Southeastern Europe trip

Watershed

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I'd appreciate some advice for a trip I'm thinking of making to southeastern Europe this October/November. I like the idea of flying there and then returning by train all the way (or vice versa). I'm sure there are a lot of very scenic routes along the way, but to be honest, I don't know a lot about the railways of this part of Europe.

I intend to start in southern Italy for a few days to visit family, so I might take the ferry from Bari to Patras and start my rail journey there (I understand that the line between Patras and Kiato has been recently reopened?).

What would then be the best route back to the UK be from Athens? I see that the Man in Seat 61 recommends via Belgrade or Sofia but as far as I can tell, there is no route out of Greece that avoids bustitution at this time of year?

I'm looking to do the whole trip over 10 days or thereabouts - appreciate that doesn't leave a massive amount of time to explore the cities en route but such are the constraints of work!

Any comments on an itinerary something like this:

Previous week:
Fly to southern Italy

Monday:
Ferry Bari-Patras departs 19:30

Tuesday:
Ferry Bari-Patras arrives 13:00
Train Patras-Athens (changing at Kiato) depart 14:25 arrive 17:17
Stay in Athens

Wednesday:
Train Athens-Thessaloniki depart 12:22 arrive 16:45
Stay in Thessaloniki

Thursday:
Train Thessaloniki-Strymonas - here I can only find 2 trains a day, is that really it? depart 05:50 arrive 08:10
Bus Strymonas-Kulata - I can't seem to find details of anything other than coach services for this? Is there some kind of replacement bus here, as the timings seem to match up?
Train Kulata-Sofia - based on Vagonweb.cz this seems to be booked for haulage by a very unusual shunting type loco - depart 09:45 arrive 14:40
Stay in Sofia

Friday:
Train Sofia-Bucharest (changing at Gorna Oryahovitsa and Ruse) depart 07:20 arrive 17:00
Sleeper Bucharest-Budapest depart 17:45

Saturday:
Sleeper Bucharest-Budapest arrive 08:50
Train Budapest-Frankfurt (changing at Munich) depart 09:55 arrive 21:04
Stay in Frankfurt

Sunday:
Train Frankfurt-Brussels depart 10:27 arrive 13:26
Eurostar Brussels-London depart 16:35 arrive 17:20

I think the itinerary is a bit more flexible from Bucharest/Budapest onwards, up until that point it looks like the frequency of trains largely dictates the structure?

Any suggestions welcomed.

I'm eligible for FIP, so any information on applicable fares/supplements would also be appreciated.
 
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87015

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Presuming by unusual shunting loco you mean a BDZ 61, that’s now unlikely. Most passenger work has ceased, certainly to Sofia, since the Vegtrons arrived.

The Ruse-Bucharest is a CFR desiro, rather you than me!
 

Watershed

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Presuming by unusual shunting loco you mean a BDZ 61, that’s now unlikely. Most passenger work has ceased, certainly to Sofia, since the Vegtrons arrived.

The Ruse-Bucharest is a CFR desiro, rather you than me!
Ah ok, that's a shame. Vagonweb must be out of date in that case. Looks like most of the rest of the trains are hauled, but with run of the mill locos for the electric bits and modern(ish) units for the diesel bits.

Are there any trains left that are hauled by interesting locos in that part of the world?
 

87015

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Ah ok, that's a shame. Vagonweb must be out of date in that case. Looks like most of the rest of the trains are hauled, but with run of the mill locos for the electric bits and modern(ish) units for the diesel bits.

Are there any trains left that are hauled by interesting locos in that part of the world?
If you’ll excuse the plug for Bulgaria... exact details are a bit out of date but the general trains still work

BDZ 55 (Faur) https://87015aewn.wordpress.com/bg-gen/bdz-class-55/

BDZ 07 (Ludmilla)
 

30907

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No experience, but just a thought: Bar-Beograd is supposed to be very scenic. Is there a route which would incorporate that, starting from Bari?
 

306024

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No experience, but just a thought: Bar-Beograd is supposed to be very scenic. Is there a route which would incorporate that, starting from Bari?

A few years ago now I caught a ferry from Bari to Bar, stayed overnight in Bar then train to Belgrade.

The ferry was delayed awaiting the police with a deportee, and the journey to Belgrade was shared with a Serb who was interested in football, or more precisely football related violence.

But don’t let that put you off, the train journey, although long, is worth doing for the scenery.
 

Watershed

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If you’ll excuse the plug for Bulgaria... exact details are a bit out of date but the general trains still work

BDZ 55 (Faur) https://87015aewn.wordpress.com/bg-gen/bdz-class-55/

BDZ 07 (Ludmilla)
Thanks for the suggestions. I'll see if I can integrate some of those into the journey.

No experience, but just a thought: Bar-Beograd is supposed to be very scenic. Is there a route which would incorporate that, starting from Bari?
I had actually considered that option, with the ferry across from Bari. Avoids the bustitution out of Greece, albeit I understand that Serbia still has certain restrictions on foreign tourists, in particular a requirement to take a PCR test before entering.
 

Iskra

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I'm in Southern Italy in October in Sicily and Calabria, out of interest which airport are you flying into originally? And how did you find it getting decent flights?

I'm going to be hitting the rails too, but on Sicily and the Western side of the boot, as I've always wanted to the Train Ferry across the Straits of Messina. Interesting plan to head to Greece and head home that way, I'll be interested to hear how you get on!
 

Watershed

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I'm in Southern Italy in October in Sicily and Calabria, out of interest which airport are you flying into originally? And how did you find it getting decent flights?

I'm going to be hitting the rails too, but on Sicily and the Western side of the boot, as I've always wanted to the Train Ferry across the Straits of Messina. Interesting plan to head to Greece and head home that way, I'll be interested to hear how you get on!
I'll probably be flying into Bari, decent choice of flights to there actually.

Yes, that train ferry is on my bucket list as well.
 

maddorax

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14 Oct 2021
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USA
Hello. I live in Hamburg and often travel around Europe on weekends, I prefer the train. Indeed, you can see a lot of beautiful landscapes and interesting architecture in cities. I usually order train tickets on db fahrplan, a convenient service with a favorable ticket price. From the cities, I advise you to visit Rome and Athens by all means. Nevertheless, ancient civilizations are beautiful and it is in these cities that the historical heritage is carefully treated. I would also advise you to visit Santorini if you have the opportunity. Have a wonderful holiday!
 
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