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Trip report - May 23-June 20 - Greece/Hungary/Croatia/Serbia/Romania

We have just returned from 4 weeks in Europe.

Greece (Athens)-1-3: We started in Athens. We found our hotel (Hotel Victory Inn, near the Victory metro stop) after some wandering about. The room is pleasant and we are paying about $65/night which includes a breakfast (decent). The neighborhood is a little dodgy, but Athens itself is pretty dodgy. We did the Acropolis, and bought the Athens museum pass (Old Forum, Acropolis, Temple of Jupiter, Roman Forum) for 30€ each. Crowds were there, but not overwhelming, as it is May. Lost 50€ to a pickpocket in the Metro. The Metro in Athens is not a place to relax in. Be vigilant. There are gangs of thieves here. Acropolis - unique, worth the trip. Acropolis Museum - very nice and a reminder that most of the important parts of the Parthenon are in the British Museum. Old Forum - very interesting. Temple of Jupiter - this would have been a sight to behold in its prime. Food in Athens - inexpensive, good. Wine - excellent.

Nafplio, 4-6: A beach and tourist resort. We took a bus from Athens, inexpensive (24€ round-trip), quick (3 hours). A few beggars, not many (if you want beggars, Chicago has cornered the market - I counted 40 yesterday in 20 blocks downtown). Walkable, pleasant. There is a famous wine store, and we did the tasting along with an RS tourgroup - they seemed to be enjoying themselves. We took a bus to Micinae, the famous site of ancient Greek civilization (Trojan war time), which was cheap (6.4 €/person round-trip). The site is amazing, and there is a small museum. The bulk of the finds are in the National Archeological Museum in Athens. Pension Anafli (50€/night), very nice, decent breakfast.

Budapest, 7-9: Flew to Budapest. This is our third visit, so we did not do the standard stuff. We went to Göࣧdöࣧllöࣧ, a summer palace of Franz Joseph and Sisi (emperor Austria-Hungary). I learned why my grandmother's middle name is Gisella (she was a daughter of FJ and Sisi). Lovely palace, with very clear signs about all the objects. We went on the next day to Szentendre, an art colony and tourist destination N of Budapest in the Danube bend. We bought the full pass (2000 Hf or about $6.67) to see all the little museums of which there are about 20. Some were pretty good, some were less so. A fun day. On day 3, we did Höࣧsöࣧk Ter, the big square with Hungarian Heroes, and also the Hungarian Agricultural Museum. This latter is a small gem, with 2 amazing exhibits - winemaking in Hungary (lots about the phloxerra pest) and the history of agriculture (lots about a family interest, Donau-Schwaben in Austria-Hungary). Well-described in Hungarian and English.

Pecs, Hungary: This is a smaller Hungarian city south of Budapest. It has a famous pottery (Zsolnay), which has a museum in town. The works are great. We toured this museum, as well as a museum for Vasserely (op-art, 60s), both of which were great. There is also an extensive early Christian burial complex, partially excavated, which was fun to tour. We stayed 2 nights.

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Zagreb-12-16: Trip to Zagreb was somewhat difficult to arrange. Rome2Rio listed one train route, but there is a better one which was not listed and had to be found by digging (Pecs -> Osijek -> Zagreb). I attend a small conference in Croatia every other year, so seeing old friends was fun. We did the conference, and walked around a lot. I have been to Zagreb 5 times, so we have done the major attractions. On the last day of the conference, we headed downtown to watch Croatia-Wales in futbol - the streets were filled with futbol fans, all of whom were ..... from Wales!! Crazinness. Many police downtown, but there was no bad action. We also went to a rural restaurant with the group, and to the fabulous Croatian Neaderthal Museum. A number of Neanderthal artifacts were found here. It was great. Amazingly, a friend from high school (50 years ago) was also visiting the Neanderthal museum, which was crazy.

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Beograd: Train to Beograd was OK. A little slow. We needed to get to Timisuara, Romania, and Beograd was a good interim location. We did a boat ride, and walked around a lot (2nd trip to Beograd). We stayed in Hotel Moskva, which is the best hotel ($140/night). Good spa, fab breakfast (with sub-par macaroons). Very hot. We appreciated the fizzy water at dinner more than the wine.

Timisuara, Romania: Took a private bus here. This is a fabulous small Romanian city, which will be the EU Capital of Culture in 2021. It will be a slog to get the city ready. Romania is the place where McIver-like retrofixes are common. Every building has wires coming out of unusual places. Code for electric seems very lax. There is an ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS Banat House Museum. They have moved 40 houses from the time of German settlement in this part of Romania (it used to be Austria-Hungary before 1923, under the name Temesvar). These are fabulous, with many artifacts, wall hangings, pictures, etc. It's a family ethnic thing for me on my Mom's side. Timisuara is a pretty neat place (although as I noted it's in need of fixing up). We enjoyed walking about and stayed in a private apartment. Timisuara was the location of the start of the anti-communist revolution, and there is a very interesting museum about this. In Nov-Dec of this year, we will mark 30 years since Communism and the Iron Curtain in East Europe ended.

Oradea, Romania: Another small Romanian provincial town, originally Hungarian, and again in need of fixing up. We did a really interesting architecture tour, which exhibited the issues that communism imposed on Romania. Many formerly single-family houses were cut up into apartments, and now the ability to repair the entire building is hard to get - tenants see no reason to be large money into overall maintainance.

Budapest: Stayed on a boat hotel. Fun. Parliament was visible outside our window. Went to the Budapest Art Nouveau museum, which is small but very nice with mostly furniture.

Athens-21-23: National Archeological Museum (not to be missed) and Byzantine&Christian Museum (very nice, small).

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Lessons learned:

1) I'm not a fan of Greece
2) Watch out for pickpockets
3) Best new location: Western Romania. Timisuara was a really interesting place
4) Best museum: National Archeological Museum
5) Most unexpected good museum: Hungarian Agricultural Museum

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2251 posts

Nice report, Paul. It sounds like an amazing trip and I appreciate you taking the time to post your journey. I am interested in Hungary (only visited Budapest one time for a few short days) so I read this with a lot of interest and a view to a return someday. I enjoyed your take on the several smaller museums you visited, they sound wonderful. I've been to Athens and Nafplio, I looked forward to visiting Greece ever since my college days. I loved our stay in Athens and didn't find it "dodgy" at all but that was a few years ago!

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3036 posts

@andi: Thanks for the comment. We all have likes and dislikes. The history of Greece is amazing and was very interesting to explore.

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3136 posts

Thanks for the report Paul. We are doing an RS tour to Greece in Oct. I don’t think we will be riding the metro, but we will be extra careful with our belongings. I, for one, fully expect to love Greece and have a fantastic time.

Posted by
3797 posts

Thanks for the excellent trip report. After reading it, though, I have an odd desire to eat tiramisu.

Posted by
10857 posts

We felt safer in Greece than anywhere we have traveled.
Interesting that you liked Pécs as others have told us to avoid it.

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3036 posts

Pecs was really fun. I have no idea why anyone would avoid it. It has several nice things to do. We stayed in the Palladium Hotel, which is on the high end for this small town, and spent 13844 Hf ($46/night), including breakfast, which was fabulous. The Vasserely museum was super, as was the Zsolany pottery museum.

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681 posts

Thanks for the report. We spent 2 weeks in Greece on a tour. 3 days total in Athens. My sister and I never felt unsafe there but we loved going from island to island on the ferry system. I just think I don't like large cities. Your trip sounds amazing!

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985 posts

Paul, thanks for sharing your trip with us. I've never been to any of the places you went and I really liked that other than in Greece you seemed to visit different places than the average tourist and enjoyed the sights and small museums just as much. Fancy meeting up with your old school mate, huh? What a blast that must have been! Thanks again.

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26480 posts

I, too, am puzzled about why anyone would suggest avoiding Pecs. I admit that it would be less exciting to folks with no interest in 20th-century ceramics than it was to me, but I thought it a quite attractive place.

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3036 posts

@acraven: Starting last summer, visiting museums with a speciality in commercial and/or production ceramics has been a subnote of our travels. If you are in Cincinnati, visit the Art Museum, as they have quite a lot about the numerous potteries in Cincinnati. We also found a famous Hungarian potter, Kovacs Margit, in a small museum in Szentendre. Then the Zsolnay museum contributed to this trend.

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3862 posts

Yes, thanks for contributing your experiences! Most of these places will be new for me (when I go) so your time is appreciated!