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Subj: Carry-on to Croatia

Date: June 1, 2005

 
It’s train day to Zagreb, Croatia. Feels more like moving day due to all my stuff. Great little hotel with no elevator—I carry four bags down four flights of stairs and out front of the hotel. Like I’m the only person in a bucket brigade—get one piece of luggage, run back and get the other. 4 times…

Finally get everything outside only to find it’s the first bad weather day on the trip—it is drizzling. Then thunder kicks in adding to the a.m. drama.

Cabbie zooms up; throws my two tons of luggage in and off we goes. Young kid starting his shift—I’m the first ride of the day.

 
Once he learns I’m from LA LA land, he yaps it up.
Cabbie tells me he likes Americas very much—they are a “spontaneous people”. I confirm his view as evidenced by our esteemed president who is very spontaneous. “Do you mean Iraq, sez cabbie?” Yup!!

Cabbie laughs and restates Americans are very nice people… He thanks me for visiting his country then sez L.A. must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Hmmm… too bad I drive in it cause most of what I ever see is the bumper of the car ahead of me. I’m getting my first dose of euro traffic and it’s making me NERVOUS. It ain’t home where I know the shortcuts.

My cabbie does. He zips around, down, through and up—pulling in front of the train station like a magician yankin’ a rabbit outta his hat. Thumbs up!! He bids me adieu and I wheel my stuff in. Buys me ticket and I’m good to go.

Of course the lady behind the counter tells me something about the train however I know what I’m doing—I think.

After about 20min waiting on a rain soaked platform it hits me. Where is the train??

I start looking around thinking Zagreb is a big city and if the train were leaving in 10 minutes, there should be more people—there should also be a train… ya think??

U never feel quite alone as you do when traveling solo and you know you’re about to make a stupid mistake. Standing and looking for a train that everyone knows ain’t coming fits the bill. This fellow figures so much and shows me where to go—down steps, more steps, up steps cause the escalator don’t work… too much luggage keeps resonating in my head.

If it were a plane, I could have checked all this stuff—it’s not… Carry-on? More like drag-on.

Anyway, get to the right platform and a minute later the train pulls in. I board while asking three different people “Zagreb?” Resulting in the same yes nod three times.

I grab a seat in a compartment. So far… so good… Need a breather before I hoist this puppy up to the luggage rack.

I’m a little frazzled but its ok—pull outta the station with nothing to do but to kick back and soak up the scenery. And, Slovenia has got some really pretty amazing scenery. It is so green. I guess that’s why it’s called—“the countryside”, duhhh!!

 

 
The former Yugoslavia musta been one hell of a country—sorta the commie version of California.

Like CA this region has a bit of everything—beaches, mountains, lakes and something we ain’t got—islands. That’ll be next week—now it’s mountains, fields and people watching.

Don’t know what it is about train travel however nothing is quite as mesmerizing. The monotony of those clanging rails lulls you into this semi hypnotic state—lotsa gazing out the windows—getting lost in thought…

The guy in my compartment doesn’t say a word—except to ask to smoke a cigarette. He travels for a while then gets off at a small hillside town. The young woman is in the compartment next to me. She gets on with a luggage carrier like flight attendants use. I wish…

She can’t sit still for most of the route. All wired up—then all of sudden, whatever… she calms down—stares at nothing for miles. Major stuff on her mind!

We cross from Slovenia to Croatia. The view ain’t quite as scenic. On the map it looks like a 45-minute train ride but three hours later… Still, it’s a great way to travel.

 
 
Signs of Zagreb and urban life are popping up—more towns, more roads, and more traffic.

Zagreb is three times the size of Ljubljana. Economy looks a little down however it’s a much more commercial city than Ljubljanj.

Riding in you see the billboards and stuff all advertising one thing or another.

You also see some of the unique commie era architecture.

Ugleeee stuff. Proletarian architecture for the masses!! Don’t suspect it’ll make the latest issue of Architecture Digest anytime soon.

Pull into ZAAAgreb—custom guy jokes about not letting me off until I pronounced it correctly. So… “Welcome to ZAAAgreb”.

Packed up my stuff and hauled it off the train. That politically correct thing we have about retro fitting public areas with elevators or ramps for those who need a little extra help… There maybe a few places around here however I’ve yet to see one.

They should consider that PC thing for idiots who bring TOO MUCH FREEKING CLOTHES WHEN TRAVELING. Ya know what the wheelchair access sign looks likes—wonder what the “Idiot with too much baggage” sign would look like!! Bet I know…

An old Croat fellow picks up my tourist scent following me with a big smile. He’s a harmless sort, working for a buck. Shows me the Bankomat—a total essential, cause I got no Croatian money.

Hard to believe I’m traveling in way-out foreign countries with no money and relying on ATM machines—I am and it works like a charm!! He then shows me where to buy a phone card then helps with my bag.

I feel a little stupid cause TOURIST is stamped on my forehead, jacket, every bag I own and the soles of my shoes leaving a print wherever I go. Give the old man a healthy tip and he points me toward the main door with a huge smile. Thanks, buddy!! I wheel thru the terminal doors for a first look at Zagreb and WHAM!!

I am pumped!!

Amazing… a terrific looking city with a great sense of scale. A huge plaza, trolleys, cars, people and some statue with a guy on a horse. It’s Budapest déjà vu!!

Those buildings, one after another—I soak it in like the total tourist geek I am.

I grab a cab and tell the driver Jagerhorn Pension. He nods.

First cabbie who has no conversation with me—probably language issues… 10 minutes later he dumps me off on a busy street pointing to this building. Me and my luggage on the street and I don’t see a hotel anywhere.

 
Turns out the Jagerhorn is behind the two story pink building—thru the archway, into a courtyard, up steps to a second courtyard and at the end of the alley.

Main door locked with a sign saying, “office on second floor”. Oh shit…

By this time my baggage feels loaded with cement blocks. I finally make it and check in only to learn my room is two floors up—no elevator…

 

 
 
 
Jagerhorn-Pension founded in 1827. Got me a small clean room, high ceiling and overlooking the courtyard—it’s fine…

I am beat but too pumped to rest.

Gotta check out the city.

 

Carry on!!
George

 

 

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