My husband and I are planning a trip to Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in June for two to three months. We are flexible with the duration of the trip. We definitely want to visit Dubrovnik, Prague, Budapest and Cracow. Are there other places you can recommend, and how long would you suggest we stay in each place? We are travelling by train.
- L. Reitzin, Bellevue Hill.
In Croatia, you could easily spend a couple of weeks along the Dalmatian coast. It is some of the most beautiful waterfront in the region. Just a short drive along the coast from Dubrovnik, Cavtat is a pretty village set at the end of a wooded peninsula between two blue bays.
If the coast gets crowded, head for the islands scattered close offshore, where you can anchor for a week of sunshine, seafood and sloth. The island of Hvar is the most beautiful spot on the Dalmatian coast, combining a splendid town - also Hvar - with a gorgeous coastline and some marvellous beaches.
At the northern end of this coast, the heart-shaped peninsula of Istria has more than a touch of Tuscany in its olive groves and hill towns, at a fraction of the price.
Set against the backdrop of the Tatra Mountains, Zakopane is Poland's Aspen. At the lower end of the pedestrian mall, a funicular hoists hikers to the summit of Gubalowka Hill, where hiking trails unspool across the mountains.
In the Czech Republic, Cesky Krumlov is one of Bohemia's loveliest towns, crowned by a castle that was the ancestral home of the Rozmberk family for centuries.
In southern Hungary, Pecs is a lively city with some of the best cultural institutes outside Budapest and it's still gleaming from its recent elevation to European Capital of Culture 2010. Pecs has been a centre for winemaking since Roman times.
To the east, the cultural Szeged is home to the Open-Air Festival, full of music, ballet, rock opera and dance, held each July and August.
Since you don't have a fixed schedule, I suggest you stay in each place until you feel the need for fresh pastures.