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Not Happy Rick!

We used Rick's book in Spain and found it useful and relevant so on his recommendation (that Bucharest was one the the worst cities in Europe) we chose to only spend one day there. We found that despite its tragic history and the awful "eastern bloc" run down apartment buildings on the outskirts, that Bucharest was a graceful city, filled with stately building, wonderful boulevards, glorious parks and green areas, friendly courteous people and the best coffee enjoyed on our whole eastern Europe trip. We would have loved to have spent three days there but flights etc were set in concrete. Bucharest needs tourists and for Rick to write such a review is damaging and incorrect. He should re visit Bucharest and see for himself the real former "Paris of the East."

Posted by
9363 posts

You're not the first one to disagree with something RS believes.

Posted by
15037 posts

There's no accounting for tastes, especially for Rick's. :-)

That's why I read more than one guide book and spend a lot of time researching online, especially asking questions here. Never mind, I'm sure you enjoyed all of your trip and that's the most important thing.

Posted by
12040 posts

Careful there, you know how true believers react when a heretic starts to question received dogma...

But in all seriousness, perhaps you could tell us more about Bucharest. I admit, it's not on my travel radar (more to do with Anthony Bourdain's experiences there than anything Rick Steves did or didn't write), but perhaps it would be if you make a convincing case. I owe my enjoyment of such non-Blue Book approved destinations as Marburg, Leipzig, Büdingen, Bad Homburg, Oberstdorf, Flumserberg, Italy's Ortler Alps, Åre and Hamburg and Gent (before they were in the books) to recommendations from posters on this and other websites. So... spread the love a little and tell us more about why you liked Bucharest.

Posted by
16883 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience, Susan! I'm glad that the city was enjoyable for a day. Frankly, we would be hard pressed to name any place that could not be enjoyed for a day. Knowing that you can't see everything, and he can't cover everything, Rick's goal is to help you find the best value for time and money, especially for first-time travelers. Of course, having booked a trip to Bucharest (a river cruise?) I would want to consult a guidebook that covered it, such as Lonely Planet, and which would cover other Romanian destinations, too.

Rick and his co-author make their recommendation against spending time in Bucharest having indeed been there very recently, and having found much more to recommend in other parts of rural and small-town Romania (although they won't appear in a book any time soon) and among other eastern capitols. If you visited Prague, Krakow, and Budapest I would hazard a bet that you'd find more to enjoy in those cities.

Posted by
988 posts

Travel is such a personal thing......no one can determine what you will or will not enjoy.
My daughter had three days planned for Bucharest, but left on the morning of the second day. She "couldn't get out fast enough". and moved on to her next destination early. She was totally on the same page as Rick when it came to Bucharest.
What is pleasing to one, is not to another. You can't take anyone's opinions as your gospel, even Rick's.

Posted by
8860 posts

I totally agree with Elaine. Different people like different things. Some people love Rome, I didn't hate it, but wasn't sad to leave. I'll try it again some day. Maybe different weather or staying in a different location will make a difference, I adore Paris, but shockingly to me, some people don't like it at all.

Posted by
13711 posts

I've been to Bucharest. I enjoyed every moment of it. I could easily spend a few more days. If you need a lot of entertainment or changing stimulus then its not the place for you. That's not an insult, different people look for different experiences and Bucharest is sort of a laid back experience full of bizarre little Easter eggs. The other misunderstood town is Sofa. In a few days I arrive on my second trip there as well.

Posted by
13711 posts

And @Laura, your statement about best value for your money is a poorly thought out comment. By your reasoning Risk thinks we all came out of the same cookie cutter. If so the back door is no longer necessary. Sorry, but I have read your posts and you are better, much better, than that.

Posted by
1878 posts

I usually find that the cities and towns that Rick recommends are on the mark, sorry you had a contrary experience. We do usually consult a second source, but often the other guide books present everything as equally worthwhile. We usually add one or two stops beyond what Rick recommends. The images of Bucharest on Pinterest do look pretty interesting. I hope we will get to visit there one day!

Posted by
15037 posts

Andrea - I'm with you on Rome. There are great museums and churches but the city itself . . . meh.

Posted by
12970 posts

I agree with Elaine. Bucharest is low on the priority list, too many other higher priorities in East Central Europe. If and when I get to Bucharest, that visit will take place regardless of what RS advises or not.

Posted by
5 posts

It is great that you enjoyed this destination. Though one of the things I value most about Rick Steves' guides is that he never forgets who his obligation is to: his readers- and has the courage to write for their benefit, despite occasional criticism for his frankness. He has taken heat for this, I remember seeing an article in a European newspaper chastising Rick Steves for not recommending certain major European cities as must-sees. If memory serves me correctly, I believe Zurich was one… Americans, in general, have such short vacations compared to their European counterparts. Given that fact, doesn't it make sense that we want someone who can be honest enough to give frank opinions on places that don't merit as much attention as others? Most places have their positives, of course, but when someone only has 10-14 days out of an entire year, is it wrong to begrudge them a "pick and choose" outlook? Of course, we aren't always going to agree with the opinions- I thought Brienz was gorgeous in Switzerland, though it wasn't even mentioned in the Rick Steves' Switzerland book. However, I wouldn't dream of complaining about that because it is unrealistic to expect that I would always agree with his evaluations. If Mr. Steves started worrying about never saying anything negative, his books would become much less useful very quickly. Many of us want someone who can be brutally honest-- that is exactly why we are reading his books.

Posted by
4 posts

Evaluations are fine- I understand that Rick's evaluations are very America-centric and everyone in the world looks at travel differently. However we were, to put it mildly, very surprised at Rick's idea that Bucharest was one of Europe's worst cities and not worth a visit. No, it is not Paris, Rome or Istanbul but it compares favourably with Prague and Budapest and it's history is fascinating. I have travelled widely in the Baltic States, Poland, and Eastern Europe and including Serbia, Croatia and while these countries may not have the "big ticket" tourist attractions, but they have everything to suit a traveller, as opposed to a tourist.

Posted by
13711 posts

I agree with you Susan. Maybe the issue that is getting lost here is context. I don't know what Rick says about Romania. Probably not much because there isn't even a forum for Romania. The implication here that Bucharest isn't worth going to see is a little narrow minded without context. I would agree that Bucharest would be pretty low on my list of stand alone destinations; BUT, it is pretty difficult to tour Transylvania without landing in Bucharest. So now the question is how interesting is Bucharest in regards to a trip to Transylvania. I would say it deserves at a bare minimum one full day, that would be two nights. If you don't enjoy the experience then I predict you aren't going to much enjoy Transylvania either; and that would be a real personal loss.

You know there are a lot of reasons to travel and I think I am at least a little better for exploring as many of those reasons as possible. Some go to be entertained, others to learn from museums, some to view a living culture some to help develop a broader understanding of the world; so I find it pretty narrow minded to criticize a place because some place else is "more beautiful". That would be a little like loving your spouse solely for his/her appearance. If you despise Bucharest then imagine what Bulgaria would be for you? Still, one of my most enjoyable, special moments in all my traveling involved a beaten and battered train crossing the Balkan mountains. Sure the views were good, but the people we shared the little car with were the real treasure of the trip and among the kindest and sweetest i have ever met. Despite their obvious poverty and a total lack of a common language to communicate in they still approached us to shared food and drink with us. Isn't this part of that Back Door theory? Isn't a place like Bucharest one of Europe's Back Doors? So don't talk to me about "best value" and point to Rome.

Tomorrow morning I head back to Bulgaria for a week. Sofia and all. I have been to major tourist cities in Europe, most more than once, but I enjoy Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia; just as much, but for different reasons. If anyone doesn't understand that then I feel a little sorry for them.

Posted by
13711 posts

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd. I looked up RS comments on Bucharest and I think the negativity is a little overplayed. His comment was: "Bucharest, Romania's capital, has little to offer. Its top-selling postcard is of the InterContinental Hotel". I do remember this comment and I believe it was floating around the first time I visited Eastern Europe a long, long time ago. Some things have changed. For instance the best selling postcard is now the Parliament Building (People's Palace) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/Palatul_Parlamentului_1b.jpg (view of the post card) a building that speaks volumes about communism. And much of the old district has been pedestrianized and renovated.

Posted by
1064 posts

Susan, you are free to travel when and where you want. But this is uncalled for " … while these countries may not have the "big ticket" tourist attractions, but they have everything to suit a traveller, as opposed to a tourist."

As others have noted above, many of us have limited vacation time and prioritize destinations accordingly. I have nothing against the "backwater" places of Europe, but I would rather be a "tourist" in places that are on my bucket list than a "traveler," with its suggestion of unwarranted superiority.

Posted by
1064 posts

Another thought: It really defeats the purpose to promote a place by insulting those who have not been there or, in the case of RS, those who visited and were not impressed. I have been to quite a few places Rick did not rate highly and have no interest in some he praises.

After reading a different post about another place most of us miss, Wales, I may add it to my bucket list. See: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/why-isn-t-everyone-raving-about-wales

Posted by
2986 posts

I agree with Elaine and Andrea; travel is a personal thing. A place that one person hates, another person may love. Perfect example, over on the thread, "Where Do You Regret Going?" one person said "London. I just don't get all the hype." I was truly amazed, because I think London is terrific.

Susan, I think it's a mistake not to thoroughly research any place you are thinking of going on a trip. Read articles online, read what several different guidebooks have to say about a place. Rick Steves guidebooks are great, but they cannot tell you whether you will like a place or hate it; they cannot know what your personal opinion will be of a place. Remember, you could have also come here to the Helpline/Travel Forum, and posted a question, asked us if anyone had been to Bucharest, and what their opinion was; agree or disagree with Rick's guidebook. Use Rick's guidebooks, which are full of great information, but always do your homework and form your own opinion of whether a place deserves a day on your travel agenda, or three days, or zero days.

You can always go back to Bucharest on another trip now that you know you'd like to have more time there. This happens to a lot of us when we're traveling; the last day or two of your trip (anywhere), you find a town or region that you wish you had more time to explore; just have to put it on the agenda for next trip.

Posted by
453 posts

I always do my own thing, and don't plan my trips based on Rick's opinion. Loved Stratford upon Avon in spite of his feelings, for example.

I also go to places he either doesn't cover or his remarks were negative. And that could be a good thing!!!

Posted by
18 posts

Well, while I praised Rick for his help in the Venice guidebook that I heavily relied on while there-- I got extremely claustrophobic due to huge crowds of cruise ship tours and tours of students of all ages marching thru the narrow alleys with backpacks and wheelie bags. It was an endless stream.
I did go to the un-touristy areas and enjoyed doing that but for the most part I felt like I stayed there about 1.5 days too long--I was there for 3 days. I had no idea how crowded it could be! So happy to be in Slovenia now! What a contrast!

Posted by
12040 posts

Tourist vs. traveler- a self-described traveler does and goes to all the same things a tourist does, but they think they're better or on some kind of higher mission than the tourist.

Posted by
1064 posts

When I was a kid, my family made a few trips to a ranch outside of West Palm Beach, Florida, to visit relatives. Along the way, we would pass signs for attractions with exotic names like Cypress Gardens, Wikki Wakki (sp?) Springs and Sunken Gardens, etc. We never stopped, even when passing directly in front of the gates. My dad said those places were for tourists, not for us. Many years later he confessed that he did not have the money or time to take Mother and four kids to these places.

We were travelers back then, driving into town to eat meals with the locals, sometimes walking around town a bit and then getting back on the road. That was fun, in its own way, but even then I realized that we were just travelers, seeing "famous" places from outside but never actually entering them. How I envied those tourists. Now I find it ironic to see those terms turned on their head.

Posted by
2081 posts

Susan,

This is great. you just learned something.

whats nice about traveling, is that you can go back.

As i said before and others have said, RS books are "guide" books, not gospel or the "Bible".

a side note. My co worker is from Scotland and i told him i want to see Glasgow. He told me its a "S" hole and not to spend my $$ or time. If i were to listen to him, i wouldn't go, but i do things for myself and i will research for myself what there is to do/see and i will go.

Traveling is all about finding places that you may or may not like. You really wont know until you get there. I can understand using "GUIDE" books for your travels, but when it comes down to it, its an unique and really individual experience that you have to find out for yourself, for good or bad.

happy trails.

Posted by
5789 posts

Ray's Portland Scottish coworker who doesn't think much of Glasgow must be from Edinburgh. Part of the joy of traveling is talking to locals. A Glasgowian that we met in Milngavie in finding that we had come from Edinburgh told us: "Ye can have more fun at a Glasgow funeral than at an Edinburgh wedding.". And noted that Glasgow earns the money that Edinburgh spends. Blue collar vs blue blood cities?

Posted by
4 posts

First of all I am not sure, Ray, what you think it is that I have learned from all this. Is it not to take someone's opinion on face value? My opinion has not changed - that Rick , with one swipe of quite considerably influential pen ( especially in the US) can declare a city not worth going to is irresponsible and in my very humble opinion, erroneous.
For all those people who can see past a few crumbling buildings, can see the somewhat faded beauty of an area, a city , a people- Bucharest is well worth going to, she deserves a visit. Rick's view made me wonder if he had actually been to Bucharest.
And a tourist is a person who travels to make sure they tick off all the sites they think will look good on their travel resume, the ones they can impress people with. A traveller on the other hand is someone who gets off the beaten path, who travels on domestic buses and trains, who eats at village restaurants, who looks beyond and mingles with the people - in other words, who takes a risk. I have been both and I know which is more rewarding, even if you have no one else with whom to share your experiences. That sounds very pompous but I am sure that there are some people on this forum who will understand me.
Thank for the private messages of support and thanks for the suggestion of the Ceausescu book, I have read lots about this fascinating period of history and look forward to another insight.

Posted by
12040 posts

"Rick's view made me wonder if he had actually been to Bucharest." Some of us also wonder if he's ever actually visited Heidelberg, because his brief description does not match the city at all.

Posted by
809 posts

One can NOT by the advice of Rick Steve's alone! I read tins of books / Rixk only gives advice in such a limited sampling - you gotta get more info.

I Love Ghent - so happy he decided to include it in his books. My new favorite (somewhat unknown) place - Guimaraes, Portugal.

Posted by
12970 posts

@ Susan....I agreed with your distinction between a tourist and a traveler in Europe. I am also both. In certain places in Europe I am a traveler; in most places I see myself as a tourist. In both cases I look like a tourist, regardless, if the locals care to spot me out.

Posted by
5789 posts

Susan,

"Travelers" and wonderers (not in the ethnic sense) may be better served by the Lonley Planet or Rough Guide series that covers more geography than the RS books. Rick covers favorites name tourist cities in great detail with walking guides, lodging etc. The RS guides also cover some of the RS hidden gem discoveries but leave the vast areas in between untouched and left for the explorers.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/romania/bucharest

"Much of Romania slags it and Europe in general doesn’t always speak favourably of Romania’s capital. They’re all wrong. Its perplexing mismatch of eras...."

It's an eye of the beholder situation.

Posted by
786 posts

"My opinion has not changed - that Rick , with one swipe of quite considerably influential pen ( especially in the US) can declare a city not worth going to is irresponsible and in my very humble opinion, erroneous."

I respectfully disagree Susan. He built his company on his opinions. I don't agree with everything he writes. Most people don't. But he is not obligated to praise every destination just in case one of his readers might have a different opinion. If he gave everything a rave review, how do you narrow down what you want to see? Don't you think that takes away his credibility as well? It sounds like you have now learned you have different travel preferences and you will be looking to other guidebooks. But I don't think this is Rick's (or his team's) fault.

Posted by
191 posts

@Alex- I usually like your posts but now you are sounding like what we call a "snob". I lived for two years in the late 70s in a maid's room in the 15th, worked as an au pair and lived on $311/mo. My local hangout was a cafe called Le Suffren where everyday my retired friend M. Renault would come in and take the stool reserved for him at the end of the bar and order a glass of red wine. M. Renault loved Jerry Lewis movies and couldn't believe Americans would force a great man like Richard Nixon out of the presidency. A lot of other French agreed with him (on both counts). Would you consider that LOL? I would suggest now you take a walk down rue Cler and check out some of the "hilarious" French who live, work and shop there. I'll give you a hint: those are not all tourists buying produce and fruit from the stand on the corner of rue Cler and rue St. Dominique. Rick likes it because there are lot of relatively inexpensive hotels in the area and it has variety to it that does make it very French. I'll bet you look down on Place du Tertre in Montmartre and the restaurant Le Chartier in the 9th also as "unFrench". I recommend both to people I know visiting Paris because both are fun! Susan found Bucharest to be nicer than she had read in Rick's guide and I found both Saumur and Metz in France to be lovely, interesting towns and they are not even mentioned in Rick's guides. RS is not the be all to end all of guides.

Finally, here in Milwaukee, with everything else to see, one of the most popular tourist attractions is a bronze statue on a bridge over the Milwaukee river of Arthur Fonzarelli, "The Fonz", with both thumbs up (most of you out there know who I'm talking about). Touristy, yes, but I would never laugh at the people who crowd around it to have their pictures taken with The Fonz!

Posted by
786 posts

I don't think you have to be a die hard, Rick is never wrong, person to use this website. But if you don't agree with his basic travel philosophy, why bother?

Posted by
12040 posts

" But if you don't agree with his basic travel philosophy, why bother?"

To exchange travel ideas, not simply to reciprocate adherence to ideological purity.

Posted by
12970 posts

As to RS basic travel philosophy I don't believe in it either. As for RS books appearing in French translation, I would guess they would not sell in France. But that's just a guess. I wouldn't bet on their selling well and gaining popularity.

Posted by
2081 posts

@ Edgar,

my friend is not from Edinburgh proper but from outside Glasgow. I thought it was a funny thing to say but thats his opinion and i just ignored it. As i said i do my own homework so i will go anyway. He could be right, but i will make my own judgement when and after i get there.

@ Susan,

My point is that many people read something and believe it. Just because its in the news or in print doenst make it so. Im sure you will find some people agree with you and some wont and same for me. Its just the nature of us. I say you cant please everyone 100% of the time and it goes for traveling, eating, seeing, doing, just about everything.

With regards to RS doing a dis-service to Bucharest, im sure he/they have their reasons, but again, its a guide book and i use them as such, but i also do my homework using other books, the web and talking with other people who travel and i use my own judgement if i want to go/do/see things there.

happy trails.

Posted by
786 posts

"To exchange travel ideas, not simply to reciprocate adherence to ideological purity"

I am not suggesting anyone should do this (EDIT- People SHOULD exchange ideas and SHOULD NOT adhere to one idea without having their own opinion). Thinking is good. Debate is good. But if you disagree with the fundamentals of his travel philosophy, there are other travel websites. It just seems like a waste of energy.

Posted by
2526 posts

For rookie tourists to Europe, Rick offers solid advice in a format that can’t be beat (millions of books sold?). For most folks, carefully saving for that first and perhaps only trip to Europe and researching same, are you likely to seek lesser known locales per Rick's publications, for that purpose alone? For more experienced tourists (if you feel better calling yourself a travelers, so be it), returning to the same old same old or doing much research and exploring new cities/villages, especially such not mentioned by Rick, is most rewarding. Great. Chart your course as you see fit, but there’s no need to denigrate those having thoughts different from your own.

Posted by
796 posts

I always take what Rick says with a grain of salt because his tastes and mine can be very different. I have learned, for example, that the places he recommends for people to stay are holes you couldn't pay me to stay in. As for Bucharest, we love it and have often visited it. The people are nice, the food is good, and it is a lovely city with much to love. More people should visit- just don't stay anywhere Rick recommends!

Posted by
2526 posts

..."the places he recommends for people to stay are holes you couldn't pay me to stay in." My experience is that Rick's description of accommodations are accurate and if he mentions say traffic noise, then expect such.

Posted by
430 posts

Wow. Lots of energy expended here. We've gone places Rick doesn't like or doesn't even mention and loved them. Gone places Rick liked and didn't like them very much. Gotten lost and liked those times the best of all.

At home we don't always agree with restaurant ratings or movie reviews. Again, some of the best have been things we stumbled upon.

Not enough time here? Too much time there? It happens.

I hope you enjoy your next trip, including the grumbling if that's your thing.

Posted by
796 posts

Bruce, it is not just a matter of RS warning about noise. After decades of travel, we know automatically to ask for a quiet room in the back so to avoid street noise. The problem with the "sleeping" section of the books is that they will say that a hotel is upscale, a good splurge, beautiful, comfortable, plush, and go on about how nice a place is and then when you get there, it is a cheap dump you have to crawl up dozens of stairs to even get to the door, go up more stairs to get to the reception area since there is no elevator or the one they have is out of order or so tiny two people can't fit in it at the same time without being in an intimate position (and we are normal weight), and then you have old furniture, things broken in the room that never get fixed, tiny beds pushed together, dirty linens, teeny rooms, showers that fit an anorexic 10 year old girl, no hot water most of the time, no one to help you with luggage, and no air conditioning or heating most of the year and then very spotty when it is running. And these are the luxurious upscale splurges! People have different tastes and while I like Rick's museum and sightseeing suggestions, many of his restaurant suggestions, etc, we have come to understand that he is satisfied to sleep on a bench in the park or on the floor at the airport which defines his ideas of what is acceptable at a hotel. While we love his shows and books, we just make sure we don't choose his hotel selections. It never worked out and we can find truly luxurious hotels on our own online at Tripadvisor.

Posted by
8395 posts

I pretty much agree with Terry Lynn... we've stayed in some good RS recommended hotels but we've also stayed in some really bad ones... and the bad ones were a huge letdown and affected our enjoyment of where we were. I stopped trusting his hotel recs a long time ago.

Posted by
3696 posts

@ Susan... I think you have me mixed up with Terri Lynn... I did not make those comments:) Not that it matters but I don't think I have ever stayed in an RS recommended hotel...

Posted by
8395 posts

So sorry!! I'll change my post above...

Posted by
1064 posts

Not sure what RS's recommendations on hotels has to do with his thoughts on destinations, but I view his recommendations like any others. If I see something he recommends that might suit my needs, I check (up to four) other sources -- Frommers, Fodors, Trip Advisor and Booking.com, newspapers, websites, etc. -- to get different perspectives. When two or more of these others give similar ratings, then I look more seriously at the place. The same goes for places recommended by others, as well as places I stumble upon on my own.

Posted by
5669 posts

Wow, it's a guide book. And all guide books are usually about one person's perspective, or they are written to the expectations of a segment of a market--Lonely Planet, Let's Go etc.

I'm going to disagree with statements that Rick's descriptions are inaccurate. I found them amazingly accurate and I felt like I got exactly what I expected from reading the review. Again, whether it's a city or a hotel, it's his perspective and his definitions. Rick has always leaned toward smaller hotels. The descriptions always point out stairs and elevators or the lack there of. If you want to be in the lap of luxury, then maybe you should look to Burt Wolf. :)

I travel solo too. I have only been on one ETBD tour, which I did enjoy. So, I'm always making choices about the places I want to go and the hotels and B&B's I stay in. And Rick's books have been a great resource, but they are one of many that I use including forums, websites, other guidebooks, friends, work colleagues and more. And you know what? Sometimes even with all the planning, they don't always work out. So, you move on....

What I call the "planning gene" is really a good thing to have if you traveling solo on your own. But, you also need the "flexibility gene" if you're going to not let the occasional mistake cloud your trip.

Pam

Posted by
8 posts

This is by far one of the longest threads having absolutely to do with nothing! It's like reading the script to a Seinfeld episode.
After reading this I have 3 points to make and I'm out.
1- I love Rick's work I know it all front to back, I hope to be a guide someday; having said that, there are plenty of things that he has stated in his shows, or written in his books or has said in his lectures that I have attended that I don't agree with or see eye to eye with him on. SO WHAT! He's one man, with one opinion, which he is entitled too. If you have found something that you disagree with him about, that doesn't make him wrong, or the devil or an idiot, it just means you have a different opinion, that's all!
2- As a traveler, tourist or what ever the heck you want to call it, everyone's experiences are different, regardless of where you come from or what you know or even what interests you. I have been to Paris 3 times, the first time I went I absolutely hated it, now I'm in love with it and can't stop thinking about going back. Everyone experiences travel different, to label oneself as a "traveler" or a "tourist" is crazy, because you can experience a vacation from both "angles" in the same week!
3- going back and fourth over something as silly as this is just a waste of time. Instead of going back and fourth, use the time to write your own Blog, or website or column with your views and opinions of different places you have traveled. Instead of taking the time to belittle a man who has spent his adult life shaping the minds of happy travelers all over the world. And going out and doing the research and spending the time to form educated and informed opinions.
That's it, hopefully my opinion isn't met with a plethora of nonsense remarks!