We arrived in Zagreb, Croatia at around 6 am on Saturday 22nd August. With nowhere to stay, we hopped on to the tram and followed signs to "Hostel Lika", which had a good review in my ever-trusty guidebook!
It was too early for them to say if there would be beds available for that night, but if not, they let people sleep on the floors in the common room / garden if needed. Looking to save cash, and not being too fussed either way, we knew it'd be ok, so we were able to leave our bags there and get back on the tram into the city centre.
Luke got a McD's for breakfast (I hate getting them, but always cheap, always fills you up, and always know what you're getting!) , and I grabbed some fruit from the Dolac market round the corner (fresh food still seems to be evading us most of the time, so this felt like a real treat!!)
Wandering round the market we realised that this was another very beautiful and again very different city to those we've been at until now. It's a really small place....think the whole country's population is only a few million! Lots of military statues and giant buildings, but there's a really friendly vibe here, and the people seem a lot better at English than Bulgaria / Serbia. Luke bought me a little posey of flowers that seemed to be the thing to have to walk around with (very sweet!), and we went back to the hostel mid morning to check in.
It was run by a really cute couple who couldn't do enough for us! The lady told me where I could go to get my legs waxed as we had some free time in the afternoon begfore we planned to go out for the evening, and I was greatful for her help.....that is until the wax actually took place! I had 2 croatian women working on me at the same time,and they were BRUTAL! Because the weather was so hot, the wax wouldn't set properly, and so they ended up pulling off half my skin as they tried again and again to rip the stuff off me! One of the worst hours of my entire life I think, and I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon laying on the bed with cold compresses on my skin! We ate the "Croatian Barbeque" put on by the hostel for dinner, and Luke ended up going out with some of the other hostel dwellers. I couldn't walk particularly well, due to the lack of skin on the lower half of my body, so gave it a miss! Apparently it was a good night out thoug....or so Mr. Halvey was babbling to me when he crawled back in at 5am!!!
The next day was spent wandering through the city, eating Gelati and seeing the sights.....including St. Marks Church, with a multi-coloured tiled roof, and the Stone Gate, which is like a Medieval walk-through chapel thing (great description I know....I'll never make a Zagrebian Tour Guide!!) . We saw a couple of 80+ year old buskers singing / playing accordian in the street, which kept us amused for a good 15 minutes. After I put a couple of Kuna in their hat, they dedicated an Elvis song to me, which was so cute! They then launched into a rendition of what must have been their favourite song, the main lyrics of which were "Cheesecake, Gabba Gabba". Incredibly random, but we laughed so hard at the excitement in their faces everytime they screamed "CHEESECAKE" into the mic! Still talking about it now, a week or 2 later!!!
We had originally planned to get the train directly to Split that evening, but everyoine we spoke to advised not to miss seeing Plitvice Lakes...one of the 7 Croatian National Parks, which was between Zagreb & Split, so we chose to stay another night in the hostel, and get the bus down to Split the next day instead, which would allow us to spend a few hours in the National Park, half-way into the journey.
The Lakes were fantastic....with loads of waterfalls everywhere. The water so so clear and Blue, and full of fish! No ones allowed to swim in them anymore, as it upsets the natural processes and formations, but the ticket did include a little boat trip across the water, which was cool.
We had to leave pretty early to catch the bus down to Split....we'd heard stories of them not stopping for you if they were full, so we made sure we were there nice and early as I didn't fancy spending the night in the Lakes! The 4 hours down to Split from here was really pretty....very green and mountainous, but long and slow! We were pleased to arrive at the destination at arund 8pm!
Getting swarmed by loads of hostel touts wasn't mch fun though....mainly old women, who we later found out would prob only be trying to get you to stay in a room in their house! We found our hostel fairly quickly, and were upgraded to our own appartment down the road, as the manager had double booked our room!Was a real treat, and not back for about 16 pounds each!
We had dinner at a restaurant called Fife....nice and cheap, but local food (seafood risotto - yum!), and wandered around the old city. It's a really busy port, and such a holiday-touristy type place. families everywhere. I really liked it, but Luke wasn't so sure, as it was pretty commercial. We watched a busker singing with his guitar while we drank beers on the steps of the main sqaure for a while, which was really nice too. The old town is all contained within the ancient walls of Diocletian's Palace, so it made for good scenery.
We had hoped to go to Dubrovnik the next day, but no trains go there, only buses, so we changed plans again, and decided to head to Zadar the day afterwards instead. So the whole of Tuesday was spent sunbaking (I now have brown patches from when I got burnt on the skin patches that weredamaged after the wax, which is super attractive!) and market-wandering until we could wander no more.
The journey up to Zadar was long and slow (trains over here are so old!), but we were lucky with hostel touts again, and got ourselves a cheap room only 6mins walk from the sea. The afternoon was spent on the "beach"....a term that is used for any area of land near to the sea over here. It wasn't so much a beach as a strip of pebbles about a metre deep, but apparently that's enough to earn itself the "beach" label! A bit disappointing really, as we'd hoped to find a decent bit of coastline here, but I'm guessing you prob have to drive to any of the really good ones.
The evening was spent on the Old Town, but it was so full of families and children that it clearly wasn't so much of a party place, so we got a slice of pizza each for dinner and had a beer while watching a cheesey covers band play most of the songs you can find on a power ballad CD in the main square.
The next 24 hours were spent almost entirely in transit, which was pretty boring....and annoying when it's so hot outside! The last thing I wanted was to be tucked up in a train instead of laying by the sea, but it had to be done to get us up to Vienna - the next destination. We had to get the train back up to Zagreb first, and this was the best train journey yet I think. We wound our way through the moutains, followed a river, and if felt like something from a film! I loved it, although at one stage it was more like a roller coaster than a train, as we were flung from side to side as the train rocked on its rails. We were really high up too.
And so from Croatia to Wien was the next big journey, through Slovenia. Croatia was great. I was worried about spending so much time there (5days is a LOT for us these days!!), as we had been warned that it was super expensive, but this was not the case. The people are again really friendly, and the towns beautiful. Would say it's a great place to come for a holiday, but Luke looked at flightto get over here once and said they cost a fortune?? If not, DO IT!!! Come to Croatia!!!!
Final thought......Am I allowed to count Slovenia s one of my countries now, even if we only passed through it in transit? Answers on a post card please............