September 12, 2011
Sigh... this was simply the worst day of the trip yet. Our alarm didn't go off and we missed our 6:30am train to Zagreb, Croatia, which means that that we missed our last bus to Plitvice National Park. We moved our Plitvice room reservation back a day and decided, since the trip was so long anyway, to just head to Zagreb (our connecting point to Plitvice) and leave for Plitvice first thing the following morning. We had to quickly book a hotel in Zagreb, and as checkout was quickly approaching, we didn't look at the reviews and just booked one that was close to the train station...and that is where we went terribly wrong.
We boarded the train for our 6.5 hour ride from Budapest to Zagreb, only to find ourselves in a ridiculously hot car. It was about 85 degrees and even with the windows open, we were melting! On top of that, we had to detour and take a bus a few stops because of track work.
We arrived in Zagreb, with about 20 other backpackers, at about 8pm and we were completely unimpressed. There was tons of graffiti and the city felt so cold. Luckily there were people out walking about or I might have gone into the fetal position. After a laborious walk, with a sick Natalie trudging along behind, we saw a sign for what we thought was our hotel. It pointed down a dark back alley to a bar... We inquired about whether this was the right place and an older woman, who spoke broken English, said yes. She checked us in, in a seedy bar, made us pay up front and then asked us to wait 10 minutes. By this time it was 8:30pm and I was furious. We were all starving since we had not eaten lunch or dinner, and there was no reason for our room not to be ready. We sat at a table and gave her death stares while she made phone calls. She then came out, walked down the alley and yelled at someone through a window. A few minutes later, a young man emerged and by the way she treated him, I have to assume it was her son.
She then asked that we come with her and then mumbled something about it being 5 minutes away and we all started getting really angry. Then she walked over TO HER CAR and said a five minute drive. We were all nervous about where she would be taking us but I was prepared to go into fighting mode, need be. Now I know many of you are questioning why we would go with her but at this point she already had our money, it was close to 9pm and we needed a place to stay. So we went. Luckily, it was more like a 3 minute drive until she turned down a dark seedy alley. She parked the car and led us to the last and darkest door in the alley. The hallway was dark as she fumbled to turn on the light. She led us to our apartment, which was horridly decorated. There were three rooms but she unlocked two and three and said the 1st was "private." We dropped our bags, horrified and decided we needed to find money and food. Nat stayed back to rest while Kat and I ventured into dark Zagreb. We finally found an ATM and the worst sandwiches known to man and returned to our apartment. And then our "Taken" moment happened...
I was skyping with my parents to let them know we had arrived in the slums of Zagreb and where to find our bodies, when we heard someone at the main apartment door. We heard the locks going and the door opening and we started to freak out. We knew that horrible woman had sold us to some terrible trafficking or torture ring and this was the moment they were coming for us. Kat quickly ran to the door and attempted to lock it but of course, in all moments like this, the key wouldn't work. Oh and guess what, my parents got to witness this horrible moment through their webcam! It was a scene directly out of Taken. Doors and locks were still opening in our apartment, we were scrambling and couldn't find any furniture that we could move in front of the door...Finally, when it quieted down I yelled out "hello." No one responded, so I crept out to see if I could find anyone or anything. Kat was right behind me armed with a wine bottle (to use as a weapon, not to drink - although we all needed a drink at this point!). No one was there. We stared at the "private" room for a while but heard nothing coming from inside. We returned back to our room perplexed and filled my parents in on what was happening.
Then, the door went again! This time when I yelled out, someone responded. There was a girl standing in the hall with her luggage and in her broken English said that the "private" room was her room and she came with the woman. The lady had rented out the room in our apartment and NEVER told us! We were furious. We locked ourselves in our rooms and prepared to leave first thing in the morning.
The next morning, as we are preparing to leave, some old man just opens the door to our room! He quickly closed it and when I came out I had to assume that he is the cleaning guy. I know it was exactly 11 when we needed to check out but good Lord - knock! We took a tram to the bus station and never saw the woman again but I will be doing everything in my power to shut that miserable place down.
P.s. Don't go to Zagreb!!