Published: May 7th 2012May 7th 2012
The train journey from Kelenföld to Zagreb was just neverending. I got too distracted reminiscing about my would-be epic fail visit to Komárno/om which never happened in my last entry to explain why I was even going via Budapest to later retrace my steps - people who know me will know this isn't like me at all. I had been held up by missing one connection and my original plan to go via Győr and Szombathely, getting there in 6 hours from Komárom, was voided. So I ended up taking an hour and half journey to Kelenföld, waiting in that café bar for two, then sitting on this dying piece of old Yugoslavian metal for six and a half.
I'm very pleased with myself because I managed to make it all the way across Hungary, from the ticket office at Komárom to the passport check at Gyékényes, without speaking a word of English to anyone. And learning Hungarian turned out to possibly save my life, or perhaps a pessimist would rather say that my naïveté and forgetfulness nearly killed me. My delusion was that there would be a guy with a trolley on this train or a restaurant car -
Street sign and mosaic
This street, named after Toma Mikloušić, would show as "Mikloušićeva" on a map.
there wasn't, and by the time we were snailing it along Balaton's surreal and almost tropical looking lakeshore stopping at Balatonhere, Balatonthere and Balatonfuckingeverywhere, I was really dehydrated. I found the train guard and asked him as efficiently as possible if there would be a trolley getting on at any point, because I really needed water, and he let me run off the train at Nagykanizsa and get some from the station shop. So I'd like to take this moment to thank Csaba, Zsu, Attila and everyone else on LiveMocha (a superb online language learning community) for their tireless help with learning this language, and to reinforce to all the disbelievers who spent more energy asking why than how that it is NEVER pointless to learn another language. Ever.
My hostel in Zagreb had been recommended to me by my Croatian friend Ana and it's a recommendation I wish to pass on, but with a bit of a linguistic travel tip first. Visitors to Zagreb may find navigating roadmaps confusing as hell because the Croatian language apparently hasn't decided on one uniform way of naming streets named after people. My street was named after a fella called Ivan Tkančić,
Spoiled for choice
Zagreb is one of the most interesting cultural cities I've been to.
and appears on the roadmaps as Tkančićeva
(the possessive form of this surname, same convention as in the Czech Republic) but the street sign reads Ulica Ivana Tkančića
(the word "street" followed by the genitive case of the name). So when looking at roadmaps and street signs, just look a word on the street sign which looks similar to the name on the roadmap rather than an exact match. Anyway, at this hostel, the City Centre Budget at Tkančićeva 37, was run by a very friendly guy who waited a bit past check-in curfew for me to arrive on my slightly delayed train and gave me a lovely room big enough for 3 people all to myself for 16 euros a night.
I was recommended a place to eat, a good, cheap Italian restaurant which accepts euros (since it was too late for me to change any into kuna), by the hostel owner, a place called Leonardo's on Skalinska street, whose food was so good I ended up going back a second time tonight. I then went in search of a good strong shot of rakija before returning to finally fall asleep for 12 hours.
The next morning
Can of love incense
...which doesn't work. From the museum of broken relationships.
it had clearly just rained for hours, so I wasn't so sore about my only full day in Zagreb turning into a half-day. After some brunch, arguably even blinner (breakfast, lunch and dinner) since it was nearly 3pm by the time I left the hostel, I headed straight for the most interesting looking museum on the long list given to you by the signposts around the city, the "museum of broken relationships". This was absolutely the most interesting and unique museum I've ever visited in my life, and this experience on top of the "Croatian museum of naïve art" I visited last time I was here makes me believe this is one of the most interesting cultural cities in Europe, horrifically underrated.
The museum was basically a collection of things people had sent in which were memoirs from failed relationships. A fantastic idea, not in the least because it provides an immense help in letting go to the donors, but also because in my experience so, so much creative energy tends to stem from these heartbreaking experiences, and it's pretty revolutionary to have a gallery displaying the source of creativity rather than the result. My favourite piece on display
The skype clock
From the museum of broken relationships
was this clock which was, according to the blurb "set 9 hours ahead" (of UTC-8; the donor was from America) so that she could tell when her Italian sweetheart was going to be online. Hanging from the clock was a book showing the Skype logs from the day they broke up, in which both of them in turn admitted to having been with other people. I've been in this internet long distance relationship position a few times in my life (though thankfully never in different time zones) so I could relate to this a fair bit. A lot of the other displays were really interesting. I was sad that there were no postcards in the shop as I would have bought a handful. They had some really good quality t-shirts, but I don't really fancy walking around bearing "I heart break-ups" on my chest in massive letters.
I then went to get my oldskool hand-written ticket to Budapest the next day, and in the evening took tram number 8 to the terminus at Mihaljevac and walked up up up the hill. If you look at a map of Zagreb (or the view from the city) you'll see that the
before it got enshrouded in fog again
entire north part of the city is dominated by an enormous mountain ridge; haven't checked this information but the name "Zagreb" quite clearly means "behind the ridge", compare Czech "za hřeb(em)" and "Záhřeb". I was of course interested to see the city from above and also to see some of the suburban bits of it, so I kept walking until I saw those red trail markers they have all over former Yugoslavia. One of these led me up a path out of civilisation and into the forest as "Medvednica natural park" where I walked a bit longer until I realised it was pointless killing myself getting to the fortress at the top since it was all enshrouded in fog by now, and turned back. If you fancy actually getting to the top and you're not crazy, there's a bus that will take you there from the tram terminus.
I'm now in Alcatraz bar on Preradovićeva, which was also recommended to me by my hostel owner, soaking up some of the inspiration from that museum and working on some short stories. My friend who I was supposed to meet up with dropped out on me, but it's been a worthwhile visit. Tomorrow I will be repeating that everlasting train journey northeast and past Balaton, but not nearly dying from lack of sleep and hydration, and with enough energy to spend the time working on music.