16 Days Interrailing: Zagreb and Ljubljana

We left Budapest in the around 3pm in the afternoon on a quick 6 hour direct train to Zagreb, Croatia…or so we thought. After settling into our seats, we started talking to our neighbors, two British guys, Richard and Harry, who were also spending their summer Interrailing. Shortly into the journey, a conductor came around to check our tickets. He didn’t speak any english, but was passing around a sheet of paper with the same message written on it in 4 languages–part of the train tracks up ahead were closed due to work on the tracks, so we would have to get off at one station and switch to a bus for a portion of the journey before getting on another train. Everyone on the train was in the same boat, so we followed everyone when it was time to switch to a bus and enjoyed a scenic route through the Hungarian countryside. We had no idea how long we were supposed to be on the bus for and we almost got off at the wrong station, but after 2.5 hours finally arrived at the correct station–right in the middle of a torrential downpour. Huddling with the rest of travelers under cover at a teeny tiny station in the middle of nowhere in Hungary, we waited for our next train. But, the rain had flooded the tracks so it was a good hour before a train could get there.

Once we boarded and found a seat on the new train, we were hungry, tired, and finally on our way to Zagreb. We arrived Zagreb around 11pm, 3 hours later than expected. Luckily one of the other passengers in our train car was Croatian and very kindly showed us where we could find food and an ATM. Our hostel staff was also wonderful–they stayed open late so that we were able to check in when we arrived around 11:30pm. Needless to say, we had a very eventful start to our 36 hours in Croatia.

The next day, we got up early and caught a bus to take us to Plitvice Lake National Park. Plitvice is the largest national park in Croatia and is only a 2 hour drive from Zagreb. We had a blast exploring the park and seeing the gorgeous lakes and waterfalls. Exploring the national park was a change of pace from the other stops on our trip. Words and pictures do not do the beauty of Plitvice justice. But, here are a few images to give you an idea of how amazing it is.

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After getting back from our day in the national park, we briefly visited Accordion Fest in downtown and enjoyed some traditional Croatian food for dinner.

The next day, we were leaving around noon to catch our next train to take us to Ljubljana, Slovenia. We got to the train station early and were waiting on the platform for our train to come. It showed up earlier than we expected but we got on and were putting our bags up when the train started moving and we realized that the train was not early, we were on the wrong train. Whoops. We got off that train at the next stop, just a few miles down the road. There were two couples who were also rushing to catch the same train and, luckily, we all were able to get taxis and make it to the original train station just in time for our train.

Our woes of the day did not end there. After arriving in Ljubljana and finding our hostel, we discovered that it was full of mold and spiders. So, we didn’t stay long and moved to a new hostel down the street that fortunately had available beds.

Once we got settled, we set off to make the most of our few hours in the city. We took the funicular to visit the castle, found delicious ice cream, and wandered around the city streets. While exploring the city, we ran into both of the couples we grabbed the taxis with that morning in Zagreb–what a small world! Our evening ended by listening to wonderful music outside a wine bar. It was the perfect way to end our not so perfect day :).

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16 Days Interrailing: Bratislava & Budapest

After arriving in Bratislava and finding our hostel, we set off to explore the city and to make the most of our 24 hours there. We started off right with a delicious traditional Slovakian meal before heading out to take a free walking tour of the city…that we ended up missing by a few minutes. We ended up walking around ourselves to see the old town part of the city and took a little train tour up to the Bratislava castle, where we were greeted with fantastic views.

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Afterwards we wandered around trying to get to the cathedral in the center of town, only to find that it was closing for the day. So, we decided to head back to our hostel to drop off some bags and figure out what we wanted to do that evening. Our wanderings took us right by the Grand Cru Wine Club. We were debating going inside when a Scotsman who was sitting outside started talking to us, convincing us that it was worth the stop. We were definitely not disappointed. The shop only serves local wines and owner, Martin, gave us great recommendation.

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Next, we went back to the hostel to drop off our things and befriended a Brazilian guy who was staying the room next to us. After a delicious pizza dinner, we headed back to Martin’s for another glass of wine, before calling it a night. The following morning, we grabbed breakfast and wandered around a bit more before it was time to catch our next train, destination Budapest.

Budapest was the city that we had the most time in, giving us time to rest and relax partway through our world wind trip. And rest and relax we did. The first afternoon there, we got a map and headed to the river…and ended up sitting and talking outside the Parlement building for 1.5 hours. Unknowingly to us, they take the flag outside the Parlement down everyday at 6:30pm, which was an interesting event to watch.

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The next day, we thought that we should see a bit more of the city than what’s right by the riverside, so we visited the castle on the island, the Vajdahunyad Castle, that looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale. Next up was a free walking tour of the city which helped us learn more about the history of Budapest and how the cities Buda and Pest merged to create the city we know today. A delicious ice cream, dinner, a spilled beer, and a taste of pálinka later, we called our day a success and turned in for the night.

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Our last full day in the city started with a trip to Starbucks and another walking tour, this time one of the Jewish quarter.  A trip to Budapest cannot be complete without visiting the traditional Turkish baths, so we spent an afternoon in the city relaxing in the one of the largest bath houses in the city. We finished off our full day with an evening river cruise along the Danube River, which gave us an new perspective of the city.

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With a few hours to kill in the morning before our “direct” train to Zagreb, we grabbed coffee at The Little Melbourne coffee shop. Our hostel recommended this coffee shop and I have to say, the recommendation was spot on. It was the best coffee I’ve ever had. Coffee was followed by a visit to the Roman Catholic church and another amazing view of the city from the church towers. After stopping for a quick bit to eat, it was time to say goodbye to Budapest and the European Union and make our way to Croatia.

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16 Days Interrailing: Itinerary

Before heading back to the states at the end of this month, I am setting off on my last, and most ambitious, European adventure so far this weekend. It’s an Interrail trip, covering 8 countries in 16 days. I have two friends from the states who are making the journey across the Atlantic to travel with me. Our post-graduation Europe trip looks like this:

  • Days 1 & 2: Paris, France
  • Day 3: Zurich, Switzerland
  • Days 4 & 5: Vienna, Austria
  • Day 6: Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Days 7-9: Budapest, Hungary
  • Days 10 & 11: Zagreb, Croatia
  • Day 12: Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Day 13 & 14: Venice, Italy
  • Day 15: Milan, Italy
  • Day 16: Travel day –> Milan, Italy back to Reims, France

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I am so excited for this trip and cannot wait for all of the adventures that happen along the way!