Catch You Later, Croatia

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This afternoon, I left Zagreb, and Croatia, for Ptuj, Slovenia. When I looked at my schedule earlier this week, I realized that I had allocated only one full day for Zagreb. As with Ljubljana, I would have preferred more time. While I was able to see two museums and the major sights of Zagreb's tourist district in a single day, there were a few more museums that sounded interesting as well as some sights on the outskirts of town it would have been nice to see. I'll know better when planning future trips.

I did get to do a little more touring this morning. Because my hotel was close to the train station, which in turn was close to the Botanical Garden, I actually managed to see a little more of Zagreb before leaving. Specifically, I saw the Botanical Garden. It was a few blocks worth of trees and plants. Really, summer isn't the best time to see a garden, a lot of the flowers were looking pretty wilted, but it did have a nice variety of plants, detailed information about them in Croatian as well as English, and a small herd of turtles.

Before boarding the train, I made sure to dig out my left-over euros. The basket of currencies was a little annoying. In my bag I had Swiss francs (for when I got back to Zurich), euros, US dollars, and kuna. By the end of the week, I'd need forints for Hungary. At least Slovakia was on the euro so I wouldn't have a different currency for every country. When I got to Ptuj, I went to the store and had to remind myself that "20" now meant euros, and was more like $25, than the $3 it was when the prices were in kuna. Everything seemed really cheap, though, with 4's and 5's instead of 20's and 30's.

The train ride was hot. The first train I was on didn't have A/C, and it wasn't cranked-up high enough to deal with the afternoon sun on the second. While sweating on the first train, I thought about how the A/C was broken on the train I took when I first came to Slovenia back in June, as well. It occurred to me I was going north on the same line I had traveled south to Ljubljana on a month ago. I checked the train numbers when I got to my hotel room, and I may have indeed been on the same train. I guess they never fixed the A/C.

Crossing the border by train wasn't too bad. The officers on both the Croatian and Slovenia sides spent a lot more time looking through my passport than they did when I crossed by car, but I didn't have any problems. A Croatian in my compartment wasn't so lucky. He spent a long time talking to the Slovenian border agent. They were speaking either Croatian or Slovenian (or maybe both), but I think I was able to follow what was going on with the help of cognates, city names, and a general knowledge of immigration procedures.

He was a younger guy, maybe 20, with a brand new passport. The problem seemed to be that he couldn't provide them with any contact information for where he was going to be staying. I think he was staying with a person he'd only met on Facebook. They must have spent at least five minutes talking, as all of the other Slovenian officials gathered round our compartment. I definitely heard him say something towards the end like "I'm not a criminal."

He seemed to have gotten defensively pretty early on, maybe because he was young and not used to traveling by himself. I also don't think Croatians and Slovenians like each other a lot at the moment. Croatians may be a little resentful that Slovenia got into the EU right away and then spent a few years holding up the Croatian application because of a border dispute. Slovenia claimed all of the Bay of Piran, but Croatia was disputing that even though Croatia had about 4000 other kilometers of coastline, if you counted all of the islands. The question was supposed to go to international arbitration. I'm not taking sides...

Eventually, they stamped his passport and on we went. In addition to the Croatian, there was also a woman in my compartment. Both sets of border agents gave her back her passport almost immediately. I asked her where she was from to have no problem and it turned out she was German, but had been living in Alabama for most of her life. Since her German passport was EU, they barely even looked at it. She said she had flow into some EU countries from the US where they hadn't even bothered to look at her picture. We talked for a while about travel, the Gulf oil spill and the World Cup before we reached my stop. Germans were apparently sad that they only got 3rd.

After I arrived Ptuj, I felt very relaxed. On the way to my hotel, I passed an ice cream stand near the train station and had a cone. It was hot enough that I had to race to finish before it all melted, but I sat in the shade and there was a light breeze, so it felt cooler than the train. That was a good start, but I think the main reason for my mood was Ptuj was devoid of massive tour groups as well as general big city bustle. There were definitely a few tourists around, and some locals were out on the streets, but the much slower pace of the town was a bit of a relief after almost three weeks of crowded coast.

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