Articles tagged with "croatia"

Novi Beograd

Novi Beograd

Early the next morning we headed down to the station to catch the train to Belgrade. I slept most of the way, waking only to see endless flat green fields occasionally. Last time I’d crossed a border into Serbia, the guard had been remarkably jovial considering it had been 2am. This time, it was the middle of a beautiful spring day but the man who stamped our passports was definitely not happy. He looked at my battered document with some disgust, but stamped us in eventually.

We got to Belgrade in the early afternoon and checked into a hostel. At first it seemed incredibly welcoming and cool. Over the next few days, though, we’d find that the Swedish owner was pretty weird, vaguely racist and generally a bit unpleasant to be around. Still, they made me a coffee and that made me happy, and it was good to be back in Serbia.

We headed over to the Belgrade Arena to pick up our tickets. Last time, I’d only crossed the Sava briefly, to go to a club on a boat, so I hadn’t seen Novi Beograd at all. Under clear blue skies I really liked it. It was quite quiet, and we stopped for coffees and snacks at cafes along the way to the stadium. We got hold of our tickets with no problems, and it was nice to actually have one this time. Negotiating my way past layers of security in Lisbon when my ticket never arrived had been challenging enough; I was glad I wouldn’t have to do the same in Serbia.


Zagreb

Zagreb

After seeing Rammstein in Berlin, I’d waited five years before getting a chance to see them again in Lisbon. The Lisbon gig was so awesome that as soon as I got back to London I decided to go and see them again. Having seen the first night of the tour, it only seemed right, in the end, to see the last night as well, and so I bought tickets to see them in Belgrade. I’d loved the city when I’d been there before, so I thought it would be great to go back and see a gig there.

Later, it turned out this hadn’t been such a good idea. The gig turned out to be in the middle of the busiest and most stressful month of my professional career, as I tried to understand and interpret data from the Herschel Space Observatory, in time for a deadline for publishing the results of the end of March. Taking a Thursday and Friday off in the middle of this was not the wisest move. I considered not going, but in the end I decided I’d just have to live with working some even longer hours either side of the trip. I’d regret it too much if I didn’t go.

There were going to be four of us going, but two pulled out at the last minute, so it was just me and Sam who met up at Luton airport brutally early on the Thursday morning to fly to Zagreb. Our tastes in music are very different. They have just one overlap, and that is Rammstein. Sam hadn’t seen them before but he couldn’t have been looking forward to it any more than I was. We’d decided to go to Zagreb first as the flights were a bit cheaper and it would be nice to see another city.

I’d been here before, in the middle of winter seven years ago. I’d only spent a day in Zagreb then, and I’d been horribly tired after getting a night train from Trieste. I was horribly tired again, but this time it was a fantastic warm sunny day. We walked up to the upper town, and took in the view from near the Lotrščak Tower.


Train to Ljubljana

Train to Ljubljana

In the afternoon I got a train to Ljubljana. I shared a compartment with a Croat called Srečko, who was a journalist on his way to do an interview in Ljubljana. He said his German was better than his English, but my German wasn’t up to a conversation so we spoke in English. About half an hour out of Zagreb we arrived at the Slovenian border, and Srečko said that even now, eleven years after independence, he was still surprised by how close the border was to the capital.

For most of the journey to Ljubljana we were travelling down the valley of the Sava River. Out in the countryside there was thick snow, and the green river was hemmed in by steep forested mountains. It all looked pretty stunning, especially when new snow began to fall. Srečko said he often travelled this way, but never got bored of the scenery.


Upper town

Upper town

I walked up to the upper town and found the Lotrščak Tower on a hill overlooking the city. It was closed but even from the bottom there were good views over the city. The skyline was a mix of grand old Central European and grim boxy Soviet.


Zagreb

Zagreb

It was a tiring journey. We crossed two borders, spending a few hours in Slovenia, and I looked out at Ljubljana to see it covered with snow. Then before daybreak we entered Croatia, and at 5.04am we pulled into Zagreb.

It was cold and pitch black, so I found a corner of the station near a heater and slept for a couple of hours. Then at 7am I headed out into the city to explore. I walked through the quiet streets to the centre. There was snow on the ground, and a temperature display at Trg Jelačića said it was -3°C. Slowly the city began to get busier. By 9am there were people around and the shops were opening. I took refuge from the cold in a cafe near Jelačića, where I got a burek and a coffee for breakfast.