Well, I made it. sort of. But it hasn’t been smooth.
First, my trip. Caught a cab from the airport to the bus station in downtown Zagreb. The Croatian capital looks like any large city, except there are no skyscrapers. Lots of high-rise apartment and office buildings, however, And lots of greenery. The cabbie carried one of my bags to the ticket counter and showed me where to go once I got a ticket. Nice. Cab ride was about $25. Bus ticket was $34.
The bus was almost ready to go when I arrived so I put my suitcases in the hold and took a seat. No one took the seat next to me, where my backpack and laptop bag were resting, although an old woman looked at it until I moved my stuff. She ranted about something or other for a bit and then took one of the other open seats, so I had some space on the ride to Zadar. The bus was modern, with A/C, and more comfortable than any plane I’ve been on recently. The ride took 3 1/2 hours, with a rest stop about two-thirds of the way there. When we started, the temperature was a comfortable 78 degrees on a sunny day. First sign of trouble: at the rest stop I tried to boot up my laptop and it stayed dark. Uh-oh!
There wasn’t a lot to see along the way, mostly trees interspersed with farmland. Lots of white birches, which I haven’t seen since living in New England. We went through two mountain ranges, often going through long tunnels. One I estimated at 2 miles long. It must have taken a long time to make the trip before the new highway was completed. The last mountain range was just sheer rock, with little vegetation. When we emerged on the other side, the bluest water I’ve seen in a long time was in view. This was actually well inland from the Adriatic Sea, which I never actually saw until walking to the coast later Friday.
Zadar is a lot larger than I pictured. My research said the population was about 70,000, but that info must be old. I’d say it’s closer to 100,000 now. At the bus station, I grabbed a cab and showed him the name of the hostel and its address. I had written it down previously because I knew it might be handy to have it written down. It was. It was a $17 ride, plus tip, to the hostel, which was a private residence in the middle of a residential area. They had two, 2-bedroom apartments upstairs and were renting each bedroom out, with a shared bath and kitchen area. Fortunately, I was the only one there for the weekend. Neither apartment has Internet or TV, no coffee pot, no fans or A/C, and there’s a church right next door with a tall bell tower. The bell rings very loudly several times a day, including, I found out this morning at 6 a.m. The owners offered me either apartment for 320 euro a month but I can’t live there for three months without Internet or TV, so I’m looking elsewhere. Also, it’s a long way to the water and the center of town.
Ignoring my laptop problem for the moment, I left my bags and went walking down to the Adriatic waterfront. What I came to, actually, was the inlet caused by the “old city” peninsula, with lots of boats docked. The main Adriatic is on the other side of the old city. There are bar/cafes everywhere, little holes in the wall that serve coffee and alcohol and have a few seats inside and on the sidewalks. There are also bakeries (pekara) seemingly on every block, as well as numerous butcher shops (mesnica). Couldn’t find any Internet cafes or computer repair shops. Checked several places about apartments with no luck.
Couldn’t find a real restaurant outside of the tourist area so went without food until after I went to the supermarket (Kaufland). Bought some orange juice, Diet Coke, Irish Whiskey, salami, gouda cheese and chocolate (unlike Costa Rica, they have lots of chocolate choices here). Didn’t want to carry too much on the long walk back, and a good thing because I got lost. Finally found my street and settled down for salami, cheese and a few drinks, while I plugged my laptop in and waited for it to recharge (I thought the problem was a dead battery). After several hours, however, it still wouldn’t boot up.
Now, I’m panicked! No apartment. No computer (my lifeline). No idea where to find either. During the afternoon, I tried a bulletin board at Kaufland (no rentals listed), couldn’t find an Internet cafe for other bulletin boards, didn’t see too many “apartment for rent” signs, and even bought a local classifieds newspaper. No luck. At this point, I’m analyzing my options. But it’s only Day 1.
After my snack of salami and cheese, I walked down the street to get some food and a beer at one of the cafe/bars, only to find out they don’t serve food. So went across the street to a “fast food” place. Ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and it turned out to be excellent, probably because of the bread. Took it to the cafe/bar, ordered a beer and had my dinner watching soccer of all things.
A word about the neighborhood where I’m staying. There was a street of houses I could watch from the balcony. Two- and three-story homes connected to each other like old brownstones, except each was unique. Also several condo buildings of two to six units. It reminded my of the 1970s, with families playing on the street, hearing conversations coming from outside and inside, families walking together on the street.
Was able to get a few hours sleep but woke at maybe 3-4 a.m. (no clock) and began worrying about my prospects for an apartment or computer repair. Decided the latter was the most pressing need, as I can stay in the hostel for as long as I need, although for about $50 a night. So this morning I set out with my laptop in search of help. In the center of town, I found a digital printing shop, which referred me to a computer sales shop a few blocks away. While I was there, I had a laminated copy of my passport made ($3).
The computer shop only sells hardware and components, no repair, but he directed me to another shop that does repairs a few blocks away. Boy, my walking regimine is really coming in handy. Weather here is about 90 degrees in the day, so it was a hot walk with the heavy laptop case. All this walking around had another benefit, as I’m getting a better lay of the land – found barber shops and a cheap clothing store, for example, and another supermarket.
The guy at the repair shop plugged my laptop in and – IT WORKS FINE! Except it didn’t at the hostel or on the bus unplugged. But it’s working fine now at the Internet cafe the repair shop guy directed me to. The cafe sits on the water, with the old city on the other side of the inlet. Nice breeze and good music. Having a Beck’s while I write this, wearing down my battery. The Internet is free for customers, so I’m likely to be here daily until I find an apartment.
So, one problem happily resolved. Now off to find an apartment and a sit-down restaurant. (NOTE: More pictures to come. Laptop battery running low and takes forever to load images.)