Trip Start Aug 12, 2011
22Trip End Jan 31, 2012
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After arriving in Thessaloniki and dispatching our hiking packs to a locker, we discovered that there were no trains to Sofia. A little disappointing after having planned out all the legs to Zagreb according to the timetable we had. Not to be discouraged however, we made our way to the bus company office at the train station and found there was a bus to Sofia that night which would more than allow us to meet the train to Belgrade. We booked our spot on the bus and then set out to find the spot we were told the bus would leave from that night. We eventually found the the address we'd been given and what was an un-marked and definitely not obvious international bus station.
Relatively un eventful bus trip. Only brief moment of anxiety was the customs officer glancing at all the Greek and Bulgarian identity cards and then taking our passports off the bus with him.
Our tourist legs failed us, so we escaped the heat by spending the afternoon drinking cafe fredo's with the bright young things of T. And teaching ourselves backgammon. The cafes encircling the main squares were full of people using the cafe backgammon sets, who were we to disagree.
We arrived at Sofia wiped at 5 in the morning and made friends with a heavily tattooed local who had three more words of English than we had Bulgarian.
We spent three hours in a fugue watching early morning travelers through the train station. We acquired the relevant onward tickets, or thought we had, and hopped on a clapped out workhorse of a train bound for Belgrade. There was the most amazingly rude and gruff ticket inspector who yelled at some Aussies instead of helping them find the seats they had reserved - the seat numbering system being completely unintelligible. We were joined in our compartment by three Serbian guys who chain smoked for the entire journey but we appreciated their assistance negotiating with the ticket inspector when we realised we didn't have the appropriate tickets, or in fact any tickets. After rolling his eyes at us, the inspector chatted with the Serbian guys who thought this was hilarious, but then informed us that 10 euros ought to smooth things over. After indulging in this piece of local know how, we were best of friends, but the train was stinking hot and seemed to be stopping at every local village or street sign. To cap it off, the train was running late and we missed our connection to Zagreb. This is apparently very common, they used to run 5 or 6 hours late so aren't we lucky, but we fell on our feet (at 11pm and zombie like) and met a local who sorted us out with cheap accommodation for a few hours kip.
The train to Zagreb was vastly improved and on time, so we honed our backgammon skills in the iphone and arrived in Zagreb only to just miss the only connecting train to Split.
So we caught a bus instead, and arrived in Split 6 hours later, very glad to finish 72 hours of travel. We decided we wouldn't brave this overland route between Greece and Croatia again in a hurry!