Not every place we visit is on our must see list, but we go because we know we may never return.
Belgrade or Beograd, Serbia is one of those places. We decided to spend just a few days in the capital on our way to Brasov, Romania, located about three hours north of Bucharest, the capital.
We took an extremely long bus ride from Budva, Montenegro, arriving in Belgrade around eight p.m. When we arrive in a new place, the first thing we do is check the bus and train schedule at the station to our next destination, in this case, Brasov, Romania. (Most cities do not post the current schedule online for local routes.)
But, a funny thing happened in Belgrade when we asked for the bus to Romania. A shake of the head, a wave of the hand and a firm "no." Certain this was just a mistake due to our lack of Serbian language skills, we headed to the next ticket window. Five windows, eight people and a visit to the train station nearby all confirmed the unbelievable:
There are no buses to Romania! There are no trains to Romania!
Brian and I were incredulous and confused. It's the country next door. Relations aren't bad. We never quite got our answer except to guess that many Serbians simply don't travel much, causing the demise of many routes.
We were stuck. In Serbia. The entire walk to our hotel, we kept wondering out loud, laughing and occasionally humming Hotel California. "We are stuck in Serbia and we didn't even want to come to Serbia!" "There are no buses to Romania!" "We can't leave!"
Our research of the travel from Belgrade into Romania never showed any bus or train lines, but we never gave that a second thought as most schedules aren't posted. Like most cities, you just show up at the bus or train station and buy your ticket. We never thought there wouldn't be ANY option.
After getting to WIFI, we researched our alternatives. We found out the process for getting into Romania from Serbia comes with a few options:
1. 55-minute direct flight into Bucharest, then a train to Brasov
2. 9-hour train to Budapest, Hungary or Sofia, Bulgaria then another overnight train into Romania
3. 3-hour mini-bus to the border town of Vrac followed by three overnight train or bus connections to Brasov
This is like trying to get to Atlanta from Tampa, but having to drive through the Panhandle and up through Alabama.
After much debate over costs, complications and connections, we did the least adventurous thing and booked a $100 flight on AirSerbia, which turned out to be surprisingly nice.