This time, I thought, let's try something new.
Taking a global pass to the Balkans was maybe not the best of ideas. Here are some reasons why not:
- Trains are very slow (on one trip, it took 12 hours to cover 400 km), it's much faster by bus;
- Lines are few;
- long distance trains are few;
- Connections are not optimal;
- Optimizing a consecutive pass is difficult due to the low fares.
The best plans are the ones that can be changed.
|Somewhere in Serbia|
I had a plan to go to Thessaloniki through Macedonia, but there, two main reasons stopped me from doing that in the end:
- Staying 4 nights instead of 2 prevented me from going too much south (I needed to start my journey homewards);
- The trains to and from Thessaloniki are seasonal. The last trains were between 13th and 16th September (depending on the train).
In the end, I went straight to Sofia. That ride took over 12 hours instead of over 10 hours.
|Train station in Bulgaria|
That being said, in the second third of the trip, I "sped" through Romania to Budapest. I stopped for a few hours in Videle (instead going all the way to Bucharest, city I have visited only just last year). In Simeria, I thought I might stop for a day or two, as it looked mountainous on Google Maps. In fact, once there, I realized the mountains were quite far behind, and that the only good things Simeria had to offer, was a hot shower for BGN 50 and some sausages and bakery food.
There again, think of preparing it better than average if you have to be somewhere the following day. While travelling without much thought might be nice and enjoyable if you can adapt your plans, it might not be the case when you have to take a certain train, whatever the conditions. When I went to book a night train from Budapest to Zürich for Friday night, I was only able to secure a seat from Salzburg.
This said, I took an earlier train to Salzburg which was awesome and really comfortable. Austrian trains and train stations are much better equipped with modern equipment and proper information (about delays, destination and so on) than Swiss trains. At the train stations everything useful is already in sight on every blue sign which indicates the locality's name. There are signals pointing to the bus, toilets, stairs, exit, and so on.
Yes I had some memorable times with people I've met on and out of the trains, saw some really nice views from the trains, and spent quite some quiet time looking out of the window, reading and even sleeping in trains.
But going with a consecutive two weeks pass is awfully stressing if you want to make full use of it. Meaning go through several countries. Meaning you will not have the time to see a lot in each country.
Day 1: Allaman CH to Zürich (afternoon) and Zürich to Zagreb HR (night)
Day 2: Zagreb HR to Sesvete HR (day)
Day 4: Sesvete HR to Dugo Selo to Belgrade RS (day)
Day 8: Belgrade RS to Sofia BG (day)
Day 10: Sofia BG to Videle RO (day)
Day 11: Videle RO to Simeria RO (night) and Simeria to Budapest HU (day)