Exploring Central and Eastern Europe — a travel diary
For two weeks, DW's Laila Abdalla and Shabnam Surita are traveling through Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Follow their daily updates here!
Day 15: This is the end
Two weeks, five countries, and unmatchable experiences. We took this picture to remember our last moments in our hostel in Timisoara. As per our research, the number of tourists in the cities we visited is lower than pre-pandemic times, but the reason is unclear. Could it be the war in Ukraine? Maybe... The one thing we are sure of is that it has deeply affected the region in terms of morale.
Day 14: The beginning of the end
Final stop: Timisoara, Romania. The city, so far, has been a pleasant surprise! The center is full of architectural gems with a myriad of colors, styles and historical periods. But the true charm of Timisoara is its vibrant cultural life. Frequently referred to as "Little Vienna," it’s home to year-round art events, galleries, and museums. Definitely promising to be the cherry on top of our trip.
Day 13: Farewell Budapest!
We couldn’t have said goodbye to Budapest without exploring the city at night. And what better way to do that but visit one of the city’s historic ruin bars. Our pick of the night was Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s first ruin bar, that opened in 2002. On packed nights, this bar attracts thousands of people, most of whom are tourists. And the waiting time is definitely worth it.
Day 12: Budapest with a local
It’s very difficult to see everything on a short visit, which is why we reached out to Zeina, an expat living in Budapest since 2017. She took us to her favorite spots in the city. We hopped on one of the oldest metros in the world and ended up in front of the Hungarian Parliament. The superb view made us hang around a little longer than expected.
Day 11: Hello Budapest!
We have reached Hungary, our fourth destination. We were very lucky to have stunning weather in Budapest! We immediately took a stroll along the city’s central quarter and saw the most important sights, including St. Stephen’s Basilica (pictured) and Heroes' Square. We even saw Budapest from the top of the Museum of Ethnography. The view was truly amazing!
Day 10: Goodbye Bratislava!
Next up, we are heading to Budapest, which is just two hours by train. Bratislava, Budapest and Vienna are in close proximity of each other, and our train was full of tourists who were visiting all three. Historically, these cities have much in common, for example, the use of Slovak, German, and Hungarian words on Bratislava buildings.
Day 9: The invisible war
We noticed that people in Bratislava were reluctant to discuss the Ukraine war. Even though Bratislava is almost 1,200 kms away from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, reports suggest that the drop in tourists could be because of perceived war-related fears. We spoke to a travel expert, but they denied any effects. Instead, they highlighted Bratislava’s remarkable recovery post-COVID-19.
Day 8: Bratislava and its optical illusions
The Slovak capital is known for its charming old town, castle, and the Danube river. But very few tourists are aware of the vibrant art and culture scene that Bratislava has to offer. We visited the Multium Gallery, an experimental art venue that challenges our sense of perception using lights and mirrors. The optical illusions were disorienting at first, though we quickly grew to enjoy them.
Day 7: Bratislava it is!
After a train trip and an unexpected bus ride, we reached our next destination: Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Along with its historic sights, Bratislava has a quirky side too. We stumbled upon the Five Points Cafe in the old town, where you can get any image printed on your "Selfieccino." So along with one of our favorite selfies, we also got a coffee with the DW logo!
Day 6: Leaving Prague behind
We discovered a lot in Prague and also tried to find out how the Ukraine war affects tourism here. We spoke to tourism experts who expressed disappointment in the supposedly low number of visitors, though we we didn't feel that at all. Instead, we were quite overwhelmed by the hordes of tourists in the city. But now our time in Prague is over and it's time to move on.
Day 5: A cycle rickshaw tour of Prague
We couldn't soak in everything that Prague had on offer in just two days. But we tried to experience the city in new ways and decided to go for a cycle rickshaw tour. We met Libor, who wowed us with his knowledge of Prague architecture. In the end, Shabnam was particularly impressed by his cycling skills.
Day 4: Touring Prague
None of us have ever visited Prague before, so we decided to stop by this city. The beautiful Bohemian metropolis attracts tourists from all over the world, and we wanted to find out why. We started our day with a boat tour on the river Vltava soaking up the stunning views — lucky for us, the weather was playing along.
Day 3: Looking back at Wroclaw
Wroclaw welcomed us with open arms, and we learned that it has been equally welcoming towards others, especially Ukrainians displaced by the war — 190,000 Ukrainian refugees live there now. Everywhere we went, we saw blue-yellow flags, restaurants displaying messages of solidarity and even people singing Ukrainian songs. After two days, it is time for us to move on by bus to our next stop.
Day 2: At Wroclaw zoo!
Did you know that the world's largest collection of African flora and fauna is actually in Wroclaw, Poland? That made us curious, so we explored the "Afrykarium" at Wroclaw zoo and yes — it was great! We experienced many firsts: Laila enjoyed seeing marine life and grew really fond of manatees. Shabnam saw her first giraffe and was not at all scared of the shark as she had expected.
Day 1: Arriving in Wroclaw
Finally the day has arrived! We woke up in Berlin, feeling both excited and anxious, and hopped onto the train for our first stop: Wroclaw! The city greeted us with some amazing sights, and we felt really welcome. We took a stroll across the medieval main market square, or Rynek, and soaked up the splendor. It's one of the largest of its kind in Europe, and so very beautiful!
We spent two weeks preparing for our trip. We planned our route, did research, collected ideas and organized interviews. Also important: packing the right equipment from different cameras to chargers, more chargers, microphones and lights. So much equipment means lots of responsibility. But it also means we can produce quality content for you — here and also on DW Travel's social media channels.
Start and end point: Berlin
DW's Shabnam Surita (left) and Laila Abdalla (right) started their two-week tour of Central and Eastern Europe in Berlin on September 19. Their journey will take them to Wroclaw in Poland, Prague in the Czech Republic, Bratislava in Slovakia, Budapest in Hungary and Timisoara in Romania. They want to find out how the Ukraine war is impacting the tourism sector.