11.26.2016 Four hours in Graz, Austria

Where do I begin, while I was in the planning process of this trip I was messing around like crazy with how I could see as many places as possible for cheap and ultimately stumbled upon the website buscroatia, because I was initially looking to see a town or two on the coast.

Ultimately, I realized that this bus company would not only take you to places in Croatia, but also towns in countries near by. After more searching I found the Graz, Austria was basically a 3 ish hour bus ride AND, the round trip ticket was in my opinion cheap. So I went for it kind of having this idea of what to expect but also at the same time having no clue.

The morning of the 26th I walked myself to the bus station to catch my bus that left between 8:30 and 9:30. Like I said, it was around a 3 ish hour ride, which I thought was very reasonable.

The bus first cut the corner through Slovenia, and then crossed the border again into Austria. Almost immediately after crossing the border, our bus made a little pit stop where we could use the bathroom and get a snack if needed. I noticed that in order to use the bathroom you needed to pay 50 cents, which I wasn’t about, so I just figured I’d hold it.

Well I guess I jinxed myself because I went upstairs to buy a little snack. While I was eating my soft pretzel I ate a little bit of mayo (mind you I am still really not used to dairy) and within five minutes I found myself sick to my stomach. In that moment I knew I was going to throw up and needed to get to a toilet basically as fast as possible. So here I am trying to not to make a scene speed walking down the stairs, to the restroom and trying to get the pocket change out as soon as possible. I’m still not really sure why this happened now, because I had been eating dairy in bigger quantities previously on the trip but oh well. Here I was, somewhere in Austria throwing up in a rest stop bathroom… sorry if that is too much information.

The rest of the trip I was absolutely fine but for some reason that mayo just wanted to do me dirty.

Alright so once we finally arrived I had a really good idea of where I was going, but I had the same problem with the fact that the screenshots of maps I had on my phone didn’t exactly have the street names on them.

Basically as I walked out of the bus station, I proceeded straight to where I had saw there was supposed to be a river, as well as the old city. This was a good frame of reference because I knew if I was walking in this direction for more than 15-20 minutes and didn’t hit water I would have to turn around.

After walking for probably 15 minutes I noticed the steeples of a church peeking through the tops of building, so I headed in that direction. Another tip for you, if you ever feel like you may be lost in a city just look for tall churches or landmarks and they will probably help bring you to the right direction. This literally could have worked in every single city I visited this trip and in fact was how I went about my walking tour or Riga, I just followed buildings that looked interesting… but you can read about that later.

Okay. So once I got to these steeples I saw a little bridge to cross the river and Voila! I had reached the old city.

Immediately, I noticed this staircase going up a huge hill/mountain, which appeared to have some sort of castle on top of it. As I got closer and closer I knew I wanted to go up, I just didn’t know exactly how to go about it. For example, was it free, did I need to pay, if I needed to pay where did I pay, what ACTUALLY was at the top, etc. I ended up noticing the entrance to the staircase and just decided to go for it.

This climb was definitely far more stairs than it appeared because I didn’t really realize the sort of winded left and right up the mountain. The good thing about this is now I had absolutely no shame in eating two pastries for breakfast that morning. As well, as you can probably image the view was outstanding the entire time.

As I was walking up I became very oriented with where I would later walk around, as well as which direction I had come from. I noticed all the brightly colored building topped with rusty orange colored roofs and the many steeples of huge churches. I noticed the somewhat hilly landscape, which was well accompanied with just the perfect amount of fog kissing the tops of the hills. There was something oddly mesmerizing yet so dizzying at the same time in regards to the way all the rust colored roofs lined up and created shapes that could only be seen from the air.

When you reach the top the first thing you will see is a little bell tower and then signs pointing out where the couple of restaurants were, as well as a couple other landmarks atop the hill. I took a little walk around appreciating the variety of views and the architecture of the different buildings up here. After a bit I headed down because I wanted to see the main square area, and also make sure I would have plenty of time to get back to the bus.

I walked back down the stairs and proceeded left, if your back is facing the steps you just came from. This is another instance where following the metro tracks, or just the people at this point, will take you to where you want to go, also it kind of helped that I could see the square from here. I took a lap around looking for a place to maybe grab a coffee, but also admired not only the architecture, but also the way building were decorated.

Buildings were brightly colored, but some of them were also finished with intricate designs on them, which I found extremely beautiful, as well as interesting. It is interesting to see how place to place the architecture seems generally similar, yet each place has their own unique take in regards to color choice as well as subtle design differences.

I wound up at this cute little coffee shop called AUER where I treated myself to a cappuccino and small sandwich, which I had the luxury of eating outside facing the square, so I could people watch a bit.

After taking my time eating and enjoying watching the hustle and bustle of square, I started back for the bus station, because my biggest fear was missing my bus.

Well, typical Hannah fashion I was there was too early. The only really cool part was the bus station happened to have a little grocery store in it so I took a little walk around and ended up buying a juice. I am very proud to say that I successfully used a self-checkout that was not in English. I carried my juice and receipt out like one of those trophies you get after a soccer season as a child that you don’t realize until years later your parents paid for. Needless to say, imagine the five-year-old smiling ear to ear holding up this new trophy as their newest prized possession, that was me with a two euro juice.

I took a quick walk over to where the bus was supposed to pick me up from and got on shortly after. The one really nice thing about this bus station was that it was super easy to navigate, as well as be able to tell where you needed to go with only a little bit of the necessary self doubt.

I have to say it was a great day spent in Graz, Austria. I would 100% recommend coming here for a day or weekend trip!

Anyways, have a great day!

Xx Hannah

11.26.2016 Zagreb Croatia

Okay, so I have taken yet another hiatus from finishing these posts. To be honest I didn’t really realize how fast this semester was flying by until right about now, as I have less than a week of classes less this semester. That doesn’t really excuse my lack of writing but I think I just kept telling myself I had more time and well, now here I am.

So let me take you back nearly six months to the time I spent in Zagreb, Croatia.

This one is a slightly more complicated because I really only was in Croatia for evening time, so unlike the others, there was no daytime exploring happening and I can’t say I ventured too far but I absolutely LOVED my time there. Seriously, I have completely fallen in love with this little city!

So back to the start.

I arrived in Croatia a little bit before dinnertime. First off, I had sort of forgotten that they do not use the Euro here so I made sure to stop at an ATM in the airport and get a little bit of the local currency.

I had read online that my best bet to getting into the city was to take this shuttle to the main bus station, which was only a short walk or metro ride to where I needed to go.

There wasn’t really any place to pay before hand so I approached the bus sort of looked at the man and made sure this would take me where I needed to go, which he responded yes. At this point I had still yet to pay for the transit, nor did I know how much it would cost. But, I continued on the bus and plopped myself down in a chair. After everyone who would fit on the bus for the given departure time was loaded on, the driver started towards the back of the bus appearing as though he was checking tickets and I sort of had a little panic because there wasn’t one other English person on the bus, everyone seemed to be speaking Croatian, so I really wasn’t sure what the driver was checking until he had got to me. I had then found out that this was when I was supposed to pay. Unfortunately I don’t really remember how much it exactly cost me but I want to say it was between 20 and 40 Kuna each way.

So as the bus is going it makes its first stop and I start to realize that I am actually not 100% sure what my stop exactly is. I knew it was the main bus station area but I didn’t really know after how many stops this would occur and I seem to always have this persistent sense of self-doubt in me.

Eventually I got to the station, which was pretty obviously identifiable. As I am typing this I am trying to look for some sort of picture so I can better describe it to you but I really can’t find one. All I can say is just trust your instinct, you’ll know.

Once I got off the bus I technically had these screenshots of maps of Zagreb, as well as directions. However, as soon as I got out of the station I had this gut feeling that the directions were leading me in the wrong direction. So I followed my gut and honestly prayed that my instinct was going to take me in take me to the correct place (spoiler alert for my worried mom probably reading this: it worked out).

Basically when you get out of the bus station you walk towards the underpass and cross the metro tracks. And make a left. Once you make a left you will be sort of on a road where the metro acts as the boulevard in the middle of the road, you’ll want to follow this until you reach a cute little series of green areas. At this point I was following my screenshots of the maps on my phone; however, the screenshots were too zoomed out to include what the street names were so I was just kind of following I guess you could say ‘regionally’ where it seemed like I needed to go.

Basically once I got to the green area between buildings I made a right and followed it what I think was three or four blocks, or however many was till you reached the end of it. After I made a left and walked for about another block and then a right which took me right to the main, old city square (this was where my hostel was located).

A little mid way disclaimer, I am sorry if there directions don’t really make sense. I sort of needed to make a game time decision and I sort of memorized my location based on visual references rather that streets. So don’t necessarily take my word if you are trying to use these directions. But a quick tidbit of advice that is if you are lost follow a metro line because those are usually the main areas where people will go and or will lead you to where people go.

So once I got to the main square, I had this idea of where my hostel (main square Zagreb) was based on where it was located on my map screenshot. However, little did I know was that some of the buildings had two floors, SO I did not conveniently run into it like I thought I would. Fortunately I looked up in the air at the right time and saw ‘Main Square Zagreb’ on a glass window about 2 or 3 stories up. This led me to a sign where I was which brought me to a staircase that took me straight to my hostel.

Oh my gosh was this hostel absolutely perfect and I would 100% recommend staying here! The staff was extremely accommodating and helpful to me, and also spoke great English, which was nice after a long day of travel and I guess what you could technically consider lost (but I didn’t feel lost). The man at the front desk gave me a map and marked some recommendations for food and also helped orient me to where the bus station was, which allowed me to visibly see what path I took, which was comforting because it was actually rather simple. As well, he also pointed out where everything was in the hostel.

My dorm room was super cool. All the beds were aligned on the wall opposite to the door and were situated in a way, which made each bed its individual cubby. As well everyone had his or her own locker, which was nice. I just really enjoyed how I could have my own little space with whatever I wanted right next to me, and didn’t have to feel like I was bothering others.

After I situated my stuff and took some deep breaths, I followed the front deskman’s advice for dinner. As I walked out of the hostel (to the outside) I took a left and basically followed it to where I found my restaurant for dinner. Along this road there are plenty of options for dinner I just sort of kept walking until I built enough courage to finally enter one of the restaurants.

I eventually found myself in a place called Village Tavern and was able to sit in a little covered, seated area outside, which had a heat lamp near by. This was nice because I was in a place where I could also people watch as I enjoyed my meal. I decided to try a soup (I think it was mushroom) to start, followed by a risotto as my main. The food was really great and the menu was in English, which was nice because sometimes after a long day of travel having something that is arguably convenient is really nice. After my meal I decided I would walk around a bit and explore. As I walked back the way I came I decided to explore other little streets that seemed interesting because I figured if I realize there is nothing interesting that way it is easy enough to just turn around and go back the way you could say I now know.

I got to see the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and take a quick peak inside. What an impressive cathedral! This thing is huge and the closer you get the more and more intricate detail you continue to notice. The archway over the main door you enter is absolutely breathtaking, there are so many tiny little carving, and it truly is absolutely incredible! I then continued left if you are looking at the road from the church which conveniently brought me into the actual main square area.

To try to give you a better idea of where I was in relation to where my hostel was, basically this main square is surrounded by buildings, my hostel is on an upper floor on one of the sides of the square, to get to dinner I went left through the underpass and followed the road, the square is on the opposite side. So basically from my hostel you can have a view of either the area I was for dinner on one side, and the other view is the main square.

I took a lap around the main square, enjoying everything it had to offer and eventually made my way back inside because now, it was safe to say I was pretty tired.

The next day I had planned to take a morning bus trip to Graz, Austria, which departed from the same main bus station I had arrived at and was already familiar with. So it kind of worked out that I was forced to figure it out the day before because I knew exactly where I was going this time.

I made sure I got there early enough so I could find my terminal and also have enough time to get a pastry and cappuccino. Everyone at the station was extremely helpful because instead of guessing where I needed to go, I straight up just walked to a ticket counter and asked which terminal my bus would leave from. I was not going to push my luck with this one.

I’ll write more about my time in Austria in another post but now I’ll bring you back to my final evening in Zagreb. I got home, once again, around dinner time and chose to walk around a bit before calling it a day, as it was a pretty tiring, long day of walking. I walked around the same streets as I did the night before taking in any little details I had missed the first time, truly. For dinner I just went to a simple walk up place that sold pizza basically right across from the cathedral right on the corner to the road that brought me back to my hostel.

The next morning I had planned a decently early morning bus ride to Ljubljana, Slovenia before I left for Poland. Although this had me up around 5:30 in the morning to catch a 7am bus ride I am so thankful I did it. Who would have thought walking around a town between 6 and 7 in the morning would seal the deal and literally cause me to fall in love with it.

Let me bring you into my world for a second.

There is something special about this time of day because only a few people’s days have started. The sky was still dark so all the lights set up for winter happened to still be illuminated. In fact, the park that I follow to get to the bus station had all of its trees and pathways covered in white lights which at this time of day with so few people out felt like a fairy tale. This feeling was very similar to my magical Eiffel tour feeling because indeed, the lights surrounding the pathway I was taking were glittering. I actually could have seriously cried in this moment, everything was so perfect.

After coming back form Ljubljana I stayed at the bus station and caught the next bus back to the airport, which was extremely easy to find because there terminal to get to the airport is in its own little area.

So that was my time untraditional time spent in Zagreb! Yes it was a little on the unconventional side but I tried my best to make it work and make the most of it and I am more than satisfied with my takeaway from the experience. My heart will always remember the magic of this beautiful little city.

Have a great day!

xxHannah