What to Wear in Eastern Europe in Fall: Germany, Austria, Prague, Budapest
by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)
I just took a short Viking River Cruise through Eastern Europe during late October and early November. Fortunately, I did enough research before I packed to know that there could be snow in Eastern Europe during fall.
And, there was snow (in Prague) in October. It’s not common, but it happens.
Women's Travel Wear: Do Your Research
Unfortunately, some people just pack as if they will be traveling in their home state, even if they’re from North Carolina or Southern California. Well, from all my travel experiences, I have learned one thing: Always take one outfit that is the exact opposite of what you think you will need. For example, if you are traveling to Florida, pack something warm. If you are traveling to Alaska, take something for spring or summer weather.
Well, I haven’t been to Eastern Europe in early spring, but logic tells me that it would be about the same weather as fall. Okay, you’ve seen the brochures for Europe, but those photos were taken during high summer. Now, look at the main photo (above) of Vienna in early November. It’s not snowing, but it’s a bit cold for those of us who didn't grow up in Minnesota. The blonde girl in the main photo is wearing a good example of the perfect outfit for fall or spring in Eastern Europe. (The local couple in the smaller photo are smartly dressed for sightseeing in Prague.)
I do want to express my belief that it's more fun to visit countries during the off season. Places are not as crowded, locals are friendlier, and I get a better sense of what an area is really like.
Eastern Europe is less affluent than Western Europe, so parts of Prague and Budapest can be havens for pickpockets. But, don’t worry and don't avoid these gorgeous cities. I felt absolutely safe everywhere I went, even as an older woman walking around alone. All you need to do is to keep an eye on your valuables... just like you would in any big city. Hey, I felt safer in Eastern Europe than in most parts of New York City or Los Angeles. However, when you go to any part of Europe, you want to look like you’re a savvy European, not a nouveau-riche tourist living the American Dream. (We had two men from a tour bus in Germany who lost their passports in a crowded touristy McDonald’s. Ditch those baseball caps, guys!)
Standard Eastern European UniformYes, there are variations on the traditional European theme, but the outfit (explained below) is the standard outfit that will help you fit in anywhere in Eastern Europe. Your clothing can be upscale as long as it is dark. Navy, burgundy, chocolate, and other shades are fine and can be intermixed with black. And, you can’t go wrong with the following look:
- Hip-length, belted, quilted puffer coat in black (variations in quilting seem to indicate higher quality)
- Dark skinny jeans, dark jeggings, or black leggings
- Tunic top and/or sweater worn over leggings
- Long, rectangular knit scarf (brighter is okay if you speak French – wear fewer brights in Prague or Budapest)
- Leather gloves (stash them in your bag)
- Knee-high flat boots (tuck your pants into your boots)
- Bag or purse that zips (something you can hold in front of you when necessary)
- Knit hat or scarf to cover your head (stash in bag)
Common Variations to the Chic EuroUniform
- Quilted puffer coats without belts (short or long)
- Wool coats (even some fur coats)
- Short booties (flats or heels)
- Tall boots with heels or wedges (need good balance)
- Lightweight travel umbrellas (use when locals use – hats seem preferable)
- Purses, boots, or other leather items with silver metal studs (Don't go too “Las Vegas.”)
- Something red (Eastern Europe’s favorite cheery color)
What I Wore in Prague, Germany, Austria
Do I follow my own advice and wear the standard Eastern European look? Are you kidding? A puffer coat would make me look like the Michelin Tire Man. On the other hand, I’m able to hold my own and to appear to be somewhat European when traveling on the continent. I always spit out a few words of my limited, high school German whenever I feel it’s appropriate. For example, I usually say, “Nein!” when I’m asked (in English) if I want to buy post cards or trinkets on the street. Then, if necessary, I will add, “Ich weiss nicht!” which translates into, “I don’t know!” but sounds very much like I "mean business" when done properly. (No matter how flustered I am, I can always remember that sentence because I used those words daily when Herr Dickman at Interlake High School called on me to answer questions in my 10th-grade German class.)
Eccentric German British American?
I like to wear dresses and hats. So, my outfits seem to make me look like an eccentric Brit, an eccentric East German, or some type of local from whatever area I’m in. On my latest trip, I was greeted (along with a sentence or two of rapid, unintelligible phrases) in Czech, German, and Hungarian.
This same experience has happened to me in Estonia and other Baltic countries, so if you want to copy my style (with your own tweaks – hat not necessary), you will probably fit in almost anywhere with your own personalized version of the “Tina Boomerina” style.
Here are the three basic outfits I wore on the “Romantic Danube” Viking River Cruise excursions during late fall. (Hint: I work from the hat down.)
And, please don’t laugh. My husband seems to have odd timing for snapping photos… these pictures are educational, not elegant.
1. Blue Hat Outfit in Prague: Blue hat ("Helene" at Nordstrom.com - seems to pack fine), crinkly blue scarf (Fireworks at SeaTac terminal), blue one-button sweater/cardigan (Nic + Zoe at Nordstrom.com), long black tunic (Karen Kane Caftan Top), thick black leggings, flat black boots (White Mountain Venture Boot at Macy's or Zappos). Also, I have my long purple and black Mycra Pac "Donatella" coat (HelloBoutique.com) stuffed into my day bag. Note: The cardigan comes together with one button, but I’m wearing a square squawk box - which hangs from a string around my neck - so I can hear the tour guide… this outfit is more slimming without that box.
2. Big Pink Hat Outfit in Regensburg: Fuchsia hat ("Angelica" Nordstrom.com - also packs well), crinkly pink/red/purple scarf (Venice), sleeveless jersey dress in eggplant (Voyager at Travelsmith.com), lightweight cardigan in eggplant, Mycra Pac coat, purple gloves, lightweight day bag that looks like a shopping tote bag, flat black boots, lovely blue squawk box for tour. (I would have worn black high-heel boots if it hadn’t been icy. I look short and squat without heels. Click photo for amusement.)
3. Pink Bavarian Outfit in Vienna: Asymmetrical fuchsia and purple cloche/fedora hat (Finland), crinkly pink scarf (Venice), lightweight fuchsia cashmere cape (gift from my daughter who used to work at NM), black or eggplant Voyager dress (Travelsmith), blue or eggplant cardi (depending on how cold it looks), purple gloves. Sometimes, I wear the cape with leggings and short, high-heel booties. I usually stash my Mycra Pac coat in my day bag, just in case it gets really cold… the coat is big enough to fit over my cape if necessary. Note: I could have easily gotten by without the Bavarian cape outfit if space had been tight.
Well, I don't know if these are the clothes you should pack for your off-season jaunt to Eastern Europe, but I hope I have given you some good ideas. You’ve seen what most women wear and you’ve seen the minimalist travel wardrobe that works well for me. Ciao, baby!
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