could.

    Berlin is the only city out of the three that I could speak about with some authority.

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    I will suggest a hotel in Berlin. Here is where I stayed the last time I visited. Great location to places like the Zoo, Ku-damm, Tiergarten and about 2 blocks to the U-bahn station, Wittenberg Platz. The hotel included a free continental breakfast which was very good (as most European-style breakfasts tend to be IME). There was also a supermarket not too far away if you need to buy snacks, etc. The price was very reasonable, but I stayed there in March. I just plugged in some dates in October (a Wednesday-Friday) and it shows up as 80 euro a night.

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    I can't say I "really know" these cities because I've been to them just once and quite some time ago. However, I've been thinking about a trip to Eastern Europe (Poland and the Baltics, in addition to going back to Prague and maybe Vienna) and started doing a little research, so I can suggest research approaches. I'm going to do the trip only if I can make it cheap enough to be no more expensive than what I'm spending on living at home, so I'm definitely looking very budget. I've found tripadvisor.com to be useful, along with sites (especially the forums) from Frommer's, Fodor's, Rick Steve's, and Lonely Planet. Take their books out of the library for ideas and then buy whichever one seems best to you.

    I don't know what you mean by "bargain." A number of hostels have doubles available, so you and your daughter would not have to share a room with anyone else. Take a look at hostels.com to get an idea of what's available if that's what you're looking at. A Lonely Planet Guide will let you know about affordable hotel options (the other Guides tend to have pricier options), but there are lots of hotel booking places online. You can start by looking at kayak.com, but there are lots more. There also are aparments to rent in some of these cities, which are more affordable than hotels.

    One way to save money (and touristing time) is to take the night trains between cities. Check the Eurail site and see if there are night trains between the cities you are visiting.

    You probably already know to visit the Jewish ghetto, including the cemetary, in Prague. The Charles Bridge and Old Town Square are musts, too. I also liked Prague Castle.

    Catch an opera in Vienna, if only to see the opera house. And the Hofburg Palace is well worth a visit, too.

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    There are several previous threads about traveling to these three cities - do a quick search and I think you'll find lots of valuable information, including from Tinami. And the Czech Republic isn't on the Euro yet, so at least that might help to ease the pain of the Euro exchange rate a bit...

    I'm sure you'll have a fabulous trip, they are three of my favorite cities.

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    I backpacked in that part of the world recently, staying in hostels that were all very clean and almost as good as hotels, so if you really want bargains, I can give you the list of hostels that we stayed at (all have private rooms, though maybe not private bathrooms).

    Taking the train is no problem. It might be a good idea to spend a few extra euros on seat reservations--when we traveled there were a bunch of kids on school field trips to Dresden (a stop between Berlin and Prague) and I almost had to stand for two hours.

    Speaking of which, Dresden is a great stopover. Very beautifully reconstructed city, full of local charms.

    Other possible day trips: Potsdam (Berlin), Karlstejn Castle (Prague), Bratislava (Vienna), Wachau Valley (Vienna). I think Potsdam is a must.

    See an opera or concert at Vienna, at the Staatoper, Musikverein, or Konzerthaus. Even on a backpacker's budget I was able to afford a concert at Musikverein, and it was an unforgettable experience. No concert hall in the US even compares. But reserve your tickets online a few months in advance.

    If possible, don't stay in Prague over a weekend. Prague is a popular weekend getaway destination for Europeans, so it will be very crowded.

    These are three really great cities! So different, and so exciting in their own ways. Enjoy planning!

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    PRLady, so strange. I took this exact tour [Berlin, Prague, Vienna] back in '07!

    Berlin - I stayed at a chain hotel near Berlin Zoo, but I would recommend staying around Gendarmenmarkt if you can. I would also go to www.booking.com for research on hotels in any of the cities. They come with guest reviews and that's very helpful.

    Stroll along Unter den Linden, visit Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, as well as the Fernsehturm [TV tower ugly as hell - built by the communists in the East in '69] for great views of the city.

    Museuminsel [Museum Island] is a great place to visit in Berlin, with the highlight being the Pergamonmuseum and its antiquities from Mesopatamia, Turkey, Persia, etc., Schloss Charlottenburg on the western side of the city was a summer palace and is also great for a beautiful walk.

    If you are interested in Weimar Berlin ['Cabaret' days], they offer Christopher Isherwood tours: http://www.cabaret-berlin.com/?tag=c...pher-isherwood

    Finally, take a trip to Potsdam to see the Schloss Sanssouci. You can take the S-Bahn [local suburban train] there from Zoo Station directly out to Potsdam [30 minutes] and there is more than just the palace.

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    Quote Originally Posted by olympic View Post
    Finally, take a trip to Potsdam to see the Schloss Sanssouci. You can take the S-Bahn [local suburban train] there from Zoo Station directly out to Potsdam [30 minutes] and there is more than just the palace.
    FWIW, I second this. There is so much to see in Potsdam! And I loved the ride on the S-bahn from Berlin. You get to see so much of the city and other non-touristy neighborhoods you wouldn't normal visit. Potsdam has some nice shops and cafes, too.

  11. #11
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    Wow. Thank you all.

    I'm past hostel age. Generally I stay in 3-star hotels when traveling on my own, but I'm willing to experiment further down the ladder as these are three reasonably safe cities.

    We will be in Berlin Friday-Monday, Prague Monday-Thursday, Vienna Thursday-Sunday, and then back to Berlin (I'm hoping to find a cheap flight) overnight for our flight home on Monday. Last one is an airport hotel, obviously. And yes, I thought about doing night trains to save money and touring time....
    "Youth and vigor is no match for age and deceit." -- Prancer

  12. #12
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    My only recommendation would be to choose one of those cities and spend the entire time in the one.
    Congratulations 2014 World Ice Dance Champions Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by PRlady View Post
    I'm past hostel age. Generally I stay in 3-star hotels when traveling on my own, but I'm willing to experiment further down the ladder as these are three reasonably safe cities.
    I hear you about the hostels. If I weren't going on my own and could afford better places, I probably wouldn't even consider hostels. It's been quite some time since I stayed in one. As a starting place for hotels, I'd suggest going to kayak.com since they cover a lot of them and have reviews. Then take a look at the travel forums I mentioned above and see if there are some recommended boutique hotels or B&Bs. When I was in Prague, I stayed at one of the home apartments and I was really happy I did. My host was one of the rare remaining Jews still in Prague (the entire rest of his family was wiped out in the Holocaust) and he shared his family history with me and gave me some very good information about the city. Also, I don't know if this something you want to explore -- I didn't have the stomach for it after visting the ghetto museums -- but I think that the concentration camp closest to Prague (Terezin camp) is now a museum and there are day trips there from Prague.

    If you haven't already bought your airline tickets, you should check into open jaw flights, flying to Berlin from the U.S., and flying to the U.S. from Vienna. I've found that there's not much of a price difference between open jaw tickets and round trip tickets and it may save you time, hassle, and even money to leave out the flight from Vienna to Berlin.

  14. #14
    aspiring tri-national
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    I used my saved-up frequent flyer miles for the tickets so the airfare is "free." ("" because taxes come to $300 and United charges $25 to talk to a live person ) But on award miles, you have to fly roundtrip.

    And I was going to lose half those miles come January....over my dead, having-flown-in-coach-internationally, body.

    Anyway, an early cruise through Trip Advisor shows many nice affordable hotels in Berlin. Since my last two Euro jaunts were London and Geneva, which might be the two most expensive cities in Europe, this is a nice surprise. Plenty of places under $200 a night, and I'm figuring Vienna and Prague won't be worse than that.

    And yummy free breakfasts!
    "Youth and vigor is no match for age and deceit." -- Prancer

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueRidge View Post
    My only recommendation would be to choose one of those cities and spend the entire time in the one.
    Nope. Based on recommendations from well-travelled friends, 2-4 days in each is enough. Rome needs a week, so does London and Paris, but these are smaller cities.

    And I'm doing this kind of travel before I get too old to take overnight trains, etc.

    Although I admit it drives me crazy when people tell me they're going to Jerusalem for one or two days. Don't ever do that. You need at least four in Jerusalem, and more if you're visiting Bethlehem as well, if you're really interested in history and religion.
    "Youth and vigor is no match for age and deceit." -- Prancer

  16. #16
    AYS's snark-sponge
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    Quote Originally Posted by PRlady View Post
    ...Rome needs a week, so does London and Paris,
    ...
    a week!

    I'd say more like a year for each of those cities...
    Congratulations 2014 World Ice Dance Champions Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte!!!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueRidge View Post
    a week!

    I'd say more like a year for each of those cities...
    Of course, if what you want is the living experience. But most of us are tourists with limited time and limited money, so being an expat (which is what a year means) is out of reach.

    I still hope to work in Europe at some point but it's not possible now.
    "Youth and vigor is no match for age and deceit." -- Prancer

  18. #18
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    Well if I only had 10 days, I'd definitely only spend it in one city. Even little itty bitty ones like Berlin or Vienna.

    But then I don't like rushing around all day...
    Congratulations 2014 World Ice Dance Champions Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte!!!

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    A quick plug for my favorite place to stay in Vienna - K & T Boardinghouse: http://www.ktboardinghouse.at/ Great, helpful owners who will go out of their way to help you, give you great advice, and make you feel at home. It doesn't include breakfast, but the location is fabulous (right by a metro station and a 10 minute walk from the Westbanhof train station, lots of restaurants and shops around) and the price is right. I've stayed there twice and had great experiences both times - the second time, they remembered me and had a bottle of champagne waiting in my room.

    And one small note about Prague - in general, I have found it to be a very safe city, but be careful about taxi drivers and exchanging money. Always agree on a price before using a taxi or have them run the meter - Prague taxi drivers are notorious for trying to rip off tourists. Also, when exchanging money, make sure to do it in a bank - there are lots of places to exchange money, including people on the street but I've heard horror stories about people receiving counterfeit money.

    ETA: PRLady, here are some of the previous threads I mentioned that might be of use:
    http://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/show...ghlight=Prague
    http://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/show...=prague+travel
    http://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/show...=prague+travel
    http://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/show...=prague+travel
    Last edited by Jenya; 07-21-2011 at 08:09 PM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueRidge View Post
    Well if I only had 10 days, I'd definitely only spend it in one city. Even little itty bitty ones like Berlin or Vienna.

    But then I don't like rushing around all day...
    That's why I travel alone - nobody slowing me down when I'm running from city to city.

    This is where I stayed in Berlin.
    The fastest thing out of New Jersey since Tricky Nicky in a Muscovian handbasket

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