James Jackman / July 01, 2016

An Interrail Adventure - Blog 5: Zagreb & Plitvice Lakes

Just like that, I was in Zagreb! My train arrived on time, in the capital of Croatia. It was certainly a pleasant change from my previous arrivals, hopefully it sets the standard of my future journeys. Ditching my bag in the hostel, I realised that I’d entered the European Union once again – marked by the hostel owner making a joke about me “not being an EU member for too much longer now”. This was the first of a few jokes about the EU, something which I quickly realised was to become a common occurrence. Also, as a Brit abroad in the EU, it seems as though my opinion on the result is gold dust – everybody I meet asks me about Brexit!


My first full day in Zagreb of course included the obligatory walking tour, where I learnt about how Zagreb was originally two small settlements, how it grew and how modern day Zagreb was formed. The rest of the day was spent solo exploring, which included seeing the cathedral in all its glory, the Dubravkin woods and a personal favourite, the “Museum of Broken Relationships”. The museum is dedicated to items left behind when relationships end, those with a special story behind them. It was a great change from the usual museum fare, which at this point in the trip was becoming a bit samey.


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A Zagreb Cityscape


That night, I was wandering through the old town, to St Mark’s square (where the parliament is based) and I heard some interesting music. Folkish, traditional music. Then, I saw a group of men in armour/costume stood by the adjacent church. Before I could work out what was going on, there was a parade of people going by, all singing and dancing, leading the way to a nearby bar. Of course, I decided to follow them and I was led to a traditional dining ceremony, where a band was playing and people were dancing, chatting and laughing under the night sky. Bread, wine and rakia (a native spirit) was handed out to everyone. After being handed a drink, I stayed and enjoyed the music.


Zagreb itself is a small city in terms of things to do/see. However, it is placed only two hours away from the Plitvice lakes, which are well worth visiting if you’re in Croatia. An UNESCO world heritage site, it consists of several lakes connected by waterfalls. Any explanation I give of the beauty of this place is worthless next to some photos, so just have a look at these…


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I spent the day there with some Canadians and an Australian, who were also travelling around Europe. We had a whole day of exploring, taking in the sights and at times navigating some slightly flooded pathways! It made a fantastic change from the city environment and was a perfect way to mix up my trip a bit.


That evening, once I returned to Zagreb I quickly connected up to the hostel wifi. Why? Well, it was my university degree results day, so I wanted to find out how I’d done. I’ll just say, I was very happy with my result and celebrations were in order! Forgetting about traditional food for a night, that meant pizza and a fair amount of beer. Afterwards, I stumbled across a Dire Straits tribute band playing for free in the park, so I was pretty happy. Once they had finished, after following some music, I came across a free concert from a Croatian (I assumed) musician. A lot of food, beer and free music in a European city – a pretty perfect evening if you ask me!


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A free concert in the heart of Zagreb


This morning, after rousing myself out of bed, I packed my bags, grabbed a coffee and headed to the train station. Unfortunately, the only direct train to Graz (my next destination) from Zagreb was a 7:25am – I’d well and truly missed that one! Instead, I’d have to get a train into Slovenia and then change trains a few times from there. So, that leaves me where I am now, on the way to Slovenia!


James Jackman will be sharing stories from his Interrail trip every few days throughout June and July - follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch his updates as soon as they’re posted!