While I was in the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, I saw some leaflets for tours to a national park a few hours away. I spoke to the lovely girl who ran the hostel I was staying in and she very highly recommended I spend one of my few days in town visiting the Plitvice Lakes national park. So I did.
That sounds quite romantic, doesn’t it? In all fairness, I think any post titled “night train to <insert somewhere suitably exotic or foreign here>” would have a certain amount of mystique and romance about it.
It actually was quite romantic, in a way. Riding parallel to the river as the sun rises over the horizon, with the mist creeping over the water, while passing through a country that was only a decade ago pretty war-torn and suffering and still showed quite visible signs of this.
But that was the high point of the journey after a night that I can only describe as “yes, this actually happened”. Every word of the following account is true, and I’d care you not to judge me for it.
First, though, let me tell you a bit about my day. I was going to do this in a separate post, but it seems unnecessary now. However, I’m meeting someone for dinner in 40 minutes so I’mma have to type quickly.
I am going to bow down to the wisdom of my elders and betters, and in this case both. A dear friend told me a week or two ago (no idea, see previous comments RE time) that the days when things go wrong or not as planned are usually the best, and it’s turning out to be true.
Yesterday I was meant to be getting the train from Zagreb to Sarajevo, and the internets told me it left at 11:03am and took roughly ten hours. Cool. I headed to the station at about ten because I’d much rather hang at a station for an hour than miss a train by a minute. When buying my ticket the guy looked at me kinda strangely and said “the train, is night train, leave at 9:20pm”. Oh. Well, damn. I had dressed that day for sitting on a train, so I was wearing clothes that otherwise probably should have been washed, and I had all my stuff packed up and on my back. Great, so now I have a day to kill with no home base, as it were.
It actually wasn’t that much of a problem. I called my hostel and changed my reservation and stored my stuff in a train station locker. I knew two friends from the hostel I’d been staying in were planning on taking a walking tour of the city that morning so I waited for them where the tour was meant to kick off.
A big group of people gathered all waiting for the tour guide who decided not to turn up. My friends and I, as well as a couple of other people who were waiting for the tour that we got chatting to decided to walk around the city for a while ourselves and make up our own history for the buildings. The big yellow one behind the statue, for instance, is the yellowest because it is also the oldest and the paint fades, apparently. We walked around for a few hours, hiked up to see a graveyard (love me some graveyards), and then the group split and parted ways. I chose to go with the guys we’d met that morning, so there was me, a boy and girlfriend couple, and another guy. We walked around some more, then that smaller group split as well and I went with the solo guy. We went to a nearby quiet little cafe that was most definitely for the locals, and wiled away a few hours playing chess. He beat me four times to none, but that’s good because you don’t get better by winning all the time. I need to play chess more often.
Then I walked back to the station via quite an extended route to meet up with another guy who we’d bumped into waiting for the tour earlier in the morning, who was also taking the night train so Sarajevo that evening. We figured it’d be a good idea to grab a cabin together and then at least you’ve got company and someone to watch over your stuff.
We got on the train, took the first cabin using the logic “people will see it with two guys in and hopefully move down the train to see if any others are free, and not come back to sit here”. This, as you are about to find out, did not go as planned. We’d been sat down for five, ten minutes, put all our baggage in the overhead racks, and were just settling down to look moody at people who walked past so that we could secure the cabin to ourselves and have some room to sleep.
Then we were joined by two Croatian girls.
They had a beer each, and I’m talking Croatian beer, so the bottles are a litre each, none of that small bottle crap, oh no. They had a carrier bag with many other bottles. Now, Damian and I (names will not be changed to protect the innocent) were pretty tired after all day walking, and when you’ve been travelling for a while you’ll come to realise that sometimes the only way to deal with things that are annoying, angering, upsetting or anything else is hysterics. Oh yes, just breaking down into fits of laughter and running with whatever-the-hell is going on.
The conversation skipped straight from pleasantries, right over innuendo and suggestiveness to straight-up talk. Damian and I were just playing along because it is the easier route when dealing with drunk locals, and it was all in good fun anyway. The girls were forward, and in no way, shape, or form shy about expressing said forwardness.
* * * *
At that point in the writing of this post I took a break to meet Damian for dinner. We talked about the train journey and I was telling him I literally cannot think of a way to explain what happened to which he concurred as he had experienced the same problem when trying to recount the evening to a friend of his. I genuinely in my head cannot work out how things went from two sets of strangers in a cabin, to… what happened. There are no words. There are, however, pictures. But they’re on someone else’s camera who I anticipate never seeing or hearing from again, so there they’ll stay. We got barely any sleep, and I have a mysterious bruise on my back. I do not have the capacity to write about the rest of the evening. You’ll have to use your imaginations. That said, and knowing my readership, I’ll reign those in a little by clarifying that neither myself, nor Damian had any kind of biblical relations with the Croatian ladies.