I have been meaning to post this blog for over a week since i returned from Croatia on October 31. That week, however, was consumed by school work as we came back to a final exam and a report. And then I was being lazy, so here goes.
We left Budapest on Friday on the 6:30am train. I had a hard time sleeping at first, so I ate the breakfast I had packed and then was able to sleep pretty steadily until about 11:30 when we stopped at the Croatian border. We had to wait for about an hour and they checked our passport about four times and informed us that we would have to change to get to Zagreb. The train backed up for about 10minutes and then we took a half hour bus to another train station where we got on a different train to Zagreb. Strange, but we arrived more or less on time so I couldn’t complain. We had decided to walk from the train station to our hostel, which took about 20minutes. We checked in to the hobo bear, which was a cute downstairs hostel with brick walls and a cozy common room and went out to find lunch. We walked toward these cozy back streets and eventually gave up finding a perfect lunch place and settled for a pizza-by-the-slice place instead called Pizza Cut Duck and then hiked up to St. Catherines Cathedral. It was beautiful and is one of the trademark buildings of Zagreb, without being too huge. We continued strolling around for a few hours afterward and found some less touristy areas of Zagreb. I would refer to photos, but for some reason my camera is refusing to upload. We went back to the hostel to nap before dinner.
After relaxing at the hostel for a couple of hours (I was napping but I don’t think the rest of the girls were as lazy) Gitta decided it was time to go have a beer and I felt as if I didn’t move I would be out for the night so we went with Paulina to find a place to grab a drink while Natalie stayed at the hostel because she felt a cold coming on. We turned down a walking street and tried our first Croatian beer (…?). We were getting a bit hungry so we had some mushroom soup before moving to a different outdoor place. It had started to get cold so we looked around to find another place that had a> heat-lamps or b> blankets and ended up at a dessert place that had both as well as a different croatian beer (…?). Everything looked delicious so we asked for recommendations and Pauline and Gitta both got some chocolate bon-bon type thing topped with some delicious caramelized nuts, and I had a black forest cake. All of the desserts were AMAZING so we considered it a good find, but this place was closing around midnight so we went to some trashy fast food joint where we had a final beer before heading back to the hostel.
Natalie woke up early Saturday morning and announced that she was heading to the national park to hike around the lakes. Gitta decided to go with her and Paulina and I slept for a few more hours. By the time we were finally ready to tourist it was lunch time so we wandered through the main square to find a place. There was a huge flower market because of the upcoming holiday (All saints day), and we found a nearby place where we could sit outside and enjoy the Croatian version of a cheese burger while some guy with a guitar serenaded us (well the whole square) with Croatian music. We sat for a while and people watched, but decided we should probably go see some of Zagreb instead. We decided on the the Mimara Museum, which is named after the collectors and is housed in a palace in the middle of Roosevelt Square. We spent the most time on the 2nd floor viewing their collection of paintings, but rushed through the first and ground floors because we noticed the sun coming out. It had been grey both in Budapest and Zagreb for a while so we wanted to take advantage and walked over to the Botanical gardens where we enjoyed the changing leaves and took a lot of cheesy pictures. We were quite chilly after spending so much time outside so we grabbed a coffee before going home to the hostel to meet up with Gitta and Natalie. They had missed the bus they wanted so we had to wait a while, but finally went out to find dinner around 9pm. We found some Croatian looking place and tried yet another Croatian beer. Most of us had some weird pancake action rolled up and baked in a sort of creamy sauce. It was tasty, but I am still not sure how “Croatian” it really was.
We went out for a few beers after and tried Rakije, the Croatian local spirit, which we liked much better than Palinka even though it was kind of sugary. Gitta and I felt like we should at least try a club in Zagreb so we went in the first place we found while the other girls went home to bed. The first thing we noticed while waiting to get in was how drop-dead gorgeous all of the girls there were. Seriously, they looked like models and were wearing posh outfits with heels. We were wearing what we had been touring in all day. Needless to say we felt a bit out of place but bought a drink and went to the dance floor anyway. It was crazy packed, and we only lasted like maybe 20minutes there. When we got back to the hostel Nat and Paolina were still getting ready for bed so it hadn’t been so long. That was probably for the best, since we were planning to leave early for the coast.
Originally, we had planned to head to Pula on Sunday and to stay there through Tuesday, but we were all having mixed feelings about spending so long on a bus (5 hours to Pula and 5 back) and we were starting to stress about our exam on Thursday because we didn’t do any studying in Zagreb. So Gitta asked one of the workers at our Hostel and she recommended some small town on the coast, and said that although it was unlikely that we could find a place to stay there it was right by a bigger town called Rijeka where we could easily find a place to stay. So early Sunday morning we packed up our things and headed to the bus station to go to Rijeka. They loaded us into a minibus which took about 3 hours with a bus change in the middle. When we arrived in Rijeka, Paolina asked in the information center (which turned out to only be bus information) about where we could get a room for the night and they sent us on the 1 bus to a hostel about 10minutes away.
We stayed at a “Hostelling International” which was nice and clean and had large windows that open to a view of the coast (and some huge machinery that was positioned in it). Once again we lucked out by getting our own room, since 4 is a nice easy number. The woman at the desk was extremely helpful, recommending two restaurants to us and explaining how to get to the nicest beach. We walked 15minutes up the road to a place just off the road. We sat on the terrace once again overlooking the ocean and enjoyed the beautiful weather (it must have been about 65). We all ordered various seafood. I had calimari while the other girls had other fish specialties most of which came with this really delicious garlicky chard and potato side. I had a glass of wine and afterwards a tiramisu. We probably would have lingered longer but it was getting later in the day and we wanted to make it to the beach, so we walked back up to the road where we took the 1-bus once again to the opposite edge of town.
We got off at the correct bus stop and walked into this insane looking swimming complex. It had windows overlooking a huge pool and several cafes/restaurants. We walked down half a dozen sets of stairs before we reached the beach. The bulk of it was made up of pebbles and there were peninsulas of bigger rocks by the shore. It was kind of foggy in the distance but you could barely see the outline of mountains. Natalie ran off to explore and I took my shoes off to wade into the water. It was freezing so that plan didn’t work out so well and instead we spent the bulk of the afternoon sitting on the shore or strolling. After the sun set it started to get colder so we went back to the bus stop and went to town and went to this chocolate shop that had dozens of different types of chocolate drinks and desserts. There was not much to do in this smallish city on a Sunday, so we headed back to the hostel early to read and internet and I went to be early as well. We had to check out of the hostel by 10 so we had breakfast and packed and got on the 1-bus again to head back to the bus station. We bought tickets for an 11-o’clock bus back to Zagreb, but it turned into a fiasco because after we were already settled in on the bus they decided that even though we had four tickets we had only paid for three. They pulled Natalie off the bus and we had no idea what was going on. We sent the Latina in to try to raise hell (because Gitta and I are both really wussy), but regardless if they said we hadn’t paid we couldn’t really prove we had so we bought a fifth bus ticket and were on our way home. In Zagreb we grabbed lunch before boarding a 4pm train back to Budapest and I finally did some exam review before getting back to Budapest late.