Around Europe by Train: Part 4 (Zagreb & Belgrade)

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Welcome to the last part of our amazing vacation that we had around Europe this year: we visited 9 cities in 30 days and you can check out our impressions as follows: Budapest and Vienna, Munchen, Verona & Trieste, Pula & Rijeka and finally, today, our last leg of the trip: Zagreb and Belgrade.

Even though happy with all the things we got to see and the amazing memories that we were coming back home with, we were starting to get really tired. We walked in each city for hours, sometimes up to 8 hours per day, carried backpacks, carried our two year old son… things were getting more and more difficult and we were actually really excited that we were nearing the end of our adventure. We still had enough energy to enjoy the last two cities, though!

Zagreb

We only spent two nights in Zagreb. We knew nothing about the city and after the not so spectacular Pula and Rijeka, we didn’t have high expectations from it. But just like it happened before, it was Zagreb that we have enjoyed the most in Croatia. We also had one of the most modern, best looking apartments during our stay but for some strange reason I can’t seem to find any picture of it, so you will have to take my word.

Zagreb feels like a small city – way more relaxed and slow paced than I expected it to be. I really thought that we were going to get to a crowded, chaotic place, like Bucharest – but we didn’t. It was silent, chill and really beautiful. Great pedestrian-only areas in the center, where you have all the attractions and museums. Pretty impressive!

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This marks the entrance to a park that leads to the main attractions in central Zagreb
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The map of Zagreb
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The Cathedral of Zagreb was really impressive, and you could see those towers from basically anywhere in the city
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Beautiful entrance to the cathedral
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View from the train station, with King’s Tomislav Statue in front and the Art Musem in the back
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The beautiful St Mark’s Church. Unfortunately, there was a protest there (notice the people?) so the area was closed in and guarded by soldiers, so we couldn’t get close.
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A group of Croatian singers that were a delight to listen to

We decided to go out of our comfort zone and take our two-years-old to a Museum because its concept sounded way to cool to miss out on it: it was the Museum of Broken relationships and it was simply beautiful. It was great to explore and read all the stories (some of them really funny, some of the cheesy and most of them really sad), but Eric got bored extremely fast, so we had to rush through it. I liked it, though and I think you should really visit this unique museum if you ever get to Zagreb!

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I spent hundreds (probably thousands) of hours playing this series of games, so I really know that it could break relationships πŸ™‚

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As I said earlier – Zagreb was a pleasant surprise and I actually wanted to spend more time there. And maybe we’ll make another visit when Eric grows a bit older so that we can visit all the museums it has to offer!

Belgrade

We arrived to Belgrade after the most horrible train ride ever. Paradoxically named “The Pearl of the Alps” or something like that, the train was disgusting: dirty, smelly and extremely crowded. The toilet was especially dirty – and clogged, so everybody was going to a different coach, all resulting in a long line. Also, you could not reserve seats even if you wanted to, so it was pretty chaotic at first. All in all, the worst train that we traveled with (and this includes trains in Romania, too, which are not amazing either!)

The room we stayed in was amazing, just minutes away from the city center and the main attractions in Belgrade. Plus it was close to the main walking area with shops, pubs and excitement. We even got there during the weekend, when it was a parade and a concert, so it was really nice.

Another large, bright living room
Another large, bright living room

It was here where we first had frozen yogurt – we only knew of it from movies and TV shows as we don’t have that in Romania. They also had ice-cream which was 100% fruit, organic, sugar and gluten free… but everything was in vain because you also had a huge variety of toppings to add and make it your own (like melted chocolate, M&Ms, all sorts of fruits and syrups and cookie types). All in all, it was delicious, and the first time we had it it actually became our dinner.

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We loved visiting the Belgrade fortress, which is huge and impressive, offering some great views over the Danube and Sava river. There’s also a nice park there, where people gather and sing, dance and feel good. We also received free drinks (some sort of ice-cold cider), which were welcome as it was Belgrade where we had the hottest weather in our trip.

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Serbia’s been in a war in the 90s, so these might not be that old…

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The Belgrade Fortress

However, I have mixed feelings about Belgrade. The touristy area is indeed flawless, but it’s the rest of the city that it’s kind of sad. Walking down the streets, you see ruined buildings, unfinished buildings and overall you can feel that there was a war in the country recently and they haven’t recovered from it yet. But in the end, Romania looks mostly the same and there was no war here, so they probably recovered pretty well πŸ™‚

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Prices in Belgrade are really low – lower than what you can find in Romania, but the only big problem is their major use of the Cyrillic alphabet: you really can’t understand anything unless you know it, and we didn’t. However, the major stores and all restaurants that we saw in the city center do use the Latin alphabet.

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In Cyrillic letters, it says “Hotel Moscow” – a beautiful building too!
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The central area was absolutely beautiful

I was pretty scared when leaving Belgrade by train – after the extremely bad experience with the Croatian train, I was expecting this to be even worse, especially because it didn’t leave from the main station, but a small, horribly looking one that our host didn’t even know existed: and the only trains that passed through there were those heading to Romania (but they also have a ton of other stops in Serbia along the way). Fortunately, the train was surprisingly good, so no complaints here!

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Our train station, Belgrade Dunav. Near a disco and a shady restaurant… things didn’t look encouraging!
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But fortunately the train offered us a pleasant surprise

This is it! This was our vacation through Europe – and I tried to keep things as brief as possible since this should be a blog about Romania. But it was something that it had to be shared and clearly a trip you can take if you decide to move to the country, so I really hope it’s helpful!

13 COMMENTS

  1. HA! I beat Teal and Kem Kem on being first to write. I enjoyed reading about our trip as well, brought back fun memories. I will miss that Ice cream in Belgrade, at least we didn’t stood in line 15 min for it, like we did in Munich πŸ˜€ and Eric could have as much as he wanted to so probably he misses that too. We met some old friend in Serbia, and I would gladly go back there, not just for the ice cream, but maybe give it another shot with another city, like Novi Sad (our friends are from there)

  2. What??? I can’t believe the Mrs. Beat us to it! :-). Hah hah! I agree with you, l enjoyed reading about your travels. Wow! Your last train ride was a nice way to end the train journeys. Funny, l had another blogger friend who just left Zagreb, and visited the museum o.f broken relationships. I read a very sad one about a girl whose parents wouldn’t let her marry the boy next door, and he ended up killing himself that night. I am so glad you guys had a great trip overall. You’re right it does get tiring after a while. That is one reason why we like having a home base, and then going on trips from there. I couldn’t do one long one of country hopping. Welcome back! And thanks for taking us on your journey.

  3. Hello All! Yes, I am late to the party;-) I really enjoyed this entire series! The pictures and very well-written (and amusing, too!) commentary was most enjoyable. BTW: Why doesn’t Romania have frozen yogurt?!?!? Maybe you all can be entrepreneurs and start your own business. I am sure Wife Romanian could come up with some tasty variations on a theme.
    So it seems you think Budapest and Zagreb are two of the best cities you visited. But as usual, there’s no place like home, right?
    Now here’s something I found out: “Wandering Earl” (the travel blogger) was denied another Romanian residence visa. (I figured this is sort of germane.) He had made Bucharest his base of operations since 2012 or 2013–I forget which, and always had good things to say about Romania and had made many friends. I can’t understand why he was denied another visa. He had a generous income, and contributed to the Romanian economy–it seems like the country cut off its nose to spite its face. It just seems so sad for the rug to be pulled out from under him. But he’s like a cat and always lands on his feet. I wish him the best of luck. Who knows, if he reads your blog, he may find one of the cities you visited to his liking for a new “base.”
    So now you’re home and can come up with other fascinating Romanian facets to share, eh?
    Thanks for sharing your trip report and pictures!
    ~Teil

    • Hello Teil,

      Even though Belgrade and Zagreb were great cities to be in, I would still put Budapest and Munchen at the top. But, of course, consider the frozen yogurt business idea πŸ™‚

      Wandering Earl’s Visa was rejected in March and I know I was really surprised and enraged by this. However, his reason to stay was that he is a blogger and he’s promoting Romania, so other people who decide to move here should have no worries about this happening to them… unless they are bloggers, of course πŸ™‚

      And yes, now that I have completed the trip reports, it’s time to start talking about Romania!

  4. Thanks for the interesting write-ups on Belgrade and Zagreb. I just finished plowing through Wandering Earl’s blog posts on his Romanian visa denial. What a story! I live in Japan which can also be difficult for getting visas. Now I have permanent residency, but I can lose it if I stay away for longer than a year.

    • Yes, it’s very unfortunate and plain ugly what happened with Wandering Earl… but you live in a country where I really hope to get one day! If you want to switch places, just let me know :))

      • Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. I just might take you up on that offer someday. Although I don’t know if that would be fair to you. My city is far in the north in Hokkaido and there really isn’t much Japanese culture to see here. All the famous Japanese cultural hotspots like Kyoto are on Honshu very far away. Lots of beautiful nature here, but you have that in Romania. Also, after all those beautiful Airbnb apartments you stayed in, I’m afraid my house looks like somewhat of a dump.

  5. “…carried our two year old son…” and “…take our two-years-old to a Museum”

    Grammar-Gestapo: When used as an adjective or noun, the age is expressed with hyphens:

    “…carried our two-year-old son…”

    The second one was almost perfect except for the plural “years”

    Correct: “…take our two-year-old to a museum.”

    When using it with the verb “to be,” however, don’t use hyphens and do use a plural:

    “Our son is two years old.”

    This “plural turns to singular” rule also applies to money when used as an adjective:

    I have a $20 bill. (“I have a twenty DOLLAR bill” not “twenty dollars bill”)
    I bought a $20 ticket. (“twenty DOLLAR ticket”)

    But: This ticket costs $20. (“twenty dollarS”)

    Your English is really so excellent! Really! I remember the joy I felt when my Romanian friends would correct my Romanian writing in a way easy for me to understand. I hope you get the same feeling. If not, I will stop. I’m looking forward to your next posts about Romania.

    • Thanks for that, Stuart! There are a ton of things that I still don’t know (and grammar is my worst enemy) and I usually use Google to find some things I’m not sure of. The age thing was always like a blur in my mind and I am happy you told me exactly how it should go.

  6. Actually, there were NO war in Serbia (Serbs attacked and fought on territories of Croatia and Bosnia&Herzegovina).
    You know, it’s like when USA is in war – they start wars and ripping off other countries when their own country and people are spared of war atrocities.

    • Let’s not forget the Kosovo War was fought entirely on Serbian “territory” since Kosovo was part of Serbia at the time. I definitely remember the Americans hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by mistake. Serbia took a real pounding during that war.

      I would call the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers a major atrocity that the USA suffered. 3,000 dead civilians ain’t peanuts.

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