BUDAPEST, ZAGREB, PLITVICE AND PULA

Letter 102

A lot has happened since I last posted a letter at the right time. The last two weeks have been incredibly busy and equally amazing. I spent most of the time with my boyfriend, friends from home and new friends I made in Zagreb and have had so much fun. So instead of doing 4 posts I’m rolling them into one so that I’m caught up and can start writing about where I currently am! Here goes…

Budapest

After spending one more night in Lisbon and enjoying an extraordinarily hot day in the city I took a flight to Budapest, arriving in the middle of the night. I successfully made it to the airbnb my boyfriend and I were staying in and crashed. The apartment was great, very central and perfect for what should have been a longer stay. Unfortunately we only had two nights, giving us one full day – not enough in beautiful Budapest.

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We got straight to exploring the next day but only after a hearty breakfast. Despite the chilly breeze from the river the walk along the bank to the parliament was pleasant and the buildings we passed were stunning. I had expected to be impressed by the city because, who isn’t, but I didn’t expect to feel at home so quickly. The city is full of grand classical buildings, quirky apartment blocks and large sweeping parks. No two streets look the same and there is something worth seeing around every corner. I cannot wait to return to properly spend time exploring this city, and the country.

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With nothing on the agenda we decided to just walk around and have a relax. We headed for the city park which is a huge expanse of green containing the biggest baths in Budapest, a lake and a zoo. We stayed here for a little while soaking in the sun and enjoying the surroundings. We didn’t go to the baths here but instead decided to head to the smaller one, Rudas, on the other side of the river in the evening. Such a treat to bathe in Budapest’s Roman baths and must-do when in town.

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In the afternoon we met out friends to conquer Gellert Hill and catch the views across the city. This is a great little walk and the views at the top are something else. There’s also a statue that looks like a bottle opener, some markets and a garden.

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The following 24 hours were a bit of a blur. We headed back to the (very nice) airbnb before going to dinner. We ate in a small Serbian/Hungarian restaurant and I kid you not, the food was incredible! It was called Castro Bistro and I had one of the specials, a pork dish which totally filled a whole. We then headed off to the baths and had a lovely stroll back over the bridge afterwards when the city was lit up in the darkness. The next morning we overslept – not surprisingly considering the lack of sleep the night before, busy day and late night. We then had a quick breakfast and packed before leaving for our bus. On the way we popped in to Szimpla Sunday Market which I really wish we’d had longer to enjoy. Such a cool place which tonnes of fresh food and great decor. Overall, absolutely loved Budapest and am planning a return to do it properly ASAP!

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Zagreb

This city has surprised me more than any other because I had such low expectations for it. So many people had told me that it’s not really worth visiting, not very pretty and that I shouldn’t spend so long there – how wrong they were! I intended to stay in the hostel and explore the city whilst my friends were at the inmusic festival, but plans change. I ended up meeting some really great people, got convinced to buy a ticket to the festival, and spend three nights enjoying great company, scenery and music on the stunning island in Zagreb. Even better, I got great sleep every night at my fantastic hostel and spent my days exploring this little city and falling in love with it. As an introduction to Croatia, it set the bar pretty high.

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I did the free walking tour on my first day there which was the best thing I could’ve done. The guide was the best I’d ever had and the stories he told about the city were fascinating. He took us around some of the best parts of the city and instructed us on where else to go. I really felt like I got to know Zagreb through this great guide. I also happened to meet someone who became a really good friend and who I spent a lot of time with – in and out of the festival.

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The second day I went to the Museum of Broken Relationships – ie Croatia’s most famous museum. It’s easily one of my favourite museums I’ve been to purely because of how unique and touching it is. It’s basically a collection of objects paired with the story behind them written by people who’ve suffered broken relationships. It’s so interesting and a must see! After this we went for lunch at a place recommended on the walking tour which was unbelievable. It’s a Croatian tapas restaurant and everything is sourced locally. It’s so delicious and cheap and I wanted to return again and again. It’s called Heritage and is very near the main square (as is everything really). The afternoon was spending lounging at the lake before going into the festival to watch KINGS OF LEON! What a hard life it is.

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For my last day I took a walk around the ‘green horseshoe’ of Zagreb. This is possibly the prettiest part of the city and is a collection of garden squares and colourful grand buildings. There’s also a Botanic Garden which is a very pretty place. I then stopped for a cake in a cafe recommended to me called Amelie – and I was not disappointed. I also had looked around the central market of Zagreb which hosts stalls upon stalls of fresh fruit and veg plus a whole underground space full of meat, fish, dairy and even pastries. Beyond this the market stretches down the streets and becomes a space to sell clothes and other goods. You can’t miss this market in Zagreb!

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Plitvice Lakes

At two and a half hours from Zagreb (or Split or Zadar), the Plitvice Lakes National Park is a very popular day trip. However, I strongly encourage you NOT to do a day trip. I recommend you stay over in the park for at least one, if not two nights. The reason to do this is that having had a good night’s sleep and only been a short while away from the entrances, you can get into the park early, at 8 or 9, and can enjoy this stunning area without the hoards of day trippers. At least you can for a couple of hours. We did the second longest route around the park (because we weren’t told about the longest) and we finished by 12:30. It really doesn’t take very long and it is completely spectacular. I honestly felt I was in paradise. I won’t give too many photos because you must see it for yourself!

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Pula

I had a pretty lengthy stay in Pula with my boyfriend and luckily we had a fantastic airbnb with a pool. This was a blessing and a curse because obviously it was amazing to have, but it meant we were a bit lazy and spend a day and an afternoon lazing by the glorious water. However, Pula is quite small and for us, a morning was enough to wander around the town and get a feel for it. It’s a pretty little town steeped in Roman history and lined by some serious ocean liners as well as posh yachts. It makes an interesting contrast of ancient buildings, pretty tenements and ships.

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We spent one of our days in the Kamenjak National Park. Now this place is really beautiful but takes some patience. Firstly, after checking the bus times we went to the bus station aiming to get a bus at 10:15 – but it never arrived. Instead we waited for the next one at 11:35 and eventually got to the park at about 12:30. Well, we got to the town near the park at 12:30. Premantura is actually a really pretty place and from what I can tell, is popular with locals and holiday-makers. The town is about and hour walk from the end of the peninsula on some very well defined dusty roads. It’s an easy walk but not very shaded. What’s great about the park is that every few minutes you come across a sign to a little cove where the water is crystal clear and great for a cooling dip. There are a number of beach bars in the area and the view from the tip of the peninsula is stunning. A great day out, lovely to get out in nature, but I would be tempted to rent a bike if I did it again, just to save some time.

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So that’s me almost caught up now! A quick stop in beautiful Budapest, a spontaneous festival in Zagreb, a stunning day spent in Plitvice and a relaxing stay in Pula. Thoroughly enjoyed this little interlude in my travels where I got to spend time with my boyfriend and both friends from home and new friends.

I’m having such a fantastic time, meeting some great people and seeing some wonderful places. I have a month left of my trip now – how has it gone so quick? – and approximately the next week will be spent here in Croatia.

Stay tuned!

From Lou

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