Prague to Bled to Zagreb
16.10.2011 - 21.10.2011
I finally, officially, got the blog up and running. A few hours of completing the recollections and posting pictures on facebook and I was starving! After stopping at the market for some souvenirs to mail home, we decided to check out “Clear Head”, a trip advisor recommendation. It was alright, a small restaurant with tight tables, but very tasty vegetarian dishes, and mediocre service- no smiles from that girl. We decided to go back to Adam’s bar to see if he was working, or if Hanza or his wife were around. On the walk we noticed a couple who’d obviously had a bit too much to drink, it’s difficult to say who was holding the other up, or which one drug them down, but they soon landed on his face on the pavement, right in front of us. The writhed a bit (she more than him) and she finally mustered a “not... okay” response to our concerns. We asked if they wanted help, or us to call a taxi, but they said they were alright... or at least that’s what we assumed their Czech groans meant. The bar was much busier, and Adam wasn’t working- we found out he went to Austria for a few days; so we had a beer, passed along contact information, thanked the new bar tender and carried on. We dropped in to Wakata, a small basement bar with low lights, a central dj booth with decent music at a volume that still allowed for conversation. We stayed for a few beers, 3 dj’s and then stopped for a bite from one of the many “Euro food” carts and headed back to the flat.
We had to get up to pack and move our gear. We had been contemplating taking the night train to Vienna (11:30pm-6am) to tour around there before heading to Bled, Slovenia; but decided against it. We found a cheap room at a hotel near the train station, and headed that way. We got checked in at noon, then headed to the train station to figure out our schedule the next day. After sitting in Starbucks for free wifi, we found a post office and were impressed with its efficiency- everyone takes a number (different categories, but we weren’t sure what they meant, so we just picked the first one), then they rattle through the numbers while you’re busy getting the packages ready. We decided to head over to the Petrin hill and observation tower. We took the tram as far as possible, then headed up the hill. After that, we went up the tower and got the best views of Prague... Then we headed towards the castle, we got there at 5:50, and it looked like the inside was closed to the public (though now when I check the web it doesn’t appear that way, but regardless, we didn’t go in). The views from outside were amazing, traditional gothic style with lots of detail. We met Tomina for dinner at Lokal, one of his favourite restaurants (“special Czech”). He helped us order and suggested a beer cheese appetizer (the first couple bites were very strong, but then it was really tasty). I had a trout (the whole fish, bones, eyeballs and all- Tomina filleted it for me, or I’d still be picking out bones), but it was very good and super tender. Jeremy had an amazing chicken dish, and we both had the exquisite mashed potatoes. He walked us toward where we were staying, and we said goodbye at the statue at Wencelas Square; which, he told us, is the most historic site in all of the Czech Republic- the site where all revolutions began. He said the meeting point for Czech people is behind the horses tail, as all the tourists stand in front of the statue.
We got up, ate a very good free breakfast from the hotel, and headed toward the train station for 9am. Our first train laws to leave at 9:39, and it wasn’t until 9:30 that we knew what platform it was, but we weren’t alone, so the herd headed to the train. We were able to get our own 6 person cabin on the train, and slept most of the first leg. We had to transfer trains at Breclav, and got onto a Polish train that arrived 20 minutes late. We again had our own cabin, locked our bags and went to the dining car for some Polish beer, pyrogies, and a nice pork and noodles meal with a side salad. A cappuccino for me and a piece of cheesecake to share, and we’d unloaded 500kn. We enjoyed the scenery in southern Austria, lush green treed mountains, looked a lot like the kootenays. We arrived at Lesce Bled train station at 8:20, and waited for a cab. I had emailed the manager of our hotel a few times throughout the day to confirm our arrival plans, but he didn’t reply, and didn’t for some reason the phone call would disconnect as soon as I rang it (not an uncommon problem we were having with these European sim’s). Nor could I get taxi driver (the one I spoke with was just off for the night, and had admittedly already started drinking), then my phone didn’t want to work at all. I sent Jeremy to the pub in the rail station to ask them to call a cab, and she refused, saying there was a phone across the street. Cold, and a bit irritated by the situation, we took our bags across the street to an empty pub. We ordered 2 beers, and asked for some help. The bar tender spoke good English, but didn’t have a phone. The other patron of the bar, a friend of hers, was a thick guy with a heavy accent (who we later found out do be Senad), had a mobile so they dialled the number to the hotel and gave it to me... it went through, but no answer. I was about to ask to make another call when he offered us a ride, after a few more beers, so he bought a round. We talked about hockey, and football (soccer was on tv), and soon he was offering to give us tours, and hoped we could stay for a hockey game on Friday. We saw Canadian Club on the shelf, and Senad said that’s his favourite drink – she poured 3 shots, as per his request... here we go. A little while later the bar tender’s husband and child (Nava) came by to pick her up. A couple more beer and we were on the road around 10:30 with the young family. They insisted that they drive us, and help us into our place. Along the way, we noticed a truck parked at a neighbouring hotel with Ontario license plates... those Ontarians are everywhere! We finally found the Pension Berc, and got into our room. The room was nice, but no wifi throughout. The affiliated Hotel Berc did have wifi, which we can get from certain parts of our room, but best from the balcony- so I spent some time huddled out there.
We enjoyed the free breakfast with our room, and tried to get wifi in the lobby, but it was better from the neighbouring hotel off the balcony, so I wrapped up in a blanket and sat out there for a while. I also took an hour or so walk down to Bled Lake, and got some mystical photos of the castle, lake and island in the mist of the afternoon. Jeremy wasn’t feeling well, so he rested most of the day. We headed out for supper around 6, and visited the Ostaija Peglez’n. It was alright, large portions, good bread. It was quite cold out, so after a short walk we headed back to the hotel for a mellow evening.
We woke up to a dreary, rainy (nearly snowing) day. After breakfast we called Senad, who was unable to work that day (he’s a roofer). We made plans to meet with him around 4. After watching non-stop videos on VH1 for an hour or so I had to get out and see something. We layered up, each packed an umbrella, and ventured out to see the town, and the lake. It was pretty much pouring, so after an hour or so we gave up and stopped into Pub Bled, which has a nice view of the lake, the castle and the church tower... it also had free wifi. I finally got to have some European hot wine- I’d seen it throughout Prague, but the timing was poor (we were either walking somewhere in a hurry, getting onto transit, or it was late in the night and I wasn’t feeling like wine), so we ended up staying for a couple hours. Senad picked us up around 4:30, and apologized for the weather. He drove us to his hometown, Jesenice, and showed us the hockey arena, and took us to his favourite pub, for a beer and a CC (Canadian Club). It was very cold, and we saw evidence of snow in Jesenice, and knew there was a lot falling at upper elevations. We met young Nava, and her parents at Euro bar. Senad roasted some chestnuts for us (delish!), and we hung out there for quite a while, before our tour guides took us back to our hotel.
It was a beautiful, sun-shiny day, so we spent some time walking around the lake, in awe of the fall colours, gorgeous background, and freshly snow-capped mountains. The family picked us up around 2:30, and we met Senad at Euro bar before catching our train after 4. We enjoyed the train ride to Zagreb (just over 3 hours) and had nice views until the sun went away. We played a bit of crib, until Jeremy got fed up with my epic crib luck, once again. We arrived in Zagreb around 8. We have quite a bit of baggage in tow, and there was no visible elevator at the Zagreb train station. I was the first one confronted by a gentleman in his (I’m guessing here) early 60’s with a placard around his neck saying “luggage carrier”, my spidey senses were tingling, so I said no thanks. He seemed a bit more adamant when he approached Jeremy, and said “I’m here to help with the bags”, pointing to his name tag. Thinking this was some service provided by the Zagreb train station, we allowed him to help. He took us to the information centre, and Jeremy offered him a €2 coin... he denied it and said €5... pardon?! We paid the man, and made him help us to the luggage lockers, he also helped us get change for the lockers, and pointed us in the direction of our hotel. We walked the couple blocks to the luxurious Arcotell Allegra (thank-you Priceline!), but couldn’t help but notice how much garbage was piled up (we honestly thought there may have been a garbage strike). We hopped on Trip Advisor (anyone seeing a theme) and headed out to find Pingvin, a sandwich stand that sat at #6 of all Zagreb eats... we were not disappointed! I enjoyed a long bath (hadn’t seen a tub in weeks) then headed to bed.