I arrived in Zagreb early this morning – 3:00 a.m. The city and country transitions on this trip have been a bit rough. This one was no exception. A few minutes before departure passengers received news about cancellation of the overnight train (9 pm to 7 am) from Split to Zagreb. Instead, a bus picked us up and drove everyone to Zagreb. The bus arrived in Zagreb four hours earlier than expected and dropped us off at the central train station. What now?
The trams aren’t running at that hour of the morning but several taxis were waiting outside the train terminal. I talked to a few Aussies who were new to Zagreb as well and equally bewildered about what to do. They decided to use their smartphone mapping software to walk to their hostel in the dark – about an hour away by foot. We wished each other good luck and parted.
The owner of my apartment in Zagreb specifically advised against taking a taxi from the train station. He said the taxis waiting there were known for confusing and cheating tourists. I was a little rummy from the bus ride but realized there was no way to get to my apartment at 3:00 am without taking a taxi. The original plan was to go from the train station to the main square in central Zagreb and catch a taxi there since I was aware of the proper taxi fare from that point. After talking to (or trying to talk to) several shady drivers, I declined getting into their taxis. They were unhappy to be asked questions about their fares.
As I was pondering my predicament, a man standing by the train terminal approached and asked where I was going. I gave him the address – an upscale residential neighborhood near the university. He said his friend was an honest driver with a metered taxi and he would take me there and not cheat me. Since there was no choice except to trust someone I got into his taxi and the driver proceeded to the apartment – about a 10 to 15 minute drive. Central Zagreb was lite up beautifully at night and the buildings were gorgeous!
The taxi driver was soft-spoken and polite. I got there safely and paid him a reasonable taxi fare. The owner was up and let me into the apartment – which is the beginning of the next story…
The apartment owner, Mladen Kahlina, is a former opera singer who was up at that hour playing the piano and working on some lyrics. He’s retired from opera singing and now teaches and manages his small apartment building. Surprised to see me at 3:00 am – a really early arrival – Mladen said he wasn’t quite finished preparing the apartment.
While he finished putting things together, we had an interesting conversation about opera (he did the talking) which lasted for over an hour. At that point I’d been up all night – so what was a few more hours? He lectured me on Giuseppe Verdi and various other operatic composers and even sang a few lines – nice voice. Then he brought me a beautiful CD by Maria Bethania (a Brazilian singer) to listen to while winding down after the long day of travel. I love her music – it’s in Portuguese.
The apartment is cozy (with a Jacuzzi bathtub – yeah – and a small deck). Since I hadn’t slept for over 24 hours I almost immediately fell into a deep sleep. Will begin exploring tomorrow…
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and considered the cultural and political hub of the country. Mladen left a brochure on June 2013 events and performances – there are plenty of interesting things to see and do in Zagreb!