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 Summer 2016 – Part 6: Berlin and Dresden

I arrived in Berlin 10:22am, Monday the 8th of August. I was tired after getting two night trains from Amsterdam after the European Juggling Convention (EJC) with an interrail ticket – and as soon as I stepped off the train in Berlin Hauptbahnhopf I realised I’d left my hat on the train!

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It’s a hat that belonged to my dad, of the cowboy style, which he gave to me after I pointed out how many of these he had. It made for a great sun-hat. I was only a few stops away from the hat’s final destination, Berlin Ostbahnhopf, so I followed it and found their lost and found. I explained as best I could in German that I’d left my hat on the train, filled out their lost and found form (knowing exactly what train, what time, which carriage, which SEAT even it was located above) hoping I would somehow be reunited with it.
SPOILERS: I was not reunited with it.

I returned to Berlin Hauptbahnhopf, and had breakfast there

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I also  made some reservations to begin the journey to Zagreb, Croatia, the following night. I originally thought I’d see some friends in Berlin but of course most of them were still travelling after the EJC!

So I wandered around Alexanderplatz, got talking to an Italian person who had just arrived in Berlin looking for work. They pointed me in the direction of some Wi-Fi and we parted ways, and I went in search of a hostel for the night.

I found The Circus Hostel – which is fine but I wouldn’t recommend if you’re looking for anything circussy other than the name.

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Though they did have a David Hasselhof shrine!

While the day should’ve been a day of juggling – it was just a day of laundry, buying yet another towel (the second of this trip so far – spoilers, this one also gets left behind), nice pasta – though I did eventually meet a friend for a drink.

We went to a hipster-esque bar nearby, Haus am See – like the Peter Fox song!

After which I went and slept in a bed for the first time in two weeks.

Got up the next day and packed, had disgusting scrambled eggs from a place called Godot, on my way the tram.

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Also it turned out I was in Berlin at the wrong time!

Got on the M12 (Berliner Allee/Weißenesee-Am Kupfergraben) to Friederichstraße. The ticket machine on the tram only took exact change, and I thought I’d be alright until  got to Friederichstraße but at the very first stop six ticket checkers got on! Tried to explain the ticket problem and one of the ticket checkers hurriedly tried to give me change for a €1 coin and ended up giving me 90c, and my €1 coin back.

Got the S-Bahn from Friederichstraße to the Hauptbahnhopf, and went to go buy a train ticket for Berlin to Dresden. I made a mistake in doing so. My interrail ticket allowed me five days of travel out of 15 days, which I had already planned out. Thinking Berlin to Dresden wouldn’t be so expensive I decided to buy this ticket. What I should have done was used a journey for this ticket and bought one of the later tickets, for example, Zagreb to Beograd. The train extremely buys though.

Arrived in Dresden at 3pm, and just wandered the city for a while.

I went to visit what was advertised as the Japanese Palace – but was not actually converted into an exhibition of dinosaurs. The people working there seemed as confused as I was.

The courtyard was the only part that would suggest what had been before.

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I took my time wandering back i the direction of the station.

There was a science exhibition going amongst the beautiful buildings.

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After buying food for the journey, doing some juggling on the platform I boarded my second night train for Wien. I didn’t have my passport taken as expected but instead had my interrail ticket taken. I was then shown to a six bed compartment I was sharing with two Danish people. They were very friendly and we chatted for a bit before going to sleep.

Travelling Summer 2016 – Part 5: Night trains to Berlin and the start of interrailing.

The morning of Sunday, the 7th of August, was a sad affair. The nine days of the European Juggling Convention (EJC) were over for another year. Camp Ireland, including some of us who’d been here two weeks, many at least twelve days, had to pack up our tents and head on. Most people weren’t leaving until at least the next day, one person was staying on for the take down, and many of us were to continue travelling before going back the way we’d come.

I woke up a lot between 6am and 10am and finally made the decision to get up and start packing. There were decisions to be made about what to keep, what to leave, who should take what home now, who could use that half bottle of shampoo best and who would make the most use of leftover food.

The ticket machine in Almere Poort only takes coins or card – no notes. When I arrived at it I was, of course, met by a huge throng of people. Eventually it transpired that  the ticket machine was no longer accepting coins – then no longer accepting cards. With some people in a rush to get to the airport and main train stations, people began climbing the gates – after taking pictures of the machine’s angry, uncooperative screen.

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I made it to Amsterdam Centraal early thinking I’d soon be on a train to Berlin. I was told I would have to wait until 8.28pm, take a train to Karlsruhe (south west of Germany) wait an hour and then go to Berlin. So I ended up sat in the station a long time. After bidding godbye to everyone back in camp Ireland I was t spend another few hours with me companion and a friend of ours who had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport.

After they left I went and sat at my own platform, 10b, and immediately had someone ask me “Did you enjoy the EJC?”. So there I sat an hour with a German juggler, who’d apparently spotted me simply because I looked a bit odd (I didn’t have any juggling equipment tied to my bag).

The journey to Berlin was long. It was my first time interrailing and for this journey I hadn’t thought to book anything beyond a seat. As well I did because it turned out to be quite busy and there was plenty of people sat on the ground for hours. I slept on and off, made an exciting journey through many carriages to buy water (somewhat Snowpiercer-esque).

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My alarm woke me at 3:30am. I gathered my stuff and got off in Karlsruhe just after 4am.

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I would’ve been more excited to be somewhere that had held the second largest EJC were I not wrecked and confused as to why I’d had to come this far south and not simply gone as far as Duisberg or Dusseldorf.

Got on the 5am ICE 1092. Was sat in a six person carriage that appeared to have only one other reservation – so slept on and off .

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I arrived in Berlin at 10.22am, Monday the 8th of August.

 

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 9; Berlin, Germany (and Dublin, Ireland)

Friday the 14th

Before getting to Berlin I had to survive the 12-hour train journey from Budapest, Hungary. Like most long journeys, the first half was fine. The next quarter was okay. The last three hours were excruciating. I reckon I managed it only thanks to a very interesting individual who entertained me with stories of their life for about two hours. They had gotten on about half way through my now journey. They were from China, studied in Ireland, married a German person (who still lived in Germany), but worked in Czech Republic.

I arrived into Berlin at almost 11pm (after having been delayed for some reason) and I’d never been so happy to find myself in Berlin Hauptbahnhopf. I quickly made my way to the Hackendahl bar where my friend Aaron, who I was to stay with, was. They were finished serving food but let me order something anyway when they heard I’d been travelling all day!

My time in Berlin was very relaxed. I’d been there quite a few times before so I didn’t feel the need to do anything touristy or see anything. I spent a lot of time meeting up with people, juggling, and going to English comedy clubs (of which there are many in Berlin).

Saturday the 15th
The bank card dilemma:
I’d had a problem with my bank card in Budapest, Hungary, which AIB had been unable to resolve for me. I got no further with this issue in Berlin. I explained the situation [anew each time I rang AIB] and the eventually told me they could send me “emergency cash” which meant my own money from my account and sending it by Western Union. GREAT!
Except it would take them 48 hours to do that. So I essentially gave up and had to contact a family member and asked them to send money via Western Union (which took about an hour in real time).

Sunday the 16th
I contacted some of the jugglers I knew in Berlin, some of which I’d only met at the European Juggling Convention a week before. One of them suggested Victoria Park to me, which was conveniently near the Katakomben, a popular juggler-training space. I headed over, did a bit of juggling, then went onto the Katakomben where I met two Irish jugglers. I knew one of them, who was also visiting Berlin and staying with the other. The juggler I didn’t know invited me to their house for dinner!

Monday 17th
I met another friend, Fabian, in Ostkreuz. Another juggler, who had been doing his EVS at my youth circus club earlier that year! We then met up with Tom, who was currently doing his EVS in Shake, Cabuwazi, another youth circus. We wandered around and eventually ended up by the water in Treptower Park.

 

We then went to find the bar where Tom was doing some stand-up comedy that night! We were early so we went to another bar beforehand, where I ordered my first bier (it had to be Berliner Kindl). It turned out that another juggler we knew also did English stand-up in Berlin. The bar the stand-up night was meant to happen in turned out to be delayed opening, so most of the comedy night took place outside! It was a nice night out so everyone still stayed to watch.

There’s a lot of jugglers in Berlin, in case that wasn’t already apparent. So it shouldn’t be surprising when I say there was some juggling happening in the house when I returned that evening (the house of four people had three jugglers, previously four).

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Tuesday, the 18th
I went with Aaron and another one of the people in the house to a new juggling hall nearby.

Wednesday the 19th.
Aaron and I went to check out a Magic out a new Magic Museum in Berlin. We were both super excited, but it turned out to be more about mysticism and spirituality than magic. So we were a bit disappointed. But there was a magician at the end which made up for much of it. We then went to a disappointing hummus bar.

We passed by Tacheles, an art squat that had closed since I’d last visited, which made me pretty sad.

Thursday the 20th
I packed up my stuff and travelled from Aaron&co’s house to Tom’s house. All the other EVS people had left so he was living on his own now. I managed to take the longest route possible to his house by deciding to go all by tram, and  ended up waiting almost an hour on a very particular tram, when I could’ve made the journey much shorter by just taking the S-Bahn.

The last three days of my time in Berlin were juggling and seeing English stand-up comedy. On my final night I decided to go out with Aaron and Tom. We started at 8pm and continued until 5am when I had to return to Tom’s to collect my stuff and go to the airport. I had a very exciting time in the airport while I wasn’t fully sober and forgot to move my two pen-knives from my back-pack to my check-in luggage. I flew from first from Berlin to Düsseldorf.

I had a few hours to spend in Düsseldorf before returning to Dublin, Ireland. I spotted  Tesla car and picked up some biscuits for the people I was spending the night with in Dublin.

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I was sad to travel back and as we got closer to Ireland the clouds got steadily greyer.

Naturally it was raining in Dublin. And it took an hour and forty minutes for a bus, simply going from the airport to the city centre, to appear. However after a shower and a few hours to adjust to everyone speaking English again I travelled down the next day to Galway quite pleased.

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.

Travelling: 28th of July-24th of August – Part 1; the beginning

For most of August I did a relatively short circuit of Europe. All my plans revolved around being at the European Juggling Convention (EJC) in Bruneck during the 1st to 8th of August (the ticket of which I acquired through a trade, sending a letter and parcel full of mystery Irish/camping/hiking goodies to a friend in New Zealand).

My original plan had been to fly to Munich, Germany, travel to Bruneck, Italy; Budapest, Hungary; Prague, Czech Republic; Berlin, Germany; Enschede, Netherlands, and fly back from Brussels, Belgium. What actually happened was I flew to Munich, travelled to Bruneck, then Austria briefly, Hungary, and flew back from Berlin. These entries will be separated roughly by place.

Before departing I had a lot of things to get. I knew I was going to be camping quite a bit so I took the time to do some research and invest in my first tent and back-pack, and a sleeping bag. I bought a cheap light-weight two person tent – and it was still a pretty tight squeeze for me (5’2″) and my backpack. I got a cheap, plain sleeping-bag, and a cotton liner in case it was cold (which could also be slept in on its own when it was hot). I got a bag similar to this one, and attached my tent and ground-mat to the outside.

I also had a water-proof bag with all my important stuff (plus spare socks and undies) at the bottom of the bag (for easy access and also if the bag got left on wet ground). I also brought a personalised first-aid kit; a regular first aid kit plus vitamins, sun-cream and after sun, painkillers (strong, weak, ones you can take with alcohol and won’t kill you), pads, tampons, condoms, bug-repellent, after-bite care and sweets. After that it was clothes (shorts, convention t-shirts, rain coat, flip-flops, old runners, a hat), a micro-fibre towel, shampoo and conditioner, a book, a travel diary, a plush ray (Gunther, my travel buddy) a vague travel plan, juggling equipment and my wallet.

On the 28th of July I travelled to Dublin, met up with a friend in the city before heading to the airport at 9pm. I had €300 in the bank, €55 on me, expected another €300 payment to come in while I travelled, one train ticket from Austria to Hungary booked, and one ticket to the EJC and a one-way flight to Munich. I “camped” overnight in the airport in preparation for waking up at 5am to fly out.