Hola! Here we were again, in Barcelona, on our way to Stockholm to run the Asics Stockholm Marathon. It turned out that the most cost and time efficient way to get from Grenoble to Stockholm was to spend the first day (out of five in our Interrail passes) to go to Barcelona, and then fly to Stockholm on Vueling.
We started our last day in Stockholm going to the Finnish embassy to leave our passport applications. Stockholm has a very good public transportation system, but they have made buying tickets super difficult; the tickets can be purchased at metro stations and some dedicated purchase points, but not on bus or tram stops nor buses or trams. On our way to the embassy we managed to buy the tickets, but not on our way back, so we walked all the way to the town.
We finished the Stockholm visit having dinner with Tei's cousin and his fiancee at the restaurant Le Nom. We were a bit apprehensive of his choice of a French restaurant, but were very pleased with the dishes --- not anything we can find in the French Alps.
We started with beetroot with coconut and dill.
The next morning we were on our way again. This time with Norwegian to Budapest. We did not have any particular reason to visit Budapest, other than to get to Croatia the most cost and time efficient way.
We stayed in a small Airbnb accommodation next to the Keleti railway station. The place was cosy and the host very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately our stay was for only one night and even that was short since we arrived late and left early in the morning.
For sheer convenience our dinner choice was restaurant Csulok Csarda right next door to our apartment. The food was ok, on the very heavy side though, and it came with some more or less weird companions: first a Brit who was interested in the language we were speaking, and then a Swedish guy who owned a business in South Africa and traveled around the world, and seemed to know everything about every place. He also told us that our English was surprisingly good for Finns, but on the other hand he did not know anything about languages.
We were up very early, since the train left before 7am. The six-hour trip to Zagreb went quite uneventfully, with the exception of series of passport controls at the Austrian-Croatian border. We had no problems, but two couples were asked to leave the train and return to Budapest to get Visas, since Croatia does not belong to Schengen whereas Hungary does.
We met two women who were looking for mushrooms. They got worried that we were lost and may have followed them as they pretty randomly wandered around, and then directed us to the right direction toward the top. We did have a map, though, so we thought we knew where we were.
Later we met again a bicyclist, whom we saw starting climbing from the bottom of the mountain about the same time as we did. He was quite exhausted and asked us for a sip of water. We would have had enough water for him to fill his bottle, but he did not want to.
The guy who ran the place owned a pub next door. With Croatian matter-of-fact style of politeness he exchanged coins for us and helped to use the machines. While the laundry was getting done, we had beers at the patio and watched tennis on the pub's wifi.
Our (secondary) dinner choice for the night was the seafood restaurant Ribice, after we had been turned down at Oris - House of architecture with "it is not working." We did not know if it was the restaurant that was not working or our outfits.
After a tranquil train ride, once in Split we were suddenly in a churning sea of noisy tourists. It was also excruciatingly hot there. With our backpacks on we tried to navigate past numerous souvenir stalls, ice cream bars, and pubs to find something to eat, other than pizza, burgers, or kebab. We found Tavern Favola within Diocletian's Palace and ordered salads and two pints of Tuborg. We were not impressed.
We made a number of short stops, the longest one being at the Bosnia-Herzegovina border for passport control. The immigration officers barely looked at our passports, but collected them away from our fellow Asian travelers. The guys slightly panicked when the bus continued without them getting their passports back. The passports were returned once we crossed the border back to Croatia.
Due to frequent stops and slowly moving traffic in front of us (for which I am eternally grateful, because otherwise the driver would have sped to keep up with the timetable on the narrow and curvy road with a sudden drop to the sea) we arrived in Dubrovnik an hour late.
The next puzzle we faced was how to get to our Airbnb accommodation. Since there had been no reply from the host to the emails and SMSs (it turned out we sent them to a landline), we tried to call what we thought was the host, but was his agent. The agent promised to alert the host, and we took a taxi to the apartment. This required some negotiation (amongst taxi drivers), since the apartment was in a tricky location to be reached by a car.
Our genuinely friendly and helpful host offered to take us to a supermarket so that we could get something for dinner and breakfast. We did not find a supermarket open, but a tiny convenience store provided us with the basic items we needed for a simple pasta dinner.
A cross made of limestone originating from the island Brac. Limestone quarried from the very same island was also used to build the White House and Diocletian's Palace in Split. The cross was also destroyed in the 1991-1995 war.
After leaving the old town we went looking for a supermarket. We walked quite a while before spotting at a bus stop an older woman with a plastic bag from Tommy (a supermarket chain). We pointed to the bag, and with a combination of gestures and "supermarket?" we tried to ask her where we can find it. In quite good English, and again with that matter-of fact style, she told us to continue straight ahead and there it is. She was very helpful but almost disturbingly solemn, with no smile and no reaction when we thanked her profusely for help and wished her a good rest of the day.
The first thing next morning we cooked breakfast, prepared our lunches, packed our backpacks, and moved them to our new room. Then we headed to the harbor, where we caught a ferry to Polace on the island Mljet.
We walked to the very end of the island, just to find out there was no shuttle bus going back to Polace as we thought. We were advised to walk to the lake (Veliko Jezero) to catch the bus. We figured out that it would make an equally long walk all the way to Polace.
So we grabbed a quick beer, bought two huge bottles of water, a bag of cipi chips, and started walking. We had one hour for a 4.6km walk, and we made it fine. We both snoozed all the way back in the ferry.
The old town is completely pedestrian; not even delivery trucks are allowed in. Therefore, deliveries are done on this kind of carts, which rode rather recklessly among the pedestrians on the narrow alleys.
Fast forward to the early evening in Zagreb, and we were in the overnight train to Munich. The train ride from Split gave us a slight scare since at some point the train was significantly late and we were supposed to have quite a small marginal to switch trains in Zagreb. Eventually we were only 5 minutes late, and had enough time to buy some dinner items: cheese and crackers, and some fruit and veggies, which we enjoyed once the passport control on the Slovenian border was completed.
We arrived on time in Munich. The selection of sandwiches and salads in various booths at the railway station was so impressive that we had a hard time deciding what to get. We ended up buying two sandwiches and a (tandoori) salad. The quality was also very good. That was not the case with the "fitness" salad and chili con carne we bought on the Zurich - Geneve train --- those were not only not tasty but actually quite bad and very expensive.
This photo of the red brick roofs of the beautiful Dubrovnik wraps up our Interrail trip from Barcelona to Stockholm to Budapest to Croatia. This was our first visit to Croatia, but it is certainly a country where we want to return in the future. It has everything a tourist can wish for: delicious food, magnificent landscapes with mountains and the sea, friendly people, and reasonable prices.