About almost getting arrested in Croatia..
Trip Start Nov 05, 2006
55Trip End Ongoing
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It started off so well, a new stamp in my passport, yay! A beautiful and scenic train trip culminated in arriving at Glavni Kolodvor train station just before midday. In stark contrast to Ljubljana, Wednesday in Zagreb had some beautiful weather, and it was 17.6 degrees! I got my bearings quickly, and purchased a tram ticket for 8 kuna. My destination was Ravnice, the location of my accommodation, 2 miles out of town, eek.
I should point out here that I knew that my stay would only be 2 days, so budgeted for £50 spending money, which I thought would be more than enough...it works out to be around 400 kuna, the Croatian currency. It's not like I'm planning a trip to Croatia in the near future, so didn't want too much. At least with Euros or dollars, you can use them again, in multiple destinations.
When I reached Ravnice, which is about 20 minutes away by tram, it turns out that the hostel would only accept cash, which blew half of my budget out of the water right away. I was not best pleased, but there you go. Lesson learned, check before you go if they accept credit cards. Another lesson learned is to book accommodation close to the centre of town, as 8 kuna for each tram ride would soon see me into no money left.
As soon as I got off the tram, an old guy approached me to ask me if I was looking for the hostel and gave me directions. I had written them down anyway, and knew where I was headed, but I thought it was really nice of him.
My reason for choosing Ravnice is that it is really close to the local chocolate factory, which is a mega bonus, I thought...the smell of chocolate as you wake up..mmmm.
After checking in and settling down, I decided to walk the 2 miles back into town for a quick wander round to get my bearings further. I walked back to the train station to enquire about my onward ticket (to work out how much I had left to spend) and then to the two sparse tourist offices to pick up some leaflets. Although one of the guys in the first office tried his best, I ended up with precisely one leaflet that would be helpful in any way. He also couldn't tell me anything about Plitvice National Park (the main tourist attraction in Croatia!) and directed me to a different office.
Right in front of the train station, behind the Heineken Ice Bar(!) are three separate squares, the first being Trg Kalja Tomislavov. I walked past these, making my way to the main square, Trg Bana Jelacica. This is where the second tourist office is, as well as being the Trafalgar Square of Zagreb (without the fountains, or character). OK, the hub of Zagreb. It's also the site of the cathedral, which has been undergoing renovation for the past 15 years.
A quick trip to supermarket Konzum to pick up some dinner, and I walked back to the hostel. Well actually, I walked back to the hostel then decided I needed some dinner, so took the tram back in. I found some really good ice cream for 21 kuna, it was neapolitan style with chocolate, coconut and banana, which was amazing. Unfortunately the hostel didn't have a freezer so I had to tuck in as soon as I got back, and couldn't finish even half. What a waste. I tried some apple flavoured herbal tea in the kitchen area, which was really good.
A little about the hostel; it is run by a Croatian lady, and all her family help out in it, even the grandmother, who has just asked me if I'm ok, or too cold, she's very sweet! The hostel really is immaculately clean and well kept, if a little lacking in character. The kitchen and dining area are beautiful, with one wall of glass so you can see out over the garden, and the wicker dining furniture makes it quite comfortable. Unlike some hostels, it has a hob and oven so you really can cook for yourself. Anyone visiting this hostel should be warned however, that when you're sitting in the kitchen, next door's dog barks loudly and literally constantly and is in general a giant pain in the arse. Imagine that for 2 hours solid.
As well as being just down the road from the Kras chocolate factory, and incredibly easy to find due to the giant sign on the balcony; Ravnice is located right near to the football stadium, where Dinamo Zagreb play, as well as the national team. Right across the road is the Maksimir Park, which houses the zoo.
Day 2 in Zagreb saw me wake up not knowing what time it was, I had left my clock in my suitcase. I panicked when I checked it, as it claimed it was 11.30am, I later found out it was 2 hours fast for some reason.
I took the tram into Trg Bana Jelacica, which is a great place to start as all the main sights and museums are located nearby. After much deliberation in the kitchen last night, I had decided on a visit to only one museum as most have entrance fees of 20 kuna or higher, which actually isn't that much, but for my budget was out of the question. I walked up to the Dolac, the market place where people come to sell their organic produce such as flowers, fruits and honey. It was busy and everything looked great. It's a shame I'm not staying as I would have bought quite a lot of flowers! I wandered around for a bit and then went in search of St Mark's, a 13th century Gothic church, with a beautiful, distinctive and unusual roof. It's always good to wander as you stumble across things you wouldn't have seen otherwise, and sights you weren't planning to see as well!
St Mark's Church is also undergoing renovation at the moment, but I could easily make out the red white and blue checkered roof with it's Croatian flag on it. St Mark's is also right next to Sabor, the Croatian parliament, understated apart from the flags and guards outside, and lots and lots of shiny black limousines parked out the front!
This is where the wandering came up trumps as I found myself at the top of a hill looking out over the city. There are no distinctive landmarks other than the cathedral, which really dominates the Zagreb skyline. As it was to the left and just behind where I was, it wasn't visible. I did, however notice that I was right near the top of the funicular railway. This is really either for old people, unnecessary, or quite a frivolous spend, as the steps are easy to walk (although I only went downwards!) but altogether it's not that steep a climb up the winding streets. My next stop was my museum of choice, so I walked down Frankopanska towards Donji Grad (the lower town) The museum I had chosen was the Muzej Mimara, famous for housing over 3000 objets d'art, all belonging to Croatian collector Ante 'Mimara' Topic who died in 1987. This museum is quite controversial as it is rumoured that most of the paintings are fakes. With art by Rembrant, Degas, Manet, Turner and Constable on display, little is known about Mimara or how he amassed such a collection.
I spent about 3 hours there and am still none the wiser whether the art is fake or not, but it was interesting nonetheless. Just to note, I passed up the opportunity to visit the Croatian National History Museum with it's exhibition on the Megalodon to go here instead!
It was after I had exited the museum that the incident of the trip occurred. As I boarded the tram, I was suddenly accosted by a mean looking ticket inspector with random black hairs sprouting from her chin, who only spoke Croatian. I gave her my ticket and she decided to drag me off the tram at the next stop, much to the amusement of the other commuters. She then proceeded to shout at me in Croatian for a good 20 minutes, while I tried to explain that I had no idea what she was saying. She then threatened to have me arrested, pointed at my ticket, pushed me, pointed at her notepad and looked around furtively for any policja, only finding two of her ticket inspector friends who joined in with the shouting. This was quite amusing for a while until they asked me for my documents and I realised that technically, I was breaking the law by not having any identification on me (by Croatian law you're supposed to have your national identity or passport with you at all times) I feigned ignorance of this, pointing and saying it was at my hotel. They proceeded to shout at me in Croatian until they realised that I had little idea of what they were saying and they had no idea what I was saying, then suddenly they decided it was less hassle to let me go as there were no police in sight. I have never been more happy, until I came to the realisation that I couldn't brazenly get on a tram again, after she had scribbled on my ticket, and I had 2 miles to walk back! It was only on the walk home I realised she had been trying to tell me I owed her 200 kuna in fines for not having my ticket stamped. Lucky escape. I will remember to stamp it tomorrow morning when I leave for the train station!