The above image is of the outdoor market in Zagreb, Croatia
It’s been a rainy few weeks for us on the road. Our luggage rain covers were put to work a few times, we did some more extended planning, and watched our Seahawks lose to the Packers. Most of our accommodations have TVs and the ability to watch BBC, CNN, or SkyNews. Occasionally we will have some other English-speaking channels as well. It is interesting to try and figure out what the ads are all about in Croatian. Of all the countries we have been in, the Germans have the most humor for their TV ads.
How did we watch the Seahawks you ask? We purchased this season’s NHL Game Pass. There are some things we will do without … but not our Hawks.
We took an 8 ½ hour ride in a very old train from Budapest to Ljubljana. When I booked the trip, there was no option for securing reserved seats, which is our preference. When the train arrived in Budapest we jumped on and found seats in one of the compartments that did not have any reserved seating slips above the door. About 1 ½ hours in, we made a stop to pick up and let off passengers and found we were, in fact, in someone else’s seats. Years ago, we got on a packed train in Europe and had to sit in the aisle on drop-down seats. This flashed in our memories. Fortunately, there were seats waiting for us in the next car. As we often say to each other, “It’s all part of the adventure.”
We put on our jackets and headed out into the iffy weather to explore their city center. Ljubljana’s main square is named after their greatest poet, France Preseren. That is his statue on the right of the image below. The statue includes his muse just behind him. For the first few years citizens would cover up his naked muse with a tarp at night.
The cathedral was dedicated to St. Nicholas, who is their protector against floods and patron saint of fisherman. The interior images below show the organ pipes and dome.
After leaving the cathedral the rains picked up so we found shelter in a nearby restaurant and had a fantastic Mexican meal – yup, chips & guacamole, tacos and quesadillas!
Our next destination required a 2 ½ hour bus ride to the capital of Croatia. About halfway, our driver started talking away in Slovenian…or maybe Croatian. Of course, we had no idea what he was saying until we hear “Get out!” This was just a little unnerving. We all climbed out and watched the bus pull away. It took us a while, but we finally figured out we were going through border control. We all walked through the customs building, got the visual once-over from an official, received a Croatian passport stamp, walked out of the building, and found our bus waiting for us a few meters away.
Marsha and I settled back into our seats and gave each other a nervous laugh. That was interesting. Within 15 minutes our driver started speaking unknown words to us again followed with “Get out!” We repeated the same drill, but this time for the police. Safely back on board Marsha summed it up, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
We arrived in Zagreb and found our lovely apartment. It was very modern, clean, and with all the amenities we needed. After setting up shop, we took off to explore. The city center was nice. As in many cities in Europe, people were out for a stroll, enjoying drinks, or just hanging out to talk with each other.
Just a few meters from our apartment we found a fantastic neighborhood Italian restaurant. We were the only non-locals. There was a large family with several kids enjoying the evening. The kids would disappear and come back with bread they were given from the kitchen. Obviously, they knew the place well. Our dinner was fantastic. A great start to our visit to Zagreb.
Town Square St Marks
Legal Building Street Thoughts
After two days, we rented a car and drove to experience the Plitvice Lakes National Park. This is an amazing place! Rick Steves writes, “Imagine Niagara Falls diced and sprinkled over a heavily forested Grand Canyon.” There are 16 terraced lakes, connected by myriad cascading rivers and waterfalls. We walked on 4-foot-wide planks throughout most of our 4 ½ hour visit. Since we were there during shoulder season, the crowds were not too bad. We both said that coming during the busy season would be impossible. There would be people getting pushed off the planks and getting wet. Once again, Selfies will be the downfall of mankind.
About halfway, we took an electric ferry boat across one of the larger lakes. From there we continued to climb and enjoy the beautiful waterfalls. When we reached the top, a shuttle took us back down to our entrance. Just a remarkable place and well worth the effort to get there … in the off season.
The images below do not do it justice. The last one I took because I thought it might be the last time I would see Marsha.
Along with the Plitvice Lakes, Split has been our favorite Croatian destination so far. For one thing, the sun came out! Yeah!! Our host told us there was free parking ‘by the apartment.’ She said, “Just park like the locals.” This means going through a crazy maze of cars on a two-way street with only enough room for one car and parking on the sidewalk. I became a successful local. And best of all, the car was still there the next morning!
Returning rental cars in foreign countries is stepping into the unknown. There is the language challenge, the driving challenge, and the craziest drop off locations you can image. Fortunately, this one was a breeze. “Zoey,” our Google Maps assistant, gave us the correct directions this time and we calmly rolled into the Fleet parking lot at the Radisson hotel. Fun fact: in Croatia, they really examine your car on return. Fortunately, I had the paperwork showing all the scratches and small dents that was given to me in Zagreb. I walked away free and clear.
We then walked down to the beach and through the harbor. It was a beautiful sunny day and the crowds were minimal. It felt fantastic after so many days of rain. As is our norm, we explored the area. The top attraction in Split is Diocletian’s Palace. Some 2,000 years ago, Diocletian built his palace here and wanted to be able to walk off his ship right into the palace. Today, a harbor separates the palace from the sea. When the Romans were done with this area of the Dalmatian Coast, they just turned off the lights and left. Today, the palace grounds are enormous with homes, apartments, shops, and restaurants filling in all the nocks and crannies of this ancient structure. The image below is looking up at the cathedral from inside the palace grounds.
We are leaving Split on a small ship with 36 others to explore the islands of the Dalmatian Coast. It is a 2-night mini-cruise that docks at Makarska, Mljet, and then Dubrovnik. We might be the only ‘mature’ passengers on board. I’ll let you know how we do as sailors.
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We look forward to hearing from you.
Preston & Marsha
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