I’m sitting at the McDonald’s in Vukova Gorica, Croatia, with a sleeping dog on my lap. That wasn’t part of the plan, but it is part of the journey. We (the dog and me) are right in between Zagreb and Rijeka, but the destination is Split, in the south of the country.
How we ended up here is a series of unfortunate events. Everything was going according to plan until we arrived in Zagreb, where we had travelled from Budapest with a friend we made on the way, Leoni. We stayed for a night and a day, after which we would take the 15:20 train to Split.
The Interrail app told us we needed reservations for that train, but when I tried doing that online it said it was too late, meaning we had to book a seat at the station. Leoni went to Zagreb’s central station the next morning to reserve seats for us, but the staff said it wasn’t necessary.
Full trains and petphobic buses
Despite heavy rainfall, we spent the rest of the day exploring Zagreb, after which we returned to our accommodation to pick up our backpacks. When I made it back to the station around 20 minutes before departure, I was told we couldn’t take the train without a reservation.
After exchanging some words with the train lady, I realised I wasn’t going to convince her to let me, my two heavy bags and my dog aboard. I walked down the platform and waited for her to check someone else’s tickets to hop on the train at another carriage.
I stayed there until 15:20, waiting for Leoni to sneak her aboard too. But as she told me she was running late due to a missed tram, I decided to hop off and take a bus to Split with her.
That particular bus was fully booked, so I waited for another hour to take the 18:00 bus from Zagreb to Split. I handed my backpack over, sneaked Sir Godwin aboard, and took the seat that I booked.
All was good and well until a Flixbus staff member did a random check in the bus and discovered the dog. I knew dogs weren’t allowed but had brought a letter saying he is a support dog for bipolar disorder, which I figured would be enough.
It wasn’t. Without much further ado, they kicked us out at the next gas station they passed. That happened to be this one, Odmorište Vukova Gorica.
Our least favourite campsite
It was still light outside when we were dropped off, so I tried my best to hitchhike in the direction of Split. Unsuccessfully, as I was told after some hours that this gas station is on the opposite of the road and anyone passing by is actually on their way to Zagreb. As it started to turn dark and cold (and I left my jacket in Budapest), I soon gave up.
Meanwhile, I had resorted to Uber, trying to catch a ride to the closest village, but every time I tried to pay for a ride my payment was reverted. Not a single Uber driver in their right mind wanted to pick me up here.
I crossed the highway again to get back to the gas station, where I found some trees to hang my hammock. It was an interesting night. Gas stations are incredibly busy at nighttime, and I’m sure dozens of people must’ve seen our hammock. Still, we were left undisturbed. Sir Godwin is extremely tired.
Now, the following day, I have more energy to think about solutions. I somehow felt disturbingly calm throughout it all, to a point where I started to question where I got all this stability from. I think I thrive in chaos.
I went for a McBreakfast, looked up Croatian taxi apps and called a nearby hotel to ask about their taxi services. They gave me the number of a local company, which is supposed to pick me up later today to drop me off at the nearest train station, Oštarije.
It’s going to cost me 440 kunas, a whopping €60, but that’s still better than spending the rest of my trip eating McBreakfast, lunch and dinner at a gas station in rural Croatia.
The town with the train station has a church, a cemetery and an elementary school. The reviews of the train station say a historian is yet to see something happen in Oštarije. Others complain there was nothing to eat.
Two trains pass by per day: the train to Split and the train to Zagreb. Both need a reservation, according to the Interrail app, but online reservations are, once again, not possible. The station looks unpromising.
I’ll see if I can hop on board or not, and then I hope to arrive in Split tonight. It should only be a couple more hours. Then I will continue down the Croatian coast to Kotor, Montenegro, tomorrow.
How looks deceive
A Dutch lady and her son were sitting opposite me, looking at my dog and me typing on my laptop. “Look at her, with her dog and her laptop,” the mum said. “She looks very well-organised.”
If I was, I wouldn’t be here at a gas station.