The sweltering city heat of budapest was ...

Trip Start Jun 01, 2002
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Trip End Aug 22, 2002


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Flag of Croatia  ,
Sunday, June 16, 2002

The sweltering city heat of Budapest was becoming unbearable. The lethargic conversation between Pernilla, Natalie and myself went something like this:

P: It's REALLY hot. It's awful!
N: I want to go to the beach,
P: Where's the nearest bech?
C & N: Croatia.
C: There's a train to Zagreb first thing tomorrow.....
N: Let's do it, girls!

So it was that three virtual strangers met in 'The Best Hostel' in Budapest and set off the next day on a sunbathing mission to Croatia. Think Cliff Richard's "Summer Holiday", think Britney Spears "Crossroads" - our adventure was even better and Britney now wishes she had our tans! Yes, there was singing in public. Yes, there was dancing and yes, there was the obligatory sad-eyed guitarist who we befriended and impressed with our theatrical skills.

Having barely slept for excitment and summer night sweltering, we set off at the crack of dawn on a train to Zagreb. Just as we thought we had escaped scary Hungarian officials for a little while, Natalie incurred the wrath of the Hungarian Immigration Man. He created an imaginary paper she was supposed to be carrying with her Hungarian visa and ignored everyone's assurances that he was confused. Then, like all good immigration men, he disappeared and left us alone for the rest of the journey.

On arrival in Zagreb we were forced to switchdown the pace from backpacker mission to holiday mode with the discovery that very little happens in the Croatian capital on a Sunday. So much for powerhouse of a city, the streets were empty and waiters at the cafes practically refused to move from their air-conditioned doorways. We convinced them we needed our lunchtime pivo (beer).

Lonely Planet recommends a number of 'fine parks' in Zagreb. This is where all the dog-walking action happens. Quite a little social scene. One must dress-up to walk the dog and stop at one park in particualr to allow one's dog to swim in the 'fine pond', which is overlooked by a 'fine statue' of a little boy peeing. From what we could deduce this work of art also functions as a public water fountain and social gathering point. It was all happening here.

The night train doesn't leave Zagreb for Split until nine p.m. After a few hours wandering - all attractions closed on Sundays - we pleaded for an earlier train, but none were to be had. There is something frustratingly amusing about being stuck in a city that is supposed to be humming, but finding very little to do. Even more so when enquiring about railway times and trying not to offend the officials by appearing desperate to leave. Zagreb has potential, but on a Sunday there is only so much pivo and gelato that three backpackers can consume.

Night trains are always an interesting experience. The three of us were determined to have a cabin to ourselves. What better way to deter dodgy people than for me to take my dodgy boots and socks off and place them strategically near the door? Despite Pernialla and Natalie's gagging and gasping for air, the plan worked and even the ticket collectors were reluctant to linger.....

Nine hours later we arrived in Split.

Waking to the sight of silvery coastline and sparkling ocean is an incredible introduction to the Dalmatia Coast. To our left stretched the green vineyards and red-roofed homes of Split, overlooking the ocean. To our right, stubbled grey hills of rocks and low vegetation. The landscape of southern Croatia is harsh but I find it incredibly beautiful.

The road journey along the coast from Split to Dubrovnik was particularly spectacular. Mountians and ocean divided by a winding road. The water was stunning shades of blue and green. Just off the coast the hazy shapes of islands could be discerned, their cliffs looming out of the sea. Little red-roofed hamlets and churches overlooking the ocean - perfect setting for a hostel, me thinks......

All this beauty was accompanied by the roaring soundtrack of an in-bus presentation of Rambo - Episodes One and Two - hurrah! It was very strange and more than slightly disturbing. For a nation that endured war just over a decade ago, surely everyone must have had enough of guns? Distracting us from the scenery and the movie was a drunk, mad little Croatian poet who wandered up and down the aisle, chatting to us and passing out his poetry. Again, the phrasebook failed me. I don't think his poem contained sentiments such as "another beer please" or "can you tell me where the bus stop is". Still, I will decipher it one day.....

Finally we arrived in Dubrovnik. We had taken two trains and a bus, travelling more than 24 hours to get to the coast. It was to be worth every sweltering moment of the journey.
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