The first part of our journey to Croatia consisted of a 6 hour train journey from Budapest to Zagreb – yes, finally we could say we actually ‘travelled’! Laura’s Dad had warned us there might not be air conditioning on the train but we dismissed his comment thinking that that was just how it used to be ‘back in the day’. How wrong we were.
On the platform, we found people standing outside the train, fanning themselves with various bits of newspaper and leaflets. It did not look good. We bundled on the train with fellow backpackers (and us with our rolling suitcases) to find the train sweltering hot. We joined some others outside but as the announcement started we knew we had to man up and take the heat. We found our seats and tried to sit incredibly still to keep as cool as possible. Half an hour into the journey, a lady stood up in the middle of the carriage and said ‘There are works going on, we will need to get off at the next stop and get alternative transport.’ Who this lady was, no one had a clue, but the train stopped and everyone herded off, sheep-like and simply following the person in front.
There were a few coaches waiting, no one REALLY knowing if they took us to Zagreb but got on them regardless. Luckily the air conditioning worked so we were okay for an hour. The buses then stopped at another train station. Presuming we had just skipped a section of the railway track, we got on yet another train. Now, this was even worse than the first, with no seats available and the train PACKED with sweaty travellers, we genuinely clambered over rucksacks to finally find a lovely place to sit… on the floor.
We had brought some food to make some rolls but it was so hot the cheese had melted into a giant gloop. Thankfully, we had a large bottle of water to keep us going. But, the sweatiest man I have ever seen, next to us unfortunately asked us politely to have some water. We reluctantly allowed him to have some, and as we watched the bottle touch his sweat-drenched face, we decided it might be best to steer clear of the water.
Okay so I’m being very critical of the train because of the heat but although it didn’t have air conditioning, it did think to have free wifi for its passengers! Don’t worry guys if you overheat and die from dehydration, at least you can go on Facebook to tell people about it.
So after the worst train journey we have ever experienced in our lives, we finally got to Zagreb; dehydrated and in need of a shower and a nice bed. We had booked a guesthouse in Zagreb to simply crash in for the night. It was dark, and the route to the guest-house must have been in what only can be described as the ghetto of Zagreb. Trying to limit the amount of times I got my iPad out to look at directions, we finally found the road we needed. A man greeted us on the street with a handshake. At the time, we weren’t too sure who he was but he seemed friendly! Thankfully he turned out to be the owner of the guesthouse and we avoided a taken – style situation.
Shattered and a bit stressed, we entered the room to be greeted by BLASTING air conditioning and a beautiful bathroom. It was exactly what we needed and if we were staying in Zagreb for longer, we would have been very happy to stay there!
Waking up refreshed, we set off on our next leg of the journey to Zadar. We looked up Zagreb before we came out here and decided there wasn’t a huge amount to do so as we only had limited time, we headed straight to Zadar on the coast. I’m just going to apologise in advance for the many photos in this blog post. It’s just everything was so freakin’ beautiful in Zadar that I feel like I need to share.
The bus journey was only a couple of hours and fairly harmless, costing us around £10 one way. We decided to rent an apartment with Air Bnb. A bit pricier but 100% worth it for the location and the beautiful decor. We absolutely LOVED our flat and would definitely go back.
We were a bit late to meet the landlord (Kruno) so after getting a bit told off by him on the phone as he had to leave to tend to other tenants, we had to wait, embarrassed for 2 hours in a nearby cafe. Once we met him, he was incredibly friendly and showed us where the best places to go, keeping in mind our student budget. He also shamefully tried to set us up with 4 German boys who were staying in another apartment of his. Kruno the cupid.
This is the apartment:
And this is Kruno:
The apartment was right in the centre of Old Town. Laura and I could literally walk everywhere which was fantastic and the old town was absolutely beautiful. The area is pretty much all pedestrianised with cobble-stoned streets and old ruins kind of scattered about.
We spent the first day sunbathing by the water (it was freezing if you went in) as the weather forecast wasn’t looking great for the rest of the week.
To save monies, we also cooked in our apartment – chicken and chorizo risotto. YUM.
Plitvice Lakes. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. Plitvice lies a beautiful national park full of stunning waterfalls and the bluest lakes. From Zadar, we took a 2-hour bus for around £15 return that took us straight to the lakes. I would recommend doing this instead of paying 50USD+ to go on a tour.
We met a lovely man called Hyung who was travelling alone and asked us if we wanted to share a taxi with him to get to the main bus station. We said yes (‘Taken’ film fans – does this ring a bell? ‘Taxees are just so damn expenseeeve here, waaaant to share?’) but obviously it was fine and Hyung became our lakes buddy/photographer as he had been before.
Once at Plitvice, we managed to get student entry and as it was peak season, we saved a fair bit. A student ticket cost us 110 kruna (£12) as opposed to 180 kruna. There are named routes with time estimates of how long it takes to go round them. We went with route H which would supposedly take us 5-6 hours. We took a bus up to the top and walked the route down. The route included a little ferry trip across as well which was lovely!
The parks weren’t too busy considering it was peak season. They were one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen and would definitely recommend going if you’re ever in Croatia.
Our final day in Croatia and of our entire trip. This was sad. So we sunbathed, listened to the sea organ (which sounds incredibly like Dory’s imitation of a whale in Finding Nemo) and relaxed.
For our final evening, we went to a lovely restaurant that was recommended by Kruno called Bruschetta. A lot of the restaurants we saw were Italian based which makes sense due to the countries’ close proximity. Sharing a bottle of wine and munching on some amazing pasta dishes, we decided we wanted to have a few more drinks. Not concerned about the fact that we had to get up at 6am the next morning.
The Zlatni Kunic Bar. Apparently incredibly popular with students as drinks were SO cheap. HUGE (and really strong!) cocktails for under £2, shots for £1 and if you make friends with the bartender (as we did), you get some free drinks thrown in too. Result. Another great recommendation from Kruno which we would not have found if it wasn’t for him.
So all in all, Croatia was truly beautiful and I would definitely go back. I’d love to see the rest of the country and explore areas like Dubrovnik and Split.
So that concludes my three-part blog on our quick sprint around Europe. We definitely would have gone for longer but Exeter University decided to have their graduation week slap bang in the middle of summer, so we obviously had to get back for that. I really had the best time.
Until next time! (counting down the days/months/years to when I can go away again).