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You've already seen the classics (London, Paris, Berlin)? You've travelled all round Western Europe, or alternatively Australia or South America, for a year or at least three months, after leaving school? You've pissed in a fountain in Madrid at 3am, drunk, on a weekday? Then you may have travelled the very same route as many of our generation, from Bad Oyenhausen, Germany, to Málaga, Spain, by Interrail, or by bike. E&M advises you to go for an alternative, from Bad Oyenhausen, Germany, to Istanbul, Turkey, by car. We sent two of our editors on a road trip to find out how it's done. Now we'll tell you how to do it in your next summer holidays. Are you ready? Here are the ten steps.

STEP 1: Buy a car in Western Europe and sell it in Eastern Europe

No matter whether you are from Western or Eastern Europe, the most decent way to travel in Eastern Europe is by car. It should be comfortable, convertible, and red. We got one, for 935 €, at a second-hand car market in Cologne, Germany. It featured highly necessary extras, such as a CD player, subwoofer, and sport tilt wheel. A Nissan 100NX, built 1993, with 164,000 kilometres and German Boiler Code approval until 2010. We sold it, for 750 €, after 5,000 criss-cross kilometres through Eastern Europe, damaged, and without its exhaust pipe, on a second-hand car market in Burgas, Bulgaria. And the best thing about it: in many cases you can even make profit, as Western European second-hand car prices are on average 20% lower than in Eastern Europe. Hint: try to look for a car with air conditioning. They sell better in the Balkans.

wroclaw
Photo: Christian Krekel
Our editor Hanna showed us her home town Wroclaw.

STEP 2: Get the appropriate documents for the car

Generally, it's no problem to sell a car which you've bought within the EU in another EU country. In non-EU countries, this is much harder. However, depending on the country where you bought the car, you may need different kinds of export documents. The best way is to ask which documents you need for export when you register the car with your national authority. In the EU country where you sell the car, you have to get the buyer to accept your export documents, which they can then exchange for national ones at their national authority.

STEP 3: Take your best friend with you

You want to travel across Eastern Europe and you want to let it all hang out, party and have some holiday flirts? Well, who should you take with you? Your partner? He or she might become a problem for you – and sooner than you might imagine. Just think of a seriously drunken night in a Krakow club, and what looks to you like thousands of beautiful people on the dance floor. Or think of a broken-down engine in the middle of Transylvania and nobody around to blame… except, yes, except.
Therefore, we recommend taking your best friend with you: tolerance is greater, sensitivity is greater, conversations are less tense and even sex is sometimes better.

STEP 4: Don't forget Europe’s music festivals

If you're travelling in the summer, don't forget to check Europe’s festival plan and arrange your journey according to it. A few days at Budapest’s Sziget, Transylvania Calling or any festival on the Black Sea coast, like Spirit of Burgas, may complement a magical journey.

STEP 5: Take the right music with you

Okay, you're going by car. This means you'll probably spend 30 hours a week driving/inside it, and you'll need some music for your entertainment, and to satisfy the needs of your mega-subwoofer. But what music will you take? Just imagine a long narrow road from Hungary to Romania with golden fields of wheat stretching into the distance, for hours. Or think about the Black Sea coast, a few trees, 35 degrees and hair-pin bends along the coast rocks. We did a lot of practical tests and in the end we decided to go for minimal electro and some techno. We aren't paid-up fans of this music – it just fits the landscape and the purpose. Hint: in cities you may want to switch on the radio to complement the foreign impressions with some local music.

transylvania
Photo: Christopher Wratil
"Dracula's Castle" in Bran, Transylvania

STEP 6: Stay with friends, or make friends

The best way to get to know the places you are travelling to is to stay with local people. If you have friends or acquaintances in Eastern Europe, contact them and plan your trip according to where they live. As E&M editors, we were able to stay with many E&M contributors and they showed us the best places to relax in their town, the best bars and nightclubs and the best ways to get home afterwards. If you don't know anybody, platforms like www.couchsurfing.com offer great opportunities to get to know local people. The best thing about Eastern Europe is that people are extremely welcoming – we were always served the best food and people find it natural to offer guests their own rooms and sleep on the floor themselves. Hint: Take some presents from your home country as a “thank you” for people’s hospitality.

STEP 7: Be open and be quick

You have very little time. You may be in a town for two days, three days, at most four. A day has 24 hours, a night has far fewer. There are no obligations and no responsibilities – but there is this moment, this hour or this day. And something might happen. Seize it! And let yourself go!

STEP 8: Listen to the people and listen to their tips

You have a guidebook? You believe that a Lonely Planet is the ultimate path to Nirvana? The best experiences we had on our trip were due to tips from people we met, and could not be found in any guidebook. So start by listening to us:

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showMaptype='0'|overview='0'|zoomType='None'|zoom='-1'}

istanbul
Photo: Christian Krekel
Fishers at a bridge near Istanbul's New Mosque.

STEP 9: Don´t plan too much, but don’t plan too little

You are young, adventurous, and spontaneous. You are spontaneous, aren't you? So why the hassle? Better resist the temptation to plan every detail of your journey beforehand. There are many things that can (and will) happen to you on the road. Don't stress if you're behind schedule. Probably the best things will happen to you unplanned. So, expect the unexpected, and stay relaxed. Make an approximate plan of your route, and plan in enough time-slots for spontaneous detours. And don't forget your trunks!

STEP 10: The way back

Okay, this step is important, since it involves both STEP 1 (Buy a car in Western Europe and sell it in Eastern Europe) and STEP 9 (Don't plan too much, but don't plan too little). Careful readers may have recognised that we actually sell the car. You might guess from that that we cannot drive back. Therefore, beforehand, you are strongly encouraged to plan your way back to wherever you come from. We booked our budget flights months before, from Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen to Cologne, Germany. It's probably the best idea (because it's the cheapest and most convenient – think of your luggage) to fix your final destination and fly back from there.

Enjoy your trip – and don't forget to update us on how you get on (with photos)!


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