Page 2 of aidando Travel Blog Posts

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Moscow July 21st 2010

Russia is not the easiest country to travel around as a backpacker. The visas trains and even accommodation all require some forward planning. I got caught out with the train to Moscow. I tried to book just 2 days in advance and all that was left was really expensive 1st class or seat only on a 2am train. I should probably change the name of this blog to "sleeping in uncomforable positions on the cheapest possible form of public transport". I was mentally prepared for a night sleeping on the floor could not believe it when the seats were fully reclining. Actually got a proper night sleep! Moscow is in many ways Saint Petersburg's ugly sister. The Soviet era left a far greater impression on the city. Saint Petersburg was the the Czar's capital Moscow was ... read more
Red Square
Friends in metro station
Moscow State University

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Saint Petersburg July 14th 2010

One of Western Europe's most beautiful cities somehow ended up in Russia. Saint Petersburg is like a mixture between Venice and Paris: the city is riddled with canals flanked by countless European style palaces. On the surface at least there's almost nothing Russian about the city. In contrast to get all the hassle queuing and paper work involved in getting a visa actually crossing the border was a breeze. Apparamtely once Spain takes over the presidency of the eu there's going to be a major push to get Russia to relax visa requirements. Personally I think this would be a disaster. The city is already overrun with tourists! I stayed in a pretty average hostel the absolute highlight of which was an elderly Korean couple staying there. The woman didn't speak much English but the guy ... read more
Statues Hermitage
Courtyard in front of Hermitage
Peterhof fountains

Europe » Estonia » Tallinn July 11th 2010

Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to travel around the Baltic states as the entry date on my Russian visa was fast approaching. The area’s quite compact though and it’s extremely easy to get around. Buying the train ticket from Minsk to Vilnius was a bit of an ordeal but the surprisingly friendly staff and a Russian phrasebook got me through. It’s only about 4 hours from the heart of Europe’s last communist dictatorship to the edge of the EU. The border crossing was relatively easy and unlike the last one did not involve me standing shirtless in the middle of a packed train carriage. Vilnius is a small city but the old town area is the largest Baroque old town in Europe. It’s literally impossible to walk for 5 minutes without passing a church. You ... read more
Riga Oldtown Street
Cathedral Vilnius
Old & New Tallinn

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk July 8th 2010

The land that perestroika forgot. While some of its neighbours are now fully fledged EU members Belarus (classified by the US as an outpost of Tyranny) is firmly clinging to its past. The last remaining European communist dictatorship, current president Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. The economy is one of the most restricted in the world with controls on prices and wages. To top things off the state security committee has kept the Russian name KGB. Throw in the hurdles to get a visa why on Earth would you not want to visit?... I had planned to get a transit visa before I left Ireland which would have given me 2 days in the country. It’s pretty expensive and there’s not a huge amount to see so I figured it’d be enough. Unfortunately I ... read more
University Building
Metro mural

Europe » Ukraine » Kiev July 6th 2010

Welcome to the Ukraine, say goodbye to the EU, the Latin alphabet and any chance of finding locals who speak English. It’s a bit of a culture-shock coming straight from Krakow but I guess that’s what travelling is all about! The country used to have the same complex visa procedure as other former Soviet states. When it hosted the Eurovision a few years ago visa requirements were temporarily dropped for most Western travellers. Since then they just never bothered bringing them back. The border marks the point where European style rail tracks end. So there are a few long hours at the border as the train is adjusted. When they finally checked passports the border guard didn’t seem to know what Ireland was let alone where it is. Luckily he just scanned my passport and I ... read more
Reactor 4
Town centre

Europe » Poland » Lesser Poland July 3rd 2010

I used to last day of my inter-rail pass to get from Prague to Krakow. Trains are cheap in Eastern Europe anyway but it ended up being a pretty good deal. 5 days travel for €159 got me from Istanbul-Bucharest-Budapest-Poprad-Prague-Krakow! I paid about €14 extra this time to get a bed. I’ve had enough of sleeping on the floor of trains for the moment anyway. I actually ended up with a really comfortable 3 berth couchette to myself. Typically the one time I’m sleeping somewhere comfortable the train arrives on time and at 6 in the morning! The way the train pass works if you take an overnight train is you only mark the date you arrive. So in the unlikely event you can stomach any more train travel you can take any other trains the ... read more
Barbed Wire
Main market Square
Birkenau arrival area

Europe » Czech Republic » Prague July 2nd 2010

Since the fall of the iron curtain Prague has become one of the continent’s major tourist destinations. With historic buildings literally everywhere you turn and beer that’s cheaper than water, it’s hard not to see the appeal. There are parts of the city where you’re more likely to hear an American accent than a Czech one but on the whole it’s not too bad. The only place that’s genuinely over-run is the Charles Bridge. Not only is it clogged with people, souvenir stalls & sketch artist it’s also undergoing pretty major road works! Chances of getting the postcard image of Prague are zero. Prague castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. It’s free to get into the castle then you just pay to enter individual parts. It feels like a pretty long walk in ... read more
Charles Bridge
Dancing House
Welcome to Prague

Europe » Slovakia » Presov Region » High Tatras June 30th 2010

I hadn't heard many good things about Slovakia. Literally every person I know who went inter-railing said the same thing: avoid Bratislava at all costs. Then the Hungarians I met in Budapest argued it isn't even a country just a rebellious Hungarian province. On the other hand I'd heard the scenery in some areas was amazing so I figured I'd give the country a chance. Things did not get off to a good start. Trains are generally late in Eastern Europe but my train from Budapest was particularly bad and I had a connection to catch. I missed two trains to Poprad and ended up arriving at a train station somewhere in Eastern Slovakia. The word bleak does not even begin to cover it. I'll admit no train station at night is a pleasant place (except ... read more
Hike to Hincovo pleso
Wild Flowers
Hincovo pleso

Europe » Hungary » Budapest June 27th 2010

The trip from Bucharest was another over night train. A sleeper carriage was about €40 with an inter-rail pass, a normal seat was only €3. Converting the difference into units of beer I went for the normal seat. Mistake number one. There were 3 others in the compartment sprawled out awkwardly trying to sleep on the seats. After a few hours I gave up and just slept on the floor. Seemed reasonably clever at the time. Next morning I noticed almost every other compartment in the carriage was empty! Next time I’m stuck in a compartment with 3 strange-smelling, chain-smoking Romanians, I’ll remember to look for alternative places to sleep. I’d heard great things about Budapest and even after the testing journey I was not disappointed. The city’s architecture has somehow survived earthquakes, World Wars and ... read more
City Park
Few from Gellert Hill
Castle District

Europe » Romania » Muntenia » Bucharest June 25th 2010

Welcome to Bucharest famous for its dark past and bleak present: brutalist architecture, glue sniffing junkies, 200,000 stray dogs and pick pockets everywhere. The main tourist attraction is the train to Istanbul/Budapest. It made sense to stop here for a night. I was not expecting much. The city’s not without its problems but the reality is nowhere near as bad as preconceptions. Although the point about the dogs is unfortunately true I really didn’t encounter any problems (which is impressive because I literally cannot walk down the street without being mugged). I had one full day to explore which is about enough. This is my first time in Eastern Europe so although the communist grey monstrosities everywhere may be aesthetically horrendous it’s interesting to see them. Following an earthquake in the 1970s and a visit to ... read more
Bank Historic Center
Flower-selling Romanian

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