Rough Guide: Raise a glass to Prague's very special brews

Two of the authors of 'The Rough Guide to Europe' describe the highs and lows of a trip around the Continent

Best beer in Europe

Every self-respecting student traveller seems to find themselves in Prague these days. And, just like everyone else, I was captivated by the beauty and charm of this city - and even more by the taste of the beer, which ranks among the best in the world. They include not just the famous Pilsner Urquell and Budvar (of which there are a thousand pale imitations), but also the wonderful darker local brews served in pivnices, such as U Vejvodu in the Stare Mesto.

Worst nightlife in Tallinn

It was my first full day in the Baltics and the prospect of being taken out by seven male RAF trainee pilots was quite appealing. They had, after all, been in this place one whole day longer than I had and would know where the action was. They took me to a dimly lit club. "I have just paid pounds 5 for a coke," gasped one of the pilots. We soon discovered why - this was a strip club. As the girls gyrated and I tried to slink into the shadows, I bravely lied and reassured the trainee pilots that I was not feeling particularly uncomfortable. But I knew one thing - this club was certainly not going into the "nightlife" section of my Rough Guide report.

Best trip in Ireland

Knowing how bus tours clog up the main route on the Ring of Kerry in Ireland in the summer, I expected this to be a crowded tourist trap. Happily, I was wrong. Most tourists view the spectacular scenery of the 110-mile trip without ever leaving their vehicle, and by mid-afternoon, the Ring is mostly deserted. The best way to experience the secluded beauty of this wild landscape is to make an overnight stop: we found a wonderfully laid-back youth hostel a mile or so from a tiny hamlet and far away from civilisation - the perfect place to experience the lingering, golden twilight over the Atlantic.

Essential Bulgarian phrases

Watch out in Bulgaria, where body language seems designed to confuse. Bulgarians shake their heads when they mean "yes" and nod when they mean "no". Worse, they sometimes reverse these gestures if they know they are speaking to foreigners, confusing things further. It took us a good deal of time, and a lot of confusion, before we finally figured it all out: the emphatic use of the words da (yes) and ne (no) should save any embarrassment on a trip here.

Best jazz club in Paris

Paris is renowned for its live music and there is excellent jazz to be heard in the numerous clubs around St-Germain and Les Halles. The best place we found was L'Eustache on rue Berger, one of many such bars offering cheap beer and good jazz played by local musicians late into the night.

Most harrowing journey

Let's look at the facts. I knew I was British and I knew I needed a visa to cross the Belarus border and reach Vilnius. My guidebook said it, but try explaining that to someone in Warsaw's international train information section. It was, however, my occupational duty to test the Rough Guide information and, okay, the ticket was cheaper! Maybe things had changed since the last update and there was now a miracle train that completely avoided Belarus? Only one real way to discover. It was when I was evicted from the train and dumped on the border that I could categorically confirm that this route was impossible for the visa-deficient. The moral? Go with your instincts and, most importantly, an updated Rough Guide.

Biggest let-down in Paris

The storming of the Bastille - the dramatic rescue of a handful of prisoners and a key event in the French Revolution. I expected to find an impressive ruin at the Place de la Bastille. But no. The Place is now a noisy and dangerous traffic island, while the site of the former prison is commemorated by a puny line of cobblestones.

Judith Bamber edited and Sharon Harris contributed to 'The Rough Guide to Europe 1999'.



Favourite places

Devil's Museum, Purvinskio 64, Kaunas. Home to an extensive collection of devil figures.

U Vejvodu, Jilsk 4, Stare Mesto, Prague. Good bar for Prague's special brews.

L'Eustache, 37 rue Berger, Paris 75001 (tel: 01 40 26 23 20). Open 11am-4am Thurs, Fri and Sat, with live jazz 10.30pm-2am.

An ige hostel, at Ballinskelligs, County Kerry, is open from May to September (tel: 00 353 66 79229).

Getting around

The Baltic Explorer is a useful pass for extensive rail travel in the Baltic Republics. Unlimited travel costs pounds 24 for seven days, pounds 35 for 14 days, and pounds 47 for 21 days and is available to ISIC, ITIC cardholders and under-26s from UK student travel offices.

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