Sunday, June 21, 2009
Days 2 & 3: on to Zagreb, Croatia
I finally admitted yesterday to myself that I have a poor sense of direction. Give me a map and I'll find my way. But let me wander, and I really need a border collie to show me the way back. A few tips for overnight trains - the steward holds onto your ticket while you travel. And the moment you close the door of your tiny efficient sleeper car and the train begins its gentle unannounced rolling out of the station, you rediscover the ecstatic excitement of the unknown, or of newness. Even 15 hours felt quick. And then the sun set beautifully - and somehow I had a view to the west.
The Czeck Republic landscape traveling to Austria was a private Monet painting in my panoramic window with couples riding bicycles down dirt lanes between farm fields and small brown deer leaping and white cranes with black tipped wings lifting over wetlands. Slovenia was a raging mud colored river and rock cliffs and deep wild dark coniferous forests of Peter and the Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood. Even later on as the sun rose and I needed the sleep I couldn't stop watching the movie out my window.
I arrived in Zagreb at 8:30 am exactly on time. Accidentally wandered into the flower market and the farmer's market. Past the Cathedral to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary surrounded by Gothic towers from an even earlier time, maybe 1260? Luckily the inn keeper took pity on my tired face and gave me the triple at a single rate. I wandered the Botanical Gardens just now before settling into a green velvet sofa at the elegant and generously free wi fi hot spot Regent Hotel to check my email.
This city is a surprise - light and large palaces, museums, parks and squares, and people out everywhere enjoying cafe, the sun, chatting, chairs on the streets, lots of italian men and croatian men talking animatedly in groups. There is a funicular tram, famously the shortest in the world, that rises above, well, not much. But I'll check the view and report. In the garden, I discovered a very rare and endangered cousin to the Redwood tree thought to have been extinct for 5000 years until one was discovered in 1941 just before WW2 broke out, in China. It took 5 more years before others could study this find and realize that this Chinese Redwood still existed. Unfortunately, it was cut down until today the tree is truly near extinction and exists mostly in botanical gardens around the world. It grows quickly and unlike the California Redwood, and although it is coniferous, it drops its needles each year after they turn a golden red color in the fall.