On the road again ....
February 1, 2012 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan my trip to Europe this summer! Helpful details abound within!

I have the good fortune to be going to Greece this summer on a writing fellowship. The dates of the residency are June 9-July 3. I have the option to go early, stay later, or both. For the lowest fare, the travel agent can get me to Madrid on May 27. I need to return by July 26-27.

Where shall I go (before, after, or both)?

The above-promised helpful details:

-- I'm an experienced traveler, and have experience not knowing languages.
-- I'm a single lady (well, see previously).
-- I have a decent budget (I think) of about $4000.
-- My top two places to visit are both sort of not possible right now: Iran and Egypt. I'd love to visit Israel, Morocco, Turkey, etc.
-- I've lived in Spain and speak Spanish.
-- I've never been to much of mainland Europe (only Spain, actually).
-- I research places of long-term conflict, so Bosnia, Croatia, etc. would be of interest.
-- For the second half of the trip (the after), my 62-year-old mother may join me. So maybe first half adventure, second half culture and hotels she pays for?
posted by mrfuga0 to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, May 27 to June 9 gives you two weeks to get from Madrid to wherever in Greece your residency is. If you want to have adventures first, snag a budget flight directly east to Turkey, Bosnia, or wherever.

I'm planning my own trip to Turkey, and I'm not sure two weeks gives you enough time for a proper adventure, unless your residency is in Thessaloniki or one of the Greek islands right off the Turkish coast. I'd suggest maybe Istanbul to Konya or Antalya and then fly directly to wherever your residency is.

Or you could get a lot more adventurous bang for your buck in the Balkans, which are way smaller than Turkey and easier to get off the beaten track in (actually I'm not sure there is a beaten track in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria, or Macedonia).

You and your mom could probably compromise on (western) Turkey or Croatia, though -- these are not difficult places to travel, at all. In that case, maybe spend a week and change in Morocco?
posted by Sara C. at 8:25 PM on February 1, 2012

I research places of long-term conflict, so Bosnia, Croatia, etc. would be of interest.

And Cyprus would fit that bill: longest continuous UN peacekeeping mission.

Standard MeFi "Europe travel" rules apply: fewer places in more depth is always better than trying to see everything. I sort of like the idea of an "Adriatic before, Aegean after" itinerary: fly from Madrid to Trieste, one of Europe's great in-betweener cities (Alitalia has that route) and mazy down through the Balkans (examples), depending upon where you need to be in Greece, and head east afterwards, either up to Turkey (Istanbul, Izmir, etc.) or take to the sea.

It's the kind of trip that would give you a sense of how cultural difference manifests itself over relatively short distance.
posted by holgate at 8:36 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have heard only wonderful things about Belgrade. Right after a friend told me how lovely it is there, I saw some NY Times coverage.
posted by knile at 3:22 AM on February 2, 2012

Seconding holgate on Trieste, but I'd suggest to travel from Madrid to Barcelona first (there is a high-speed train line). Ryanair has a direct flight from Barcelona to Trieste.

Don't even consider to rent a car in Trieste to drive to Greece, mind you:

a) Picking up a rental car in one country and dropping it in another is prohibitively expensive, even within the EU;
b) Balkan roads are pretty tough; and
c) Several Balkan countries are no-go areas for rental car insurance.
posted by Skeptic at 8:12 AM on February 2, 2012

Also, on your way back, you may fly with your mother from Greece to Rome, then drive leisurely through Tuscany, then take the overnight Milan-Barcelona train...
posted by Skeptic at 8:38 AM on February 2, 2012

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