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Day 10: Cres to Zagreb

Today involved our longest journey of this holiday as we travelled from Cres to Zagreb via Rijeka. It was a fairly early start, with our first bus from Cres to Rijeka at 08.10. Having purchased the tickets well in advance, we did have reserved seats for this bus but when we got on we found that persons unknown had strewn all sorts of baggage across them. The bus was fairly empty so it didn't seem worth trying to argue about it and we went and sat in some empty seats further down the bus.

As we made our way back across the island we had some amazing views of the coast.


At times the road was quite close to the edge.


It was hard to capture the views from a (very bumpy!) moving bus but it was beautiful.


Within around 45 minutes we were back at the tip of the island, ready for the ferry back to the mainland.


We arrived in Rijeka just after 10.30. The bus station there was rather chaotic, with the bus timetable not indicating the platform that the buses would depart from. We stood at the platform indicated on our tickets, hoping that there hadn't been any last minute changes, but grew increasingly anxious as the time for the bus to depart (11.00) came and went without any sign of the bus.

Of course, it was operating on Croatian time and it eventually rolled up around 11.10. Unfortunately Rijeka wasn't the start of its route and that meant that the majority of the seats were already taken, including the ones we had allegedly reserved. In the mayhem of boarding the bus we just had to settle with being happy to get any seats at all, and eventually found two separate ones towards the back of the bus.

The scenery on the journey from Rijeka to Zagreb was less dramatic, although we did still pass through some forested, hilly countryside. We arrived in the Croatian capital around 13.45 and made our way straight to our hotel, which is one that we have stayed at many times before and so knew was going to be comfortable :)

After a brief rest we set out for a stroll around the city. The weather had improved significantly since we had left Cres and it was now a warm and increasingly sunny day. Leaving our hotel, we walked past the main train station and into Trg Kralja Tomislava (King Tomislav Square).


Tomislav, featured above on a horse, was king of Croatia from around 910 to 928. He was the first real Croatian king and founded the first united Croatian state. His square is very pretty at this time of year with flowers and fountains. The yellow building in the photo is the art pavillion, built in 1898.


Walking a little further, we found a statue of the Croatian author August Šenoa. I got a complete set of his works for Christmas last year, but still need to work up the courage to start reading them!


There are lots of attractive leafy squares in this part of Zagreb. Last time we were here this one was full of Christmas lights and stalls selling mulled wine; it looked quite different today in the sunshine.


Before long we were in Zagreb's main square, Trg bana Jelačića. Jelačić was the Ban of Croatian between 1848 and 1859 and tried to advance the cause of Croatian independence by playing the Austrians and Hungarians off against each other. He's a national hero in Croatia, although not terribly popular in Hungary!


We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner in one of the restaurants above the main square, and marvelled at how inexpensive Zagreb prices appeared to be compared to tourist prices on the coast. By the time we had finished eating the remainder of the clouds appeared to have dispersed and there was a bright blue sky as we climbed up towards Zagreb cathedral.


Unfortunately they are still doing renovation works on the facade.


The renovation works are necessary because the stone originally used to build the cathedral has significantly eroded over time. The picture below shows what has happened to one of the original bits of the cathedral.


In the background of the photo you can also see a clock, which stopped during the Zagreb earthquake of 1880 which also destroyed a lot of the cathedral.

Zagreb is built on two hills, and having visited the one on which the cathedral is situated we headed back down in order to climb up the second one, where the government quarter is. This is where you can find one of Zagreb's most memorable sights, St Mark's Church.


No matter how many times we come here, we never get tired of looking at the roof :)


A little further downhill from the church is Lotrščak Tower, which was built in the thirteenth century as part of the defences of the old town walls.


Every day at midday a cannon is still fired from the top of the tower. We heard it last time we were here and can confirm that it is very loud indeed! Fortunately all was more peaceful today :)


From here you can see for miles out across Zagreb.


Having seen the main sights, my main plan for the rest of the afternoon was a tour of Zagreb's bookshops. But before we embarked on that, we wanted to track down a tiny mention of Esperanto which we had encountered on a previous visit. Not far from the main square there is a big 3D model of the city.


It's very intricate and fun to look at and work out where you've been. Here is the cathedral square for example.


The bit we were looking for was a little ball on the edge of the map which says welcome in different languages... including Esperanto :)


Mission accomplished, it was time to hit the bookshops! We spent a happy hour or so browsing and picking up a mixture of textbooks and fiction. Packing for the flight home is going to be interesting to make sure we have both our bags below 15kg :D

We set off back to the hotel with our purchases to relax for the rest of the evening. It wasn't destined to be an evening of uninterrupted rest, however, as around half past eight there was a brief, unexpected shake accompanied by a loud rumbling sound. Our hotel is almost opposite the station, so at first I thought it might have been a train passing underground, although it eventually occurred to me that we shouldn't really be able to feel that from the third floor! A quick check on the internet confirmed the only other possible explanation: a small earthquake of 3.2 on the Richter scale had been recorded on the outskirts of the city!

Earthquakes aside, Zagreb is a really pleasant city and it's been nice to be back here, however briefly :) Tomorrow we are continuing our travels, this time by train to Ljubljana.

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