We decided to go to the market again for our last morning in Budapest. That meant getting up at the crack of dawn so we could be there around when it opened at 6am. I wasn’t happy to get up so early, but I liked seeing the market without a bunch of tourists around. We walked around a bit, and went to the grocery in the basement to buy a bunch of paprika to take home with us (better prices than on the main floor).
We had breakfast at the hotel again, then got on the metro to go to the train station. We had noticed train personnel checking people’s passes at entry and exit points previously. They’re serious about catching cheaters. The tickets need to be self-validated at the entry. Turns out we were validating the wrong end, so we got held up a bit getting that sorted out. After we changed trains, we were leaving to go up to the train station, and we had our tickets checked again – whoops, we should have had another ticket for the transfer, but they didn’t seem too worried about it and let us pass. Coincidentally, we left a book with our extra tickets at the hotel, so we had the tickets, we just didn’t think we’d need them.
We got to the train station with plenty of time to spare for our 8:25am train. No convenient night train available to Ljubljana. No matter, we had a big first-class compartment to ourselves so we could spread our stuff out, nap, and plan a bit for the rest of the trip. We knew we had one floater night in the trip, but we used it in Prague, and knowing we were going to be driving the length of Croatia twice, we needed to have a plan.
Around noon, we realized there was no food on the train. There was a snack cart that went by in the morning, but it was no longer anywhere to be found. We had to go through passport check twice, because we passed through Croatia on our way to Slovenia.
Another snack cart finally came through at 3:30pm and we got the attendant to change some US dollars to Euros for us – we had no Croatian money, no Slovenian money. Just Hungarian Forints. We got a semi-soggy sandwich and chips, at least enough to hold us over.
We saw some beautiful scenery on the way to Ljubljana, especially through Slovenia. Train travel is really the way to go. Once we arrived in Ljubljana, we wandered around a bit trying to find the Hertz office – made more difficult because we had no map, and there was a bunch of road construction going on. We finally found it, a couple of blocks from the train station, and we were soon on our way south, into Croatia.
Our first planned destination was Plitvice National Park. We didn’t think we could make it there before dark (our train arrived a half hour late), so we decided to go south until it got dark, then find a place to stay. Getting out of Ljubljana and on to the highway was simple. The toll roads are big and wide and we were able to use our credit card to pay the tolls.
We eventually ended up off of the expressway, and on a two-lane road that wound its way through villages in Slovenia and Croatia. Again, the Slovenian scenery is just really gorgeous. Everything is extremely green. We enjoyed seeing the villages. No problems getting through border control (our third border crossing of the day).
Once it started getting dark, we found ourselves in Karlovac. We found a hotel right away (with an available room and a parking spot for us), so we were happy. Not the best place, but a place to fall asleep. We got settled and went looking for a hotel on the river that supposedly has excellent food, but it was dark and we didn’t know where we were going, so we just popped into a place that looked busy (Restoran Pod Starimi Kovovi at Radiceva 8 i 10).
The restaurant was odd. Lots of locals gathered around big tables, and the room we were in was brightly lit. There was a conference room next door and there were a bunch of people sitting around a table watching someone give a presentation. We finally figured it out once we looked at Larry’s menu – it was a High School of Commerce and Catering.
We ordered, and the food was good (and cheap). Larry’s salmon steak, potatoes, chard and tomato soup were better than my sole with a creamy shrimp sauce, but the tomato salad was really good. Larry had a Karlovacko beer, make locally.
We walked around a bit and tried to scout out a place to run the next morning. The town has an interesting star-shaped greenbelt at the center, with a path, so we figured that would be a good place. Our Frommer’s book also said the path by the river is popular – if only we could find the river.