Good afternoon dear readers. Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa’ – let’s talk travel!
In all honesty I used to freak out a little even at the prospect of trying to plan train journeys even just within the UK. The very essence of the British rail systems only too often means paying a fortune, yet still resulting in delays or ending up with a group of drunks serenading the entire carriage. I guess in a way it made me wary about how it would be when travelling abroad. However travelling within Austria (and beyond) has become somewhat of a joy. Decent prices, clean and well-staffed trains, and more often than not, actually on time. All in all we could do with taking a leaf out of their book.
Easter break had barely even begun before I was off out on my travels. I’m not even joking about that. I’m pretty sure that in less than 24 hours after my last lecture, I was out of the country. The first stop of our Easter mini adventure was Zagreb in Croatia. Most of the first day of the trip was spent travelling down south through Slovenia then over the border into Croatia. It took a good few hours (almost 7 to be precise), yet we only had to change twice and most of the time could be spent relaxing, munching on gummy bears and enjoying the landscape that swept past the window. The longest stop was probably the wait on the Slovenian border where a group of scary looking police officers hopped on the train and inspected passports (twice actually) and then searched intimidatingly round each cabin. A standard process of scaring the life out of unsuspecting tourists, I believe.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of Croatia, but I was pleasantly surprised. Much of the town was made up of little streets full of cafes, independent shops and souvenir market stands, and much of the old architecture of the buildings remained, which really added to the cultural and historical atmosphere of the city. A highlight for me was also The Museum of Broken Relationships, which was one of the strangest yet great concept. The exhibition is made up of donations from the public, who want to share their stories of life and loss and share little keepsakes from their stories, from letters, stuffed bears and photographs, to the slightly more bizarre toasters, car number plates and dog toys. Sounds crazy I know, but trust me, if ever you get a chance to visit one, as many places worldwide have held these exhibitions, it is definitely worth a visit! (https://brokenships.com/en/visit)
The hostel we stayed at was The Brit Hostel (http://brithostel-zagreb.com/en/); all in all I have no complaints about this place! If you are looking for basic, clean, central accommodation, and don’t mind bunking with a few strangers, then I would definitely recommend it. The hostel also had a common room area, kitchen and bar as well, so you were not just confined to the dorm.
All in all, apart from the man who tried to sell me a half eaten block of cheese and a single spring onion in a public toilet (could only happen to me), Zagreb was lovely and definitely worth a spending a couple of days exploring. Note also Croatia still use their own currency and not the Euro, but you can change currency at the main station. Might seem a bit confusing getting used to it, but after changing from Euros you will realise things are so cheap! Even for a decent sized meal you will easily pay less than 5 euros.
Next stop on our trip was Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. We caught an evening train from Zagreb to Ljubljana, and upon arrival in the station, we were, well to put it simply, lost. Though thanks to the hallowed Google maps, we managed to wind our way through the streets of the city to arrive at our hostel. Much to our delight despite opting for a six bed dorm, no-one else joined us that evening, so for a bargain 12€ we got ourselves in effect a twin room! Again the hostel was in a great location, less than ten minutes walk to the centre. (http://www.hostel-tresor.si/) A definite recommend!
Ljubljana itself was a lot smaller than I probably expected but still this was nice as it meant we could walk around at our leisure and enjoy the sights. The main attraction of the city was the castle which was up high on a hill in the centre of the city, and could (luckily for us) be reached by a funicular railway. Up at the top was a little breezy but ensured we got some great views over the city and even over to the mountains.
Lunch was spent chilled by the river and enjoying the spring sun. Simply lush.
I didn’t like the outer regions of the city so much with the modern taller buildings, but towards the centre was very pretty. Lots of old town architecture, churches and good views up to the castle. Overall it was a nice little place to explore for the day, but that was all you really needed to see everything.
Once again we hopped on the train and the next stop was back in our Austrian homeland to Klagenfurt in the neighboring province of Carinthia. Our hostel, one of the only ones in Klagenfurt, was situated a little way out of the centre but was easily reached by bus or train, and again to our delight we had the room to ourselves. (Probably for the best considering the hysterics we were left in after thinking we were locked out for the night.)
First things first we headed to the Lake Wörther just outside of the town, which meant sun, incredible mountain views and drinks by the lakeside. Perfect.
Klagenfurt was quite small and everything was rather compact in the centre, yet I was seemingly happy about this due to the fact that I was hobbling round on a blistered toe. We enjoyed lunch outside and then explored a little round the town, which was full of side streets of artsy shops, traditional Austrian squares with cafes, fountains and brimming with what I call ”Instagram potential”. (Fellow instagrammers you will understand).
Anyhow the end of the journey was then upon us and it was time to head back to good old Graz. For this leg of the journey we took an ÖBB Intercity Bus, which was a direct two hour journey through the mountains back to Graz main train station. To top it all off we also were seated right at the front of the double-decker coach with optimum view of the landscape passing by and the road ahead.
Overall I had a great time exploring new places that I most likely wouldn’t ever have saw if it wasn’t for my year abroad, and I’m planning more trips already, because I have been well and truly bitten by the travel bug and just want to make the most of having the world on my doorstep.
Love Austria, love Europe, love my year abroad, love the world. That is all.
Tschüss for now.
— erasmusexplorer.com —