36 hours in: Eastern Europe

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Eastern Europe is an area packed with history and culture, and perhaps equally as important for students, a particularly inexpensive set of opportunities for good nights out. Having spent the best part of a month travelling through Eastern and Central Europe during the summer, spending two or three days in each place, I found that each city had its own reasons for going there, and also that it is impossible to see everything in three days.

I will start with Belgrade. Put simply, this was by far the cheapest city I have ever been to. Decent accommodation is readily available for incredibly low prices, and a solid two course meal can be found for little more than £2, and a swanky, sit down, three course meal can be acquired for little more than the price of two Dervish kebabs. Belgrade is a therefore seemingly ideal place to go for a cheap weekend of boozing and dancing – there is a huge electronic scene in Serbia, and clubs are cheap, situated on the banks of the Danube. If culture is what you are looking for however, Belgrade may not be your best option; whilst there are a few museums and heritage sites, from what I found the captivating history of Yugoslavia and its break-up was poorly represented.

A far better cultural experience is Krakow. The historic old town is complete with an iconic market square and is towered over by the stunning Wawel castle. More modern history is available in harrowing tours of the Krakow Ghetto and Auschwitz, which is just a short bus ride away. Whilst this may seem a distressing way to spend a day, it is well worth a visit, and was by far the most memorable cultural experience of Poland, and indeed my time in Europe, as well as the most mentally exhausting. The Polish cuisine is also unexpectedly enjoyable, with emphasis on hearty stews and dumplings. This is not recommended, however, if you are a vegetarian, or do not eat pork for religious reasons. Vodka need not be mentioned.

The Hungarian capital Budapest is also a cracking holiday destination. The city is divided into sides, imaginatively dubbed ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’, and is packed with architectural attractions and deep history. The most spectacular of these sights include the Parliament building, Buda Castle, and St. Peters Basilica, as well as the citadel atop Gellért Hill, which offers commanding views down the Danube and over Budapest. But if you are to spend a few days in Budapest it would be a shame to overlook the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, Europe’s largest medicinal bath, and conceivably the most relaxing experience in Europe. One should also make sure to experience some of Hungary’s famous cuisine – Goulash, Strudel and Pörkölt.

One last place cannot go unmentioned given that this is a student newspaper. If you are looking for a cheap, friendly place to go for a weekend of heavy drinking and clubbing, look no further than Croatia. The southern town of Split, although tough to get to by anything other than a direct flight, is the ideal place. The beach town has the perfect mix of sun and sand by day, and cheap cocktails and clubs by night. This really is a young-mans town, and revolves around the entertainment industry. At night the main plaza bustles with partiers, and the two storeys of waterside clubs offer plenty of opportunity for a night well wasted. The only thing to be wary of here is that accommodation can get expensive if not booked well in advance.

Happy holidaying!

Photo credit: Ben Hook

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