Category Archives: North Macedonia

Information, impressions, facts, and all that you need to know about North Macedonia. Here you find the posts related to my visits.

Stobi, the paradise of archeology

Pompei in Italy is maybe the best archeological site in the world, at least it is what some experts and tourist say. But who is going to visit Macedonia has surely to go to Stobi and there the traveler will find a great place where to see ancient finds quite well conserved.

Something has yet to be brought back to the light. But right now going around the city of Stobi it is possible to see many beautiful mosaics. The city was founded when the area was under Paeonia before to become the former capital of the Roman province of Macedonia Salutaris. The site of Stobi is located near the town of Gradsko.

What to see in Stobi

Inside the site, the best part is the Northern Basilica, realized with marble. There is a baptistry with mosaics created in the V century. The interesting elements discovered in the 50s show that between the North and the Civil Basilicas there were Thermae Minores, a small bath for people who wanted to take care of their bodies. From there the main street of the ancient town of Stobi takes visitors to the other main buildings. For those are visible the basements.

The religion is, of course, the main feature of the buildings visible in Stobi. There are, with access on the main street also the Central Basilica and the synagogue. The second one in the basement of the first one, built in the V century. Walking around, it is possible to take a guided tour for a cheap price, it is good to follow the way suggested. This allows you to explore properly the history of the place. In case the visitor prefers to go around alone there is a good map at the entrance.

There are many inscriptions to be seen on the stones, especially in the former arena. Among the many spectacular elements present in Stobi it has to be mentioned the House of the Palms. It has a big pool and a mosaic floor, beautiful as the fountain located in a small square in the central part of the town. The finds of the various construction can easily help the tourists to understand the dimension of the buildings and the location of the rooms.

I don’t want to go deep in the explanation of the parts of Stobi. There is a work in progress, so in next months and years it can appear something new, that’s why my short description should only inspire you. If you like archeology you should visit the place. Some discovery of the archeologist can be already showed there now while you read the post.

I highly recommend you, my dear readers, to go there because it is also a way to know the daily life of Romans in that area. I like archeology and maybe it is understandable by some of my posts. But I think the wonder in Stobi is for all. In the end, let me write that I am proud of this site because my country (Italy) sent money and experts in the years to recover the finds and create one of the most beautiful archeological sites of the area.

I  just add some pictures taken during my recent trip.

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Before to see the images, let me ask you to subscribe to my newsletter. You will get updates and extra contents weekly to your email inbox. If you want to know more about this amazing country, check out my posts about Northern Macedonia capital and the other places I have seen. You can easily find a flight to Skopje surfing Infobus platform.

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Ohrid: the jewel of Macedonia

The Lake Ohrid is well known around Europe and in the world. The reasons are a lot. It is one of the most ancient lakes of the hearth. Also, it is one of the deepest of Europe and, someone says it, one of the cleanest of Europe. I got those notions reading about it and talking with locals. But I can say by myself for sure that is one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. I come from Italy and in my country, there are a lot of lakes. Like there are many around Europe. I had the chance to see some of them.

Why do I consider Lake Ohrid as a jewel of Macedonia? Well, I have been, as you have read in my other articles, many times in the Republic of North Macedonia. Step by step I explored the various towns and villages. But as a natural attraction, the lake is the one that gave me big positive feelings. Maybe it is not only because of the water and of its blue color. But also because of the town. Ohrid is really lovely, especially the old part built on a hill.

Struga

Before to describe this unique place, I need to mention Struga. It is another town located on the same lake, few kilometers far from Ohrid. It is faced on the lake and it offers a lovely downtown. That is made by the typical carsija, present in almost all the cities in Balkans. Because of its Ottoman origin. In the middle of the town, there is the Black Drim River that cuts the center in two parts.

It is a lovely place and there are many attractions to be visited. Among them:

  • the church of St. George, a 19th-century example of religious architecture built on the ruins of a church of 17th century;
  • the Nature Museum with a lot of species of birds, insects, and animals that populated the area in the past and in present time;
  • the Vangel Kodjoman Gallery, with all a lot of paintings realized by the famous Macedonian contemporary artist.  

Also, around Struga, there are a lot of places to be explored, like some archeological sites.

The town is a tourist destination and for this reason is full of good hotels, restaurants, and bars. They are located especially in the center and on the lake. Struga is few steps from the Albanian border and of course, a small part of the lake is on the Albanian side. So it is easy to get there, maybe for a small trip meanwhile the traveler is visiting Macedonia. Also, Ohrid is a tourist destination, so I suggest to not miss it, especially because it is a completely different place.

Ohrid

It is protected as Unesco Heritage and it offers to the travelers a marvelous view of the lake. The old part of the town was built on a hill from where it is possible to enjoy a great panorama. On the top, there is a beautiful ancient basilica with an archeological site. The small streets take the visitors to the main attractions passing by the old houses in an Ottoman style. It is like to walk in the past.

Ohrid is a combination of elements able to mix the past and the present. It looks like a peaceful town where to relax. But during the day a lot of tourists are doing sightseeing and shopping. Meanwhile, young people are living bright nightlife. There are many things that have to be mentioned. But as usual, I prefer to focus on a few parts of the town which I like most.

The first place is for the lake, it is really wonderful and it reserve nice surprises. Then the basilica with the churches disposed on the way that connects the lake to the top of the hill. Archeology in Ohrid has to be mentioned because there are really well-kept monuments coming from the ancient age. Last but not least I want to write about restaurants and accommodations because they deserve a place on my blog.

The lake

It was born 1 million years ago and this means that is the oldest lake in Europe. The area is rich of animal and plant species, experts say 212. In town, there are places where to lie down under the sun and swim. There are also small boats ready to take tourists around searching for more peace and some explorations inside nature. The prices to rent a boat are a bit expensive for Macedonian standards. But it is normal to find higher rates in the tourist towns. For Western Europe rates it is cheap, anyway, it is allowed to negotiate.

On the water, there is a museum, located few kilometers far from the center of Ohrid, close to Peštani. It is the reconstruction of Bronze Age stilt houses on Lake Ohrid. It is made in recent time, but with a lot of accuracies and they paid attention to every detail. They put inside the houses the different objectives like the ones used by the ancient population in their home on the water. It is really educational and interesting and from there the view on the lake is amazing. There is a road that goes there, but not the boats.

In the lake, there are obviously some fishes, in particular, the Ohrid trout. They are protected because the quantity is decreasing. But in some local restaurants, they propose the trout in the menu. I am not sure that the fish cooked is coming from Lake Ohrid, but at least it is very good. Anyway, I suggest to enjoy the lake deeply, also to spend there a week is a good idea.

Archeology, churches, and fortress

Walking in the old part and the carsija of Ohrid the visitor find modern and traditional shops. Especially on the main street, but the most interesting thing is to see the old constructions well kept. Among them, there is Robevi House, built in Ottoman style during the 19th century. Its name come from the most important family of the town at that time. Now there is a museum with historical finds from the area.

In the center, there is the magnificent St. Sophia church with its front porch. Then the ancient theatre realized in 200 B.C. well conserved but not so much valorized. Maybe that is why tourists are surprised when they see it. They do not expect it and then they find a superb architecture from the past. Going up in the middle of the houses it is possible to reach the top of the hill with the fortress. There are only the walls, but from there the view on the lake and on the surroundings is incomparable.

To reach the fortress and especially the basilica I prefer to pass directly from the beach (with gravel). From the lake, there is a way with a wooden bridge and then a trail that goes up. The beauty of this pathway is, of course, the panorama on the Lake Ohrid. But step by step it is possible to stop in the churches located on different levels. The church of Sveti Kaneo is the most important religious building in Macedonia, sacred in the 13th century and located on a small hill facing the lake.

On the top, not far from each other, there is the fortress, the monastery of St. Panteleimon and the archeological area of Plaošnik. The monastery is really wonderful Bizantine religious architectural example. It is dedicated also to St. Clement, the disciple of Cyril and Methodius who invented the actual version of Cyrillic alphabet. In the other side of the courtyard, there are the results of the archeologists’ work.

It is possible to see the remains of a Christian basilica and of a Baptistery. In the area, there are also Muslim tombs. Of course, also from the same place, the view of the lake is great. Especially with the sunset, because of the colors reflected on the water. It is full of tourists almost all the time, but there is a lot of space, so there are never problems to ”disturb” each other during the visits.

Eat and sleep in Ohrid

Stay in Ohrid is a good solution also if you want to see the district, also because the offer is various. Around the town, there is the National Park of Galicia and at around 20 minutes by car, it is possible to visit the Sveti Naum Monastery. Ohrid is famous for its 365 churches all around the district. I don’t know if it true or it is a legend, but if you like to explore religious buildings you will be satisfied.

In the town, you can find mainly two types of accommodation: the hotels and private houses. In the years, many people started to rent rooms and apartments, as it happens in all the world, to tourists. The difference is that they propose the space they have. It can be that you have a room with a bathroom, a big apartment or just a bed in a living room. That is why each home open to visitors has a star rating. From 1 to 5 stars as the hotels, so you can easily choose and find proper rates.

I can recommend you because I have been there, a five-star private house called Germanoff House. I had a room on the top floor with a private bathroom and a lovely balcony (with tables and chairs). The elegant setting shows the luxury, especially according to the standards of the private houses in the area. The equipment is complete and modern, with Wi-Fi and room service. It is located a few hundred meters from the main square with St. Sophia basilica. And also surrounded by restaurants, one of them with an agreement for the house guests.

If you prefer a hotel you can move a few hundred meters from the old part and stay in front of the lake at Hotel Aleksandrija, a luxury structure. It offers elegant and spacious rooms with all the modern services to make the guest stay more comfortable. The location is perfect to enjoy Ohrid and the high standards can be easily compared with Western Europe ones.

If you like to taste the local food Restaurant Chun is highly recommended. It is a fancy place with clear recall of the lake and located at the entrance of the old part of the town. They propose a fish and meat menu with recipes coming from the local cuisine. The staff is kind and you can find inside more locals than tourists, maybe also, for this reason, is a good place where to have dinner.

Another restaurant that I liked is the Restaurant Damar, a typical Macedonian place. It has old costumes on the wall and a varied menu that includes many meat proposals, well presented and served by a friendly staff, as often is happening in Macedonia. About fish, they say that they have the chance to get sometimes a few trout from the lake and to cook them. Who knows if it is properly like that, but anyway the fish in the plate was very good.

During the night bars and discotheques gives fun for young people, tourists and for who do not want to go to sleep. The choice is variegated, but I can suggest Liquid bar, very popular among locals. It is a modern structure in an ancient house, with a nice setting and an external part directly on the lake. All day long it is possible to drink, meanwhile, during the evening you can drink, listen to music and dance, not only during summer time.

The last advice

For me, it was really useful to read the book “Ohrid on the shores of the eternal lake“. It describes the town and the attractions with the point of view of a photographer and of who lived there. It is not properly a guide for tourist, but according to me the best mate to explore the town.

Also, it was very interesting for me to watch the DVD Global treasures Ohrid Macedonia“. It shows the best monuments, churches, and places to be visited explaining the history and the most important elements.

Travel preparation

It is time to search for your flight or a bus or a train to go to Ohrid. Infobus is the platform for you. Find there the best offers and create your connections combining the different track with various means of transport. To organize your trip, some activities in the place and find the accommodation, check out the TEZ Tour website. You will have a tailor-made proposal

Find a good suitcase on AliExpress and see my Amazon page to find all that you need to travel. I have also written an article about the best travel gadgets, maybe you can get inspired. Plan your trip carefully, then you will enjoy it a lot.

If you liked this post share it, you will give ideas and tips to your friends. For more updates and extra contents subscribe to my newsletter.

Enjoy Ohrid!

Bitola: the Macedonian Consul

In the Republic of North Macedonia, there is a city full of history and archeology. In the past, it was very important for Balkans, especially during the Ottoman Empire. During Roman age, it was called Heraclea and a few kilometers out of the downtown you can see the finds of that period. I had the chance to be in Bitola, this its name, a few time and I want to share my experience suggesting you what to see. It is a very interesting destination, like the country.

Bitola is a lovely city with institutional imprinting. I wrote the title of this post thinking about history. Because the city was well known for the presence of more than 100 Consuls. It happened during the Ottoman Empire when in the place became the last capital of Ottoman Rumelia. This was from 1836 to 1867. It was the second European city of the empire after Thessaloniki.

Bitola, history, and attractions

This aspect is, of course, a small part of all the history of Bitola, started in the 4th century BC, with the name of Heraclea. So the “City of the Consuls” had a great past and now there are some prehistory objects and monuments to be admired. Despite some witnesses of the different periods, the city was built, destroyed and rebuilt many times.

Actually going around for the streets it is possible to see many buildings made with European style. There was a covered bazaar, but the fire destroyed it in the 19th century. There is one more new and it is interesting to go there and to visit the shops with a combination of modernity and tradition.

It has also to be mentioned the local park, big, peaceful and full of statues of the most famous people of the area. Mainly they are related to the culture and the art, as poets, writers, painters and so on. But I have to proceed with some order so I can explain better what I like the most and to suggest to you, my dear readers.

Let’s make a list: Shirok Sokak Street, Heraclea, the Clock Tower, and the local Museum. These are the main places that I visited and I liked, but I will write a few lines also about mosques and the most important churches in the city. In the end, there will be some notes about accommodations and restaurants.

The main street

When I arrived in Bitola I started a walk in front of the theatre. It is a modern building that host also the cultural center where are organized time to time expositions. From the small square, there is the entrance to the carsija, the old part of the town with the traditional shops. Here you can meet most of the local inhabitants. It is the center of Bitola’s life.

Going ahead on Shirok Sokak Street the visitor reaches the park. The pedestrian way is alive day and night. Because locals go to spend their free time, especially families with kids, during the day. In the night young people go to the discotheque located in the park.

Starting the exploration of this beautiful area of Bitola it is easy to notice the elegance of the neo-classical buildings. Most of them were used by Consuls in the past and they are quite well conserved. Today there are shops because it is the shopping street, offices and apartments. As usual in downtown, there are a lot of bars and restaurants located on the pedestrian street and few hotels. I guess their number is increasing also because it is one of the cities preferred by tourists.

The Stara Čaršija of Bitola is a great example of how it is possible to restore and preserve the ancient buildings and set.  The constructions are of course adapted to modern society needs. As well it is for trendy bars and shops. In general, it has to be said that the speed of Macedonia is slower than in western Europe. Even if there are well-prepared people who are working hard to improve the country.

In one side this is positive for the growth of the country. But on the other side, I guess it should be an example, they shouldn’t follow the Western Europe lifestyle. It’s not good for the community to develop the country too fast and with fewer values. This is only my point of view that has no relation with my travel experience in Bitola.

The Clock Tower

This monument is a landmark for Bitola. It was built in 1830, the same period of the Orthodox Church of St. Demetrius. The Clock Tower is now the way for inhabitants to check the right hour and of course it is an important monument for all visitors. Bitola as a vocation for tourists, maybe because it was considered since the past to be a cosmopolitan city. The tower is located in the center in the northern part of the main street and very close to Magnolia Square. In the same place where most of the local attractions are located.

In the beginning, there were bells. But in 1927 it was decided to substitute the people in charge of ringing the bells with a clock. Thanks to a German mechanism it was possible to ring the bells in the different hours and shows to the people the exact time. In the years the mechanism was restored and improved. Now, since 1970, the Clock Tower is one of the 180 in the world to use that system.

Heraclea

A couple of kilometers far from the actual Bitola it is possible to see the remains of the Greek city of Heraclea Lyncestis, ruled by Romans. The ancient civilizations built the important center and new there are witnesses of the buildings and of the way of life at that time. The site is well kept and the archeologist worked hard to recover many elements. You can see the beautiful mosaics done during the Byzantine period when it was built a big and important basilica, discovered during the II World War time.

To mention the basilica is necessary because the city founded by Philip II of Macedon in the IV century BC was chosen as an Episcopal seat. Some of Heraclea bishops present in the early Christian era were part of synods in Serdica. The religion was a feature of the ancient center, abandoned in VI century AD after a big earthquake and an invasion made by Slavics.

The museum

Who has a passion for history can not miss the chance to visit the Bitola Museum dedicated to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He was the guy who made Turkey the modern and great country. The main elements are related to the history of the 1920s-1930s. So there are a lot of connections between Macedonia and the Ottoman Empire. Inside there are military finds, but also many ancient objects.

Do not worry, the recent history is just a part, even do very important, of the local museum. In fact, who visits it can explore all the history of the country, since the origins. Jewels, objects of daily life, costumes and many other things can be found in the permanent and well-curated exposition. Archeology is the feature of some rooms, so I suggest to go after a tour in Heraclea. They need to improve the lights in order to show better the collections, but it is a very good museum.

The mosque

As I wrote at the beginning of the post in Bitola there are different Orthodox churches and mosques. They were built in different periods. Even if most of them are recent because of the different vicissitudes of the city, destroyed and rebuilt many times. I want to mention Isaak Kadi Mosque because it is one of the oldest religious structures still used in Bitola.

The mosque is entitled to an important Turkish person. He was part of a well-known family that left Anatolia to live in Bitola during the Ottoman Empire. The guy went to study in Istanbul and he got a lot of success, so to celebrate his position in the society he decided at the beginning of the 16th century to build the mosque. Now it is considered a cultural monument of Macedonia. It is a few steps from carsija, where there was the old covered bazaar.

Where to eat and sleep

There is a famous and very nice hotel, called Epinal. It is located at the entrance of the main street. But it has a casino and I preferred to choose a more quiet accommodation 150 meters far from it. The Hotel Ambassador is a four-star structure located in a small street close to the theatre. It is quite modern in the setting and also it has contemporary equipment to give to the guests what they need.

The apartments are spacious and they offer a room, a separate lounge, and a very nice bathroom. It is not so big, but the kind of staff is going to assist the guests with every need. They have also a bar where they serve a huge breakfast in Macedonian style. That means to have a big quantity of salty and sweet food.

In the city, there are a lot of traditional restaurants around the center. So the best way is just to follow the instinct and enter the preferred ones. The prices are quite cheap, especially for “Western standards”. If you want anyway an elegant restaurant where to taste delicious local recipes presented in a very innovative way, you can reserve a table at Gradska Kafeana. It is the restaurant of the Hotel Epinal.

Bitola is the perfect Macedonian Consul to welcome the tourists.

Trip preparation

Are you ready for Bitola? To find the mean of transport for your trip, I suggest you Infobus. On the platform, there are the best offers for planes, trains, and buses. Book tickets at the lowest price and plan all the connections. Compare the solutions and combine them.

If you want to find the flight plus the accommodation you can visit Omio. The site is one of the best search engines to find planes, buses, and trains tickets. Then, thanks to the connection with Booking, it offers the list of accommodations with convenient rates.

Costs

Compared to Western standards the country and Bitola are quite cheap. Anyway, there are some ways to save money or earn extra cash to finance your trip. For the flight, you should use free air miles. Redeeming them you can have huge discounts or travel for free. Everything depends on your travel credit card and on airlines’ loophole. Watch this video to know how to get a lot of air miles bonuses and save money. 

I guess it can be useful to get inspiration from my “make money to travel” guides. Some activities will help you to earn extra cash to pay for your trip’s bills. There are various activities you can do. For instance, rent your car or your flat. Start a travel blog. Also, with a small investment in training courses, you can learn how to be successful in web marketing. If you like to work with your hands and with your creativity, I have another proposal. Get thousands of woodworking plans for a very cheap price, realize items, and sell them. It’s funny and profitable.

At the end of the organization of the trip, you have to focus on suitcase. If you travel light, choose a backpack, but in any case, never forget the cabin luggage. For any accessories you may need, I suggest you visit my Amazon page with a selection of items that I use for my trips. Also, AliExpress has discounted, curious, and helpful objects for travelers.

I also prepared a packing list for you. It is the one I use to avoid mistakes and to not forget things at home. You can personalize it. And if you want to get advice on how to pack to use properly all the space, check out this guide.

Before to leave your home for some days or weeks, you should consider housesitting. Why? Because a trusted person in your house will keep away thieves and she or he will take care of it. A house sitter can collect mail, water flowers, feed pets, clean, and so on.

My last tip

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Kruševo: a Macedonian surprise

I had the chance to visit the Republic of North Macedonia and especially Kruševo. Despite the business meeting, I could go a bit around. I want to post more articles because there are different places that I want to tell you about.

One of the villages that left me positively surprised. It is in a perfect location, from where to join a special panorama, but at a first look is just a little ensemble of old houses.

The village of Kruševo

Going around Kruševo it is easy to discover some pearls. Actually, it is well known for different reasons. The first one is because the village, less than 10.000 inhabitants, is the highest in Macedonia: 1250 meters above the sea level, then because it was a political entity proclaimed in 1903 when it became Republic as a consequence of a fight against Ottomans. Its life was short: from 3rd to 13th August 1903. Also, the contemporary national history made it famous: there is a museum dedicated to Todor “Toše” Proeski, a Macedonian singer died in 2007 (26 years old) in a car accident. He was very popular and for him, it was organized a state funeral.

Despite these aspects, I found many interesting attractions to see around Kruševo. First of all the village itself. Walking in the small streets is the first step to get inside the local atmosphere, where the time seems to be stopped. It is a quiet place, where old cars move around together with horses and donkeys. Life is going calm, but there is a space with some computers provided by the government where people can go to use the internet for free. So modernity is approaching the village.

                                                                                         Kruševo surroundings

The artist

There are a few attractions that I want to mention: the museum dedicated to Nikola Martinoski, the sanctuary and the lake. They made me fall in love with Kruševo. The art and nature show somehow the soul of the village and I was happy to go back there to spend a bit more time to explore the area and know better the place.

Nikola Martinoski was a painter lived between 1903 and 1973 and it is considered the founder of contemporary Macedonian art. He also spent two years in Paris where he studied at Académie de la Grande Chaumière. His paintings are wonderful artworks in an expressionistic style. With few lines and a good combination of colors, he was able to show the people and their life.

In each person painted it is possible to see how they feel, their condition. I did not know anything about this artist before but discovering that gallery I had the chance marvelous artworks. I have been twice and the first time I met a lady who speaks French, so it was easy to understand, meanwhile the second time there was a lady who speaks only Macedonian but anyway she wanted to take me in the different rooms and explain me all the paintings.

                                                                                          The gallery in Kruševo

The staff is very kind and in the museum, there are also some rooms to show how was the house in the past when the painter was alive. Some of the artworks are present also in the National Art Gallery in Skopje. But you can check out my other posts about the local attractions. I want to explain a lot about my last visit to the country.

The sanctuary

The sanctuary is between the village and the top of the hill where is a big cross made with iron, as in Skopje. It is a small monastery with a lovely church and spaces where groups can stay to eat and spend some time for their meetings. To manage all the structure there is a man who is the uncle of Todor “Toše” Proeski, or at least is what he says. For sure he is proud to show the room where his nephew was used to spend time when he was a child.

As I mentioned a few lines before in Kruševo there also the museum of the singer, with some of his objects. Then there is also a strange construction where it is located the Museum of National Liberation War with pictures and some objects to remind the victory against the Ottoman Empire. Also if it has lasted for a few days. In the village, there is also the museum of local history where it was rebuilt a bit the setting of the typical houses.

The lake

Now it is time to write about the third reason why I love this Macedonian village: the lake, called Gumenje. In general, it is never too crowded, but it is used for recreation and for fishing. From there it starts the Kruševo-Norovska river, but the main feature is the peace that each person can feel walking there. There is also a pathway with benches built to easily move around all the lake.

The water appears calm, the trees around are well cleaned and gives different colors reflected on the water. Autumn is surely the best season to see it. At the moment spent there I was totally surrounded by nature, almost in communication with it, the sky was closer, blue with some white clouds. A wonderful experience to reconcile with what matters in life.

Where to sleep, drink and eat

Who wants to sleep in Kruševo can book to Hotel Montana, a lovely four stars accommodation on the top of the hill, with wood from one side and the village from the other side. The panorama on the houses is really amazing. They have rooms with a balcony with the view. The structure is quite new, spacious and well equipped. The standards, according to Macedonian average ones, are high.

If you want to stop for a drink I suggest you visit one of the two bars in the main square. One is old and characteristic, with a nice balcony, but be careful because also the balcony is quite old too. The other one is more modern and with tables directly in the square. There are also some restaurants since it is a village for tourism, but I tried one: Kruševska odaja. It offers genuine local food prepared according to traditional recipes. The setting is really lovely with some traditional clothes on the walls.

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Check out Infobus website to plan the journey. The platform allows you to compare different solutions to reach the destination with a plane, a train or a bus. The company reserves some discounts for new clients.