Ljubliana – Zagreb

Waking up to a very wet Ljubljana, it’s the first time it’s rained during this trip, which is at least something. But a change in weather conditions means more clothing dilemmas. I’ve packed for just about every eventuality, but this is the first time I’ve had to reach for a waterproof coat. I have a few hours to kill before my train to Zagreb,/so there’s little else to do than cosy up with a coffee in one of the many places doing great business with wet tourists.

The cafe of choice this morning is Sisi in the Old Town. An Italian cafe bar, I’m also served a carafe of water with my coffee, and my limited experience of Italy is that you’re always charged for such extravagant extras. But not here – a cappuccino comes in at €2.20. I should have had a cake too.

But this morning also involves a bit more essential shopping. Having removed the aluminium frame from my big backpack, I’ve managed to fold it neatly into the suitcase. But the smaller backpack is also becoming an issue. It’s compact – but a little too compact for a day’s worth of travelling. So a quick visit to a sports store delivers NewsMutt his favourite new way to see the world.

The irony isn’t lost on me that I am in danger of carrying more luggage than actual clothes. So the alumnimum frame from pack number one is conveniently left inside my room at the City Hotel, doubtless to the bewilderment of the cleaners, who will probably think I used it as a weapon.

In the past, Eastern Europe has been the most likely place for conflict, and I was conscious when planning this trip that the ongoing war in Ukraine might limit my travel choices. But the focus of the news today is back in France, where demonstrations about changing the pension age have now escalated to the point that a state visit by King Charlie III has been postponed. What was always going to be a controversial move for the French Government has now turned into a huge problem and a humiliation for President Emmanuel Macron.

I also learn that a strike is going to disrupt most long distance German trains in a couple of days. Hopefully it will just be for one day, but since I am eventually circling back via Germany, it could be an interesting time.

Most people arriving in Ljubljana’s main station these days are met with lifeless concrete platforms and an unwelcoming underpass to get out onto the Main Street. But the original building, which still houses a booking hall and a couple of handy snack bars, is a stunning reminder of a bygone age. And it befits another leg of international travel.

The train itself is another Euro Cities service – today’s started its journey in Villach, Austria – and although it’s being pulled by an Austrian engine, the carriages are Slovenian – and even older than the one I travelled here on. Only half of one carriage is First Class, and again it’s made up of compartments. But the difference today is there are fewer passengers and I have the compartment to myself. Well, almost…

This is first class without the frills. No Wi-Fi, no restaurant car. Even the toilets – in the second class part of the carriage, have a pedal to operate the flush. Yep, you know exactly where that’s going… all this one has since since the 1970s is a fresh lick of paint.

As we travel through Slovenia to the Croatian border the scenery is once again the star. There are a few small mountains, but most of the land here is lush and used for farming. The Sava River is the largest tributary of the Danube, and forms a natural valley for the road and the railway to follow,

We stop off at a few intermediate stations, each of which look like they’d be worth hopping off the train and simply finding a local B&B. But a brief scan of maps on my phone show few places of interest – namely pubs or restaurants. To enjoy this place properly you’d probably need a car. Or worse still, a camper van. I’ve never seen the attraction of motor homes – even the big RV’s that seem to be increasingly the fashion. I need four walls around me, and of course a decent nearby bar. Preferably two, in case you fall out with the owners of the first.

There’s a 20 minute wait at Dobova, just west of the Croatian border. The smartly dressed Slovenian train crew disembark – and the only other person I see for the rest of the journey is a solitary official who gruffly tells the remaining passengers that the next stop is Zagreb.

It’s only a few short miles from the border to the capital, but the train makes painfully slow work of the final approach, squeaking and rocking around suburban stations, points and sidings. However, we’re just about on time into Zagreb – and the sun is shining this Saturday evening.


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