Backpacking in Europe is one major goal for many travelers. Europe is almost equivalent to art, culture, and history. The single visa system and the interconnected transportation system, which are very efficient and convenient also add huge plus points.
Eastern Germany is a popular course for backpackers because it’s generally cheaper than the rest of Europe. When France and Italy require you to present 120-260 euros as a daily budget, countries in Eastern Europe suggests only less than 100 euros for your daily needs. It can even get as low as 42.5-45 euros for the Czech Republic and Germany.
Berlin is a popular starting point in the backpacking route. More intercontinental flights can come in through Berlin than the rest of the cities in this itinerary.
More importantly, Berlin is a good place to start your Eastern Europe backpacking because it’s where the historic division of eastern and western Europe ended. With the demolition of the Berlin Wall, East and West Germany reunited. As a result, you can now freely go anywhere in Germany without passing through inter-German borders.
The remnants of the Berlin Wall is then a must-see. A long remnant of the wall is available publicly in the East Side Gallery. But this remnant was turned into a series of murals painted by artists from around the world. If you want to see an original artifact of the Berlin Wall, go to Potsdamer Platz. It’s a modern and peaceful square that harbors a dark and heartbreaking past.
The Brandenburg Gate, a standing witness to more than 200 years of German history is also a must-visit. From the time of the Prussian monarchs, the Nazis to its time as a crossing between East and West Berlin, it has seen everything. Eventually, it became a symbol of freedom and reunification.
Instead of being a revisionist and an apologist to its history, Germany dedicated a huge 19 sq km block for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known simply as the Holocaust Memorial. Located just south of the Brandenburg Gate, the memorial is composed of 2,711 concrete slabs in various sizes, arranged in a grid pattern. It’s an abstract installation that is “designed to produce an uneasy and confusing atmosphere” and aims to “represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.”
Prague, Czech Republic
So far, the itinerary in Berlin will not require you to spend anything on admission fees. Also, transportation is very minimal because the places are close to each other. But even if you consider all those, prices in Prague can be really cheap. Czech Republic’s currency is Koruna and it’s weaker than the US dollar and the euro. Also, there is a lot of competition for accommodation especially now that B&B’s have become popular.
Despite the cheap prices, Prague is a very rich city. Founded in the 7th century, it was once the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and then of Czechoslovakia. It provided a home to many Holy Roman Emperors including Charles IV. It produced many historic centers and architectural sites from the different art periods – Romanesque, Gothic, Rennaissance and Baroque. The whole historic center of Prague has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The places you will need to explore include Old Town Square and the Old Town City Hall, which houses the oldest astronomical clock in the world. From the old town, cross the Charles Bridge to go to the Prague Castle, which houses the Gothic Saint Vitus Cathedral. It’s the largest ancient castle in the world according to Guinness Book of Records. It used to be the residence of kings and emperors. Now, it’s the official office of the president.
In New Town, you should visit the historic Wenceslas Square. Built during the medieval ages, it was also a witness to Nazi mass demonstrations, the Prague uprising, and many more demonstrations. We also recommend watching the sunset while you cruise the Vltava River.
Located in South Bohemia and around three hours away from Prague, Cesky Krumlov is another wonderful and historic place in the Czech Republic. Also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the view of the town from up a hill is surely one for the books. The major attraction in town is the Cesky Krumlov Castle that was built in 1240. It has the world’s most completely preserved Baroque theater with the original building, stage, even the curtains and the costumes still intact. You can tour this place in a single day or you can choose to stay one night to rest.
Located north of the Alps, Salzburg is the birthplace of genius classical composer Mozart. It’s also popular ass the setting of the film ‘The Sound of Music.’ From Cesky Krumlov, you can rent a car or take a shuttle bus to get to Salzburg. Because of the Schengen treaty, the borders are open and you don’t have to worry about immigration checks when driving.
First stop in the historic center of the city of Salzburg is the Mirabell Palace. It’s a Baroque cultural heritage monument that has been used as a backdrop for several scenes in ‘The Sound of Music.” Its wide gardens are worth a visit, not to mention the Marble Hall, a popular venue for concerts and weddings. Hitler’s sister-in-law was also married here.
If you’d like to know more about Mozart, his birthplace at No. 9 Getreidegasse, Salzburg is highly recommended. It has become a museum that exhibits Mozart’s first musical instruments, portraits, letters, early compositions among many others.
With a daily average cost of 100 euros, it’s quite expensive to visit Salzburg and the Salzkammergut region. However, this city will let you experience natural wonders and will give diversity to your backpacking trip.
Located in the outskirts of east Salzburg, Salzkammergut is a resort area blessed with glacial lakes and mountains. Staying near Lake Wolgangsee to enjoy swimming and the amazing sunset hues are strongly suggested. Windsurfing and sailing are also fun activities available in the lake during summer. You can also ride a cable car that will let you enjoy natural mountain sceneries of the Alps, the fabulous views of the seven lakes in Salzkammergut including Wolfgangsee, and many more.
— Christoph Derndorfer (@random_musings) June 20, 2019
You can also experience the Alps by going to Schafberg Mountain. Enjoy stunning panoramic views of natural landscapes you’ve only seen in pictures. Ride the Schafberg Railway, the steepest cog railway in Austria, and it will take you to the top at 1,783 m in 35 min. The station is near Lake Wolfgangsee. Make sure to bring a jacket because it can get cold even in the summer.
Vienna topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s list of world’s most livable cities in 2018. It was also declared as the world’s most prosperous city in 2012 and 2013 by UN-Habitat. However, UNESCO classified the city as world heritage in danger in 2017 due to planned high-rise development that will greatly affect the visual integrity of Vienna that is dominated by medieval and baroque architecture.
As Vienna is regarded as the City of Music, immerse yourself in the city’s culture and watch a state opera, a ballet or a concert. Seats can be as cheap as 7 euros in the opera house Volsoper Wien while standing tickets can be cheaper at 2-5 euros in Staatsoper and Theater an der Wien. These are prestigious opera houses in Vienna that showcase popular productions and will give you a taste of the state opera experience.
Another must-stop in Vienna is the Belvedere Palace. The Belvedere displays classic Baroque architecture during the Habsburg dynasty. It’s also home to the famous Belvedere museum, which houses Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece ‘The Kiss.’
The last stop for our eastern Europe backpacking route is Budapest in Hungary. Ranked as the 7th most idyllic place to live, Budapest offers world heritage sites, natural wonders, and splendid night views.
Built in the late 1800s, M1, the oldest underground railway in continental Europe runs under Andrássy Avenue from Vörösmarty Square to City Park. It’s of course, a must-try. As City of Baths, thermal baths that are naturally fed by hot springs is another must-try. Budapest’s thermal baths are very diverse ranging from an ancient Ottoman bathing house to a rooftop pool overlooking the Danube river.
The Buda Castle, the residence of kings in the past, is one of the most historic places in the city. Nearby is the neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque Fisherman’s Bastion. You should go there in the afternoon and wait for the spectacular sunset. At night when the sun is down, enjoy the night view and the city lights. Across the Danube river, you will see Margaret Bridge and the iconic Hungarian Parliament Building basked in golden yellow lights.