Boxed n by three trams and a crowd – Zaagreb, Croatia…

Crotram TMK 2200 tram (#2237) in Zagreb, Croat...

Crotram TMK 2200 tram (#2237) in Zagreb, Croatia. Built 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The journey from Budapest to Zagreb, Croatia by car was pretty uneventful until we reached the centre of Zagreb.

Satnav got us out of Budapest onto the motorway/freeway quite easily. It was sunny but cold when we left Budapest at around ten in the morning. We struggled a bit choosing the right lane coming off the bridge crossing the River Danube into Buda and the impatient traffic behind were honking their horns. The Hungarian country-side was attractive but the drive a little tense because of extreme cross winds.

We were surprised to have to show our passports three times, crossing from Hungary into Croatia. The last time we had shown our passports was Dover, UK, nearly three weeks earlier, despite visiting France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. We then remembered that Croatia was not yet part of the EU, although this is planned for 2013. Anyway, the Croatian countryside was surprisingly beautiful.

The suburbs of Zagreb reminded us of Prague and the twenty years of Communism, with drab, poorly designed and maintained buildings in every direction. Suddenly, we were in the centre of Zagreb which is quite beautiful, looking for our hotel. The Satnav did not tell us that it was a pedestrian only street apart from the trams.

After a number of attempts to reach our hotel, we decided to go in the opposite direction to the SatNav instruction and found ourselves stationery in Zagreb’s main square, behind a tram, with another tram behind us and a third to our left going in the other direction and to our horror we realised that ours was the only four-wheel vehicle on the street! To our right were hundreds of people queuing to get on the tram and staring at us at the same time, either because we were not supposed to be there or because our car is a right hand drive, however, they found both situations quite amusing – not sure that we did at the time!

Goulash and Liszt – Budapest

Home-made Hungarian goulash soup. Magyar: Házi...

Home-made Hungarian goulash soup. Magyar: Házi gulyásleves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, we spent many hours sitting outside on the open-topped tourist buses seeing the sites of Budapest. The hop-on/hop-off buses are excellent value, with audio commentary in more than a dozen languages – when there is no commentary, its non-stop Liszt Hungarian rhapsodies. It was cold and wet – temperatures had dropped nearly twenty degrees in two days. By the time we got off the bus in the castle area of Buda, we were seriously cold. This was a call for authentic Goulash soup!

We saw a board that read “special of the day, goulash soup and paprika chicken” and that was exactly what the doctor ordered. It was amazing, the goulash and chicken paprika sign was bringing in an assortment of tourists, including Germans, Japanese, French and ourselves. Our ears pricked up when we heard “Arf bot and goulash”. It was the French couple struggling to order a half bottle of wine and the daily special. The food was excellent and incredibly inexpensive – we were now fortified!

We headed back out into the rain, looked around the amazing castle and stunning panoramic views of the city, checking out many antique shops to get out of the rain. We continued our tour back to Pest and late afternoon went for a boat trip on the Danube. We walked home in the rain, stopping in a delightful piano bar in the Broadway type neighbourhood about 7.00PM.

We returned to our hotel for a couple of hours, then about 9.30 PM went back out into the rain, in search of a restaurant. Near the Broadway type area, on the East side of Andrassy we spotted a charming trendy bistro. We were lucky to get a table because the place was full. We settled on some excellent tapas dishes and local white wine. If you happen to be in Budapest, we thoroughly recommend this bistro called Ket Szerecsen – the atmosphere is great, the food is excellent and the prices are amazing value.