Saturday, 3 September 2016

Travelling Europe: Graz to Zagreb

The day/days of travelling. It began with arriving in Graz on a warm evening, we checked into our hostel which was around the back of the train station and were shown up to our shared dorm. It was the first and only time we stayed in a shared dorm, just because we preferred private rooms. We chose a bunk bed that was around the corner of the room slightly separate from all the other beds. We put a few of our belongings around to show they were occupied and then headed out in search for some dinner. We found a nice courtyard with several restaurants on every corner with chairs filling up the free space. We chose a little Italian restaurant and sat down. It was a really nice atmosphere, it was warm and everyone was drinking watching the final game of the Fifa World Cup. After food we found the hill with the clock tower that is the statement of Graz, we set ourselves the task of climbing up all those stairs with our bags and at the top were welcomed to the beautiful view of the whole of Graz light up by the street lights and stars. Again the atmosphere of the area was so lovely and relaxed. People were walking along the paths heading towards the park or sat up on the wall talking and looking over the city. The whole area felt really quite young and free. We both really liked it. We sat there on the wall for some time watching the evening go by, listening to the cheers and whoops of people watching the football game. Around 11pm we began walking back to the hostel and made our way to our room for an interesting nights sleep ahead. 
I barely slept, mainly because you're so aware that you're sharing a room with other people you're not quite relaxed enough to go into a deep sleep. So I awoke everytime someone entered the room or went to the toilet, and then at about 5am someone began getting ready to leave, so through the cracks of my eyes, still semi-asleep I watched the morning begin and slowly everyone else arise. It wasn't so bad I guess, the sunrise was lovely. We left the hostel before 8am and headed off to find some breakfast, again overwhelmed by the lovely young feel to the area. Students everywhere, we sat outside for breakfast at some trendy breakfast bar, where everyone was either young or a bit older but with impeccable style. Graz is somewhere we'd both love to go back to I think, just for the atmosphere! We headed out and decided to try and explore a bit, with a map we could pin-point the "to-see" locations, so tried to see a few but there was nothing really special, just big buildings. So we made our way to the train station and began our day long journey to Zagreb! 
The journey was definitely interesting, we got to our first stop around 12.30pm, a place called Zadini Most in Slovenia. There we had a three hour wait before the train to Zagreb arrived. We had stopped in the middle of nowhere. And I mean, literally the middle of nowhere. The station was in between two mountains with a stream running along the side of the tracks. On exiting the station we came to a map and although it told us where we were, we didn't know which direction was which, nor how far away the other places on the map were. We decided to follow the river downstream and when entering back into the train station, saw a man using a vague walk path along the tracks. We decided to follow the path along the river as seeing as it was the only path around apart from the road we thought maybe that would take us somewhere. We ended up walking through the mechanics area and although there were men inside the buildings none came out to ask us what we were doing, so we carried on cautiously. After about half an hour of walking we realised we weren't getting anywhere quick and so sat down by the river bank to have a snack and then decided to make our way back. That walk was also the first time we began spotting lizards! It was finally a hot enough climate! Back at the station, Tom got a beer in a bar that didn't look open and I ventured down to a small food shop at the bottom. The girl serving said they didn't have anything already made but then offered to make two cheese and ham toasties for one euro each. One euro!! And they weren't half bad, so five minutes later I brought them back to Tom and we nibbled away and then sat and waited on the platform until finally the train rolled up and we took our seats. 
Once we had internet connection we found a hostel in Zagreb, we must of looked for a cheap option because it was a hell of a walk away from anything! We didn't arrive in Zagreb too late, maybe 5/6pm and set off towards our hostel to drop off our bags. Then we fluked a tram ride further into the center, got off at a point we recognised and carried on making our way in. We found a main square with a lot of bars and found a burger bar for some dinner. We then decided since it was a Friday night, to sit down for some cocktails. Around 10pm we made our way further into the city towards a park that just so happened to have some live music on offer. It was like a pop-up event night with alcohol stalls dotted around and a stage where a Croatian band were performing. We ended up staying there until about 1am, the band had finished and a DJ playing deep house began next to one of the alcohol stalls. We stayed there and danced a bit, talking to whoever seemed to have guessed we were British. Then began our hour long walk back to the hostel, which was equally nice. 
The next morning we woke up later than usual and took our time to check-out. On leaving we realised on the same street there was a self-service laundrette we could use for our second clothes wash of the trip! We entered and were met by an older woman who showed us how to use the machines and then began talking to us for a while again about our trip and also about the EU referendum. It was funny, because although we knew nothing about the development of it - as we hadn't watched any news during the trip - it was still the main talking point for mostly everyone we met and so managed to find out things through other people. With our clothes washing for the next half our we set out to find some breakfast and then sat down to eat in a nearby park. Then while our clothes were in the driers we set out to plan the day ahead. From the coach station we were able to catch a coach to our first national park of Croatia - Plitvice Lakes. We then found a campsite nearby and through their website booked a little cabin for about the same price it would of been to set up our tent, perfect! With our clothes clean we then began our journey back through Zagreb and on towards the coach station. Even though we hadn't stayed there very long at all - or walked around enough to see everything, it did feel like we got everything we wanted to out of Zagreb and it was mostly quite interesting just taking everything in on our way to the coach station. Once there we bought our tickets and waited a short while for the coach to arrive. 
The journey was pleasant enough and we were looking to arrive at the national park in time to get the coach to our campsite, when all of a sudden a number of vehicles overtook us all signalling for the coach to pull over. So it did and it was then discovered that the engine had burnt out and was smoking. So we were deserted! At least until another coach came to pick us up, and then we were again on our way. Luckily using the maps on our phones and looking out for signs we noticed the coach going past the campsite we were to stay at and so got off shortly after passing it. It was then a short walk and a quick check in to our cabin ready for the lakes the next day! 






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