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Day 8: Keszthely to Zagreb

Today feels like a long day, because it got off to a very early start. We'd agreed with the lady who owned the apartment that we would check out at 7am, which was the time we needed to leave in order to get to the station on time for our first train of the day, but it felt like a little bit too early when the alarm went off this morning!

We somehow managed to get packed and have breakfast by 06.55 and met the lady outside the apartment to give back the key. She offered to drive us to the train station, which was really kind of her, though it was a bit of a tight squeeze in her car with our suitcases. She doesn't speak any English, so we had to converse in German during the journey. It definitely felt a bit early to be speaking German xD But she did explain to us that the reason why German is the main foreign language spoken in this part of Hungary is that Lake Balaton used to be holiday destination that both East Germans and West Germans were able to visit, so families who were separated by the Berlin Wall used to come here on holiday to meet up.

Thanks to the lift, we got to the station earlier than expected and had a while to wait before our 07.47 train to Balatonszentgyörgy. Balatonszentgyörgy is only about 10 minutes away by train, so we spent longer waiting for the train than actually sitting on it. We then had to wait until 09.08 for our connecting train to Zagreb, which was coming from the direction of Budapest. Balatonszentgyörgy isn't a very big station, but luckily there were some benches where we were able to sit and read. Around 9am, we started to hear announcements about our train; firstly in Hungarian, and then (luckily!) repeated in English. It turned out that it was delayed by 10 minutes... then by 15 minutes...

Eventually we could see a train approaching on the horizon. This was accompanied by a further announcement, this time only in Hungarian, the only word of which I could understand was something which sounded like "Keszthely". "Keszthely" was repeated several times, which didn't make a whole lot of sense, because the train definitely wasn't supposed to be passing through there on its way to Zagreb. Our confusion increased as the train pulled into the station and we realised that the signs on the side of the carriages also said "Keszthely". Was this our train or not?! :S

There were a few conductors standing on the platform so Tim asked one of them and it turned out that this was the correct train, but that the Zagreb carriages were right at the far end of the platform. It was a very long platform, so we had a bit of a panicked jog from one end to the other. It felt like we passed about 10 carriages labelled "Keszthely" before we finally got to one that said "Zagreb". Phew!

The train was due to arrive in Zagreb around 12.30, so we settled down for a long journey. The train crossed the border at a Hungarian town called Gyékényes, where we stopped for a fairly long time in order to have a Hungarian passport check swiftly followed by a Croatian passport check.  The train started moving again, before coming to a halt again shortly afterwards in the Croatian town of Koprivnica. The conductor announced that we all had to leave the train here and get on a different train. Oh dear!

It was a bit of a mad rush, but we managed to get off the Hungarian train and cross the platform to a Croatian train waiting on the other side. We found seats and even had somewhere to put our luggage, so were just getting comfortable again when the conductor walked down the carriage announcing that we would soon need to transfer to a bus! Sure enough, the train halted in a small place called Križevci, and we all had to pile off into four buses which were waiting outside the station. The buses then drove us to a nearby town called Vrbovec, where we all got off and boarded another train. Initially I wondered whether this was what always happens, in which case I felt like there had been a bit of mis-information online about this being a direct train to Zagreb, but it turned out that we were just unlucky and that they are doing repair works on track between Vrbovec and Križevci.

We finally arrived in Zagreb around 13.15, about 45 minutes later than originally expected. We are staying at the Hotel Central again; a slightly old-fashioned hotel near the train station where we have stayed several times before. We checked in, then set off into the centre of Zagreb in search of something to eat.


It was a bright sunny day in Zagreb, which contrasted with the rather rainy weather which had descended over Balaton last night. There were lots of beautiful flowers in the squares as we strolled down from the train station towards the main square.


The view of the yellow art pavilion was slightly obscured today by what seemed like preparations for a concert.


Before long we got to the main square, which was also slightly obscured by preparations for people to watch the World Cup.


There were lots of stalls selling Croatian memorabilia.


In between all of this, we could just about still make out the statue of Ban Jelačić.


We remembered that we'd once eaten at a nice restaurant by the cathedral, so set off in search of that.  Once there, we debated for a while over what to have before finally settling on a plate of grilled meat to share between two. It would have been a vegetarian's worst nightmare, but it was really delicious xD

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After lunch we went out to admire the cathedral, which unfortunately is still being renovated (it was being renovated when we were last here in 2015 as well).


The tower which has now been repaired does look very pretty to be fair.


There were more flowers as we walked back down from the cathedral towards the main square...


...and found the first of two Esperanto-related items which we know are in Zagreb. This is the word 'bonvenon' (Esperanto for 'welcome'), included on a 3D model of the town.


The centre of Zagreb is built on two hills, with the first being home to the cathedral and the second home to the parliament. We started climbing up towards the second, passing this large statue of St George on the way.


The parliament building itself isn't particularly impressive, but St Mark's Church next door to it definitely is.


It definitely wins the prize for best roof as far as I'm concerned :)


Not far from the church is the Lotrščak Tower, from which a cannon is fired every day at noon. Fortunately we had missed that today; it took us rather by surprise on one of the first occasions we came to Zagreb and didn't know about it!

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From in front of the tower there is a view down across the whole of Zagreb.

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Now that we'd seen the main sights, it was time to investigate the book shops in the main square :) We may have come away with several bags full, which we will now have the challenge of fitting into our luggage home!

On the way back to the hotel, we deliberately crossed the road to see the second Esperanto-related item in Zagreb.


The plaque records the fact that it was from this building that the first Esperanto magazine in Croatia was published in 1909.


All in all it's been quite a tiring day of travelling, but it's nice to be in Zagreb again, and we don't have anything that we need to get up early for tomorrow, so I am looking forward to a lie in :) 

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