I think most people have a certain idea of Croatia, even if they haven’t been there. Beaches, red roofs, loads of islands and no shortage of parties. I’ve got to say, the stereotype isn’t wrong.
Obviously there’s a lot more to Croatia than the above, but I didn’t spend a lot of time away from the water. My mission was to get from Budapest to Rijeka, where I would catch up with a couple of friends of mine. Even though Croatia borders Hungary, there aren’t a hell of a lot of options to get to Zagreb, the capital. You can take either a 6 and a half hour train, or a 3 hour bus, of which there is only one company running this service, and they were all booked out. As such, I took the train, which is one of the worst I’ve ridden on due to the lack of ventilation in 30-plus temperatures. I didn’t spend much time in Zagreb, which didn’t have much to attract me, so I chilled in the main park for a few hours before getting on a bus straight to Rijeka.
I caught up with my friend Liz and her partner Bruno, who is Croatian, and were travelling with another mate Dylan. Bruno’s family kindly hosted me at their house, around 15 minutes drive down the coast from Rijeka.
Around here you’re never far from a beach. Apparently if you want to visit a full sand beach you have to pay a couple of dollars but the pebble beaches seem to be fine. The cool thing about being around here is it isn’t a tourist trap, meaning the prices are very reasonable, especially for Europe.
We all live in the Nemo submarine…
Through Bruno and Liz I met a few really cool people, including Meho. Meho is another Croatian local and kindly took us on a tour of Rijeka and explained some of the local history (of which it has a LOT of) as well as a tour of his home studio; Meho’s a techno head from way back 😀
The four of us had a rental car and we went on a bit of a drive around the surrounding areas so we could see a bit more of the surrounding area.
We also went to a local Croatian restaurant and ate some traditional food. Sausages with sauce in bread is never a bad idea.
Through Bruno I also met a GC mate of his Martin, who let me play a few tunes at a beach bar, something I haven’t done in a while. It was good to touch some knobs again. Martin also introduced me to a drink called Rakia, which I never want to consume again in my life.
After a few days and some pretty bad weather, the other 3 left to head off to Venice. Rather than take public transport, I drove them there, which meant driving through Slovenia to get there. Driving the road through Slovenia is like driving through a huge national park.
I’ve said it before, but being from New Zealand it’s quite cool to just drive through several countries in a day, phasing through several languages and currencies in a matter of hours. On the way back I got lost several times but it meant I got to detour the scenic way and check out this view of Italy from the cliffs.
When I finally made it back to Croatia, I had a night there before I made my way down the country towards Pag Island / Zrce beach to catch up with a couple of friends and attend Armada festival. Expect another blog post on those shenanigans in the next few days!
Thanks again to Bruno and Liz, Bruno’s family, Dylan, Meho, Martin and everybody else in my first few days in Croatia! Your hospitality is much appreciated and I hope to pay it back some day.