Croatia: Zagreb
June 25, 2004

Our most ambitious vacation of the summer, Ben and I took twelve days to bike through Croatia and Slovenia. A quick geography/history note for anyone who would like it: Slovenia lies nestled on the northern coast of the Adriatic Sea, sharing a short border with Italy to its west, a longer border with Austria to the north, another small border with Hungary; the whole of its southern border is shared with Croatia. Croatia is a funny-shaped country with a long narrow stretch of land along the Adriatic coast and another section that is inland, south of Hungary. It looks somewhat like the letter "C" with Bosnia-Herzegovina filling up the inside of the "C". Croatia also shares short borders with Serbia and Montenegro.

Slovenia and Croatia were both part of the late Yugoslavia, which had existed in one form or other since about the end of WWI. Prior to that they had been under the auspices of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and before that had consisted of a bunch of independent kingdoms like elsewhere in Europe. In 1991 Slovenia and Croatia both declared independence from Yugoslavia. Slovenia managed it rather painlessly after ten days of resistance from the Yugoslav army. Croatia, on the other hand, entered into a bloody conflict with Serb forces, resulting in major destruction, uncountable atrocities on both sides, and the displacement of entire populations of people. The Dayton Accords in 1995 ended the war, and the country has been rebuilding since.

Ben and I took our bikes by train to Zadar by way of Zagreb, Croatia's inland capital. Then we biked south from Zadar, along the Dalmatian coast to Split. From Split we took a ferry out to the island Brac for a couple days and then another ferry back north along the coast to Rijeka. From Rijeka we biked up into the Dinaric Mountains and into Slovenia. We did some sight-seeing in the Primorska region and then took a train to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, before taking another train home.


We took a local train to Rosenheim where we waited for our 12:30am train to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. The planning of the trip was quite complicated; neither this train nor another that we'd have to take accepted bicycles, so we had boxed up our bikes and carried them on as luggage. The conductors weren't too keen on the boxes, though, and harassed us about them from time to time. We did have couchettes, though, and were able to sleep between the too-frequent requests for our passports.

Groggy, we checked our biked boxes at the train station locker area for the day, and set out to see the city on foot. This is the statue of Josip Jelacic in Zagreb's central square, Trg bana Jelacica.

 The Croatia National Theater

Our luck wasn't great in Zagreb: it rained on-and-off throughout the day, and everything was closed as it was the day after a holiday. This is St. Mark's Church, originally dating from the 14th century. The roof displays the coat of arms of Croatia and of Zagreb.

It seems like every city and town in Europe claims St. George as its own.

 Skyline of Zagreb from Gradec, the old part of the city.

 After wandering from site to site, only to find them all closed for the day, we finally decided to seek out what our Rough Guide cited as "the prettiest single street in the city": Tkalciceva. In keeping with the day's success, it was under construction.

As we grew tired, cold, and wet, we gave up on seeing the city and went to the movies to catch the latest big release, the third Harry Potter film, subtitled in Croatian.