Zagreb. Or: driving in foriegn countries blows.

  1. Zagreb, unlike Rijeka, is a real city. Meaning: it’s big, its confusing, it’s busy, and bad things can happen if you don’t watch yourself.

I drove my rental car from Rijeka to Zagreb. For reference, that looks like this:

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Well, the map isn’t really to scale and it’s actually filled with beautiful rolling hills and a lot of tunnels, but the idea is: there’s a fair distance to travel.

I originally wanted to go see Plitvice lakes region on the way (note: not really on the way), but became very concerned with my habit of getting good and lost and wanted to have a little time left in the day to see Zagreb, so I ultimately just went right through. I had my little map on my Surface to guide me in, how hard could it be?

Remember the street name problem from when I landed in Rijeka? Yeah. Try remembering “turn right onto Ulica Braća Cvijića, if you reach Davorina Bazjanca you’ve gone too far” while navigating busy city streets, looking for hidden street signs on the sides of buildings.  My poor brain still get’s stuck on how to pronounce “ić” and then dumps all remaining memory.

So, through many poor decisions and false turns, I somehow found myself driving on rails, surrounded on all sides, front and back, by nothing but trams in the middle of the city.  On the one hand I felt panicked, mortified, and in danger of being squashed.  On the other, one must find humor in these moments, so I documented it with a quick picture:

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I’m not supposed to be here.

Yep. So, somehow I made it out of that without damage, arrest, or even public mockery. Though I’m pretty sure many a Croatian returned to their home that day, exclaiming to their significant other “guess what I saw today?  That’s right, some American wanker driving on the tram tracks.  I know!  More fish?  Hvala.”

After finding a way to get onto a side street, I immediately parked and walked around trying to find wifi. Once wifi was acquired, finding my hostel was short work, at which point I returned to my car to get my large bag and prepare to return the car to the rental agency.

Two problems:

  1. I now had a parking ticket (2nd one in five days.  Doh).
  2. The rental agency didn’t come up on any maps.

Okay, fine, let’s not panic here.  I did have a sheaf of paperwork from them, so all I had to do was plug in the “Downtown Zagreb” address for CityRent into my handy wifi-enabled device and see where that took me.

This took me 14 miles outside of the city, on a dirt road, with dilapidated houses, some farms, and one conspicuous building that looked like a rather modern-ish 2-story office building with a printed banner proclaiming “EuroVent” among other non-car related businesses.

So, I don’t speak the language, this really CAN’T be the rental agency, things have obviously gotten borked somewhere along the way.  Besides, if this WAS the return agency, how would I get back?  I’m up for a good hike, but 14 miles seems a bit extreme.  And there are no taxis out here in the country.

So I make my way back to town, park illegally (putting my parking ticket under the wiper as a superstitious ward against more ill happenings, and enlist the help of the nice girl behind the desk at the hostel.  She calls the guys, converses for a while in Croatian, then hangs up.

She explains that the building I saw actually was their office.  Stupid American.

She also explains they will come here and pick the car up.  So that’s nice.

After waiting around another hour, they come and take the car from me, explain the parking tickets will be taken out of my initial deposit, and just like that I’m a backpacker again.  And that’s a very good thing.

So: Zagreb.  Lots of cool art on the walls here!

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Also, while they have their share of awesome historic buildings, they’ve also got some modern construction as well:

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There are many statues. I liked this guy ’cause he looked like I felt at this point.

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Lots a great meandering is available in the town.

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Now, a note about Croatian culture: they don’t really eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. No, they basically drink, have a large meal sometime around midday, then drink some more. If you are hungry and walking past some lovely outdoor seating thinking “gosh, it would be lovely to have a sandwich or some soup here in the sun and watch the world go by”, well guess what: you are outta luck. Those chairs are all for drinking. They’ll serve you an espresso, or some water, or a beer, sometimes even a cocktail. Food? Geddouddaheah.

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All these chairs? Yep, just people drinking. No food. Move along.

So: take your drink and be happy.  Then wander around and see more cool buildings.

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I ended up walking up in the hills to the north for a few hours. Found some really nice parks and obviously high-end homes of the well-to-do, but no stunning views of the city that I was after.

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By the time I came down from the hills, it was night. The temperature was perfect, and the city is still very lively at night, even on a Tuesday.

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A nighttime view of the infamous “trapped by trams” incident.

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