Budpest and Croatia - part one
So I spoke too soon about not being able to practice my French with the deaf French guy in our hostel. I was at the computer the other night and I could hear him trying to talk to Maggie, who obviously does not speak French, so when they came into the room I told him that I speak French and he got SO excited. He can say some words, though he is very hard to understand, so when I did not know what he was saying he would write it down. He said that it was much easier for him to lip read when I spoke French than when I spoke English. I am not sure that I understood everything that he said, but I am pretty sure that he said that he is traveling around the world for the next 3 years, which is pretty amazing for anyone never mind a deaf person. I am not sure how he will manage in Asia or other places that might be more difficult.
Saturday morning I went for a nice run through the city - weekend mornings are always nice because there are fewer people out - and then Maggie and I walked up to the Citadella, a large statue on the top of the biggest hill in the city. Getting up to the top was interesting because there was an urban mountain biking competition going on. Guys were riding their bikes from the top of the hill all the way down on the paths, going down fairly long sets of stairs. They had the course marked pretty well, but you still had to watch out to make sure that you werenÃ‚Â´t about to run over by someone on their bike. Since they were riding on portions of the path, we ended up climbing up rocks and through the trees to get to the top, but once we did it was another great view of the city.
After that we went back to the hostel to get our things and headed for the train station for our train to Split, Croatia. We had to take a 6 hour train to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where we had a 3 hour wait before taking an overnight train to Split. The train was very comfortable and in our little cabin was a young woman from Argentina who took 3 months off from her job to travel. She had been to a lot of the places that we are going to and was raving about Prague and Vienna, and gave some ideas of things to do. When we entered Croatia the train stopped for customs, and we first had our passports checked by Hungarian officers, then another Hungarian customs officer came by to ask if we had anything two declare, then the same thing was repeated with Croatian officers, and then an officer with a drug sniffing dog came through. The Argentinean lady said that it was the most thorough check she had seen, and it was the first time that I felt like I was really not in Western Europe. Budapest often felt very western, but Croatia you can tell is Eastern Europe.
When we arrived in Zagreb we realized that the train station was not much of anything, so it was a bit of a long wait, especially since there were some interesting characters hanging around. When we got on the train we went into our cabin. A few minutes later 2 girls about our age from Sweden and Poland came into our cabin asking if they could share our cabin because a crazy man had come into theirs, asking if they were Americans and going on some rant. We later heard him move into someone elseâ€™s cabin, and talking their ears off in English. It was a good reminder of why we are traveling together! Since we didnâ€™t have beds on the train, it wasnâ€™t the most comfortable nightâ€™s sleep, but with my inflatable neck pillow I managed well enough, waking up in time to see the sunrise over the beautiful Croatian countryside.
We arrived in Split at 7 AM, too early to go to our hostel, and nobody was serving breakfast yet, so we just got coffee and looked out at the Adriatic. It was another warm sunny day. We then walked through the market that was starting up for the day before dropping off our backpacks at the hostel. Our hostel is tucked away on a side street. Itâ€™s an old house and the hostel is run by an older Croatian woman who is incredibly sweet. Apparently she has lived in that house since she was a kid â€“ her father originally owned it and eventually decided to turn it into a small hostel. We then headed to the old part of the city, which is surrounded by an old fortress wall. The narrow streets and the buildings are all stone, and the modern shops have been worked in to the existing architecture. The town reminded me a lot of one of the islands I visited in Greece and also Venice, with its open plazas and stone streets. We walked up to the top of the Cathedral where we had a great view of the whole city. We had lunch out at a pizzeria where Maggie got to try a Croatian beer and we had a vegetable pizza with corn and carrots on it. We also listened to a quintet of Croatian men singing and playing guitar. These groups were playing around the old part of the city and selling cds.
I have more to write but will finish later. We are off to Dubrovnik in the morning.