The route to Zagreb took me passed Pecs (pronounced Pairch), Its a large Hungarian town with some great history. I did think about staying for a few days but I was keen to get to Croatia. By now I was starving, it must have been around 11am and so time for some food. Fortunately my route took me passed what must be the second largest Tesco store in Europe. Mmmm food I thought to myself. Well they were all out of chocolate Croissants which for some reason made me pretty angry. I opted for a pizza and a diet coke from there deli and even ordered in Hungarian.
As I drew nearer the Croatia border the heat was sweltering, in Tesco I remember seeing the weather forecast on TV, it was around 34c in the south of Hungry and waters of Lake Balaton had gotten up to 26c. As I approached the border I grew concerned that since my incident in Romania I didn’t have a driving license on me. Not only this but my PAYG insurance had expired according to the certificate, though it is automatically renewed each month. Not being part of the European Union, would Croatian officials let me in the country? I figured it was worth a shot and at the worst I would stay in Pecs a few days and begin to travel west.
At the Hungarian side of the border I flashed my EU passport and I was on my way. I pulled up to the Croatian side behind a Spanish tow truck. On the back was a brand new Seat something or other. This seemed to spark the border guards’ curiosity. As the fat hairy Spaniard jumped out of the cab he was told to put his shirt on, nobody wants to see that! I switched off my engine took off my helmet and prepared my documents. Eventually the truck was allowed through though it had taken a good 15 minutes. With my jacket off, shades on and helmet around my arm I pulled up. “Passport please” – “ok you go”. Sweet I absolutely love Croatia and was pleased to be in the country.
While anything was a step up from Romanian roads, and Hungarian roads were very good, the roads in Croatia were probably the best I’ve seen in Europe. Smooth and effortless it felt like being on a race track – careful, I can’t show my license if I’m pulled. I set up sat nav and despite getting slightly off course I made to Zagreb some hours later.
Since I had my doubts about being allowed into the country I didn’t pre-book any accommodation, though usually not a problem I was worried as by the time I got to Zagreb traffic was immense. Croatian’s it seems have even less patience than Romanians. Horns were going off constantly for no good reason. When I made it into the city centre after a stop for fuel, I thought I would recognise some of the sights from my visit in 2001. It seems the city is much bigger, when you don’t arrive by train. I parked up in a bike park and pulled out the trusty 2001 Lonely Planet guide for Eastern Europe. There was a cyber cafe about 500 meters from where I’d parked, according to the guide at least.
It was like heaven walking in there. Air conditioning, cold drinks and a a hot girl, were all welcome distractions from the afternoon heat. After 45 mins on the internet and a couple of phone calls, I managed to book somewhere called the Buzz Backpackers. Awesome I thought to myself. Slightly expensive but pretty central. The only problem was that it didn’t exist on sat nav or my map. I asked the girl if she could find it on sat nav. While holding the phone she kept telling me to ‘come closer’, ‘come closer’. Normally I wouldn’t have a problem getting within grinding distance, but I’d been riding since late morning the day before without a shower and wearing the same clothes in 30+ degree heat. I thought about asking her to come out for a drink later, but I could smell my clothes and so thought I’d spare her.
In the end I found the place, checked in after parking up on the pavement and getting lots of looks. Desperate for a shower I ran up to my room (shared with 4 other people), no-one was in, great. Just as I head for the shower a little brunette runs in. Damn it. I eventually got l showered and dressed and headed to the common room where I met two guys from Manchester who seemed like characters. They’d just arrived and convinced the girls on the floor below to head out with them.
Despite starting with such promise it was a pretty uneventful night. I had a list full of bars and clubs in my phone, but we ended up looking for some place that in end was completely dead. We had some food and went home about 1am.
The next day it was out for breakfast and a trip to a place called Plitvice I’d never heard of it and thought it was about 20 mins away. To my surprise it was an hour away in the direction I need to travel in to get to Split the next day. No only that but I was running out of money, the bus was £10 and there was a £10-15 entrance fee. The guys I met were sympathetic to my plight. They paid for the tickets, bought a Playboy, and some drinks. At the bus station I got chatting a local girl, she must have been impressed since she sat behind me on the bus and kept prodding me to look at things.
The park itself was amazing in typical Croatian style with breathtaking scenery. Upon arrival we were approached by an old man offering us accommodation. We declined informing him that we would be back in Zagreb by 8pm to get dinner and head out. “Hurry you haven’t much time” barked the old man. We were slightly confused and made a joke of it while taking the tour. We opted the shorter trek that was estimated to take about 3 hours. In the end we did the trek comfortably in around an hour and managed to fill up on some goulash before getting what turned out to be the last bus home.
That night more people arrived at the hostel. As smoking was banned inside, the staff and guests all stood outside and prepared for a night out with litre bottles of beer. I went to tart myself up. I came back down to find that a couple of Croatian guys who live opposite the hostel had came over and offered to show us a good place to party. We took them up on the offer. We arrived at a busy bar located in a wooded park area. There was a large outdoor section and a smaller indoor venue. Taking to the bar staff in their native tongue, the Croatian guys asked for a couple of quid form each of us and then lined up a total of 18 bottles of beer and 18 shots. Awesome. We were told numerous times how Croatian girls will be open to chatting with us being English/American and to go and chat some up. Not wanting to disappoint I met a couple of girls and we proceeded to share a few drinks and conversation. By this point everyone else had left Anthony (one of the Manc guys) and myself were the only ones left from our original group. Luckily most of the beers were still left too. Happy days. Turns out the girl I was talking to, lived in Prague with her boyfriend, which is fine Czech girls are hot too, but I’m always well behaved. We went to a pretty small club together enjoyed the rest of the night, drinking, dancing and cavorting.