Lake Balaton 12 May
We left Budapest early in the morning with Mr. Aaron. On the way to Zagreb, lies the largest fresh water lake of Central Europe - Lake Balaton. When I saw it for the first time, I thought we were facing a sea front – not realizing we stood face to face with a lake which is 77 Km in length and 14 Km in width, covering an area of 592 Sq Km – Since Hungary is landlocked, Lake Balaton is often affectionately called the "Hungarian Sea". This nickname isn't far from the truth. Fresh water, beaches, swimming, luxury resorts, yachting and water sports makes Lake Balaton one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Central Europe.
We spent the whole morning appreciating the surroundings – had coffee and departed.
|The size of the lake is amazing|
|Jai testing her luck|
|An array of birds|
|As if some one in entering harbour|
Varazdin 12 May
Lake Balaton and the beautiful town of Varazdin are located enroute to Zagreb and we did not have to deviate much from the highway.These are some of the unbeatable advantages of traveling in a van. We just paid Mr. Aaron the extra 15 Euro per hour from the beaten track. A great way to travel.
Once upon a time Varazdin was Croatia's capital (now Zagreb) and it retains an aura of stately dignity. The town is extremely well maintained and the baroque style architecture stands out – loud and clear. For any first time visitor, the city appears to have come out of a fairy tale – quiet, very few people on the road, lovely roundabouts where one can sit and watch as the day unfolds - very good food and much more. We spent our brief time walking aimlessly around the main thoroughfare, did some serious leather shopping followed by some elbow bending and a lovely lunch. An afternoon delightfully spent.
|Row houses - approaching the town|
|Beautiful roads - a pleasure to drive|
|Main road to city centre - National theater on the left|
|Winding our way on cobble stones|
|Finally lunch at Domenico|
|Effects of a good lunch|
Zagreb 12 to 13 May
Initially we had planned to visit Split and may be do a day trip to Montenegro. Due to air connectivity and distances we decided to just stick to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Situated on the banks of River Sava, Zagreb radiates old world charm from every nook and corner. By international standards it’s a small city with a population of less than a million people – 0.7 million. Their economy is very robust and vibrant, which is very evident as one travels around the city and the surrounding area. After WWII, Croatia became a single party socialist federal unit of the Yugoslavia, ruled by the Communists. Following the death of Yugoslav ruler Tito in 1980, the political situation in Yugoslavia deteriorated and culminated in Croatia seeking independence. Croatia declared independence in June 1991. Croatia became a member of NATO on 1 April 2009, and joined the European Union on 1 July 2013. Tourism dominates the Croatian service sector and accounts for up to 20% of the Croatian GDP.
Dividends of peace since 1945 and liberation from the communist grip since 1985 – 1991 can be seen everywhere. The people on the streets, shopkeepers, hotel staff, taxi drivers – all appear to be happy and contented. The city is full of life.
We had excellent weather throughout our stay with a bit of drizzle here and there. We stayed at Hotel Central – the name sums up the location – next to the transport hub and the railway station. The tram stop was right next to the hotel. The historic Upper Town and the vibrant Ilica Street with numerous shops was just 2 tram stops away. Walk and watch was the theme of our stay. Come lunch and dinner time, we would select a pavement restaurant and order some beer or wine and watch the world go by. We watched Zagreb in slow time - nothing fixed or planned – but we blended with the crowd and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
|Group of houses|
|Platz vor der Kathedrale|
|Wine and dinner on Tkalciceva street|
|I found the signs very amusing|
|Flowers are hugely popular|
|At the city center|
|Zagreb’s main square – Trg ban Jelacic -|
If you enjoy people-watching, sit in one of the cafes and watch the tram loads of people getting out, greeting each other and dispersing among the newspaper and flower sellers.
|The yellow Art Pavilion presents changing exhibitions of contemporary art. Constructed in 1897 in stunning art-nouveau style, the pavilion is the only space in Zagreb that was specifically designed to host large exhibitions.|
|An excellent and convenient mode of transport - just opposite our hotel|
|King Tomislav Statue,|
|Band playing in the city center|