I have made it as a traveller. I finally have a scary border crossing story! Entering into Croatia from Slovenia was the first time in my trip so far that I left the Schengen Area, and therefore the first time since leaving London that I was required to have my passport checked. The customs officer on the train seemed suspicious and unwilling to believe my passport was my own. Admittedly, it is 8 years old — still valid, but I looked very different 8 years ago! ‘You are tourist?’ he inquired sceptically. I assured him I was.
I wasn’t worried — after all, it is my passport and I’m travelling legally. Sure enough, the officer left without another word, allowing me to continue enjoying my otherwise empty train cabin. That is until a bald burly man with ‘Policija’ on his uniform appeared and insisted he inspect my documents. Envisaging myself hauled off by foreign authorities, I gave him everything I had on me — my passport, debit card, and provisional driver’s license. He then proceeded to vacate the cabin with them, leaving my heart to thump into the silence. Now I was worried — what if I didn’t get them back? What if I wasn’t allowed into the country? I needn’t have panicked. When he returned, he handed me back my stuff with a smile and a ‘bon voyage’. Crisis averted.
So, I’m writing this not from a Croatian police station but from a rather pleasant hostel on the outskirts of the capital, Zagreb. My major annoyance now is that Baltic keyboards have the Y and Z keys switched. Oh, how priorites change.
Zagreb is a fine city, another place I knew little about and wasn’t even sure about visiting. The trams are modern and efficient, and I have successfully navigated my way to all the major sights, including the Old Town gate and Strossmayer’s promenade overlooking the city. The street layout of Zagreb is unusual at first glance, until you understand the history and geography of the area. The Upper Town (Gornji grad) sits in the hills and features snaking roads that follow the curvature of the landscape. This is the medieval part of the city, and was once two separate towns – Kaptol, home of the bishop, and Gradec, a town of art and trade. The Lower Town (Donji grad) follows a more regular block layout and contains the main square and busiest streets. A funicular railway joins the two halves of the city, but it wasn’t running today. Regardless, there are great views of the Lower Town from the top.
The architectural styles here are very different from everywhere else I’ve been. There’s definitely more of an eastern European feel. I look forward to seeing more of Croatia, and the rest of the former Yugoslav countries.