Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. Compared to the other cities we’d visited it was a very modest one but, still very charming and also a very beautiful country.
Our train journey from Vienna took about 7 hours. When we finally got off the train it was 10:30pm and we were both shattered. We got a taxi to our Hostel which was called the Swanky Mint. Here we had a private room as it was so cheap it was something like £30 a night. The staff were so friendly and couldn’t do enough to help us, they even carried our bags upstairs for us. The hostel was gorgeous and was decorated industrially but it looked really cool and had an amazing vibe. If you’re going to Zagreb, this is where you should stay! It’s also a 5-minute walk from the centre of town. Once in the room we flopped on the bed and slept.
After a decent nights sleep, we woke up feeling refreshed and ready for a day of exploring Zagreb. Like I said it’s a very small city so it didn’t take us long to see the sights. We decided to get a picnic from the supermarket of pastries, bread, crisps, sweets and chocolate and sit in the park and eat whilst planning where to go and what to do. Hayley saw an advert for a thing called “Room Escape”. A themed game for teams where you are locked in a room for an hour with a scenario and need to solve puzzles in order to get out of the room. This sounded like a great idea and I was really excited to do something like this, so we booked ourselves a slot. It was 175 Kuna each, which was about £20 each but we thought it would be fun and in all honesty, there wasn’t a lot else that interested us in Zagreb, the museum of broken relationships just didn’t seem that appealing to us.
The game we chose was set in the Cold War and we had to try and stop a nuclear bomb from detonating and save the world. I won’t give too much away, but it was quite difficult for just the two of us and we struggled in some places. We did get quite close to the end though and it was still a really fun experience and a good way to spend an hour, I’d recommend doing something like this if you can they also have them in Budapest and I’m sure lots of other places around the world.
After we failed to save the world we headed back to the Hostel and signed up for the Alcatraz Bar Crawl on the evening for 15 Euros which wasn’t bad considering it included free shots and all you can drink for an hour for free (can’t complain) and entry to a night club. We also signed up for a trip the next day to a war museum, an abandoned nuclear bunker/cave and a trip to Plitvice Lakes and National Park.
We got ready for the bar crawl and headed down to the square at 10pm where it started. We met some other girls from Britain who were travelling and spent the night with them. It was a really good night out the reps were all really friendly and caring and the all you can drink part was a really amazing part. As you can imagine we definitely suffered the next day.
We woke up bright and early at 8:15 feeling a little fuzzy headed. We had to be ready and downstairs at 8:30 to get the bus for our day trip.There was us two and four other girls from the Netherlands and one from Spain. They were all nice but we’d been out on the bar crawl until 5am so we slept most of the way there.
Our first stop was the Croatian Museum of War and Independence. The Museum was outdoors and displays weapons and vehicles used in the Croatian Homeland War and also acts as a memorial for the victims of war. We looked around the museum and then headed to the cafe for a drink as it was so hot we needed to keep hydrated. Then back in the van and onto the Zeljava airbase.
The airbase was built by the Yugoslav government between 1958 and 1968 to house aircraft and be used in the Yugoslav Wars. The base was designed to withstand a direct hit from a nuclear bomb. The bunker has 4 main entrances and the tunnels are over 3.5km long. If you go deep enough into the tunnels you can cross the border (illegally) between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, it’s a popular route for Asylum seekers s0 the area is patrolled by police.
The tunnels housed aircraft and entire squadrons, as well as an underground water source, power generators, crew quarters, and a mess hall that could feed 1,000 people. It also stocked food, fuel, and arms to last 30 days without resupply. The Military of Serbian Krajina blew up the airbase to prevent any possible further use of the complex by opposing forces, 56 tons of explosives were detonated there. The ensuing explosion was so powerful that it shook the nearby city of Bihac. The base now lies in ruins.
The base is surrounded by undetonated mines and is very dangerous to visit if you don’t know what path to follow. Inside the base is equally as dangerous, there are lots of holes and bits of concrete hanging from the ceiling that could easily fall, it’s also said deeper in the tunnels that the risk of collapse is very high. There is also radioactive dust and a high concentration of PCB in tunnel 1. If you are planning to visit the airbase please take great caution and go with an experienced guide.
It was really cool to go in the airbase, exploring abandoned buildings is something I find really interesting. It really reminded me of the Fallout franchise which fascinated me even more. I would recommend you visit it if you have a guide to take you and you’re interested in it.
After Zeljava we went to see one of the derelict planes that were once in the airbase. The
plane was a Douglas C-47 and was located near to the airbase entrance. The plane is in ruins although you can still climb inside. We climbed onto the wing which was a really cool experience that I never thought I’d do. But, as the sun was so hot, easily 35-degrees, climbing on and off the plane was not the most pleasant experience, especially when wearing a skirt!
Our next and final stop was the Plitvice National Park. The drive wasn’t too far from the airbase. Once we arrived we had to queue for about 30 minutes to get our ticket, which cost 180 Kuna (110 Kuna for students.) There’re numerous hotels around the park too which would be a lovely stay. The park is huge and there are hundreds of different paths and walks you can go on. It’s very easy to get lost in the expanse of the forest, so make sure you have a map handy.
We waited for the boat across the large Kozjak lake. You have to get two boats in total, although it is a long wait, the scenery you’re surrounded by whilst waiting distracts you from this. You can also rent a rowing boat on this lake which I think would be a lovely way to spend an afternoon, if we weren’t on a timescale, we would have definitely done this.
The second boat ride lasts about 10 minutes and the views are absolutely breathtaking as you can imagine. If you don’t fancy the wait for the boat you can also walk alongside the lake, which probably takes the same amount of time as it would if you wait for the boats.
After this longer boat ride, you are in a clearing with a picnic area, cafes, and restaurants that are jam packed with people, I’d advise you bring your own food as Hayley waited 30 minutes in the queue in the cafe for a small portion of old chips which as you can imagine cost a premium. We sat down and absorbed the view of the lake, then continued our walk towards the large waterfall Velika Slap.
The trail boasted breathtaking views across crystal clear, turquoise waters. The water looked so inviting, especially on such a hot day, unfortunately, you are not allowed to swim in the lakes, which was a shame.
It took about an hour for us to walk from Kozjak to Velika Slap, the paths were very crowded with tourists as you can imagine, this did not spoil the untouched beauty of the natural landscape. It was really nice to get away from the city and be in a natural environment after spending our time at the heart of the hustle and bustle for over a week, it was an excellent hangover cure.
I can’t recommend visiting Plitvice enough if you are in Croatia. Unfortunately,my pictures don’t do it justice. You will be blown away by this place I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere quite as beautiful as this, I could’ve easily stayed there and explored for hours on end.
We had to be back at the van by 4pm to go back to the hostel, so we didn’t get as much time here as we perhaps would have liked, as it was impossible to see and explore everything in 3 hours so I’d take a whole day out if I were you. It’s really easy to get a bus from Zagreb or Split to Plitvice and that way you can spend as long as you like.
When we got back to the hostel we popped out for a takeaway tea and then came back to the hostel to pack and get ready to go to Budapest early the next day. I spent a while chatting to another traveller I met the night before on the hostel’s roof terrace, then decided to get an early night.
Today we woke up at 8:30, checked out and are now on the train to Budapest, our final destination! I never want this amazing adventure to end!
Thanks for reading, see you back in England!