Eastern Europe: Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Parliament – Budapest
In May/June 2015 we did a wonderful road trip in Eastern Europe starting in Hungary, travelling down through Slovenia, through Croatia (including a few of the islands), then up through Bosnia and Herzegovina back to Hungary.
The itinerary, over three weeks, was as follows:
Budapest – Ljubljana – Lake Bled – Rovinj – Plitvice Lakes – Trogir (Split) – Hvar – Korcula – Dubrovnik – Mostar – Sarajevo – Pecs – Budapest
We flew to Budapest from London, about a 2.5-hour trip.
We had booked two nights accommodation at Maple Tree Apartments in Budapest’s District VIII, and from Budapest Airport we took a minibus transfer (arranged with Reception at Maple Tree Apartments prior to arrival) to our accommodation – about a 20-25 minute drive.
There is so much to see and do in Budapest that our one-day of sightseeing was barely enough to scratch the surface of this beautiful city. To make the most of our time we took a Hop on Hop Off bus tour, which gave us an overview of the city and a brief history. There were two circuits on the tour that took us to the main sights.
Budapest is made up of two areas – Buda and Pest – divided by the Danube River. Buda is the hilly, castle district on the western side of the Danube, and Pest is on the eastern side of the river and is where most of the city’s shops, restaurants, galleries, museums and accommodation are located.
Budapest is divided into districts with District V, VI, VII, VIII, IX and XII on the Pest side; and District I, II, XI and XII on the Buda side. A good, brief description of the main neighbourhoods can be found on the Frommer’s website page Neighbourhoods in Brief (www.frommers.com/destinations/budapest/729051).
Highlights of Budapest include:
On the ‘Buda’ side:
Castle district – Royal Palace, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, Hungarian National Gallery
Gellert Baths in the Gellert Hotel
On the ‘Pest’ side:
Cruising the Danube
Andrassy Avenue – elegant 2.5km tree lined avenue with gorgeous buildings (part of it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Places of interest include the Opera House, House of Terror.
Heroes Square & City Park – Kunsthalle (contemporary art museum), Museum of Fine Arts, Szechenyi Themal Baths, Zoo & Botanical Garden, Vajdahunyad Castle.
Vaci Utca – pedestrian shopping street
Jewish quarter (District VII) – Dohany Street Synagogue & Jewish Museum
Bridges crossing the Danube – our favourites: Chain Bridge, Margaret Bridge and Liberty (Freedom) Bridge
The Great Market Hall (near Liberty Bridge) – indoor food and flea market.
Café Gerbeaud – famous coffee house
New York Café – another famous coffee house
Margaret Island – landscaped gardens and recreation area
Hungarian National Museum in District VIII
Raday Utca (District IX) is a street lined with restaurants – indoor and outdoor dining. We had a delicious dinner at Puder Bar & Restaurant at Raday Utca 8.
It is a good idea to do some research before arriving in Budapest as there is just so much to see and do – it is a big city with over 200 museums! We found a good guidebook was essential and used the Rough Guide to Hungary. Another good guide was the website – visitbudapest.travel.
We picked up our rental car from Thrifty Car Rental near Budapest airport.
When booking a rental car in Eastern Europe it is important to check that it can be driven in all the countries you intend to visit. We chose Thrifty because they were one of the few rental car companies that would allow us to take cars into Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We headed for Ljubljana via the freeway. There was no visible border crossing as such and our first stop was at the MOL service station on the freeway in Slovenia where we bought a freeway Toll Card for 23 Euros (valid for 7 days) as well as delicious salads and rolls for lunch.
The freeway was excellent (2 lanes in each direction) and we drove through pretty countryside with hillside vineyards and farmhouses – it looked a lot like Austria.
We arrived in Ljubljana at about 4.30pm and checked into Emonoc Hotel – centrally located on a pedestrian street, a couple of minutes walk from the main square in the Old Town.
Ljubljana is a beautiful city with the pedestrianised streets of the Old Town making it easy to explore.
As the best way to see the historic centre of Ljubljana is on foot, we took a guided walking tour of the Old Town that also included the funicular to Ljubljana Castle. We booked the Tour through the Tourist Information Office at a cost of 10 Euros and met our guide at 10am in front of the Town Hall.
Walking tour highlights:
Town Hall and interior
Church of St Nicholas
Our guide was very animated and there was a tasting of typical Slovenian food and a chocolate tasting during the tour, after which we took the funicular to the castle without the tour guide. It is worth the trip up to the castle to see the view over the city.
A free walking tour of Ljubljana is also available at 11am (which day depends on the season) – meet in Presernov Square.
Ljubljana has a number of very good restaurants and cafes. We had lunch at Café Romeo, which offered good value pastas, salads, crepes, etc at reasonable prices.
For a more upmarket experience and delicious food, we can recommend Vander Restaurant at Krojaska Ulica 6-8 – between the street along the river and the Town Square (Mestni trg).
After one day and two nights in Ljubljana, we left at around 3pm for the relatively short drive (about one hour) to Lake Bled where we checked into Bled Apartments.
Lake Bled is a popular alpine resort. Take a drive around the lake to orientate yourself, then up to Bled Castle for magnificent views.
Highlights of Bled:
Bled Castle: Entrance fee 9 Euros. Lovely views of the lake and surrounding area. Over two levels – on the first level is a print shop and viewpoint; on the second level is a restaurant, small museum, chapel and gift shop. The views are fabulous.
Bled Island: Take a boat across to the island for 12 Euros per person and have half an hour on the island, however it is another 7 Euros if you want to ring the bell in the church!
Lake Bled: A good way to experience the lake is to cycle or walk around the lake, stopping at Panorama Restaurant for good coffee and views. Bikes are available for hire from reception at Bled Apartments.
Lake Bohinj: it is a 25-minute drive to Lake Bohinj, a beautiful lake, not as developed as Lake Bled.
Vrsic Pass – Day Trip from Bled
If you have a car, this is a wonderful trip across Slovenia’s highest mountain pass. We left Bled, heading towards Lesce and joined the freeway in the direction of Jesenice. At Hrusica, be sure to follow the signs to Kranjska Gora (or you may end up in Austria!). Off the freeway, we passed through the lovely towns of Mojstrana and Knanjska Gora.
Highlights of the trip over Vrsic Pass:
A great drive – 50 hairpin bends – 24 up the pass between Kraniska Gora and the top of the pass, and 26 down the other side of the pass to Trenta.
The Russian Chapel, a memorial built in memory of Russian WWI POWs who were killed while building the road.
Wonderful views at the information boards just before top of pass.
Delicious meal at cosy Ticarjev Dom (Ticar Lodge) at the top of the pass.
Alpine Botanical Garden (Alpinum Juliana), Mlinarica Gorge & Velika Korita Gorge – if time permits.
Kobarid War Museum.
The car train back to Bled was another highlight! To shorten the trip back to Bled and avoid taking a narrow, winding road, we took the car train from Most na Soci station to Bohinjska Bistrica.
The train departed at 6.30pm and took 40 minutes to make the trip. We were at the station 30 minutes before departure time and paid just over 19 Euros (vehicle plus 3 passengers). We paid the fellow in the car park at the train station and he directed us to drive onto the open carriage where we stayed in the car for the journey.
It was a unique experience rocking and rolling along in the open air through mountain scenery and many tunnels – the last tunnel taking 10 minutes – in darkness! From Bohinjska Bistrica it was a 20-minute drive back to Bled.
Travelling from Bled to Rovinj (Croatia) was a big day. The plan was to travel via Motovun, one of the small hilltop towns in Istria on the way to Rovinj.
We left Bled around 11.30am, after coffee and Bled Cream Cake. It was just over a 3-hour drive via the Slovenia/Croatia border and we arrived in Motovun at about 2.30pm.
Driving towards the hilltop town of Motovun, we could see the town from some way off – a pretty sight in the distance. It was out of season so we were able to bypass the large car park at the bottom of the hill and drove up the steep narrow road to the town.
We enjoyed lunch at Montana Gallery, which had tables along the town wall with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside, and then did a walk around the town walls. After a couple of hours in Motovun we were on the road again for the one-hour drive to Rovinj.
Rovinj is a very charming town on the Croatian Coast.
We had booked two nights accommodation at Hotel Katarina – located on an island off the Old Town.
As per instructions on our booking confirmation, we drove to Delfin Pier where a small ferry takes guests over to the hotel free of charge. Driving into Rovinj, there were signboards to most of the big hotels, which was a big help!
At the pier we unloaded our luggage and while one person waited with the bags, the other drove the car, following a hotel minibus to a car park about 5 minutes drive away. The minibus then transported the driver back to the pier.
The ferry runs every hour so there is a bit of waiting around, however we found it worth the effort, as the Hotel Katarina is such a charming place to stay. The little ferry was a lovely way to travel to and fro.
Our highlights in Rovinj:
The charming, cobbled streets of the Old Town – wander and explore the art galleries, shops and cafes.
Church of St Euphemia at the top of the Old Town – of particular interest is the 6th Century sarcophagus of St Euphemia.
Rovinj Heritage Museum – we loved the Picasso exhibition of ceramics and posters (3/4-17/9/2015). Entrance 40 Kuna.
Eat at Santa Croce, on street of same name.
Visit Hotel Lone for wonderful architecture, artwork and furniture.
Pula – just 40kms from Rovinj (30-minute drive) to see the beautifully preserved Roman amphitheatre. Admission was 40 Kuna per person. For another 40 Kuna there is also the option of a self-guided audio tour. The museum downstairs had very little information on the arena however the displays on life in Roman times were interesting.
From Rovinj, it was about a four-hour drive to the Plitvice National Park, one of the most popular natural attractions in Croatia.
We booked accommodation at Guesthouse Academia Danica in Rastovaca, which is well located close to Entrance 1 to the National Park.
Arriving fairly late in the afternoon, we parked at the Guesthouse and walked across to Entrance 1 to see the Lower Lakes. We only had a couple of hours and were advised which tracks to take. The first waterfall we saw was impressive – Veliki Slap (big waterfall). From there we walked along a pathway through beautiful green forest, with lookout points along the way to view the cascades and lakes in the gorge below.
At the time of our visit, the timber pathways down in the gorge were closed due to flooding. We took a shuttle bus to the bottom of the Upper Lakes where we caught a ferry back along the lower lakes. It is a beautiful place and we were fortunate that it was not too crowded.
On the second day, we drove to the carpark near Entrance 2, and spent the morning exploring the Upper Lakes.
We found the walks there even more beautiful than the Lower Lakes. It was quite a long walk from the carpark to Entrance 2, but once inside the Park we walked down a lot of steps to take a ferry to the other side of the lake where we spent a wonderful few hours walking along timber boardwalks – walking over water, alongside the lake and almost under the waterfalls! It was a magical experience.
Trogir was the next town on our itinerary. Trogir is a beautiful, historic town on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, about 30km west of Split.
We left the Plitvice Lakes at about 1pm and took the Zagreb-Split road, then the freeway, then the coast road through Primosten and Rogoznica to Trogir – beautiful views along the way.
Arriving in Trogir, we found that the hotel we had booked for the night (Aparthotel Bellevue) was not available as they were experiencing problems with the plumbing. The receptionist was very apologetic and explained that she had organised alternative accommodation for us at Villa Queen Apartments on Ciovo about a 5 minute drive away.
The lovely Jelena arrived shortly afterwards to escort us to our new accommodation and we were very happy with our top floor, two-bedroom apartment with spacious, open plan living/kitchen and views over the sea. Jelena could not have been more helpful. Breakfast was included in our accommodation – it was an amazing feast – one of the best breakfasts on the whole trip.
That evening we spent a couple of hours exploring Trogir’s beautiful Old Town.
The Old Town is on a small island between the mainland and the island of Ciovo and is easily accessible. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site – one of the best-preserved medieval towns to be seen in Europe and best explored by wandering through the charming pedestrian-only streets.
The next part of our trip was to visit some of the islands off the Croatian coast. There is a network of ferries operated by Jadrolinija that include car ferries and we organised our itinerary using those. The first car ferry we planned to take was from Split to the island of Hvar.
The drive from Trogir to Split usually takes about 45-minutes, however on the day we travelled, the traffic was very heavy and it took about an hour.
Arriving in Split, we bought our ticket for the car ferry (it would take us from Split to Stari Grad on the island of Hvar) and then left the car on the dock in line for the ferry, as we had a couple of hours to explore the Diocletian Palace.
It was a short walk to the Old Town and the Diocletian Palace. We only had a short time to wander through this beautiful area however it deserves a whole day at least – either another night in Trogir or a night in Split.
The ferry to Hvar left Split at 1pm. We were directed to park the car on the lower deck and then made our way up to a comfortable lounge area with sofa-like seating and a place to buy drinks and snacks. There was also an open upper deck. We arrived in Stari Grad at 2.30pm and followed the road signs to Hvar Town.
We had booked to stay at Villa Irena and it was difficult to find. The best advice we can give is to find Hotel Croatia on a map of Hvar, and Villa Irena is in the same street – down near the water.
Hvar is a very special place – one of our favourites in Croatia. We visited in May so there were no crowds to contend with and the weather was warm and sunny.
Villa Irena, which we had booked for four nights, was the perfect location for us – it was a 15-minute walk around to the centre of town along a beautiful path by the sea. The water was crystal clear and sparkling but still a little too cold for most people to swim.
Highlights of Hvar:
The main square
Walk up to the fortress – fabulous views over Hvar
Wander the back streets of Hvar Town for interesting shops and cafes
Walk the pedestrian coastal path between Hula Hula Bar to the “Riva”.
A drink at the Hula Hula Bar – just moments from Villa Irena.
Have a meal at family-owned Alviz pizzeria and restaurant.
It was hard to leave Hvar, but we had pre-booked accommodation on the island of Korcula. We had worked out a schedule to take three car-ferries to make our way to Korcula:
Sucuraj to Drvenik
Ploce to Trpanj
Orebic to Korcula
We left Hvar at 7.20am (arrived 9.10am in Sucaraj) to make the 9.45am ferry from Sucaraj to Drvenik. It was a scenic drive to Sucuraj, on a good road – with only the last section of the road being a little narrow with a sharp drop to a shallow ‘gutter’ along the edge of the road – not much room for error!
There was a queue to get onto the ferry and we made it with only 3 cars to spare. It’s a good idea to get there early, as there were a number of cars and buses that did not make it onto the 9.45am ferry – the next ferry that day was not until 1.30pm!
This was one of the smallest ferries we took, with only one level for cars and two upper decks for passengers. It was a short crossing, and after 45 minutes we arrived in Drvenik, on the mainland.
From Drvenik we drove along the coast to Ploce (a scenic 25 minute drive) where we just made the 11am ferry to Trpanj (fortunately for us it left at 11.10am). We arrived in Trpanj at 12 noon – a very pretty village which reminded us of Greece. From there we drove to Orebic, with stunning views along the way. At Orebic there is a short ferry ride across to Korcula. We were in plenty of time to get this ferry and there was plenty of space on board.
The views are beautiful on the Orebic to Korcula ferry.
Driving off the ferry we followed the signs to Korcula Town – about 3kms away – and found our hotel – Hotel Liburna. This was another great spot to stay – there are beautiful views from the hotel across the water to the Old Town and just a 15-minute stroll to town. After a quick lunch at Marco Polo Pizzeria, we went up into the Old Town to explore.
Korcula is promoted as the birthplace of Marco Polo and you will see plenty of references to the explorer. We visited the Marco Polo House, however at the time (May 2015) it was just a staircase leading to a lookout tower. There are plans to reconstruct it as a Museum.
Highlights of Korcula:
Charming streets of the Old Town
Old Town piazza
St Mark’s Cathedral (10Kuna entry, no photos)
All Saints Church
The sea wall lined with cafes/restaurants
Cukarin biscuit shop
We took advantage of having a car and drove to Lumbarda, about 7kms from Korcula Old Town. It was reported to have a sandy beach – Prizna Bay – however we preferred the rockier beach on the other side of the peninsula – Bilin Zal accessed by a narrow road through the vineyards. Some of the guidebooks rave about the beaches but don’t expect Australian style beaches!
We then took a drive to Vela Luka – about 40 minutes away, with some good views over the island and across to the mainland. Vila Luka is a very pleasant town and at that time of year there were no tourists. We had a delicious lunch on the Riva at Restoran Pod Bore overlooking the harbour.
Travelling from Korcula to Dubrovnik was one of the most scenic drives of our road trip.
We took the 10am ferry from Korcula across to Orebic – one of our favourite crossings – a quick trip with fabulous views.
Orebic is worth a stop to stroll along the waterfront promenade and admire the beautiful houses that were built by sea captains in the 1800s – many are now available to rent in summer. Also of interest is the Franciscan Monastery.
The drive from Orebic to Dubrovnic takes a couple of hours with spectacular scenery – especially along the coast. If time permits, there are many places for wine tastings along the way on the Peljesac Peninsula. The small village of Ston is a highlight and a good place to stop for lunch before you reach the coastal road to Dubrovnik.
Ston is a medieval village with an amazing defensive wall – the longest stone wall in Europe and looks like a mini Great Wall of China! It is possible to walk from Ston to Mali Ston along the wall – a distance of 5.5 kms. We didn’t do the walk due to a lack of time and the heat of the day. Instead we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Restaurant Bakus, and a stroll around the pretty town.
The drive along the coast road to Dubrovnik is amazing and we stopped at the lookout point just before the Franjo Tudman Bridge to take photos.
The accommodation we had booked for Dubrovnik was for three nights at a villa about 15 minute’s drive south of the city. It was called Villa Bon Vivant in Mlini. We were advised by a colleague to stay outside of Dubrovnik as we had a car and parking would have been difficult. The villa was self-contained, had lots of space and wonderful views.
The following morning we took a local ferry (Cavtat to Dubrovnik ferry) into Dubrovnik for a day of sightseeing. We caught the ferry from the jetty near Hotel Plat, about 5 minutes drive from our accommodation. The fare was 80 Kuna return, with the last boat leaving Dubrovnik at 6pm.
It was a lovely way to travel into Dubrovnik, with views of the coastline where there were still a number of buildings to be seen that had been damaged during the war.
The ferry took us into the Old Port of Dubrovnik – a very central location to begin exploring this wonderful walled city.
Highlights of Dubrovnik:
Walking the city walls: our favourite experience in Dubrovnik. Cost was 100 Kuna, walk in one direction only, wonderful views and plenty of photo opportunities.
Lunch at Ragusa 2 Restaurant, in a small street – Zamanjina 12.
Wander through Dubrovnik’s streets including Stradun (the main street) and Old Puca.
The Memorial Room of Dubrovnik Defenders
Onofrio’s Fountain near Pile Gate
Many beautiful buildings including The Assumption Cathedral, St Saviour’s Church, Church of St Joseph, Orthodox Church.
Gundulic Square & market.
Dubrovnik Cable Car to Mt Srd – fabulous views
The Museums of Dubrovnik including Rector’s Palace & Cultural and Historical Museum, Museum of Croatian War of Independence, Maritime Museum, War Photo Limited.
Cavtat is a charming village about 18kms south of Dubrovnik situated on beautiful Cavtat Bay. In hindsight, it would have been an ideal location to stay while visiting Dubrovnik. Cavtat has good restaurants, a regular ferry service to Dubrovnik (45 minute trip), is a 25 minute drive to Dubrovnik, and the airport is only 8 kms away.
We enjoyed an evening meal at Restaurant Leut while watching the sunset, and loved it so much we returned a couple of days later to have a wander around the town and lunch at Dolium Restaurant overlooking the water.
There are a couple of charming shops on the promenade on Cavtat Bay. Don’t miss having a look inside the little church belonging to the Monastery of Our Lady of the Snow, and then continue along the sea path beyond the church – it’s a beautiful coastal walk around the peninsula back to the village car park.
We left the Villa Bon Vivant, Mlini early (7.20am) and made our way to the border crossing at Gornji Brgat, and then headed to Mostar via Trebinje, Stolac and Rotimlja. It was quite a scenic drive and took around 3 hours.
Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
We had pre-booked accommodation in Mostar at the Hotel Villa Milas – a modern, 3-star hotel, very well located within a few minutes walk to the Old Town. We had a very warm welcome and were offered delicious cool drinks on arrival.
Mostar is a fascinating place with a tragic past – most recently the 18-months siege in 1992-93. There are still many reminders of the conflict including buildings in ruins and bullet-riddled walls.
The Nereta River divides the town, with the west side occupied by Croats, and the east side occupied by Muslims. There are still many unresolved issues between the two.
To get a better understanding of Mostar, its history and culture, we took a tour with Bata – infamous on the backpacker circuit. Bata and his sister offer accommodation at Majdas Hostel – another favourite among backpackers.
Bata is passionate, charismatic and entertaining and his tour was one of the most unforgettable and moving experiences of our trip as he recounted stories of past and present life in Mostar.
Places of interest in and around Mostar:
The streets of the beautiful Old Town
Stari Most (Old Bridge)
Ruins of the war including ‘sniper nest’ and the Neretva Hotel.
It was a scenic drive from Mostar to Sarajevo taking about 2 hours. We had pre-booked our Sarajevo accommodation (for 2 nights) at Apartments Sarajevo Skenderija, Adila Grebe 6, 71000 Sarajevo. It was very hard to find!
The apartments were well situated – about a 15-minute walk from the Old Town, on the other side of the Miljacka River.
Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina. The city has a tragic history as the scene of a siege by Serbian forces that began in April 1992 and lasted for 1425 days – 3 years and 9 months!
For a better understanding of the city we took a ‘Times of Misfortune’ Tour – a 3-hour tour by Insider City Tours & Excursions. Our guide was a young woman who had lived through the siege (she was only 6 years old when the siege began). She escaped with her mother through the ‘tunnel of life’ when she was 9 years old. The stories of what the people trapped in the city endured were heartbreaking.
Places of significance during the siege include:
City Hall building – used to house the National Library, which was destroyed August 1992.
White Fortress (a defence structure from Ottoman times) – the first stop on our tour – an amazing view of the city and surrounding hills. It was on these hills that Bosnian Serbs were stationed during the siege. From the White Fortress our guide pointed out places of interest in the city below.
Hotel Holiday Inn – on Ulica Zmaja od Bosne, where the first shooting of the war took place and where journalists from around the world stayed during the siege to report on the conflict.
Sniper Alley – Ulica Zmaja od Bosne (main boulevarde in Sarajevo and road to the airport) was known as Sniper Alley during the siege. There are many communist-era building along this road. A building shelled during the siege (once a retirement home) is a grim reminder of the siege.
Sarajevo Brewery – where residents collected clean water during the siege.
Cemeteries throughout the city – located on what used to be playgrounds and sporting ovals.
Pijaca Markale (marketplace) – scene of many fatalities during the siege.
Eternal Flame – WWII memorial. For the 20-year memorial of the siege the road leading to the Eternal Flame was filled with chairs representing all those killed during the siege. People placed flowers and gifts on the chairs.
Veliki Park – a monument to children killed during the siege.
Winter Olympics facilities – were all targets during the war.
Roses of Sarajevo – found throughout the city, these red resin spots mark places where mortar shells killed people during the siege.
Sarajevo War Tunnel & Museum – The Bosnians trapped in the city during the siege built a tunnel from the city centre to beyond the airport. It became an escape route for those trapped and a way of getting food, arms and aid into the city.
For an insight into what life was like during the siege, it was suggested we read ‘The Cellist of Sarajevo’ by Steven Galloway.
Insider City Tours & Excursions operate a number of other tours of Sarajevo including – ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, Sarajevo Walking Tour, Tunnel Tour, Jewish Tour and Sarajevo Assassination Tour.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914 just near the Latin Bridge, close to the office of Insider City Tours (WWI began a month later). There is a museum just opposite Insider City Tours about this event – Museum of the Assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
Another sobering place to visit is Gallery 11/07/95, Trg fra Grge Martica 2/III – just off Ferhadija, near the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
Suggested things to see and do in Sarajevo to lift your spirits:
Ferhadija Street – a pedestrian street with lots of shops and bars.
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Ferhadija Street.
Walk the lovely streets and shops of the Old Town – Bascarsija.
Walk Saraci street (main street of Bascarsija) to see traditional craft products.
Walk along Bravadziluk Street for Bosnian food.
Eat cevapi (grilled sausage) – we tried Bosanska Kuca Steak House.
Gazi Husrev-bey’s Mosque and Sarajevo Clock Tower.
Serbij Fountain in Bascarsija Square.
Academy of Fine Arts & the Festina Lente pedestrian bridge.
The Latin Bridge.
We finished the day with dinner at Konoba Luka Sarajevo, Obala Maka Dizdara br. 8 – a great restaurant just a few minutes walk from our accommodation (Apartments Sarajevo Skenderija).
We left Sarajevo early heading towards Pecs in Hungary – about a five-hour drive (we chose Pecs as our one night stopover on the way back to Budapest).
The drive to Pecs took us through the Doboj region of Bosnia & Herzegovina, the scene of war crimes in 1992, and we saw many buildings in ruins.
Once across the Croatian border, we stopped in Osejik, a very attractive town – particularly Tyrda (the Old Town). We had lunch at Galija – situated on a boat on the Drava River.
We had pre-booked our accommodation in Pecs at Centrum Apartments – a good choice as the apartments were in walking distance from the historical town centre of Pecs entering the old town near the Barbican (castle). Little did we realise what a beautiful town Pecs was!
We were fortunate to arrive in Pecs during the “Setater Fesztival” (Promenade Festival 4-21 June 2015). There was a party atmosphere with food and wine tastings under the avenue of trees in front of the cathedral.
Pecs was one of our favourite places of the trip. It is a beautiful university town, located about 2.5 hours south of Budapest and is known for its history, culture, architecture and the arts.
Pecs was first settled by the Celts and later became part of the Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages Pecs was ruled by Hungarian kings when several religious orders settled there and the first university in Hungary was established. From the mid-1500s Pecs was under Ottoman rule for over 140 years, before falling under the rule of the Hapsburgs.
Highlights of Pecs:
The centre of town is Szechenyi Square (a pedestrian zone) with many fine buildings including Gazi Kasim Pasha Mosque (now the Inner City Parish Church), County Hall decorated with Zsolnay ceramics, St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church.
Kiraly Street – beautiful pedestrian street lined with shops, restaurants, outdoor cafes and baroque-style buildings including the National Theatre of Pecs, Vasvary House and Lyceum Church and former abbey.
Kaptalan Street – a street of museums including Vasarely Museum (works by pop-artist Victor Vasarely) and Zsolnay Museum. Zsolnay ceramic tile factory is located in Pecs and these tiles can be seen on many roofs and walls of buildings throughout the city including the Zsolnay fountain in Szechenyl Square.
Cella Septichora Visitor Centre (4th Century Early Christian Cemetery) – a World Heritage listed site where a highlight is the 4th Century wall paintings in the burial chambers.
Tivadar Csontvary Museum – giant canvases of self-taught 20th century painter.
St Peter & Paul Cathedral and Bishops Palace in Dom Square.
St Francis Church and ruins of 16th Century Memi Pasha’s Baths on Ferencesek Street.
Leaving Pecs, it was a relatively quick and easy drive to Budapest of about 2.5 hours. We dropped our car back at Thrifty Car Rental near Budapest airport and caught a taxi to the Maple Tree Apartments where we had booked one night’s accommodation before flying back to Sydney.
For a farewell dinner we headed back to Raday Street for some typical Hungarian food at Voros Postakocsi (Raday Utca 15) – huge servings!