Welcome to Croatia ~

You know the scene in the classic story The Wizard of Oz when the wicked witch of the west cries out, “I’m melting, I’m melting?”  I couldn’t help but think of that melting green-skinned witch as a couple of hundred people sat in overwhelmingly hot train cars, at a random train station, in rural Croatia.

Time to Go

The alarm buzzed at 4:00 a.m., just three short hours after we switched off the light in an attempt to glean a few hours of sleep before starting our travel day.  After spending five days in Budapest it was time to go.  It was time to pack our bags and say good-bye to the beautiful city on the Danube.  I will forevermore think of Budapest as not only beautiful but extraordinarily hot.

Budapest

Budapest on the Danube River.

Having taken a practice run the day before to ensure our planned route was manageable, our stealthy early morning exit from our accommodations found us at the tram station before dawn, 4:30 a.m. actually.  Our efforts paid off as we successfully rode the 4:40 a.m. tram to the metro station.  Metro and railroad stations are tough on the traveler  when there are no escalators or elevators, so we planned our route accordingly.  Especially because the metro stations in Budapest are steeply deep and trying to manage stairs just wouldn’t work with our stuff.

Right on time we arrived at the international train station, Keleti.  As we rode up on the escalator toward the train platforms a large group of seemingly intoxicated 20-something young men were in front of us.  We noticed one of them was clowning around as if he was going to push the emergency stop button.  Surely, he would not be that stupid.  He was.  He did.  The group laughed hysterically as they stepped off of the escalator while at least 50 people with luggage were stranded as the moving stairs came to a stop. Completely frustrated Abi yelled out to them, “What the F* is the matter with you?” Fortunately, we were only about eights steps from the top and managed to haul our load up, but my heart went out to those who had more than 50 steps to climb.

Croatia

A steeply deep Budapest Metro Station.

At the Border

Our train pulled out of Keleti right on the 6:00 a.m. dot.  Okay, we thought, a less than stellar start but Croatia here we come.  We hadn’t given it any thought but as our train rolled to a stop a couple of hours later, the immigration agents boarded and asked for our passports.  It was then we remembered Croatia is not part of the Schengen, hence the border passport check.  Knowing in your head that they can’t possibly find anything on either of us as they scanned our passports, it was nonetheless worrisome when after the agent returned our passports and left the compartment, she came back and asked for Abi’s passport and left with it.  Um?  We could hear her talking to another officer but after a couple of minutes she returned the passport without a word.  I think that will bug me for years to come.  What made her retake Abi’s passport?

In the meantime, the train had been shut down.  No power, no air-conditioning, nothing.  Once the border agents – first the Hungarian agents and then the Croatian agents – finished their patrols, the train conductor asked for our tickets/passes.  As he stamped our passes, he notified us that at an upcoming station we would have to get off of the train, get on a bus, and then get back on a train.  The Croatian man sitting in our compartment offered up an explanation but of course we had no idea what he was talking about.

Croatia

Everybody off!

Everybody Off

Sure enough, about 30 minutes later we got the word.  Next station, get off of the train.  In the middle of who knows where at a dinky train station, probably 150 – 200 people got off of the train with all of their bags, put said bags on a bus and off we went.  No sooner had we pulled away from the train station, our bus driver took a phone call while driving.  “Have you no rules about driving while talking on the phone?” I wanted to scream ask.  As the wheels on the bus went round and round we saw a road sign indicating we were 53 kms from Zagreb.  Ya gotta think, why don’t they just drive the bus the rest of the way?

Croatia

A caravan of buses full of train passengers.

But no.  Maybe 15 minutes later we pulled in to another random dinky rural train station, got our bags off of the bus and onto a graffiti-covered city train which had been sitting and baking in the sun.  As every person climbed on board a wave of heat enveloped them.  It was an oven.

Croatia

Loading back on to the graffiti-covered city trains.

Welcome to Zagreb

Another 30 minutes or so riding in the oven with barely a wisp of breeze blowing through the small open windows and the outside temp nearing 100 degrees, we finally pulled in to Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia; not a minute too soon.  And, damn, wouldn’t you know it?  Stairs.  No elevator, no escalator.

It was not the most auspicious arrival but we’re glad to be here just the same and we’re looking forward to exploring the city of Zagreb.  Now, if only someone would turn down the thermostat!

Zagreb

Our first glimpse of Zagreb.

This post is dedicated to our friend, Linda B, who endured a similar journey traveling by train from Budapest to Zagreb.

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14 Responses to Welcome to Croatia ~

  • Argh…I once took the train from Amsterdam to Paris. About around Brussels, the train stopped and eventually we all had to get off and board buses. Someone had jumped onto the tracks…

    This part of your journey sounds pretty challenging…getting up in the wee hours and then changing trains and then the heat and then the stairs…again. Yikes. It does make for a good story to tell though…:) No doubt worth it and put behind you…looking forward to reading about your adventures in Croatia.

    Peta

    • Yeah, it was pretty much a pain the butt kind of day. But, what can you do but just carry on. We are actually only in Zagreb for 3 nights on our way to Slovenia. More stories to tell!

  • This is the part about travel that always skeeves me out – isolated train stations, packs of drunken 20 somethings any where near me at 4:30 in the a.m., dragging my 30lb suitcase up a stuck escalator and a Conductor asking to see my Passport for the second time and walking away with it! The things we endure while making the most magical memories of our lives. Thanks for keeping it real for all of us who are following your journey.

    • Thanks Suzanne. We think it’s good to tell both sides of the story because the truth is, some travel days just plain suck!

  • Yikes! After that rocky start, it has to get better from here… right??? Here’s hoping. Looking forward to seeing your pictures of Croatia.

  • Some trips are the stuff of nightmares and, on three hours of sleep, everything must have seemed even more surreal! It’s been hot here in Lagos but luckily the mornings and evenings are cooler. It’s the August crowds that have seemingly tripled since you’ve been here and I imagine they’re just as bad in Zagreb. Heat and crowds? Ugh! However, I’m sure your good spirits revived after 1) showering 2) a few glasses of wine and 3) hugging a pillow, horizontally. Here’s to better travel days!

    • Actually, we were fairly surprised by the size of crowds in Zagreb, not at all what we expected, far fewer people. Although, we were told by a couple of locals that it was high season. I think everyone was inside hiding from the heat. 🙂

      I can imagine Lagos is bursting!

  • Welcome to Croatia where yes, travel can be rustic.
    We were in Zagreb a few years ago in July and roasted for 4 days. F*ing hot. But Zagreb is for us not Croatia (the coast of Dalmatia is). Geographically you’re still in Central Europe.
    If you ever think of going to Split though, it is a very nice train ride through the mountains to the coast. No crappy suburban train. I’d like to know the story behind that. I usually read up on train trips on seat61.com but he makes no mention of this switching of trains. Must have been construction going on the line.

    Frank (bbqboy)
    Frank recently posted…August 8, 2017 Newsletter – Prague, Plans, Views from a Plane Window, Experiences in CDG and a few other things…My Profile

    • We do hope to make it to Split, but it wasn’t in the cards for this trip primarily because of the heat and crowds, we’d like to see the area in either the spring or fall.

      I actually submitted an update to the seat 61 website because a good friend of ours had given us a heads up that the transfers could happen because she endured a similar trip a couple of years ago. I was looking for information and he made no mention of it. As much as we could see, there does seem to be construction going on.

  • Oh dear Patti a 4 am start is gruelling….almost as bad as my EVERY day alarm at 5:45 am hahaha. I have been following you on FB, enjoying all your pictures

  • Thanks for the dedication. Sounds like you did pretty much the same trip as ours. I think they have gone a bit further with the track repairs because we didn’t even have a station when we had to climb back on and the bus ride was more like an hour. I never knew I could jump so high, but I was determined to reserve some seats ahead of the 20 something mob.

    Really though. Our trip was more than 2 years ago. You would think they could fix a main line by now.
    And yes, the coast will be different. Hope you love it. Linda

    • We now share a story! Croatia is scheduled to become a member of the Schengen in 2018 so we suspect the track construction is part of the bigger picture. On the Slovenian border the train conductor told us they are very ready for Croatia to have open borders because the passport checks slows down everything.

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We are Patti and Abi. We retired early to live a simpler life, travel the world and hopefully, inspire others to redefine retirement.

 

3 years, 45 days ago!

 

 

 

 

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