Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia - Any Recommendations?

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burns20

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Looking at going to the above countries Interrailing at the end of June.

Has anyone got any recommendations regarding scenic routes, routes with decent traction, or anything of public transport interest?

Thanks

Dan
 
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dancan

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Having done the Budapest <=> Belgrade recently ... I wouldn't recommend it. I took the 'Ivo Andri' service both ways, though there I believe there is another service ('Avala') which I think might be more sophisticated (e.g. restaurant car).

I have to say it was the least interesting rail journey I've done - around seven hours along a dead-straight track at 50km/h through the flattest countryside I've ever seen (and I've got family in East Anglia, so I know what flat is). Just open fields, no hedges, no trees. And this was November, so the prevailing colour was brown.

The line got slightly more interesting closer to Belgrade (around and after Novi Sad), but northern Serbia really didn't light my fire.

Sorry to be negative!
 

TCDD

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I've travelled through Bulgaria and Serbia a few times, so here's some ideas:

Septemvri - Dobrinishte - scenic narrow gauge line, periodically threatened with closure. Septemvir is on the Sofia - Plovdiv main line. Never been, but supposed to be well worth a trip.

1970s style loco hauled expresses from Sofia to Varna and Burgas. Don't expect much from the buffet car.

Gorna Orjahovitsa, an important railway centre but close to the fantastically beautiful town of Veliko Tarnovo.

Old 'soviet' electric units.

Second-hand DB stock on many trains now.

Oh, and the 'cigarrette train' from Beograd to Sofia. It's the 0750 departure from Beograd. When I travelled on it in June 2011, the train filled up with shifty characters at Nis (about halfway) who unscrewed the wall and ceiling panelling (including the window frame of my compartment while I was sitting there), filled the cavities with cigarrettes (including the voluptuous folds of the 'scary grandmother' opposite) and then put it all back together. All this under the noses of two policemen and the guard, who passed up and down checking tickets from time to time! At one point we also stopped in the middle of nowhere for an hour after another 'passenger' threw a package towards the station master as we passed non-stop through a country station. Another wad was delivered to the station master at the next station too.

Sadly (for the smugglers) the train was taken apart by customs at the Bulgarian border post, and I jumped onto a waiting Desiro unit at the next platform rather than stick around to see what the end would be!

Coming back there was no such carry on, which was a shame as the journey does go on a bit!
 

burns20

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My idea so far is to fly to Sofia as the Budapest to Sofia line on my Thomas Cook Map looks boring. Then I'd sacked off the Dobrinishte line as so many reports of its closure carry on to Bucharest via Veilko Tarnovo then on to Sibiu, had heard was Wolstyzyn of Romania, via Craiova and Simeria then Brasov and frm there either Hungary or Ukraine for a flight home.

TCDD had heard of the experience you had before. A similar experience on the Budapest to Zagreb train, fairly frightening as it was at night.

Keith, I have had a great few times in Hungary, if you want multiple locos in one place change trains at Cellodomolk there were 5 different loco hauled trains in a station with 7 tracks and no platforms just ballast. Great blog btw.

Have outdone the Czech Republic and Slovakia so looking for other none expensive Visa countries to visit.
 
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Tractionman

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Thanks for the suggestion Dan - I shall be back in Hungary in June - in Budapest for 2 days - whether I can get across to Cellodomolk I'll have to see, but I shall certainly keep it in mind!

Sibiu was an excellent spot - early on a glorious September Monday morning (I was there about to depart back to Budapest) was so memorable, with lots of loco-hauled (diesel) trains coming and going. The museum-cum-depot was a real experience too - you have to report to the depot foreman/office first it seems, but once done I was left to wander at will.

You mention the Czech Republic - I have a few weeks there in August/Sept this year, based mainly in Prague but a few days too around Ceske Budejovice. I am flying from Belfast to Krakow and then from there taking the train to Prague (via Katowice/Ostrava). I'm looking forward to it, and seeing what's still around - any tips most welcome!

cheers,

Keith
 

burns20

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Starting with Prague, the national technical museum is interesting to visit with a gd collection of steam engines, away newr Devicka S bahn is the public transport museum, on the same s bahn line, s5 i think is the national railway museum at luzna u rajovnika sometimes you have to change at kladno. The narrow gauge at jindrichuv hradec is a nice day trip frm prague.

The rest of the Czech Republic and Slovakia is great for scenic lines both main and branch ones. Have you been on the childrens railway in Budapest, a must see.
 

route101

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I done the Budapest to Belgrade line in 2009 and it wasent a fancy sleek international train . It was a loco and 2 Hungarian compartment stock until the Serbian Border . Northern Serbia is indeed flat and the trains are very slow. Train was quiet to the Serbian Border but filled up very quickly and there was 8 to compartment . I hate the compartment stock , you never know who you will get in them .
In 2010 i done the 0750 from Belgrade to Sofia and that was another slow journey , was nearlly 12 hours . I also had that problem with smuggling at the border and cigs flung out the windows . You get 3 locos over the journey , a diesel between Nis and the Bulgarian Border .
 

gordonthemoron

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the Bratislava-Budapest train I got two weeks ago continued to Belgrade. Took another 7 hours for what is quite a short distance and seemed to stop every 20kms or so
 

route101

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the Bratislava-Budapest train I got two weeks ago continued to Belgrade. Took another 7 hours for what is quite a short distance and seemed to stop every 20kms or so
Took 9 hours when i done Budapest to Belgrade , and with compartment stock you never know who you will get in . Still interesting and different from the usual.
 

route101

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Nothing dangerous about Serbia , though the rolling stock is a bit better in Hungary . It depends how long you go for . Ive never been to Romania . You could do a triangle routing starting and ending at Budapest . Budapest is more touristy but Belgrade has a buzz about the city !
 

87015

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My two-pence worth...

Probably most importantly, the daytime Belgrade / Sofia (nee Istanbul) train pair is currently cancelled due to a lack of working Serbian locos at Nis, no gen on when it is likely to resume but might be worth knocking a Plan B together.

Most of the lines which cross the Balkan range in the middle of the country have impressive sections of scenery, in particular Sofia - Mezdra is superb http://87015aewn.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/87004-on-lcgb-bulgaria-railtour/87004_lataknik_1/ and also easily done as it is on the mainline out of town. Stara Zagora - Gorna Orj and Sofia - Karlovo via Pirdop are also very good, here is 87003 en-route Sofia to Pirdop

The Narrow Gauge Septembri to Dobrinsihte currently has three trains a day, definitely do the Septembri - Dolene section through Velingrad Gorge and if possible up to the summit at Avramovo if you can't do the whole line. You can stay in Bankso to reduce the chore of an out-and-back move in one swoop, or the morning train out of Septembri has moves back at both Dolene and Avramovo.

Veliko Tarnovo - superb place in a big gorge, a must do IMO. Plovdiv is also very nice and has some Roman remains, but Veliko is the jewel in the crown.

Most of the trains are skoda built 1970s electrics and there is very limited diesel passenger working, basically booked for DB232 clones around Plovdiv.

Knock through my phots here and I'll do my best to answer anything else :)

Only sampled Romania briefly and wasn't terribly impressed http://87015aewn.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/romania-may-2011/ but the border crossing was no problem.
 
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gordonthemoron

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whilst said train may not be working west of Sofia, it is still running between Sofia & Istanbul as I have just booked a ticket for Wednesday at Sofia station. However, the sleeper coach is still not available, as advised by seat61.com. Only EUR 30 for ticket & couchette
 

route101

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In June 2010 i took the Belgrade to Sofia train and it terminated at Sofia as there was a landslide on the way to Istanbul . There was a Bulgarian Sleeper Car on the train , from Vienna i think.
 

Tractionman

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Starting with Prague, the national technical museum is interesting to visit with a gd collection of steam engines, away newr Devicka S bahn is the public transport museum, on the same s bahn line, s5 i think is the national railway museum at luzna u rajovnika sometimes you have to change at kladno. The narrow gauge at jindrichuv hradec is a nice day trip frm prague.

The rest of the Czech Republic and Slovakia is great for scenic lines both main and branch ones. Have you been on the childrens railway in Budapest, a must see.
Thanks for the inf Dan - much appreciated. I have booked a few overnights at Jindrichuv Hradec, and also Ceske Budejovice, so hopefully I'll see some interesting sights there - also a day trip to Luzna from Prague is on the cards.

I've not seen the children's railway in Budapest - was that the one featured years ago on Great Railway Journeys of the World? (great series)?

all the best,

Keith
 

beermaddavep

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The childrens railway is well worth a day out- it winds around the back of the mountain through the trees on the Buda side so is pretty scenic and to get to it you also have the pleasure of the cogwheel railway at one end making a great round trip. Add in steam, vintage coaches, nice walks and kids taking real pride in their work and you have an atmospheric ride out.

Even my non crank mates enjoyed it!
 

gordonthemoron

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I'd heard that the Sofia-Istanbul train was a bus frm Kapikule due to the new Bhorous tunnel.
according to seat61, that's from 15.03 so hopefully I'll be OK. Woman at station didn't say anything
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
rıght, (Belgrade)Sofıa-Istanbul traın started at Sofıa. No sleepıng car, just turkısh couchette and seated coach whıch dısappeared somewhere en-route. Arrıvıng ınto Turkey ıt was 2xTurkısh couchette plus Romanıan sleeper. Traın went all the way to Istanbul although there ıs some sıngle lıne workıng ın Istanbul due to the constructıon work whıch ıs enormous and arrıved 2 hours late
 

daniel3982

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Howabout Budapest to Sarajevo, it's a long run but the scenery is out of this world. Could continue to Croatia for cheap flights from Dubrovnik.
 

burns20

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Have had a think regarding route, now revised plan;

Istanbul-Septemvri-Sofia-Karlovo-Veliko Tarnovo-Bucharest-Craiova-Simeria-Sibiu-Brasov then either Deda or Sighisoria the Oradea and either Debrecen orBudapest to fly back.
 

route101

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Howabout Budapest to Sarajevo, it's a long run but the scenery is out of this world. Could continue to Croatia for cheap flights from Dubrovnik.
Sarajevo is a great city . I took the overnight train from Zagreb to Sarajevo , no sleeper just 3 elderly coaches.
 

ji459

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This doesn't suit your revised plan, but I went from Belgrade to Podgorica in Montenegro last summer and the scenery in the mountains (from Užice southwards) is beautiful. Well worth a detour I'd say!
 

burns20

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Right starting to book this now.

Wizzair Luton to Debrecen
1112 R6814 to Oradea
1540 R3076 to Cluj Napoca
Cluj Napoca to Tirgu Mures via Razboieni 1035 R4014 Tirgu to Brasov via Deda
Brasov to Sinaia and return
1421 R2103 Brasov to Simeria via Sibiu
IR1824 Simeria to Calafat via Craiova
Ferry to Vidin
1400 or 1605 Regio Vidin to Sofia
R3621 Sofia to Tulovo
R40104 Tulovo to Veilko Tarnovo
R40103 Veilko Tarnovo to Stara Zagora
IC8614 Stara Zagora to Plovdiv
IC8640 Plovdiv to Septemvri
R16103 Septemvri to Avramovo
R16104 Avramovo to Septemvri
R10114 Septemvri to Sofia
Wizzair Sofia to Luton

Couple of questions I'll just have hand luggage is 55 mins too tight arriving off bus 99 frm MK at Luton Airport to flight departure?

Am overnighting at;

Debrecen
Cluj Napoca
Tirgu Mures
Brasov
Sibiu
Craiova
Sofia &
Plovdiv

Any recommendations on places to eat and drink, brewpubs would be great.

Thanks

Dan
 

gordonthemoron

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Sofia, I stayed in Hostel Mostel which is in an old Ottoman Inn (surrounded by communist era blocks), cheapish, central and quite quiet.

Found one of my favourite irish pubs in Sofia, JJ Murphys which I was pleastantly surprised to find considering the rubbish masquarading as irish pubs. Also, the kohinoor indian restaurant is pretty good. Both places are close to Hostel Mostel.

As far as local beer is concerned, I have a feeling you're going to be disappointed by both Romania & Bulgaria. Most beer seems to be either imported or locally brewed versions of international brands
 

87015

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Plovdiv you can't really go wrong in. We've always stayed a bit outside the centre and wandered/taxi'd in but the old town is very nice. There are a few traditional Bulgarian restaurants tucked away and loads of more general restaurants around the main square and a bar above the old Roman amphitheatre which is very nice as the sun sets in the evening. Station to centre is a 20 minute walk or so.

There is a nice traditional resturant 10 minutes walk from Sofia station if you are staying around the River, can look it up if you'd like. Not a great deal of stuff in Sofia between the station and again centre a 20-25 minute walk away.

On a related note, BDZ appear to have found some money from somewhere as they have an OBB Taurus on hire for 100mph testing of brand new sleeper cars they've had delivered from Turkey!
 

burns20

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Revised route of Cluj Napoca-Sighisoara-Sibiu-Vintu de Jos-Craiova-Bucuresti-Tulovo-Karlovo-Sofia-Plovdiv-Septemvri-Avramovo--Septemvri-Sofia.

I'm aiming to get train 462 1300 Bucuresti to Veliko Tarnovo, is this hard to get a ticket for?
 
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