Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
79Trip End Aug 26, 2010
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Early in the trip, I started to make a "Best of" list, but I gave up because I have trouble choosing, and I didn't want to imply the others weren't worth seeing. I will go ahead and commit to a "Best Country", sort of. I'd say my favorite of the trip was Slovakia, but it didn't pull ahead of Slovenia until the 2nd-to-last day when I was out driving around the mountains looking for wooden churches and castles. So basically, if you accidentally book the wrong one because their names are so close, you'll be okay.
Croatia was right at the top with the other two. The only reason I put Slovakia and Slovenia ahead is because of my personal preference for mountains and rivers. If you love sun and shopping, Croatia is the country for you. It also had great intact Medieval cities and excellent Roman ruins. I'd say coastal Croatia is a good substitute for Italy if you get tired of the crowds, costs, or pick-pockets of Italian cities, although Croatia did have it's share of crowds, and neither it nor Slovenia were as cheap as Hungary and Slovakia. My guidebook only really had entries in Croatia for the coast, so I didn't end up seeing much of the interior Croatia and may go back if I ever visit Serbia or Bosnia-Herzogovina.
I would also go back to either Slovakia or Slovenia. In Slovenia, I missed most of the east of the country, but I'd really be interested spending more time in the mountains of the western half and especially in floating the Soča river. It was definitely one of the most beautiful places I saw on my trip, and in my life, really. There was also a lot more hiking I could have done. As for Slovakia, there were plenty of castles and a few wooden churches I didn't get the chance to make it to.
Hungary wasn't bad, but the others were so good, it couldn't compete for me. What Hungary did have was an abundance of Art Nouveau architecture. It also had the best history of the four by far. Budapest was definitely a world-class city, one of only two I visited on this trip. I'd rate it just ahead of Vienna, but I would really need another three or four days in each city to be completely fair. For someone planning a trip, I'd recommend Budapest, Pécs, Eger and Debrecen, in that order, but there were a few impressive buildings apart from those, like Esztergom Basilica and Ezterhazy Palace. Hortobágy would be good at the approriate time of the year for bird-watchers. Hollókő was a cute little village, if you like that sort of thing.
Austria and Switzerland mostly escaped this bit of introspection because they were incidental to the rest of the tour. I don't think I'd be eager to go back to Switzerland, though, because it was so expensive. If I wanted to go back to the Alps, I'd stick with the Julian Alps in Slovenia to get a similar beauty at a cheaper (although not cheap) price.