Friday, May 18, 2012

Zagreb surprises us - Croatia

The blue tram is right in front of our hotel
It is too much hassle to get the direct night sleepers from Zurich to Zagreb online. We’re not holding Eurail Pass and that makes it even more difficult. We contacted several agents and we were advised to take a night train with a change in Villach, Austria. I declined. Traveling in a large group and transferring to another train in the middle of the night is too much. The flight from Switzerland to Zagreb is too expensive. The rail track from Italy to Zagreb is closed. Finally and half-heartedly, we choose the bus from Luzern to Zagreb.

At the bus station, although I showed the driver our booking for 11 people, he insisted we were booked for 10. Then, the three of us; the Swiss agent, the Croatian driver and I were trying to come to an agreement…and I suspected - maybe they have only ten seats on the bus and that’s why they are arguing! I firmly held on to my tickets and booking confirmation and whatever it takes all of us must be on this bus since this is the only bus that goes to Zagreb. We have to be in Zagreb by the next morning!

I tried to make sense from their conversation but hopeless. Then, the bus driver asked us to pay
 €3 for each bag. The ticket from Luzern to Zagreb cost us CHF130 per person and on top of that we had to pay 3 for every piece of luggage. Never mind, I quickly paid him to make sure that we could get on the bus fast. No numbers on our tickets but the driver sorted the passengers and we got our seats. Before the journey, we had to inform the driver that at the border we needed to deliver some documents for our VAT claims and he seemed to understand.

The bus wasn’t comfortable, and one of us even doubted that we were on the right bus for the price of CHF130! But this is Switzerland…everything is expensive here. It was full of Croatians and the 11 of us were the only Asians. The journey from Luzern to Zagreb took about 12 hours, and in the darkness I figured out we are going through Italy when the bus stopped at a small gas station in Lugano. The driver said something…the only words that I could guess “dix minuit” - 10 minutes. I got down for a bottle of water.

I couldn’t sleep in the bus and kept thinking what to expect in Zagreb when everyone doesn’t speak English. This is my first journey to a Balkan country; will I get lost in Zagreb and is everything going to be fine? But traveling to a non-English speaking country is nothing new for me and I have survived so I told myself that everything will be fine and brace myself for another exciting experience in life.

In the middle of our sleep, the bus slowed down and drove to a complex and I suspected, its the Swiss-Italian border. The immigration officer came on the bus checked and stamped our passports. The bus driver called us and I think he wanted us to bring our papers to the customs…he started to scold when all of us got up. Pointing to his head and in his harsh voice, he probably meant, “Use your head, only few get down, not all!” I instructed 3 of us to go while the rest stayed in the bus.

They say you only do two things in Swiss; buy Swiss watch or open a bank account! Gladly, we have opted for the former and getting back the 8% tax refund is a saving so we will bear with this grumpy Croatian driver. After a few minutes, our friends came back with a big smile and we understood… mission accomplished!

The bus moved on and everyone fell asleep until it stopped again near a building on a highway. We must be crossing the border of Slovenia (an EU country) and not far from it, the bus drove to the Croatian border (not an EU), and there all of us got off the bus to pass the Croatian immigration.

The officer looked at my tired sleepy face and passport to verify and he asked, “Where are you going?” I quickly responded, “Zagreb...we are on holidays.” I hope he knew that we don’t need a visa for a short stay in Croatia. He stamped our passports and what a relief! We are in Croatia, the land of Balkan and.... Zagreb surprises us!

King Tomislav is the first king of Croatia
Tomislav Square, Zagreb
Beautiful and colorful buildings

Well sign posted for tourists

At about 12 noon we are still able to go the Dolac Market
The famous and popular Dolac market
I love Zagreb trendy blue tram

Along the streets in front of the main train station (Glavni Kolodvor)
Old train in front of Central Hotel
The flower market 


  1. thank you so much for sharing your all experiences in travelling. I learned a lot from them. But i'm always thinking how can you manage to travel that long? I envy you. I mean the long walk, strolling, travel, staying on the couches, sits, jets for long hours! I wish i have that stamina! Thank you once again.

  2. Thank you for reading Jennifer. No pain no gain...the hard journey is always rewarding! We bashed our legs in the day and treated them with all kind of ointments at night :)