Thursday, 23 September 2010

InterRailing for Glampackers

September 16th Split to Zagreb

The Croatian train service is not what you would call state of the art. It may run a direct route to Zagreb, but it takes a lifetime to get there. It just brings things into focus a little about how lucky we are to have comfortable and fast trains.

Still, it was direct, and the countryside was beautiful. Zagreb though, was well worth the wait. Wide boulevards, parks and fountains. There is an old ‘upper' medieval town accessed by steps or a funicular, and a more modern, (modern by medieval standards) ‘lower' town. They told us that the man responsible for Budapest's fine architecture was instrumental in much of Zagreb's lower town development, and it certainly shows. The parks are wide and green, the architecture grand Baroque and you can almost imganie the horse carriages clanging along the streets. What clangs now though are trams, which are free to use in the city centre.
I said on my radio show that Croatia brought us the neck tie, well a Croat also invented the pen, a certain Eduard Penkala and he lived in Zagreb.
We stayed at the sumptuous Regent Esplanade, one of the original Orient Express Hotels where guests stayed the night on their way to Istanbul. They say that civilization begins at the terrace of the Esplanade, and this hotel is truly legendary. Anyone who is anyone has stayed there and today the service is still impeccable and the building an art deco marvel.
Like Split, the prices in Zagreb are very cheap in comparison to the Euro zone, and the food is excellent. This is a city that in my view makes the perfect weekend break. There's that bit of eastern European mystery, it is very safe to walk around, it's great value and nearly everyone speaks English.

Sadly, our 2 nights were over in a trice and we headed on for Hungary, but with great memories of Zagreb. We will return.

Hotel: The Regent Esplanade
Restaurants: Zinfandel's at The Regent and Pod Grickim Topom (top of the funicular)