PREPARING OUR CITY HOPPING TOUR THROUGH EASTERN EUROPE
We are not the type of family that books all-inclusive stays in some sunny spots somewhere in the south. Instead we try to plan trips with and for our kids where each of us will experience something interesting, that we won’t forget that easily… Having kids of a different age (two teenagers and one child), we try to pay attention that each one of them will have some positive souvenirs and experiences, which is not always easy: Charel (9) just loves to play, Noa (14) still loves to play but also likes shopping and Zoé (16) just is a fan of sightseeing, museums and shopping… A real balancing act!
The idea for this year’s summer holidays was to explore together the capitals and cities of Eastern Europe. You regularly hear so much about these uprising cities which seem to be really dynamic but sometimes it’s difficult to imagine them nowadays. Together with our kids, we put the program of our journey together: Stockholm, Tallinn, Riga, Pärnu, Vilnius, Warshaw, Krakow*, Bratislawa and Vienna* before heading back home again. We drove around 5.500 km in our car, passed through 11 countries and slept in 10 different beds in a period of 14 days!
*Those two destinations were only added along the way…
After having defined the cities, we wanted to visit, Kristof checked the distances we had to drive from one destination to another. We did not necessarily want to stay longer than 2 nights in one spot, but on the other hand we had to avoid driving 8-10 hours between destinations. That would not necessarily have been funny at all!
Having defined the cities, we needed to get some information and interesting facts about them. For this part, we have a kind of tradition. Each time we are travelling to new countries and cities, each one of us, including the kids, has to do some research about one of the destinations. During our journey, each after the other will then present his/her destination as well as some attractive sights we will specially look for. This time we also tried to link our research results to the recent history of these amazing cities and countries. Zoé really loves this research part and she regularly has a lot of interesting stories to tell us about. She even looks up nice and unconventional restaurants and other awesome shopping spots to discover together. With the boys… well it’s a little trickier… Noa normally starts his research the night before leaving and just looks after the basics found on Wikipedia topped with some historical facts. Charel, our “little” one, still needs some help on this, and does not yet show a lot of interest in the research part… But he still remembers facts about some of our older trips, like for example the Charles bridge we visited in Prague a few years ago! So: same procedure as every time we go on holiday!
Another part of the preparations is the booking keeping the budget in mind. Each year, we try to keep our expenses the lowest possible (well, it does not really work out each time, but at least we give it a try 🙂 ). This summer we decided to stay only in furnished apartments found either on Airbnb or Booking.com. We really love travelling with Airbnb ‘cause you get to know how and where the people really live and you can have nice surprises. For example, in Vilnius, the building was really shabby looking, the staircase was horrible, but arriving at our flat, it was just amazing: newly renovated, good furnished and under the roof! We just loved it! And it’s always nice to get to know the inhabitants and to get some insider tips… Another tip for saving some money is to book your stay the latest possible via booking.com, like 2 or 3 days before arriving. In Vienna, for example, we slept in a very large and luxurious apartment we would never pay for the normal price, but the late booking price was really, really acceptable!
And then, after all the preparations and the packing of the luggage, it was finally time to leave. We started our journey with driving up to Sweden, passing Germany and Denmark. Kristof being in Sweden as he took part in this year’s edition of the Fjällräven classic trail (hope he’s soon moving his a** to tell you more about his experience), we first had to drive up to Stockholm to fetch him there. We took two days for the drive with a longer stop in Hamburg for lunch and an overnight stay in a hostel somewhere in Denmark in order to arrive in the early afternoon in Stockholm to still have enough time for some sightseeing and shopping! Daddy and his girls were happy! 🙂
In the early evening, we really started with our summer trip, heading to Kapellskär to get the night ferry over to Paldiski in Estonia. The first night reunited as a family, we spent it in the cabins of the ferry and had dinner with mainly truck drivers as this is their preferred route to the Eastern EU countries. After arriving in the early morning, we headed to Tallinn.