We left Munich midday on Monday with only sandwiches, headphones, and a deck of cards to occupy us for the 8-hour trip to Zagreb. Beginner’s tip: don’t buy longhaul train tickets at the last minute. You’ll find out why if you do.
The ride through Austria was beautiful, we drove through many tunnels and many mountains full of lush green trees.
Around 5, we rolled into Ljubljana (Slovenia) and our comfortable train made a rapid transition to a run down status. The power outlets stopped working, as did the A/C. The lights soon followed. Then there were delays. A cute dog named “Boo” that boarded at the Slovenian capital helped pass the time. As we drove through tunnels, the only thing visible in our compartment were the washed out faces of our neighbors from their bright phones. It was really thrilling! But a bit strange at the same time, that the niceties should suddenly stop as we left the euro zone. Perhaps it was coincidental with the train being in it’s fifth hour. Unfortunately due to technical difficulties and stopping many times in the middle of the tracks, our 8 hour train ride turned into 11, putting our total transportation time for the day at 12 hours, less than the total time we’d spend in Zagreb.
As luck would have it, a dear friend of mine from school was traveling with another friend and was also stopping in Zagreb for the night before heading to the coast. As we were arriving close to 11pm, N and Z picked up dinner for us earlier in the evening. When we settled in our flat, they came and hand delivered delicious chicken kebabs with a bean dish and the most heavenly made baklava ever! The filo dough was not too dry or flakly, and the honey in between the filo and the nut base was delicous! We snarfed and chatted in the wonderful patio in our homestay.
We left early the next morning to run into a few unpleasantries. The ATM only gave kunas (Croatian currency) in 200 denominations, and when we bought 6 kn of bread, we somehow were given ten kunas short of what we were owed. The baker didn’t want to budge, so we just left. The second unpleasantry was that my card did not work at the ATM, and it would not work for the next few days.
However, the morning soon faded away as we came across the beautiful scenery on our bus ride to the coast. The architecture is similar to that of southern France but with objects indicating we are elsewhere. Half competed buildings, Komatsu scooper with head permanently resting on the ground. There aren’t many forests, at least visible from the road, though there is a lot of green shrubbery. Much of the land was under direct sunlight. There were beautiful glimpses of shimmering water of the Adriatic sea, which traces the coast line.
Our hostel was new and cute, 10 minutes to the center of Zadar. Apparently Zadar is close to 2000 years old. It has a lot of venitian influence, or so I heard from the tour guide passing by. There is a large a monestary and a cathedral, but what is most observable is the ruins that scatter the town, left over from when the allies bombed during WWII. There was no mention though on the signs in the town of when the bombings occurred or why. I had to find out through research on my own.
We spent much of the first day meandering through the streets and were surprised by the sheer number of tourists clustered in this town. We retired to the gardens on top of the walls surrounding the old city for the early part of the afternoon before visiting the “sea organ.” We had both been looking forward to this like so many other tourists, I’m sure. Installed in 2005, these marble steps have slits in their underwater bases and produce sounds as the waves crash into them. It was quite surreal. We were so facinated by the music that we didn’t associate the growing intensity with the higher waves and got soaked waist down. This did not deter us from staying longer, we just moved to a higher step.
After a pasta dinner and a brief retreat to the hostel, we went to see this outdoor led floor. It was covered with kids, and we felt in our element to walk around with our heads down, marveling at the display. Gelato was also consumed.
The next day, we ate our breakfast on the steps facing the monastery, before the sun made it too toasty. T had an apple pastry, but we noticed that most items in the bakery involved cheese – more savory than sweet on the whole.
We said goodbye to Zadar and the sea organ, fought off aggressive taxi drivers, and hopped on the bus to the next coastal town.
Growing my Croatian playlist as I go, though not strictly Croatian. In fact, I’ve just learned that only one of the first four songs is sung by a Croatian, and the others are Bosian or Serbian.
playlist: noć za pamćenje (a night to remember)