Our journey to Croatia began at the space age Linz Station or, as it is known in the local language, Linz Hauptbahnhopf. All the stations in Austria are vast caverns of gleaming modern tile and marble and glass.
We were again pleased to make use of a particularly Austrian feature of train travel – when you buy two tickets, if you get them “together” it is cheaper then if you get them “separately”. When we first encountered this in Vienna, we thought it was because they saved money by only printing one paper ticket. However, the international tickets from Linz to Ljubljana were preinted on two separate pieces of paper, and we still got the “group discount” price.
The superdooper fast Railjet train had an aeroplane-style display, which showed the speed, time to destination, and a map with a moving dot in rotation. It went fast enough that it did actually feel like flying at times – up to 200kph!
And it had high-speed WiFi. Loooxury …
The landscape between Linz and Salzburg was quite spectacular, because we were travelling through the Alps.
We changed trains at the gleaming steel and glass edifice that is Salzburg Hauptbahnhopf, where we were again reminded that the laws about selling cigarettes are very different in Austria and Australia! (Just look at all that colourful packaging … and out in plain view, too …)
And then it was back on the train for more spectacular mountains and rivers, as we made our way to the southernmost station in Austria, Villach.
There were tiny towns, and alpine meadows, and craggy peaks, and winding rivers …
And castles. Austria does particularly beautifully-situated castles.
You can see all the photos of glorious Austrian mountains in the album: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.640743936024363.1073741957.294546480644112
We had a few minutes to wait at Villach while the train was dismembered. Only the back three cars were carrying on into Slovenia, but we had been told this in Salzburg and were in the right place.
There were no passport controls at the border, so our first hint that we were in Slovenia was when we pulled into the next station. No glass, no gleaming steel, no imitation marble. Just a concrete platform with a wooden roof.
On the other hand, the same bottle of water which cost $2.50 from the vending machine in Salzburg cost 70c in the station vending machine in Ljubljana.
And despite the lower cost of living in Ljubljana, their station had a feature we have never seen before – a baggage lift on the stairs up to the platform. What a great idea! Why are these not everywhere?
We walked from the station to our accommodation. We must be building muscle, because it would have been unthinkable to walk almost a kilometre carrying everything we own a year ago.
As we walked down the street away from the station, we were hailed by another couple of travellers, Will and Gita (pronounced Gitsa, because she is Hungarian). They had just hitchhiked from Budapest, and were dropped at this point literally one minute before we came along.
We got talking, and it was amazing how much we had in common. We didn’t even notice we had been standing for half an hour with our backpacks on! Eventually we decided to spend the evening together.
They called their friend in Ljubljana, and arranged to meet him at The Art Cafe. Our accommodation was in the same general direction as the cafe, and our host was waiting for us, so we decided to drop our bags first and then join them at the cafe.
As it turned out, you could see the cafe from our front door!
Their friend had to go home and rehearse, so the four of us adjourned across the road for pizza and more conversation.
We were talking about going to a club in an alternative area of former military warehouses near the station, but the conversation was so good and we had all had so little sleep in the previous few days that we just talked until the staff had piled all the other chairs on tables and mopped the floor, and then retired to our respective digs for the night.
We hope to meet up with them again some day, somewhere …
The next morning, our bus left at 9.30am, so we only had time to pop down to the main square and take a few photos while hunting breakfast. We will be back to Ljubljana for a proper few days’ stay after we go to Croatia.
The bus took the scenic route from Ljubljana to Pula, heading to the coast and stopping in at several coastal tourist towns along the way. Well, not exactly along the way, because the highway is about ten or fifteen kilometres inland.
We were so excited to see the ocean again, after spending so long inland!
The bus stopped in Piran, a Slovenian coastal town, for long enough that we could get out and take a decent photo of the harbour.
We had full-on border control crossing from Slovenia into Croatia, even though Croatia is part of the EU.
Pictures of scenic countrysides can be found here:
After entering Croatia, we crossed a long causeway with an opening bridge. This water apparently goes a long way inland.
Croatia has put a lot of effort into beautifying is coastline while preserving its character as much as possible. There are new monuments and roundabouts planted with flowers at every intersction along the highway, but the villages on the hillsides still look much the same as they did three hundred years ago.
After several more set-downs in several more towns, we were the last two people on the bus for the final leg of the bus ride to Pula.
At Pula bus station, we found that the tickets from Pula to Medulin had to be bought from the driver. When we got to the platform (buses have platforms in Europe), there was a vast crowd of teenagers already waiting. When the bus pulled in and opened its doors, they surged on, waving their plastic cards at the reader, and filled up all the seats.
Adult passengers who needed to buy tickets from the driver had to stand. Tom did not let this interfere with him tooling on his phone, though.
Finally, we reached the marina at Medulin. It was so pretty we just had to stop and take photos, backpacks or no backpacks.
We were staying with our friend Hannah in an apartment owned by her parents – it is in the middle building of the three buildings you can see in the photo. Nice location!
Not only does Medulin have a scenic harbour, it also has a Roman ruin! Conveniently located in the park beside the apartment building, too.
This seaside villa belonged to Constantine’s firstborn son, who was executed after his stepmother accused him of raping her. There is a theory that they had an affair, and another theory that she made the whole thing up either because he turned her down, or because she wanted him out of the way for political reasons.
Politics was a deadly business in Ancient Rome!
As the sun sank slowly behind the seawall of the Roman villa, we just had to reflect on how lucky we are.
Lucky to live in a time when human rights are a thing. OK, so our politicians are not always living up to our ideals in that regard, but at least now we HAVE the ideals articulated.
Lucky to live in a time when we are free to cross the borders of these nations.
Lucky to live in a time of affordable transport.
Lucky to have friends all over the world, and to be meeting new and wonderful people everywhere we go.
Lucky to be healthy, and strong, and able to travel.
And, most of all, lucky to have found one another – a compatible travel companion is a treasure beyond rubies!