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Favorite thing: In Ukrainian: Львівська область.
I have been to Lviv, Olesko and Zhovkva in Lviv region.
This Ukrainian region is known for an interesting feature: it has synthesis of West and East, as it was part of Lithuanian Grand Duchy, Poland Kingdom, Austria and so on. Place as Lviv is full of Western style architecture, so some places looks like Vienna or Prague. Zhovkva comes with Renaissance architecture. All land is plain, bordered with Poland and known for revolutionary place against official authority.
Written Jan 5, 2013
Favorite thing: There are many travellers who, like me, think that this might be their one and only chance to see Europe so they are determined to squeeze as much into each day as possible. This is a huge mistake folks. Don't be tempted to just "tick boxes" so you can say you've been there. I have learnt well since I first began travelling regularly to Europe in 2002, to pick out the places I REALLY want to see and to put others on the back burner in the hope that there will be another trip.'Believe me there is nothing worse than spending a few hours or one night in a fascinating town or city and then finding out when you get home all of the things you didn't see. It is also super tiring packing up every day and lugging your baggage around on a daily basis.
I also learnt not to book trains, flights etc too early in the morning unless it is absolutely necessary and there is no other option. When I have a really early start, I find that I do not sleep at all because I am afraid that I won't wake up in time and that the early morning wake up call won't come. I have now made it my very strict travel policy not to board a train before 9am at least. That way I have plenty of time to wake up, finish my packing and have a leisurely breakfast before the train goes.
Updated Nov 13, 2012
Favorite thing: Why do so many people on this forum have such a low regard for "tourists"? Are these people so naive that they don't realise that anyone who travels anywhere in the world for the purpose of seeing the sights is a tourist? Or do they really consider themselves to be so bloody special that they don't rate as "tourists"? It never ceases to amaze me how many people subscribe to VT (Virtual TOURIST) and yet consider themselves to be somehow made of better stuff than the "tourists". The way I see it, we are all toursits, like it or not. I for one am perfectly content in the role and very grateful that I have had the good fortune to be able to see a little of this wonderful world of ours. Consequently, you can call me what you like, I'll still keep travelling for as long as I am able. I do understand that there are some who simply don't like the queues or the inflated prices etc. that popular tourist destinations are full of, but I can't for the life of me, understand the attitude that tourists are the lowest of the low. I especially have to smile when VTers write wonderful tips and travel pages for the purpose of enticing others to go to a particular place, but at the same time warn against the many tourists they will find there!!!!! "Go early or stay late to avoid the tourists!" I would prefer to have them say "to avoid the crowds", that I could readily accept, but I can't accept the fact that "tourist" to some is a dirty word.
Be proud to be a tourist in Europe. There are millions of people the world over who would give their eye teeth to be able to join the hoardes of tourists there.
Updated Oct 16, 2012
Favorite thing: Hi Heidi and another welcome to VirtualTourist.
First one quick suggestion. Although this is a very friendly sight with plenty of friendly members you still want to be a little cautious. Therefore on your profile here on VirtualTourist I would recommend you don't include your full name. If you need any help with how to delete your last name you can post here and we can help you.
A little of my international travel background next. My wife and I did our first international travel only 4 years ago after all our 4 children had graduated college and we finally had some additional funds to start some major trips. On our first trip we went to London, Paris and several areas in Switzerland. All our travel in and around the cities and countries was by train or buses. Our second trip was just this year and we went to 4 of the 5 places you are going to (Rome, Florence, Barcelona and Paris again) plus a few others. We only speak a few words of French, Italian and Catalan, but had absolutely no problem in any of the areas we visited as most people do also speak English and even if they don't you can communicate with some gestures, pictures, etc and you will be fine.
Now some answers to your questions which I will answer as a father of a daughter and 3 sons. My daughter actually went to Europe for 28 days with a friend of hers a few weeks after graduating college and so actually beat my wife and I on international travel. I will answer by city from our experiences.
Rome - We were in Rome for 3 days for the first time this past May. Rome is a fairly compact city so walking around is probably the best way to get from place to place. We stayed on the other side of the Tiber River near Vatican City because we knew we would spend almost an entire day there. On our ventures to the main part of Rome on the other side of the Tiber River we walked over one day, took a bus on another day and the metro on yet another. We also took a taxi from our bed and breakfast on the final morning to the main train station for our trip to Florence. The buses we took were very easy and well marked. You can buy tickets at any pharmacy (look for the Green Crosses). Can't remember the exact fares, but they were relatively inexpensive. The Metro at night was very crowded and we did have to push our way out at one of the spots we were going to. I'm a 6 foot tall male so it makes it easy for me to see in a crowded metro, but my wife at 5 foot 3 inches obviously cannot and relied on me to see. In most metros you do want to keep anything valuable you have close at hand. My wife carried her rather large camera in a camera bag wrapped in front of her on any public transportation. This trip I carried my iPad in a small brief case and also carried a smaller camera/camcorder. Again I kept these close to my body (in front of me) when I was standing, sitting or pushing my way out of the Rome metro.
Florence - On our 1 day visit we walked just about everywhere and later in the day got on a local bus and just rode it around to see a little more of Florence (literally rode it in a circle for about 30 minutes). Got off near the river as it was approaching sunset and we wanted to get off and take some more pictures.
Barcelona - We spent 4 days here a little further from the center of town actually 1/3 the way up Mt Tibadabo. We walked down each day to the Barcelona Metro which was by far the cleanest Metro or Subway system I have ever been in. Also one of the cheapest. You could buy 10 tickets for under 10 Euros and get to most places in town. We also took a bus one day from the Mt Tibadabo area to the Barcelonetta area near the sea. I would not hesitate to take the Metro in Barcelona no matter what time of day. We felt very safe.
Paris - Since this was our 2nd trip we knew the Paris Metro fairly well this time around. We still haven't been on a bus in Paris although that would be another great way of seeing the city going from place to place. The Paris Metro is heavily used and during certain hours will be very crowded. We have travelled on the Metro with our suitcases with us on both trips. My tip for the Paris Metro with suitcases is to sit near the end of each car again with the suitcase, backpack or both right in front of you. When you exit keep a good grip on anything and don't be distracted by the numerous forms of entertainment going on in a lot of the Paris Metro stops. If you do stop and watch any entertainment keep your back up against a wall and enjoy the show. In fact I suggest that in any Metro or Subway in the U.S. as well. I've ridden the subway in Chicago every since I was a kid.
I think that's enough for now. The other suggestions you've gotten have been great. I will also give you one other source that some of my European VTers may not like, but I like his advice. Rick Steves (who is from Edmonds, Washington in your neck of the woods) has some very good guide books and shows on PBS that are very good. I would recommend his book Europe Through The Back Door as an excellent source of information for a first time traveler to Europe from the U.S.
Please use VT for additional questions and if you click on our names you will be taken to our home pages where you can see tips we have individually written on our personal experiences.
Written Oct 7, 2012
Favorite thing: If you and me are the same, like beauty nature more than historical. I suggest you to go to Greece, this country have both content, Santorini is so beautiful place to visit, especially the sunset, very grand,you also can see the famous Santorini Church, the blue roof, that's great!
Fondest memory: There are many memorable things I missed, the glacier, the Fjord, the Aegean sunset, Acropolis of Athens, Eiffel Tower,Seine. They are all beautiful scene I had seen in Europe.
Written Aug 2, 2012
Favorite thing: Yes, via train and 1/2 day to see the cathedral, baptismal and tower is sufficient
Please consider taking only a backpack as luggage, you will enjoy your trip more.
Site: All of Rome!
Fondest memory: I miss the public transportation.
Best memory: Chappelle next to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
Written Jul 10, 2012
Favorite thing: I don't know how writing a tip became a favourite thing, but my tip is as follows:
Learn the words for good morning in the language of every country you visit and use them on the help. This will reap great rewards like clean sheets when you least expect them.
Fondest memory: Good cheap wine
Written Jun 14, 2012
Favorite thing: Buying a local prepaid Sim card makes sense for text and phone, you can get them in some countries (Austia for instance) for as little as € 5 and i don´t think more then € 10 -20 in other countries. Roaming in the EU with EU SIM cards is limited to 0.35 cent per minute, but data roaming (e-mail etc...) is not limited, quite expensive and with some pre paid cards not possible. For that you could buy in every country a separate card or use wifi with your Phone (if it has wifi) or Ipod/Ipad.
If you Phone is unlocked (legal in Austria, about € 10, not legal in Germany...) you can just put the SIM card in, but block data roaming in the settings.
If it is locked, in countries where it is leagal allmost every phone shop can do that, otherwise cheap Phones (no e-mail/internet) you can get for € 30 or sometimes less.
Written May 31, 2012
Favorite thing: Your scenario or as I'm starting to refer to questions as "Your Travel Style"
My wife and I just got back from 18 days in Europe so here are some of those reflections and some suggestions to help you along.
First the countries you are planning to possibly visit (Spain, Greece and Czech Republic).
- You have narrowed down Czech Republic to Prague but just list Spain and Greece. Both are large countries especially Spain and in both there are different regions.
- I will only give you some idea on Barcelona, Spain as we were just there less then 2 weeks ago for 4 days. I have no personal experience with the Czech Republic or Greece as of yet, so I won't comment on those.
1) Can only travel in February - My first question to you would be does weather have an affect on how you plan? Do you like warmer or colder weather or doesn't it really matter. My travel style would stay away from very warm or very cold places because I am a middle of the road traveller on vacation (between 50 F and 80 F or 10 C and 25 C. You will need to determine your personal style.
2) I only have 2 weeks holiday - You either must be from the USA like we are or some other country with limited holidays (our recent 18 day trip was the longest we've ever taken). Here is my question for you here. Are you going to limit yourself to one area or country in the 2 week time frame? Do you want to travel around a bit or stay in one hotel/hostal/hostel/b&b?
3) I can speak only English - The same for my wife and I. We have travelled to major European cities of Paris, Rome, Florence, Barcelona in the past 4 years and have gone to smaller cities of Bern, Lauterbrunnen, Lucerne in Switzerland and Riomaggiore and Stresa in Italy. We were not hampered in any of these cities by our lack of language skills. You can easily pick up a few words in each language, especially thank you, hello and goodbye and bring small translations books or computer software for a mobile device to help you along.
4) Extremely concern for personal safety - I am going to guess from your VT name that you are a single female. My wife and I have travelled together and I have done a lot of business travel in the United States, Mexico and Canada in my days so I probably can't give you an answer for your personal situation. As far as Barcelona was concerned my wife and I were riding their metro every evening after 9:00 p.m. Everybody from young children to older adults were riding and we had no fear at all.
5) Current situation in Spain and Greece - I am not sure how that would personally affect your travel. I would not think there is going to be mass chaos and I don't expect that the countries will shut down. Maybe minor things will affect travelers, but I think it is more of a worry and problem for their citizens.
6) We love to take pictures also (over 3,000 between my wife and I after 18 days in Europe in addition to my 4 hours of video). We do a number of museums that interest us and sometimes it will depend on the weather. In rainy London and Paris we did museums on rainy days. In sunny Barcelona all of our activities were outside and we did not go to any museums on our 4 days there.
If you have any specific questions about Barcelona as you plan I will be more then willing to help you with that city if you decide you need more information.
Written May 22, 2012
Favorite thing: About 100 million years ago the great land masses of Africa and India collided with Europe and Asia and caused the crust of the earth to crumple upwards in a long almost continuous ridge of high ground. The western side of this is Europe and it is separated from Africa and India to the South by more natural barriers; formed by the waters of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
Written May 16, 2012
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