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Published: April 11th 2015
I got more time around Zagreb than I expected, which is a good thing. To the dismay of Lejla, and probably of Haris, too, I'm not going to make it to Dalmatia, the coastal region of Croatia. Blame it on my poor timing (I need to be in Budapest on Monday) and the horrible train/bus routes and times between the coast and Budapest. I'm sorry, but I'm not spending 20+ hours on a bus or train in one day.
I hadn't planned on leaving Slovenia this morning at all. In fact, my plan was to take the bus/train around 12:30PM. But I woke up around 7:30 and thought I might be able to catch the 8:30 train to Zagreb. I showered and shoved everything in the suitcase, checked out, and made my way to the train station at 8:23. Perfect, I thought. But I was mistaken. When I went to buy a ticket, the lady asked, "You mean the 8:25 train?" And there it went, pulling out of the station as I did nothing but watch it leave. She told me the next train was at 2:45 - a.k.a. 6 hours away. She suggested the bus, so I went there,
and the next one was leaving at 9:00. So I jumped on that. It took 1 hour 45 minutes to get to Zagreb, and that included a stop at the border. Croatia is in the EU, but not part of the Schengen agreement, which means they implement border controls. I got my passport stamped when I left Slovenia (yay!), but Croatia didn't seem to care, since we didn't stop again when we got to the next checkpoint. I hope that won't be a problem when I leave this country on Monday...
The problem with taking the bus is that the bus station is further from my hotel than the train station, by about a kilometer. I booked my hotels based on both price and proximity to the train station - no need to pay for a taxi when I can walk the distance for free! I got 700 kn about of the ATM (that's about $100) and began the trek to my hotel. It was a pretty straight shot, so no worries there. I arrived at 11:30, even though check-in did not start until at least 2PM. But again, there were no questions; I just got my room key
and headed up to the room.
I figured I may was well get the lay of the land here, and much like Ljubljana, there really aren't any "world famous" landmarks in Zagreb. I mapped out on Google Maps the most interesting things to me, which turned out to be a good circle around the old city - where most of the touristy things are. It was a 5 kilometer walk, but I figured with stops for each of the places that interested me, I'd be just fine. My feet are a lot better, and even as I write this, they still haven't given me any problems today. The temperature was about 70 F, and only a few clouds. I'm telling you, I have great weather karma on these trips. So far, the only rainy day was Easter, a day I had already planned to lie low.
I stopped by the Mimara, a massive art museum, but I didn't go inside. If I do go in, it'll be tomorrow, first thing. There were no admission prices, either outside the building or on their website, and I'm not sure I want to pay all that much for another art museum.
Free? Yes. But if it's like most other places here, it'll be ridiculously cheap. My next stop was the National Opera in Tito Square. It was a bright orange-yellow color, which I've noticed is a common color for this town. Not sure why that is, but I'll try and find out. Then I hiked up a few flights of stairs (instead of taking the short funicular ride) to the Upper Town. At the top of the stairs was the Belvedere (an old bell tower), where you can pay 25 kn to go to the top. That's a little over $3, so I figured why not. It was more steps than I had anticipated, but at the top, I got quite a few good pictures overlooking the town(s). While up there, a Croatian couple were taking selfies and whatnot (which is the same word in Croatian, by the way), and finally they got up the nerve to ask me to take their picture. The girl explained to me in Croatian how to operate the camera, which I could have figured on my own, but whatever. I caught a few words, mainly because of the similarities with Russian, and then just said
"OK." The guy asked me in English, "You don't speak Croatian?" My first thought was, "Do I look
like I speak Croatian? I'm wearing a UGA tennis t-shirt and a baseball cap with German words on it." I could only reply with "nyet,
" but that I did understand how to operate the camera. After that, I descended the tower and climbed further up the Upper Town.
There were plenty of cute shops and grandiose buildings to see. But my first stop was the Museum of Broken Relationships. Yep - that's a real thing, and I had been looking forward to seeing it. There are exhibits that people have submitted from all over the world, telling how the item on display represents their particular broken relationship. They're mostly romantic in nature, though they do have a room based on parent-child relationships, which was the saddest of all, to me. The displays contain stuffed animals, shoes, pills, poems, an ax, some burnt CDs, and all kinds of other things. My favorite one was the dog's chew toy: "His dog made more of a mark than he did." Ouch.
My only other "stop" in the Upper Town was the cathedral, which
was having some work done. You could still go inside, and since it was free, I obliged. It was pretty fabulous in there, but then I haven't been inside a cathedral since Spain. They always want to charge you something to come in, and most of the time, it's not really worth it. Oooh, another cathedral that shows evidence of Romanesque/Gothic/Baroque/Neo-Gothic style ... Please, it's got to be pretty spectacular for me to pay to see it.
After that, I made my way back down to the Lower Town, which is home to most of the city's green spaces. And there are tons of them. And monuments to boot. The intersection of the Upper and Lower Towns seems to be at the Ban Jelačić Square. It's pretty impressive, with some Baroque-looking facades and a big statue in the center. I hung around for a few minutes, just enough time to avoid some of the guys walking around trying to sell me what sounded like a great wireless plan. I made my way slowly through the green areas, which comprised several blocks from there to the train station. At the first one, it looked like some little children's choir was
performing in the middle, so I kept on going. The best one for me was the King Timoslav Square - it was the largest, and most open, of the green blocks. Loads of people were there, just enjoying a picnic or sunning themselves. If I run out of things to do tomorrow afternoon, I may join them.
After that, I stopped by the train station. I did not
want a repeat of this morning happening when I leave Zagreb on Monday. The train ticket to Budapest was all of $31, and I have a choice of 2 times - 10:08AM or 2:30PM. I think I'll go with the earlier, since it's not really that early, and it means it'll still be daylight when I get to Budapest. (It's a 6- or 7-hour train ride, so yeah.) Finally, I went to the grocery store to pick up some food before I called it an evening. For all of $5, I got a hunk of Gouda cheese (I can't get any deal that good in America!), a package of local sliced meat, a box of lemon cookies, 3 large rolls, and a cup of chocolate pudding. For $5!!!
I ate what
I wanted from that haul, and I'll still get to munch on it for breakfast and lunch tomorrow, probably with some leftovers. I haven't even touched the cookies yet, but those are mainly for travelling days, anyway. I'll definitely have to treat myself to a splurge-type meal tomorrow, which will probably cost all of $15 at most. I'm glad to see my money is able to go (much) further here!
Tomorrow, I'm definitely going to the Zoo, but other than that, I don't know. Probably that Mimara art museum, and apparently there's a pretty amazing cemetery just beyond the Upper Town. We'll see. I may also lie on the grass in front of the train station and catch some rays...
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