The only efficient way to get back to Ljubljana for our return flight home was to go through Zagreb, which has frequent train service to Ljubljana. A bus from Plitvice to Zagreb would take a little over two hours, and a train from there to Ljubljana only a little more — about two hours and a half. So it wouldn’t have been difficult to do it all in one day.

But of course we’d also have to get ourselves and our luggage from the bus station to the railway station, which according to the maps we’d seen was farther than we wanted to schlep. And of course we’d spent lots of time in Ljubljana already. We’d come to love that city, but because our plane to Zurich wasn’t due to leave until midday on Monday, we knew we’d have at least one evening to spend saying farewell.

Habsburg-era splendor in the Lower Town
Besides, Zagreb was a place we wanted to see. So far in Croatia we’d been to the seashore and the lakes, but (apart from an hour or so dragging our bags in Rijeka and another eating sandwiches — sorry, sendvići — in the bus station at Karlovac) we hadn’t seen much that was urban. Half a day and one night certainly wouldn’t be enough to do full justice to the attractions of Croatia’s capital, but our guidebooks suggested that we could see quite an interesting sample in that span of time, and doing so would break the journey almost exactly in half.

Gemütlichkeit on Tkalčićeva Street
We’d decided on an overnight stop back at home, when the trip was still in the planning stages, so we’d reserved a hotel room in Zagreb for the night of May 31. We even bought our train tickets for the next day’s return to Ljubljana through an American website. Having them with us, we didn’t have to worry about getting seats on Sunday, June 1, a date that we thought might be uncomfortably close to the beginning of the high season. Our fear of an overcrowded train proved to be groundless, but because we couldn’t know that in advance, we’d have had to make time to go to the railway ticket office on Saturday or early Sunday morning, with negative effects on the pleasures of either sightseeing or breakfast. Our prearranged tickets and seat reservations saved us that errand.

We had reserved a room at the Best Western Astoria, a member, like our Ljubljana hotel, of the US-based association of independent hotels. We hadn’t chosen the Astoria because of our satisfaction with the Slon, which at the time we made the reservation we had never seen — we chose it based on recommendations in the Rough Guide to Croatia and Rick Steves’ Croatia & Slovenia, as well as the testimony of other travelers on some tourist websites. As in Ljubljana, most hotels were high-priced during the week, but — fortunately for our Saturday night stay in Zagreb — the rates were considerably lower on weekends.

The narrative and picture gallery deal with what we did on this day, Saturday, May 31. The next morning we were still in Zagreb, but besides eating breakfast all we did there was walk to the station and get on a train. The stories of that journey, our last night in Ljubljana, and our return home on the wings of Adria and Swiss Airlines are all contained in the next and final section, Getting Back.

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Narrative          Photos