I checked into the ‘Swanky Mint’ hostel as the clock struck midnight. After the crazy journey I was excited to get some rest.
I checked in and went to my room. It was a really neat hostel. All of the beds were triple level bunk beds custom made out of plywood. Each bed had a little shelf, a light, and an electrical outlet. Whoever created this place definitely has stayed in a hostel before because they knew exactly what us travelers wanted in our rooms.
I was a little disappointed that I’d only be spending one night here, but I had to continue my journey to Plitvice Lakes the next day.
I immediately locked up my stuff, crawled into bed, and went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning and ate breakfast at the hostel – one chocolate croissant, one butter croissant, and one jam croissant. Yum.
I headed to the bus station, but I arrived two minutes too late to catch the bus so I waited an hour to get on the next bus. After a couple of hours the bus arrived in Plitvice. I pulled out my phone to see how to read the instructions on how to get to the hostel.
As the bus drove off I read the instructions: “Do NOT get off at the Plitvice bus stop, make sure to get off in Korenica instead.”
I looked at Google Maps. It was a 3.5 hour walk to the hostel. Not happening.
I talked to the guy working at the bus kiosk and he told me that a bus would come at 4:45pm (it was currently 2:30pm), but that bus doesn’t always stop.
He said not to worry because if that bus doesn’t stop there will be another one at 5pm.
Alright… not too bad!
I walked around a bit, sat down at a table outside a restaurant, and ordered a ham and cheese sandwich. Before I knew it he was bringing me over a pre made ham and cheese sandwich wrapped in plastic. I’d expect that from a snack bar, but from a restaurant?
I ate the ham and cheese sandwich and walked around a bit more before grabbing some ice cream and going back to the bus stop. I waited around of the bus.
4:45pm came around and there was not a bus in sight. Then 4:55pm came and I saw a bus. It was slowing down, about to pull into the bus station as if it was going to stop, and then the driver stepped on the gas pedal and drove off.
I looked at the guy at the bus kiosk and we just laughed.
Another bus was coming in 5 minutes. Its all good!
The bus arrives on time and I walk over to the driver. “Will you take me to Korenica?” I said.
“No” he replied.
I looked back over at the guy at the bus kiosk. “Don’t worry, I’ll talk to him,” he said.
He got me on the bus. I don’t know what I would have done without this guy! I thanked him again and hopped on the bus with this other guy that made the same mistake.
We walked a few minutes together to get to the hostel. We were in the mountains in Croatia and the nature around us was beautiful.
We arrived at the Falling Lakes Hostel. The owner was working there. She said they just opened one month ago. It used to be a bakery and took a lot of work to get it in the stage its at now. Its owned by a brother and sister who love to travel so they thought about everything they like in a hostel when they were creating theirs. It was the best hostel I had stayed at yet.
I checked in, put my belongings on my bed, took a shower, and then I played a game called Mafia with a bunch of people from the hostel. We played this for awhile before we all decided to go to bed. I was planning on doing a big hike the next day so resting up was a necessity.
While we were checking in the day before the owner of the hostel described the various routes we can take at Plitvice Lakes. There was a “touristy” little route that just went around the lakes. Then there was another route that was about 9km that went up into the mountains where we could see little villages, streams, and meadows. I knew which one I was doing: the 9km hike.
We got a crew together the next morning. Our group consisted of a Korean guy that couldn’t speak a lot of English but was fun to be around, a German student studying in Amsterdam, a 28 year old guy that never went to high school and has been traveling ever since, and me!
We all got a shuttle at 9am that would give us a round trip to the lakes and back. We drove 10 minutes and arrived at the national park. “Be back here at 5pm for pick up,” the driver said as he dropped us off.
Alright. Lets do this!
We bought our day pass tickets and walked into the park.
Almost instantly we were surrounded by serene beauty. It was one of the most picturesque landscapes I had ever seen. The lakes were crystal clear and had a turquoise hue. There were little waterfalls coming out of the trees adding water to the lakes.
We hiked around and saw the most amazing sites. Pictures don’t really do this place justice.
The ferries used to cross the lakes are electric. No bicycles are allowed. People aren’t allowed in the water. I love wake boarding and dirt biking, but there is something incredible about being in a part of nature that hasn’t been affected by humans. Mother Nature outdid herself here. This place is a masterpiece.
The weather was raining in the morning, but cleared up after a an hour or so and it turned out to be an absolutely perfect day.
We hiked around the lakes, into the mountains, and through the meadows. We saw villages where people live. We stood on top of waterfalls and looked down. We then hiked down and stood at the base of the same waterfall glancing up at where we just stood). And I took way more pictures than was necessary (383 to be exact). Here are some of my favorites from the day:
We all had an amazing day! We were the last ones back to the shuttle with one minute to spare.
We had a group of about 10 people playing Cards Against Humanity that night. I ended up winning (I’m not sure thats something to be proud of though haha).
After that I went to sleep to rest after a fulfilling day.
I woke up the next morning and was still very tired. I showered, packed up my stuff, and found a bus that would take me to Split around 11:35am. I had an hour to spare so I chatted with the guys I met that were volunteering at the hostel. One of the guys was from Belgium and he was talking about a hitch hiking competition that he has participated in. Apparently hitch hiking competitions are something? Who knew?!
I got on the bus, got my laptop and chargers, and got ready for the journey. Two minutes later we stop. “20 minute break,” the bus driver said.
I didn’t really need a break after that 2 minute journey so I decided to just walk around a bit. I found an illegal zoo that someone was telling me about at the hostel. Some local rich dude was hunting and killed mama bear who happened to have two baby cubs. He took the cubs with him and put them behind one of the restaurants he owns.
Our 20 minutes were up. Back to the bus. After a couple of hours we stopped for another break at Zadar. Finally we arrived in Split.
I walked around and found my hostel. It was a really small hostel that felt like an apartment. The lady Suzie runs it and lives there as well.
I met some of the people and they all immediately started talking about a pub crawl that was going on tonight. I didn’t feel like going out that night because I wanted to get some work done on my blog. I spent 3-4 hours working on the blog before heading to bed.
I woke up and headed out to walk around Split to see the city. I went to the old town and saw the ruins and Diocletian’s Palace. As I was walking down the marble steps leading underneath the palace I noticed that someone had spilled their coffee on the steps. Right when I realized that I should walk very carefully down the steps my legs flew out from underneath me. The outside of my right leg slammed against the marble steps as I landed. Ow.
I popped back up like nothing happened. The guy at the bottom of the stairs looked back up at me and we laughed a bit. I walked to the beach where I was planning on laying out on a nice sandy beach.
Well this wasn’t a San Diego beach. The sand was super hard and not very comfortable to lay on. I stayed there for a bit before taking another stroll through the city to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.
I headed back to the hostel and planned out the next day’s journey from Split, Croatia to Venice, Italy.
I’d been in communication with a former client of mine that I’d never met in person, but she happened to be in Croatia as well. We decided to grab lunch. I met with her and her friend and we had a great lunch. I had a large pizza at restaurant that some locals recommended.
It was delicious.
The next morning I grabbed some breakfast before hiking up a hill that overlooks the city. I went to the top and hung out for a bit. I made friends with this peacock and then headed back down to make sure my train situation was all planned out.
I waited around for a bit, grabbed some food, and did some reading before finally getting on the train at 6:50pm.
This was the craziest train journey I had planned yet. Here was the game plan:
Leave Split, Croatia at 6:50pm and arrive in Zagreb, Croatia at 3:10am the next morning. Wait around until 4:50am and take a train from Zagreb to Dobova, Slovenia that was going to arrive at 5:22am. Then take a train at 5:38am to Villach, Austria that would arrive at 9:08am. Lastly I was to take a bus from Villach to Venice that would leave at 10:50am and arrive at 1:50pm in Venice. It was a 19 hour journey and I was working on about 4 hours of sleep.
The train left at 6:50pm as planned and I tried to sleep immediately. After a few tries I found a semi-comfortable position. No one else was in my cabin in the train so I took over three seats laying down. I used the bag I keep my clothes in as a pillow, looped my arm through my backpack as a safety measure, and went to sleep.
I woke up many times, but kept falling back asleep fairly quickly each time. I arrived in Zagreb at 3:10am. I was still super tired and I was freezing cold even while bundled up in my long sleeve shirt and jacket. There was barely anyone at the train station. A few homeless people wandering around and a couple of railway employees.
My next train left in an hour and forty minutes. Sleeping was not an option at this place. There weren’t any chairs inside so I sat on the dirty floor inside the train station next to one of the shops that wasn’t open at this hour.
The time passed and the city started waking up. More people arrived at the train station and my next train should be here soon. I look at the monitor and it said the train was going be 10 minutes late. A few minutes pass and I look again. Now its going to be 20 minutes late. So I hung out a bit longer on the floor before standing up and walking out to the platform.
The 20 minutes passed, but the train didn’t show up.
I went back inside and looked at the monitor. Now it says 40 minutes. This meant I was definitely not making the next train.
Finally the train arrived at the additional 40 minute wait. I tried sleeping without much success until we arrived in Dobova, Slovenia.
I had to get off at this station to catch a connecting train. When I tried to open he door to get out there was a police officer there telling me to not open the door. Then he opened it and told me to go back to my seat.
So I went back and realized that they had to check our passports before I could get off. They came by my seat and stamped my passport. I talked to one of the officers and he was very helpful. He told me that the next train would be leave for Villach, Austria around 8am. Since I missed my original connection, I’d have to hop on this train instead.
I went and sat down. It was 6:23am. The next train left at 7:38am. This train station was eerie. It felt deserted. It was only me and the customs officers.
Every once in a while someone would walk by, which was strangely comforting.
Finally the train arrived and I was quite relieved that I was headed to Austria. This time I didn’t get an entire cabin to myself. One lady had her huge bags of luggage in the cabin and two more of the seats were taken by some other ladies.
I was exhausted. I needed to sleep. I had no leg room and barely any space around me, but I needed to make it work. The seat had a rectangular head cushion that formed a sort of barricade around my head. I put my forehead on the cushion to the right of me and kept trying to sleep. It didn’t work very well.
Eventually the lady with all the bags offered to move her stuff into the aisle so that I could use the seat next to me to sleep. Yes. That sounds amazing.
I helped her move her stuff and grabbed my backpack from the storage above. I made it into a pillow and went to sleep. Eventually I was woken up by the train employees coming by to check tickets. He also mentioned we would be getting on a bus soon.
I’d been through this before so it wasn’t as shocking this time around. I helped the lady with her huge bags to the bug, got in, and looked out the window as the Slovenian scenery passed by.
Eventually we got too another station. I saw the lady struggling with her bags again so I walked over to her and grabbed both of her bags for her. As I helped her get the bags on the next train she slipped me a 5 Euro bill as I was walking to my seat. I didn’t want it, but she insisted. “Get yourself a coffee with it,” she said in broken English. She knew I needed some caffeine!
I finally arrived in Villach, Austria. It was time to figure out how in the world I was getting to Venice. I talked to the lady at the ticket office and she said I could take a bus, but I would need to reserve a seat. Excellent! I reserved a seat for 10 euros and had a couple of hours to spend in Villach before heading to Venice.
I went and walked around and it was another city with beautiful scenery. The river flowing through the city was a turquoise blue that reminded me of Plitvice Lakes.
I found a spot to have breakfast. Ham, cheese, two rolls, butter, jam, orange juice, and coffee for less than 10 euros. Its exactly what I needed. I felt alive again.
I walked back to the bus station and waited until the bus came. I got on the bus and took some pictures of the huge mountains around us. We kept going through massive tunnels through the mountains and I was amazed at these highways that went directly through the mountains.
I realized I was still tired even after a lot of coffee and I had no problem falling back asleep on the bus.
I woke up about 15 minutes away from our destination. Finally, after my 22 hour journey I arrived in Venice!