Travelling Summer 2016 – Part 7: Travelling to Zagreb, Croatia

To get to Zagreb from Dresden involved many train trips. I boarded a train to Wien, Austria about 9pm, Tuesday August 9th, and arrived there about 7am the next day.

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I’d had my interrail ticket taken upon boarding and had it returned to me, along with a chocolate croissant and a coffee (I’d been asked upon boarding did I like orange juice or coffee).

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My temporary travelling companions, two Danish people I’d shared the compartment with, parted ways. I checked I was on the right platform, made the most of the station Wi-Fi, and then boarded a train to Celje, Slovenia.

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My new temporary travelling companions were a couple from Belfast, who were travelling to Slovenia. Went between chatting with them, napping, playing a card game and wandering around the car. Later two older Austrian people joined us and gave out about our luggage arrangements.

Arrived in Celje a bit late.

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But made the next train; on to Đurmanec! Got checked by border control twice on this tiny two-carriage train, one of whom seemed somewhat suspicious of a lone Irish person travelling on small local trains to Zagreb.

Arrived in Đurmanec – and hit the language barrier hard. There was a lot of miming and pointing involved in telling me my next train would be here soon for Zabok.

Another small local train. I was the only one on it for the first few stops, travelling through the Croatian countryside. Then arrived in Zabok and straight onto the last train of the day for Zagreb. I was joined by a German person for this journey who happily entertained me and my poor German.

Arrived in Zagreb around 5pm! Here I was staying with a penpal I had met five years previously. We’d been in and out of contact through letters, Facebook and LinkedIn. They were in work when I arrived so I took some time to catch up via Wi-Fi. I also tried to use the bathroom in the station but sadly got shouted at for not knowing the currency correctly.

Got through to my pen-pal and got to their house after a few stops on the tram. We were both pretty tired so went to bed early after catching up.

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The next day, Thursday 11th of August, started with getting slightly lost and ending up at Jordanovac. Eventually found the number 9 tram and went a few stops and found my way again.

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Found the Dolac market and Zagreb cathedral.

Then casually followed a tour group from the cathedral to the Naive Art Gallery.

Then found the Botanical gardens which was the highlight of Zagreb for me.

Sat in front of the gallery in the green space and looked up a vegetarian place to eat.

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The internet recommended Zrno, which did good falafel and great pudding.

Friday was my last day in Zagreb. My penpal was also packed that morning to go on holidays in Budapest. I wasn’t feeling very adventurous that day so I stayed in my penpal’s apartment and tried to eat some of the food I’d been told to bring (as it would only go off while they were away), read Sandman and packed.

At 6pm I got the tram back to the train station and sat out in the green ’til it got buggy. I went inside the train station and soon had some stranger talking to me, trying to convince me to go on holidays with them and trying to buy me a drink.

I bought some books from the book stall in the station and sat down for a while to read, and got talking to someone from Poland. They were amused to hear that the biggest juggling convention in the world would be in Poland the following year.

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We boarded the train to Beograd, Serbia, late at night. My temporary companions in sleep were a German family of four.

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Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 8; Budapest, Hungary

10th of August. Monday.

I got the train from Innsbruck, Austria at 5am to Budapest, Hungary. The sunrise was beautiful.

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I thought I’d have to change but it turned out it was in fact a direct train. I had however misunderstood the instructions in Innsbruck and sat in the wrong section of the train, so I almost didn’t get to Budapest, and also nearly lost the train entirely when I jumped off at a random station to get into the right section. My minimal German had failed me.

As the train pulled out of Vienna it got very crowded and I ended up sat in the aisle. But I made friends with an Italian person I was sat next to. We played cards and I taught them the numbers one to ten in Irish (bhí mo phaicéad chártaí trí Gaeilge, buíochas le Foras na Gaeilge).  We parted ways at the station as they went to meet their friends, after helping me find my tram to Haller Utca, where I was planning to camp.

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It was 2,700 forint per night (or about €25 for three nights – with the fourth night free). They also had free Wifi and the showers were free. The camp managers had quite a laugh when I said I’d had to pay to shower in the camp-site in Munich, Germany. But Budapest is very cheap, especially in comparison to Munich.

The weather was even hotter than in Bruneck, Italy. So no need for the second layer on your tent most of the time. I did realise here that one of my tent poles had nearly shattered. It looked like it was weakened some how. It was sorted with some duct tape.

I’d visited Budapest once before for a fire-performance training course and had stayed in the hotel near the camp-site, so I knew the area quite well.

Unfortunately I realised I was running out of money and decided there to go straight to Berlin, and fly back to Ireland from there. I originally planned to stop in Prague on the way, and go to Belgium or the Netherlands from Berlin. I booked the flight on my phone for the 22nd from Tegel (cheapest flight). I took a short wander around that evening.

On the Tuesday I wandered over to the train station to buy my train ticket to Berlin. When I had looked them up online the cheapest has been about €80 but the site was difficult to understand so I decided I’d go straight to the train station to investigate.

I waited a long time (just shy of three hours) to buy a ticket. But while I waited I was given some bags of cold water, which was pretty fantastic.

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I had a problem with my card while trying to purchase a train ticket (which ended up being being €39) which meant my card was locked, making it unusable. I used up most of my phone credit trying to contact AIB and eventually went to the Irish Embassy so I could basically use their phone.

Long winded description of what happened with my card:
I ended up ringing AIB multiple times and was told twice my card had been unlocked. The third time I was told I could finish unlocking it by using the Pin Services on any ATM. However foreign cards can’t do this on local ATMs. I got some money out at a desk somehow. I decided to wait ’til I got to Berlin where I thought I’d have better luck dealing with their banks. This will be continued in the next post but long story short I had to very embarrassedly contact a family member and ask them to send me money via Western Union.

With hardly any money on me, I spent my last three days in Budapest wandering around looking at some of the art and enjoying the dusty heat.

I spent a lot of time reading and napping in the shade of a tree in the camp-site and woke up to some wildlife a few times.

I took one last wander around on my last full day, and promised I’d visit again and be more organised with my money.

I spent my last 350 forint (about €1.15) on lángos, a traditional Hungarian food, which is basically deep-fried flat bread, which you cover with cour-cream and cheese. A stall near the camp-site does it and it was something I was really looking forward to having all week!

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Finally, on Friday the 14th I packed up my tent for the last time. My cheap two person tent had done its job for the trip. I headed on over to the train station and hopped on my train at 10am, prepared for my 12-hour journey to Berlin.

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Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 7; Innsbruck, Austria – The Return

9th of August

After packing up and leaving the European Juggling Convention and Bruneck, Italy, I found myself with two new travelling companions. An Irish juggler who currently lived in Zurich, and a juggler from England. We all happened to be travelling to Innsbruck, Austria. I’d had trouble getting the lower-priced train ticket but the Irish-Zurich juggler spoke pretty good German and managed to swing it somehow – and away we went.

Despite our best efforts we collectively sleep-walked our way through the journey, including the transfers which are all a blur. It turned out that Irish-Zurich juggler was staying in an Air B&B and we arranged so that myself and the English juggler could also stay the night (though I was actually leaving at 4am to get the train). The owner of the house was a pharmacist, whose house was one of the few remaining old houses in the city. It was very 20th century European and very beautiful.

With our luggage left behind we wandered around Innsbruck, which I hadn’t seen much of when I passed through it on the way to Bruneck, Italy.

We also found what might very well be the world’s saddest building.

We then found a gastro-pub, Stiftskeller, where we ordered food. The only place we could sit was at the table of a person who turned out to be a German music composer. We were enthralled to hear they made music for films, and then they were shocked to hear we’d all been at a nine-day juggling convention.

It began to rain very heavily to we retreated inside, and our new German companion bought us each a drink. We then had to head on to meet our host, in a bar called Orangerie.

We then returned to the house where I essentially took a long nap. Though it was my first time in a bed in two weeks, in a beautiful house, so it was a pretty great nap.

 

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 6; EJC continued

Day 6) Thursday: The heat became pretty unbearable today, so there was little us Irish folk could do other than melt and nap fitfully. My new companion and deigned to wander into the forest where it might be cooler, where we found a gazebo that was perfectly fit to nap in. Then dropped by The Games! The Games are another integral part of a juggling convention. Usually taking place on the last day of a usual three day convention, they took place on Friday for the benefit of people travelling home over the weekend.

Common games are three-ball Simon Says (juggling three balls while either performing basic tasks like standing on one leg, or by completing tricks), combat (trying to break people’s juggling patterns while juggling three clubs), club balance (balancing a club on your face – forehead, nose or chin) and endurance (and game that involves doing something the longest eg balancing a contact ball on your head, holding a handstand, juggling and number of balls or clubs, often up to seven balls or five clubs).

That evening there was Irish dinner! Where camp New-New-Ireland all got dinner together, rather than people eating loads of potatoes.

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The official Fire-show took place that evening, but it was very hard to get a spot, so I ended up buying delicious ice-cream and chatting with one of the Irish-Berlin jugglers who had also failed to procure a spot. I didn’t attend much of the renegade though a technician asked me would the Irish be taking over again, and they seemed disappointed I said no, before briefly heading to the bar and then bed.

Day 7) Friday: Many of the Irish jugglers retreated to the gazebo my companion and I had found, to escape the heat. We came well-prepared with food, booze, books and cards.

That evening we took over the Renegade Tent again. It was all going very well, we’d been granted an extra hour as well as it was going so well – until a sudden rain storm hit and flooded the tent at 1:40am. As I stood up I realised at a most inopportune moment I was too inebriated for my own good, stumbled towards a gym to hide from the rain for a while before returning to my tent.

Day 8) Saturday: We all got up about midday and returned to the gazebo with boardgames and cards. We made friends with some people from France who played Star Realms (a great deck-building game).  After which we went to a Chinese restaurant; the menu was in German and the chopsticks had French instructions on them.

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That evening was the Gala show – the biggest show of every juggling convention, so you can imagine what the biggest show of the biggest convention is like. It was pretty spectacular with multi-prop juggling, swinging trapeze, a uncicyle duo, a ladder act, foot juggling, four-diabolo juggling…

After which my companion and I took a wander around the town. I had to check the train times for my departure the next day. My companion was staying another night before returning to Munich, Germany, to fly out. We then found a “Beach Party” which appeared to be some sort of outdoor-beach-themed-rave-nightclub. Not what we expected to find in the town of Bruneck, but we fanangled our way in with some minimal German, where my companion threw some juggler shapes.

It wasn’t terribly enthralling so we returned and slept before..

Day 9) Sunday, he last day. The saddest day of every convention when every has to pack up and leave. Some people were a lot worse for wear than others.

Plenty of people weren’t flying home that day but still had to get off site for take-down. I was told I’d be missed by Dublin jugglers “You’ll be all the way in Galway” and one of them gifted me a knife with a handle in the shape of a banana. After packing up all my gear, getting some pizza for breakfast, helping my companion pack their tent I commenced some “Bye for now”s, and headed for the train back to Innsbruck, Austria.

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 3; Train to Bruneck

My journey continued in the train station at Innsbruck. Despite my misfortune hitching the people in the station were very nice and helpful and got me cheap train ticket to Bruneck!

After going onto the platform I immediately spotted a juggler I suspected was going to the European Juggling Convention (EJC), too.
Gehen Sie nach der EJC?
“…I’m sorry I don’t speak German.”
It turned out they were from England. We travelled together over the next three trains. Despite having to change twice, Innsbruck to Bruneck is easily the nicest train journey I’ve ever taken. Everything looks like a postcard.

My new travelling companion had cleverly packed some cards we played a few games between our first two trains.

On our second train we started to see more jugglers – people playing boardgames, juggling, clubs attached to bags, unicycles, rings tied to bags… And at our second change we found a neverthriving of jugglers including the Irish-Berlin jugglers! One of which I was midway through conversation with before we realised we actually knew each other quite well (it’s a small juggley world). So that’s how the last leg of the journey to Bruneck began.

 

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 2; Munich and hitching to Innsbruck

I flew into Munich, Germany, on the 29th of July, arriving at 11am local time (GMT+1). The weather was beautiful, and the country views on the train from the airport into the centre are lovely.

I Googled camp-sites in Munich while on the train and found Campingplatz München Thalkirchen (Thalkirchen Campsite Munich). It was within walking distance of my train stop so after getting off I tried my hand at my minimal German asking people “Wo ist der Campingplatz?”. I found it eventually, booked in for two nights (€25: showers cost extra, no WiFi), then found a wee supermarkt, and then took a nap. And that was the theme of my three days in Munich.

I had NOTHING I needed to do or felt obligated to do while there and it was glorious. I decided to stay off caffeine for the duration of my trip so Munich involved a lot of naps. I left one day to take a wander around the town.

On the 31st I got up at 8am, packed up my tent and got ready to leave Munich. I thought I lost my red-square marking my tent and almost got fined €25. Cue un-packing and re-packing montage. As I left I asked for directions to the main road to hitch hike to Italy. The cashier seemed very sceptical of my desire to hitch hike. I had the idea in my head from the EJC the year before in Ireland when all attendees from mainland Europe asked for card on the last day to hitch.

I got directions anyway – which turned out to be rather optimistic in their assessment of how far a walk it was. But it was nice out so I couldn’t complain too much.

After taking a few wrong turns (And realising I could’ve come a MUCH faster way…) I found a petrol station on the main road and stood there for a while. People were friendly as they drove by, even waving, and one person passing said I was very lucky to be travelling to Italy and to have a lovely time. After about a half hour a delivery person driving to Innsbruck, Austria, who didn’t have much English offered me a lift.

The driver and I chatted fairly minimally – through their broken English and my terrible German. But we managed to discuss out jobs and I talked about the EJC and working as a stilt-walker (including pointing out I had once worked for the company that made the van’s refrigerator unit, Thermoking).

The journey should’ve taken just short of two hours but took closer to three because of traffic. Later in the journey the driver started to get a somewhat too familiar, patting my knee an awful lot. My first time hitch hiking alone I would’ve been a lot more concerned, but fortunately there’s only so much a delivery driver can do while driving on the autobahn. I also had a friend in Berlin up to date on my travels to the EJC.

Upon arriving in Innsbruck I was pretty happy to jump out of the van. I immediately went to the nearest petrol station planning on asking about the best place to continue hitch hiking on to Italy. I was met by three very unhelpful workers who eventually passed me off to their manager who impatiently told me I should go back the way I came and stand there.

I stood for about an hour as people drove by and gave me very sceptical looks, some even going as far as giving me rude hand gestures. I became concerned that hitch hiking might be illegal here, and sat to try and look it up on my phone. Suddenly a jeep pulled up and beeped. I was sat down with my sign on the ground beside me so I ignored them. They beeped again so over I wandered. Upon opening the door I was asked
“Where are you going?”
What?
“Where are you going?”
Where are you going?
“It doesn’t matter, just tell me where you’re going.”
I’m not telling you where I’m going until you tell me where you’re going!
“*sigh* I’m just driving out of Innsbruck. I do this myself, I don’t mind giving you a lift.”
I’m going to Italy.
“OH! Well then you should let me give you a lift to the station because you won’t get picked up here.”
Is hitch hiking illegal here?
“No, but people don’t really like outsiders. You can stay here if you want, but you could be four, five hours waiting. I’m not going near Italy but I can give you a lift to the station.”

So I accepted the lift to the station – during which I got a telling off; “Hitch hiking? In a foreign country? Are you mad? On your own! A young woman! I’m dropping you right off at the train station, you’re gonna get a train ticket, go straight to Italy, no more hitch hiking… And go straight inside, don’t hang around outside, there’s a lot of strange people that hang around there…”

I would’ve been more upset but it turned out that – after knowing the train from Munich to Bruneck was €60 – the train from Innsbruck to Bruneck was only €18. So the journey continued.