Friday, May 7, 2010

Zagreb, Croatia: Glavni Kolodvor and Leaving Croatia

Glavni Kolodvor! The train station. Riding the late afternoon train to Budapest.

Thursday, May 6, was Day 9 of this trip. And I just realized that I have been in transit for seven of the nine days. This has been a road trip, whether by plane, van, car, or, now, train. I've seen a lot of territory. I've met a lot of people. And I think I've learned a lot about Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia. But I'm ready for a few days of stay-put.

First, of all about the train:

No. It's not that old of a locomotive that will be pulling me to Hungary. But it might as well be! (Note also that the train appears to have white walls! How cool is that? Way cool!)

We hear stories in the states about the marvels of European rail travel. Bullet trains and other high speed rail barreling through the countryside at a couple hundred miles an hour. Maybe in Old Europe, but not in the countries once behind the iron curtain. It was a seven-hour train trip Zagreb to Budapest. By car, it would be three. By air, it would be even faster, but obscenely expensive ($370 versus a $50 train ticket -- no-brainer territory even if I wasn't a cheapskate.) And, you know how Europeans supposedly love to travel by train? There was hardly anyone taking the 15:45 to Budapest.

One last look at Zagreb:

The train platform at Glavni Kolodvor. Hustle and bustle is sporadic, but mostly limited to the local platforms. The international platform is church-mouse quiet.

This will conclude the Croatia portion of our programming. From here on out, it will be all Budapest, all Hungary. I loved my first visit to Croatia, but here's a travel tip and you don't even need to buy a travel book for it. You know how back during the Dubrovnik posts I marveled at how much Croatia looked like California? It's a lot like California in another respect: The closer you are to the coast, the better the time you will have.

Next Croatia trip I will definitely hit Plitvice Lakes, which is inland. It's the one place that everyone I've talked to -- and I mean the English-speaking locals -- when I tell them this was my first visit, they all asked if I went to, or was going to go to, Plitvice. That tells me I made a tactical error in skipping that site. But other than that, the next time I am in Croatia -- and I do hope there's a next time -- I'm hugging the coast.

Zagreb's not a bad place. But one morning is all the Zagreb I will ever need. But even little rocky/brown Pag: one day was not enough. Istria, Zadar, Split, the islands of the Kvarner, the islands of Southern Dalmatia: all would be worth a visit.

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