The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Hiker’s Dream City

Days 242-248, July 27-August 2, 2011

IMG_0551Banja Luka, my destination upon leaving Sarajevo, is a nice, quiet city but because of extreme laziness while there, there is not much I can say about it. I won’t take all the blame either, as the few places that are big tourist draws in the city, namely the castle, were closed to the public unless you had a ticket for the large independent band festival happening that week. So, unfortunately for the city, it really only gets this little introductory paragraph on my journey. I was on my way to Zagreb after only two nights in Banja Luka so didn’t get the chance to do some of the things that are available outside the city(like river rafting and rock climbing).

My loss, that’s for sure.

IMG_0577If I hadn’t already booked my place in Zagreb so far in advance I would’ve stayed longer in Banja Luka, but lets let bygones be bygones. Many people I’ve talked to who had come from Zagreb usually just gave it a passing glance. I heard from so many people that “Oh, you don’t need a lot of time there. A day or two.” Even guidebooks seem to throw Zagreb under the bus claiming it to be a nice stopover before heading to the Croatian coast and islands.

I can safely let you know that with five days in Zagreb, I didn’t see nearly everything I wanted. Granted, I’ve taken to only sampling a city in tiny morsels at a time, choosing to pick one little area to explore each day instead of hopping all over the city to get everything in all at once. There are a ton of museums in the city, though I elected not to go to any. I’m currently in the kind of travel mentality where museums are just boring and the same everywhere I go. I’m sure I’ll get back into it eventually. But not now.

IMG_0637For me, Zagreb was by far one of the best cities I’ve visited for hiking and trails. This seems to be a constant within Croatia. Every place in the country really prides itself on it’s sporting traditions, and the capital city is no exception. There are literally dozens upon dozens of kilometers of trails in the forests that make up the hills around, and in, the city. A short, ten minute walk from my hostel had me deep into a forest that look like Northern Saskatchewan. The sounds of the city completely muted by the thick vegetation.

IMG_0628In the southern portion of the city, a huge manmade lake is surrounded by bike/rollerblade trails, and dirt walking trails. The lake is big enough to support a number of beaches(including one nude beach), an area for windsurfing, and another area for rowing races(2.5km long). Little cafes line all sides of the lake but aren’t so numerous to make it seem overcrowded. They’re modest little shacks serving food for people sitting on patio furniture overlooking the lake.

Another area of the city houses a huge, inner-city forest and park. Here, a zoo has been placed as well as areas for practicing horse jumping. I never did see any horses practicing though which was a bummer. That would’ve been cool.

IMG_0618Of the four full days I spent in Zagreb, the majority of the time I spent hiking in and on the outskirts of the city. For the most part I was attempting to be as cheap as possible with my upcoming week in Amsterdam with Jaime from Breakaway Backpacker for Gay Pride. And with such copious amounts of hiking available(and geocaches) I was never bored.

The best part of Zagreb though was the main cemetery of the city. It is claimed to be the most beautiful in all of Europe and after having spent more than two hours wandering the serene location, I have a hard time going against this. It’s a massive cemetery that, as one person is IMG_0662quoted as saying, “houses people than they ever were in life.” Much like the surrounding parks of the city, the cemetery is given a very natural feel. It feels like being in the middle of a forest with the amount of trees, moss, and flowers growing. Many graves have already been fully reclaimed by nature, with only a small portion of the tombstone visible through the grass and moss.

The only . . . exciting moment came on one of the hikes that extended into past sunset. I was in the area of Zagreb known as Novi Zagreb. I had just, unsuccessfully, looked for a geocache in an area beside a large lake. To get back onto the main road I had to climb some stairs to get to the highway sidewalk. I could either backtrack and go up the way I came down or walk a little further down to another set of stairs closer to the bridge I would have to cross anyways.

IIMG_0644 got closer, and heard a dog barking. From my vantage point, it looked like there was a fence between me and it. I walked past him, saw the stairs, and realized that there was no fucking fence. I immediately started to walk back, keeping my arms up because dogs are totally like muggers. *rolls eyes*

The dog leaped out from behind the bushes, teeth bared, barking and growling. He would run up to me and stop a couple feet away, snapping and growling at me. I have never felt so scared before. There had not been another person or car come by here at all. There was no guarantee anyone would come by and find me should I get attacked. My mind went to how to keep from being completely mauled. The fact that a second dog appeared, brought in by the first dogs barks, didn’t help. I was screaming in as commanding a voice as I could muster: “Fuck off! Go away!” The entire time I was trying to seem bigger and more dominating than I felt, and backing slowly away from what I felt was his perceived territory. I got off lucky. I know that. I have never been so glad to have spent that money on my rabies vaccination shot than I have at that moment.

But really, Zagreb is beautiful! A hikers dream.

No comments:

Post a Comment