Zagreb Travel Blog› entry 14 of 17 › view all entries
September 10th, 2007 – by: cneoridium
There used to be a cable car system that ran most of the way to the top, but sadly it closed for replacement a couple months ago. The brightly colored 60's vintage cars have a Disneyland look to them. Being from California, a 3500 foot mountain seemed more like a hill, so I decided to climb it on foot.
Like everything in Croatia, the infrastructure is well maintained, but there are no kinds of signs or maps posted. You ride a downtown tram to the last station at the edge of the city, and it drops you in a grassy field.
Emerging from the tunnel, there were a series of unmarked paths leading into the dense forest. I picked the one with the most marked trees and headed into the dim light of the forest floor. After about 2 hours of steady climbing I could see the communication tower at the peak, still far in the distance and high above. In the closed canopy forest you have no sense of location or direction, you just see trees in every direction (you can tell I'm from southern California where we don't have trees.
I finally ran into an old man creeping down the path on a bent stick cane, and after some questioning in bad Croatian "Gdje je Sljeme??" , he laughed and pointed his cane "ovdje Sljeme!" - here is Sljeme! Sure enough, he led me around the next corner and there was the cleared grass of a ski slope.
There were about 5 other people on the peak and I ate with them at one of the mountain houses. The Croatians I had met on the trip had all questioned me about whether I had tried ćevapčići- sort of a spiced kabob pieces adopted as a popular dish in the north during occupation by the Turks and the Ottoman empire. Served with fried potatoes and ajvar (sweet red pepper paste) it was really good, especially in the cold mountain air after a hurried 10km climb.
It was getting late, time to get back off the mountain and back for my early flight the next morning. The restaurant owner indicated that the last bus was leaving soon "down there" so I hurried off.
As usual, after much searching, on some blind curve part way down the hill was a tiny sign that said Autobus. No idea when or if it would come, I waited. After about an hour, a car pulled up, the driver got out and stood at the bus stop with me. After another 20 minutes two Austrians came along and joined us. Finally the guy from the car said something to the Austrians and they laughed. The old Austrian guy said to me "Autobus ist kaput!" the bus is broken. "This is the bus driver, he came up in his own car to rescue anyone stuck on the mountain.
He gave us a ride back the 10 kilometers to the tram station and refused any payment. This is what I found throughout Croatia - Things don't work really well, but people help each other out and they work around it.
Back at the tram, we made it about a mile and (not surprisingly) there was a truck stuck on the tracks "all trams are stopped". Everyone patiently got off and walked as a group 5 kilometers back to the bus station, younger people helping the older ones carry packages and groceries... I got back home from my "morning hike" in the dark as everyone was finishing dinner.
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