Posted by: jowanderer | April 10, 2008

Croatia: Overview

Pristine beaches, enchanting villages and history galore – Croatia’s got it all.

With its sublime stretch of Adriatic coast, Croatia has long been regarded as one of the most beautiful parts of Europe. The booming tourist industry that was interrupted by war in the early 1990s has swept back in force, and visitors are flocking to its string of coastal and island resorts.

Czech Republic: Overview
A fairytale land rushing headlong to modernity.

The Czech Republic is still all things to all people. From the pulsing capital Prague to the back-in-time villages of Moravia, from toiling up mountains to lounging in spas, from the world-famous Pilsner to the strains of Smetana and Dvořák, there’s an experience to suit every taste.

Stunning architecture is not limited to Prague; there are plenty of beautiful structures in other towns, and significantly fewer tourists. Among the richest are Kutná Hora, Cheb, Loket and Domažlice in Bohemia, and Olomouc, Telč and Kromêříž in Moravia

When to go:
The high season and the best time to go is in May or September, when weather is mild and crowds fewer. Many museums, galleries, castles and the like are only open at this time. April and October are chillier but you’ll benefit from smaller crowds and cheaper rooms. In July and August hostels are chock-a-block with students, especially in Prague. In winter, you’ll likely get to see it all under a blanket of snow; camping grounds are closed, as are attractions in smaller towns but the time is right for skiing and other winter pursuits.

Most Czechs and Slovaks, like the rest. of Europe, take their holidays in July and August, and then again over the Easter and Christmas-New Year holiday period. Accommodation facilities are often booked; crowds, particularly in Prague and the mountain resort areas, can be unbearable; and prices spike to their highest. On the other hand, most festivals take place during summer months and the supply of cheap sleeps in university towns increases as student dorms are thrown open to visitors. High in the mountains, November through March is an additional high season.

Weather
Czech seasons are distinct. Summer (June through August), receives the highest temperatures and also the heaviest rainfall. The cold, bitter winter months of December, January and February often have temperatures reaching as low as -5°C (23°F) in the cities and -10°C (14°F) to -15°C (5°F) or even -30°C (-22°F) in the mountainous areas. They are tailor-made for skiing and other winter pursuits; the mountains receive about 130 days of snow a year, but other areas get coverage as well. Spring (late March to May) brings changeable, rainy weather and sometimes flooding. Autumn is also variable but temperatures can be as high as 20°C (68°F) in September.
Hungary: Overview

Hungary doesn’t need neon flash – it’s a natural show-stopper.

Hungary is a heart-stealer; it will lure you back again and again to sample its rich wines, lounge in its thermal spas, gaze at its birdlife and make one more attempt to master its hermetic language. It has all the luxury of western Europe with a Magyar twist and at half the cost.

Its graceful capital Budapest has a lively arts, cafe and music scene, and is host to a range of cultural and sporting festivals. In the countryside you’ll find majestic plains, resort-lined lakes, Baroque towns, horse markets and rustic villages.

Though it can be pretty wet in May and June, spring is just glorious in Hungary. The Hungarian summer is warm, sunny and unusually long, but the resorts are very crowded in late July and August. Like Paris and Rome, Budapest comes to a halt in August (called ‘the cucumber-growing season’ here because that’s about the only thing happening).

Autumn is beautiful, particularly in the hills around Budapest and in the Northern Uplands. November is one of the rainiest months of the year, however. Winter is cold, often bleak and museums and other tourist sights are often closed. Animal lovers might also want to skip this season: many of the women are draped in furry dead things throughout the winter.

Weather
Hungary’s climate is temperate, and the country can be divided into three climatic zones: Mediterranean in the south, Continental in the east and Atlantic in the west. In Southern Transdanubia, summers are long and winters mild and wet. The Great Plain has the most extreme seasonal differences, with cold, windy winters and hot, usually dry summers. In Budapest and Western Transdanubia summers can be very hot; winters are relatively short and often cloudy, although sometimes they can be brilliantly sunny. January is the coldest month, getting down somewhere around -2°C (28.4°F), and July the hottest, hovering around 28°C (82°F).

Slovenia: Overview

Sunny in climate and temperament, Slovenia is moving up the tourist hit parade.

Rich in resources, naturally good looking and persistently peaceful, Slovenia has been doing just fine since its break from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. No longer the undiscovered, bargain gem that it was, Slovenia still remains a wonderful antidote to much of Europe’s crowds and high prices.

Many Slovenian cities and towns bear the imprint of the Habsburg Empire and the Venetian Republic, while up in the Julian Alps you’d almost think you were in Bavaria. The relative affluence of this country on the ‘sunny side of the Alps’ is immediately apparent.
Austria: Overview

From jewel-box palaces and Mozart melodies to cosmic spas and Alpine highs.

Austria flaunts its heritage in exuberant fashion. Vienna’s bombastic Habsburg palaces and Salzburg’s baroque splendour are great, but dig deeper and you’ll unearth Stone Age settlements, Roman ruins and vibrant medieval festivals. You barely need to look for culture here – it waltzes right up to you.

This land of dizzying peaks, cobalt lakes and rushing rivers creates a breathtaking backdrop for outdoor pursuits. Whether you want to climb mountains in Tyrol or carve up the slopes in the Alps, freewheel along the Danube or paddle the raging Inn River, Austria’s your one-stop shop!

Visiting Austria at any time of year is a great experience, but remember that the season will influence what you can do. Summer is the obvious time for hiking, mountain biking and lake swimming, but ski conditions also make Austria a fantastic place for winter breaks. Festivals take place year-round, but the majority of music festivals are held between May and October.

For warm weather, aim for the months between April and October, although these two months can be changeable. Crowds and prices peak in the July and August high season, when temperatures can also climb to uncomfortable levels and many famous institutions close down, including the opera, the Spanish Riding School and the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Consequently, June and September are often the best times for city trips.

You’ll find cities less crowded in winter and (except in ski resorts and over Christmas and Easter) hotel prices lower, although it can get bitingly cold. Winter sports are in full swing from mid-December to late March, with the high season over Christmas and New Year and in February. Alpine resorts are very quiet or close down from late April to mid-June, and in November and early December.

Weather
Austria lies within the Central European climatic zone, though the eastern part of the country has a Continental Pannonian climate, with low rainfall, hot summers and mild winters. The Alps have high precipitation, short summers and long winters, and visitors should be prepared for all temperatures there. Seasons are distinct. Summer falls between June and August and has the highest temperatures, but also the highest levels of rainfall. Winter can bite hard, especially in December, January and February. Spring and autumn bring changeable weather, but quite often the most comfortable temperatures.

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