From Estonia To Slovakia: An Indian Girl's Guide To Backpacking Around Eastern Europe

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Photo of From Estonia To Slovakia: An Indian Girl's Guide To Backpacking Around Eastern Europe 1/1 by Sharmistha Chaudhuri
An incredible view of Old Town Tallinn. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Travellers often head to Europe's west because it's so easy. There are guidebooks, there's more than enough information to plan an itinerary and it's more common. However, Europe's eastern countries are absolutely gorgeous and often than not, receive less visitors. Planning a backpacking in Europe alone trip is a breeze and let me tell you, heading East is less of a pocket pinch than going to the usual destinations like Germany, Holland and France.

Let me guide you to a detailed backpacking in Europe alone trip in four of the Continent's most beautiful Eastern cities — Tallinn in Estonia, Vilnius in Lithuania, Krakow in Poland and Bratislava in Slovakia.

Stepping into Tallinn is like entering a real-life fairy tale. Cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways, red roofed houses, open air theaters, museums and local markets — Tallinn is pure joy. Also, don't forget, if one wants to enjoy Midsummer celebrations, Tallinn is the place to be!

Getting around in Tallinn

Walk! Discovering Old Town in Tallinn is best done on foot. Honestly, that's the hub of tourism and most backpackers decide to stay there because of cost-effectiveness. If venturing outside, then the best options are bus and trams because it's very cheap. It doesn't really make sense to hire taxis. If one wants to go for a day trip to Finland, just take a ferry ride across! Remember, the euro is used in Estonia.

Accommodation in Tallinn

The Old Town is filled with hostels and has many a price range. If hostels aren't your scene, then the next best bet is Airbnb. Most tourist locations are in the vicinity and night life is pretty on point.

What to eat in Tallinn

The food scene in Tallinn is vast. From sandwiches to meat, Chinese to even Indian! But to get an authentic taste of Estonia, try Elk soup, flaky pork patty and local beer! The best place to indulge would be Old Town where there are plenty of restaurants and food stalls.

Indulge in patty, Elk soup and beer. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Tallinn, Tallinna linn, Estonia by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

What to do in Tallinn

The Main Square in Tallinn. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Raekoja plats, Tallinn, Estonia by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The Town Hall Square is massive and on certain days, doubles up as a flea market or the venue for numerous festivals. There are restaurants and pubs all over and the best way to chill is with good food and music.

A view from the viewing platform. Notice St Olaf's Church in the background. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Kohtuotsa viewing platform, Kohtu, Kesklinn, Tallinn, Estonia by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

To get a view of the whole city and those red roofs, climb up to Kohtuotsa viewing gallery for one of the best sights. You might have to wait to get your picture because everyone throngs to the viewing platform for that postcard picture.

The Alexander Nevsky cathedral in Tallinn. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Lossi plats, Tallinn, Estonia by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

One of the most impressive Russian orthodox cathedrals in Tallinn, it's located right opposite the parliament in Toompea hill. Both, the outside and inside of the cathedral are beautiful. Inside it's very peaceful so don't miss it.

See one of the farms at the Open Air Museum in Tallinn. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Estonian Open Air Museum, Vabaõhumuuseumi tee, Tallinn, Estonia by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The Open Air museum is just a bus ride away from the Old Town. One can see how rural Estonians lived in the 18-20th centuries as their houses have been recreated for the tourists. Also, during the Midsummer festival, the museum has many functions, right from songs, dances and bonfires, food and drinks. It's a very merry atmosphere.

This church, at one time, was the tallest building in all of Europe. It's a massive landmark in Tallinn and one of the most beautiful. The 12th century church is also unlucky having been hit by lightening many times and burned down thrice!

Places to visit nearby Tallinn

Finland is just a ferry ride away. If you fancy a day trip to Helsinki (and for information to know prior to travel, the Indian Embassy is in Helsinki), just head to the harbour and take one of the many ferry rides to another country. In the country, heading to University town Tartu is an option or for the nature lovers, the Lahemaa National Park.

Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, is a mixture of the old and new. Slow paced life, happy people and the Baltic country's beautiful Baroque architecture draws a lot of tourists. It's a cheap country and gives your backpacking in Europe alone itinerary a must-visit stopover.

Getting around in Vilnius

It's easiest to walk in the Old Town area on it's cobblestone streets, gazing at old churches and soaking in the atmosphere. When venturing outside, use the trolley buses which ply back and forth all across the city. Buy a ticket from the driver and then punch in to validate it. Unlike many Eastern European countries, the euro is used in Lithuania.

The trolley bus. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Vilnius, Vilnius County, Lithuania by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Accommodation in Vilnius

The best bet, as usual are Airbnbs and hostels. While most Airbnb accommodations are scattered across the city, hostels a plenty can be found in the historical centre of the town. If you prefer a hotel, try getting reservations via Booking.com

What to eat in Vilnius

When backpacking in Europe alone and you find yourself in Vilnius, you must try the Kibinai. It's a flaky patty with a generous filling of meat or vegetables which serves as snack. Potatoes are eaten often so try the potato pancakes and definitely gorge on Zeppelins (the national dish). They are meat dumplings with sour cream and bacon.

Hot Kibinai! Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of From Estonia To Slovakia: An Indian Girl's Guide To Backpacking Around Eastern Europe by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

What to do in Vilnius

Gediminas Tower. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Gediminas Tower, Arsenalo gatvė, Vilnius, Lithuania by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

When in Vilnius, visiting Gediminas Tower for the sweeping views of the city is a must. You can go inside for better views but just standing outside it will give you beautiful pictures. On one hand you see the old town while the other shows you the modern city.

The three crosses. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Three Crosses, Senamiesčio seniūnija, Vilnius County, Lithuania by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Located on top of Bleak Hill, the legend says that seven friars were beheaded there. Wooden crosses had been built there they soon became a symbol of the city. The latest concrete version was completed in 1989 and hiking up to the top of the hill is a good work out! Don't take the easy tourist path!

A view of the Old Town from Gediminas Tower. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of From Estonia To Slovakia: An Indian Girl's Guide To Backpacking Around Eastern Europe by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The Old Town is an UNESCO heritage site and old of the oldest surviving old towns from the medieval era. It's cobblestone streets make for a wonderful old-time charm and when you're backpacking in Europe alone, you feel warm and fuzzy just gazing at the various types of architecture all around. Enjoy a cup of coffee, read a book, take pictures when at the Old Town.

Want to visit a republic in Vilnius? Head to Uzupis! A self-declared independent republic with its own flag, currency, president and constitution, Uzupis is very hipster and a cool part of the city.

Places to visit nearby Vilnius

Trakai castle. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Užupis, Vilnius, Vilnius County, Lithuania by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The easiest day trip from Vilnius is head to Trakai. There's an old 14th century castle on an island and the place had significant importance in the medieval times. The castle has been restored a great deal giving the tourists a sense of how it used to be in the olden days.

Krakow is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland. It's smaller than Warsaw, the Old Town is gorgeous, the people are friendly and the food fantastic. When backpacking in Europe alone, Krakow definitely deserves a stopover.

Getting around in Krakow

Like most European cities, walking is the first option. If you want to use public transportation, your best bet is the tram system. The trams run all over town and finding your stop is easy because of the clear signs. You have to buy your ticket either on the tram or the stations and validate it when you get on. Don't forget to exchange your currency before you buy the ticket as Poland uses Zloty and not the euro.

Accommodation in Krakow

My personal recommendation would be to stay in Airbnbs because there are fabulous ones just outside of the Old Town. If you want to stay in the heart of the tourist activities then, hostels will come to your rescue. There are plenty near Stare Miasto so just do an online booking and check in.

What to eat in Krakow

Polish food about is a lot of sausages, meat and bread but don't be fooled, they do excellent dumplings. You must try the Pierogis which are stuffed dumplings. They can have meat, mushrooms, cottage cheese or a variety of fillings. They are boiled and then can be tossed in butter or fried or served with sour cream. Each bite is so fulfilling! Also, try the white Borscht which is a sour soup.

Pierogis. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Kraków, Poland by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

What to do in Krakow

Take a walk around the Main square. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Rynek Główny, Kraków, Poland by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

How does walking around the biggest town square in Europe feel? The main square is in the heart of the Old Town and covers about 10 acres! Yes, you read that right! Why not walk about the square taking in the sights. Go on a horse-drawn carriage around the square and indulge in a traditional Polish breakfast at one of the many cafes!

Inside the castle. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Wawel Royal Castle, Kraków, Poland by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The views from the castle are very nice. Walk out of the Old Town and up the path that leads to the castle which is called the Royal Route. It's an easy walk and immerse in beautiful views against a crystal clear sky that make for amazing photographs. Don't forget to see the dragon at the bottom of the castle, going down from the top to it's lair!

St Mary's Basiilca. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Kościół Mariacki, plac Mariacki, Kraków, Poland by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

St Mary's Basilica is located near the entrance to the main square. Rebuilt in the 14th century, you'll see that the two impressive towers are of different heights and styles. The inside is gorgeous and at the turn of the hour, there's a bugle call from the taller tower!

The Schindler factory. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Schindler’s Factory, Lipowa, Kraków, Poland by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Cross the river and visit Oscar Schindler's enamel factory which is now a museum. The man in question made famous in Steven Spielberg's film, the former enamel factory is now a museum and gives visitors a peak into the WWII years.

Places to visit nearby Krakow

Keeping Krakow as your base backpacking in Europe alone, one can do many many day trips. The most popular ones are heading to the Salt Mines which are in Wieliczka, about half an hour away, or the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. At the Salt Mines, you will see salt sculptures at almost 60 storeys underground which are beautiful, while the visit to the concentration camp is simply heartbreaking when you see the remnants.

Salt sculptures at the mine. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of From Estonia To Slovakia: An Indian Girl's Guide To Backpacking Around Eastern Europe by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Bratislava is simple old world charm. I can't stress how friendly and helpful the people are. They are simply waiting for you to ask them directions! While entering the city, the Brastislava Hrad (castle) is an imposing sight and the Old Town is enchanting. When backpacking in Europe alone, chuck other cities to definitely stop by Bratislava as it will welcome you with open arms.

Getting around in Bratislava

Walking around the Old Town is your best option. A good walk will get you all around the historic centre, main square and by lanes that are open for exploration. To get around the city, buses are the best bet. Tickets are available at magazine shops or most bus stops have a ticketing machine. Again, don't forget to punch in your ticket. While Slovakia uses the euro, it's much cheaper than other neighbouring countries.

Accommodation in Bratislava

There are tons of good hostels near the Old Town and the Castle. A personal recommendation would be to stay in the hostels to get a feel of the pulse of the city. Other than that, Airbnbs and hotels are the usual options. Just remember that there are plenty of walks uphill and downhill so it will be easier on you if you're a bit fit.

What to eat in Bratislava

While most dishes have meat, carbs like potatoes, bread and noodles are staples. Dairy products are also very popular. When backpacking in Europe alone and you find yourself in the Slovakian capital, try the Bryndzové Halušky or potato dumplings that are similar to gnocchi served with sheep’s milk cheese. The goulash is also very popular which is a Hungarian specialty.

Potato dumplings like Gnochhi and cake! Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Bratislava, Slovakia by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

What to do in Bratislava

The Main Square in the Old Town in Bratislava. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Bratislava-Old Town, Slovakia by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The Old Town is always the first stop for tourists. The main square is much much smaller than other countries and gives an old world charm. Surrounded by cafes, the fountain is a place where locals and visitors gather. Sit and relax at one of the cafes, drink coffee and see the world go by. Start your walk around the area from St Michael's Gate which is the most recognizable. Also don't miss going to the Blue Church. It is pretty spectacular!

The imposing Bratislava Castle. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Hrad, Bratislava, Slovakia by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Slovakia has many castles and the Bratislava Hrad is imposing. It can be seen from far and wide really and is over a 1000 years old! Don't you think you should stop by this castle on trip of backpacking in Europe alone? Spend some hours walking around the castle and taking in the views.

The connecting UFO Bridge! Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of UFO, Most SNP, Bratislava, Slovakia by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The UFO bridge connects the city to the suburbs over the Danube. Go to the viewing deck for imposing views and also grab a bite at the restaurant located at the top! A meal with a view is worth a lot of memories.

Places to visit near Bratislava

Slovakia is famous for its castles and the one in Devin stands on a massive rock above the junction of the Danube and Morava rivers. The views are spectacular and just a bus ride away from the main city centre. The other very popular day trip is to Vienna in Austria which is about 60 kms away.

Devin Castle. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of From Estonia To Slovakia: An Indian Girl's Guide To Backpacking Around Eastern Europe by Sharmistha Chaudhuri
2 Comment(s)
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how many days did you stay in Tallinn and Vilnius? did you visit Riga?
Mon 04 03 17, 23:55 · Reply (1) · Report
I stayed in Tallin and Vilnius for about 3 days each. Yes, I did visit Riga in between!
Thu 04 20 17, 11:59 · Report
Really detailed guide. Krakow is one of my most favourite city
Wed 02 22 17, 03:47 · Reply · Report