After a 7-hour layover at Charles de Gaul airport in Paris, I finally caught my Air France flight to Zagreb at 7:30 p.m. central Europe time. The plane was a 50-seater and full. They took my packpack (because it was supposedly too big for the overheads) and stored it in the hold, but there were several people who brought on bigger carry-ons than me. Whatever. My window seat gave me a good view of mostly the clouds on the 1 1/2-hour flight. They served perhaps the best snack I’ve ever had on an airplane – a seeded flat roll sliced lengthwise, with some sort of flavored cream cheese inside. It was so good (and I was so hungry), I ate it without any coffee or soda.
The Zagreb airport is small, with a single-floor building stretching maybe 100 yards. Immigration/customs was a routine look at my passport, a stamp on my passport and a “welome to Croatia” from the female officer. At this point, my main concern was that my bags had not made the journey but they showed up promptly and I grabbed a cab outside. The young cabbie spoke good English and gave me plenty of insight on the long ride to the Hotel Holiday. He says Zadar is a great place and, in fact, he and his wife vacation there every year. He expects I will have no trouble finding a suitable apartment there. He also said English is commonly spoken in Croatia and was very interested in my travel plans. The cab ride cost a lot, however, about 40 euros, or $55.
In restrospect, it would have been better to have taken a flight from Paris directly to Zadar. I had based my plans on the thought that my bags would be too heavy for a smaller plane but Croatia Airlines, which flies into Zadar, has a fairly new fleet of commuter jets and the weight probably wouldn’t have been a problem. The additional cost would have been about the same as my overnight stay in Zagreb. On the flip side, my bus ride today will allow me to see the countryside for 3 hours or so.
My hotel in Zagreb, the Hotel Holiday, is modern and clean, with high-speed Internet in the rooms and a complimentary breakfast in the morning. The only problem I had was finding dinner late at night, which I didn’t so I went to bed. Watched a little TV and it looks like there is a very limited number of English-language TV channels. I’ll have to see how many of the foreign language stations have English subtitles when I get settled.
Woke at 7 a.m. (1 a.m. EST) and went for my usual walk (see pictures), cleaned up and went down for breakfast. The hotel breakfast was excellent – coffee, tea, juice milk (tasted like it just came out of the cow, which was weird), breads, fruit, cold cuts, chesse, cereals, bacon (half-cooked, salty and delicious), scrambled eggs, pancakes (no syrup). Tried some fig marmalade on a croissant – excellent.
NOTE: I’ve been e-mailing the hostel in Zadar and they say there is no problem changing my reservation. Not sure if that means I will be paying for a third night or if they switched my two nights as I requested. The fact I took out cancellation insurance provided by hostels.com ($2) extra) might have helped. The owner also said her mother has two apartments that I can rent for 3 months and I responded with what I could afford to pay. We’ll see if the apartments are in my budget.
Next up – the bus trip from Zagreb to Zadar.