As we said, we had been happy in Slovenia. So when it came time for us to leave we were less than happy. But at least we had our final destination to look forward to, Zagreb.
We woke up super early to catch a bus. Our journey to Zagreb involved a bus to Ljubljana, then a Flix Bus (the low cost carrier of buses) to Zagreb. In blue on the map below.
This first bus didn’t exist (despite every schedule in existence saying otherwise). So we stood in negative 10 degree weather for 40 minutes trying to figure out if it was just late or what was going on. This bus not existing caused us to miss the bus that we had reserved seats on, and we had to scramble to book a new bus. We killed some time at the hotel we had already checked out of, got some coffee and finally made it on a bus. Everything was looking up until we made it to the outskirts of Ljubljana where we promptly got in an accident. I’m not sure what happened all I know is the bus breaked very suddenly then tried to swerve but there was the inevitable crunch and that was that. Everyone was fine, the bus driver got out and lectured the crunched car owners for a while and then the police came. We waited for over an hour while the police talked to everyone, took photos and included the passengers in the report. We made it to the bus station, finally, and got on the bus that would take us to Zagreb.
At this point it felt like omens were telling us that we shouldn’t leave Slovenia. Slovenia wanted us to stay, busses suddenly didn’t exist when everything had been so reliable, and then, of course, the accident. We even looked into canceling our hotel in Croatia, but no luck.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, until we got to the border. We ended up leaving the Schengen Area which meant we had to go through a border crossing with real checkpoints. This involved everyone getting off the bus, queuing at a passport desk, showing your passport, then getting on the bus (this was to exit the EU Schengen Area) The bus would drive all of 500 feet then we would repeat the process (this was to enter Croatia). Well this was a bit of a drama because we were the only people on the bus with non-EU passports so we slowed everything down. Everyone on the bus was either Slovenian or Croatian so they could just flash their passport without even stopping, the border control man looked briefly then waved them forward. Then we arrived and they had to take our Spanish visa, scan our passport and check that we were really the same people. It stopped the line enough that people were genuinely worried that we had done something wrong and we could feel the eyes of everyone trying to figure out what stopped the lines flow.
Our favorite part, of course, was during the 500 foot drive across the border we realized we hadn’t double checked we could even enter Croatia. We assumed we could but there was some furious Googling to make sure we weren’t making the biggest mistakes of our lives.
We finally arrived late in Zagreb, but we had enough time to go check out their Christmas market and get a tasty soup and a plate of stewed pork and sauerkraut. We milled about and had a good time, it seemed that all that drama had been worth it, and that Croatia was going to be a fun place. But then after our first day we realized that we were mistaken.
And so, Zagreb joins our list of “Places I would Never Visit Again”
Who else is on that list?
- San Sebastian
Why each of those places makes our list could fill up an entire post. But basically all of them are some combination of over-priced, over-hyped, over-visited, or full of dicks. The unique charm that once existed in these placed has been replaced by a Disneyland-esque experience where everything is fake, you wait in lines for hours to see fake things and everyone wants to take your money.
Zagreb’s main problem is that it’s boring. Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of things to do and see here, but all of them are over hyped and totally not worth it. It’s the kind of place that had tons of listings on Tripadvisor each with 4+ stars, each more diluted and touristy than the last. Slovakia and Slovenia had amazed us with their traditional foods, their pretty (or at least unique) sights, and their amazingly kind people. Zagreb made it as hard as possible to find Croatian food, it was genuinely ugly, and nearly every person we interacted with was rude. Even trying to use the language to order or being our usually relatively-friendly selves meant nothing. Their crankiness wore off on us and we spent three very long days wishing we were anywhere else. Where did the carefree wonderful vacation go? It died at the border, apparently.
After our first day we were desperately looking for a way out. Could we possibly take a day trip? Could we just forfeit the money we’d spent on the hotel and go somewhere else entirely? But no, Zagreb is isolated. The day trips available to us were only reachable via tour groups, and each of them looked to be either cash grabs or boring. There were some famous waterfalls 2 hours and thirty minutes away by bus, a small town famous for being pretty and nothing else, and that’s about it. Oh, also recommended was Lake Bled, the place we had just come from (which felt like a slap in the face).
The best part though was that our room had Netflix. Either the hotel had Netflix, or more likely the person who had stayed in our room before us had logged into their own account (probably just as bored in Zagreb as we were) and forgotten to sign out. So we watched like 6 movies while staying here. We have Netflix, too, but the Croatian Netflix has different things than the one in Spain.
We saw St. Mark’s Church, mostly famous for the roof tiles (which have Croatia and Zagreb’s coat of arms on it).
Then went to the Museum of Broken Relationships. Their pretense for existing is that traditional museums showcase births, deaths and marriages so why shouldn’t we have a museum to showcase end of a relationship? Some of the items were interesting like “this is a toaster we shared, I hate it so much” or “he bought me this waffle mix and I’m too sad to use it now.” But other ones ranged from being super dumb (I hate carbohydrates) to totally heartbreaking (war killed dad, war killed my lover, war killed my son, and I lead a soldier on during a war thinking he wouldn’t come back alive but he did and I had to break it to him that I never meant it). The pièce de résistance is certainly the bright pink penis. A couple made a silicone copy of his gentleman junk and when they broke up she gave it to the museum. So now 100,000 annual visitors get to look at a carbon copy of his bed snake and if that isn’t revenge on your ex then I don’t know what is.
A super famous part of Zagreb are their tunnels. Air raid tunnels from World War 2 (and used during their War of Independence. They tried to turn the tunnels into a winter wonderland. It’s pretty but you can hardly walk through it with all the tourists taking endless photos of giant nutcracker statues. They play one song from the nutcracker on repeat, too, which gets a little crazy-making after a few minutes.
We went to the Archaeology museum which was interesting. They sprinkled things owned by a female archaeologist all among the usual displays. She helped excavate so much around Croatia that she deserved recognition so they put her story and bag/jacket (very Indiana Jones) next to some of the items. This was at first confusing to see earrings next to Neolithic tools but it was a nice way of honoring her work.
We went to the zoo! They had a nice display to the Snakes of Croatia but other than that there weren’t any Croatian specific animals. Everyone online said it was small but we got a good 3+ hours out of it and enjoyed it. Probably our best day.
We took a grand total of 60 photos in Zagreb, and not a single one of them means anything to us. For comparison, we took about 100 A DAY everywhere else, and it was a struggle to decide which to include in our posts. So yeah, Zagreb real boring. So ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. This post will have no other photos.
We had to take a bus (FlixBus again) from Zagreb all the way to Vienna. This was supposed to be 5 hours but was much longer because of border delays. Again we got off the bus, showed passports, got back on and repeated the process. This time we got stamps in the passports which was cool. We had a really nice time in Vienna, we were in a neighborhood with very few tourists so we had to use German completely to order dinner and get around. This is super rare in Austria and Germany where everyone speaks English perfectly. So that was nice. We easily flew from Vienna back to Mallorca with no delays or problems at all.
On the whole the trip was nearly perfect. Zagreb didn’t have anything implicitly wrong with it (unlike Paris which is filthy or Dublin which is obscenely expensive and fake). It was just boring which was disappointing compared to the other places we went.