Hitchhiking through Croatia: Zagreb


Croatia - Sava River

Hitchhiking: Overcoming the fear

The first lesson about hitchhiking, is overcoming the fear, after all, getting in a car/truck of a total strangers goes against everything your parents taught you as “right” and “safe”, specially if you are a girl. The fear of being kidnapped, robbed, raped and/or killed is there, even if you tell yourself it’s okay, and you shouldn’t be afraid, cause bad and good things will happen to you no matter if you live in a bubble or if you actually go for it, go for life living as intense as possible.

It’s one thing to say and believe it, but fear is our most primal instinct, and instead of denying it we should use it to make this hitchhiking experience as safe as possible. This was my first hitchhiking on the road experience so I learned before and during the process, but I’m just a beginner, this is NOT an ultimate guide. I will share some of my steps to overcome the fear, and kind of use it on my behalf, and hope it’s useful for you as well.

  1. Read a lot, search for travelers that hitchhike regularly and read about their experiences, both good and bad.
  2. Check legal issues about hitchhiking in the route you wanna do, in some countries as USA and Brazil is illegal to hitchhike at all, in European Union you can only hitchhike in gas stations (I found out that doing the worst way possible)
  3. Use your intuition, if it says, “don’t get in this car”, don’t second guess it
  4. Do not mistake fear for intuition
  5. Relieve your fear with some caution measures like photographing the car plate before getting inside it and sending to a trusted friend, and giving updates on your location as much as possible as well.
  6. Plan the distances versus length of the day
  7. Avoid hitchhiking at night, but it still might happen, don’t freak out over it.
  8. Don’t freak out at all! If you are on the verge of freaking out, breath deeply.
  9. Be positive
  10. Be friendly, even when you don’t speak the language, make an effort, smile.
  11. If necessary: stop being so friendly, and firmly ask to get out of the car

Hitchking: From Budapest to Zagreb

It took me forever to get out of my house and finally go to the gas station that is the hitchhiking point in Budapest, from 7 AM till 10 AM to be more precise, and I had a plan B, just in case none would stop: get the train. And when I got there I was sure that the plane B would be the one, cause that area was under construction, so I started to proceed to get a bus to go back to the train station, I found a piece of road, in Zagreb’s direction, with a roadside in which I could sign to the cars and they could stop. JACKPOT!

After a couple of minutes a very nice Hungarian old man stopped, his name was Yuri, he didn’t speak much of English, and my Hungarian is totally restrict to hello/Szia and thank you/köszönöm, but the language barrier was nothing, because I was able to overcome my fear I got the chance to know this very kind and generous soul(as long as many others) even if I had to use signs, photos, and point to stuff to communicate, it was more than worth it. Right in the beginning Yuri stopped in a place that according to him has the BEST gelatto ever, imagine his face when he saw that all icecream recipients were empty, very disappointed, but he saw the cakes and asked me if  I like chocolate cake, of course the answer was yes, so he asked in Hungarian and we set in a table, while we waited he showed me picture of his motorcycles, of the trips that he made with it, his granddaughter… We were interrupted by the cakes arrival, one plate with one slice and the other with THREE slices of cake, and in my dirty mind I was thinking, okay, now I get whupy Yuri is a bit chubby, and while I was thinking that he changed the plates giving me the one with 3 slices, I was shocked? I look at him with despair in my eyes, saying with words and signs that THAT WAS TOO MUCH FOR ME. He just answered very calm: “Zagreb long way”. In the end I ate one slice and took one to go, which was quite useful.

After Yuri left me I realize I lost on the road the only jacket I was carrying, and the roads were quite windy, thankfully I’m quite resistant to cold, since I still didn’t knew it was illegal to hitchhike in the road itself I was gaining the road km by km, if someone, so after Yuri I got ride from other 4 people before a couple stopped for me and told me that what I was doing was actually illegal, and I was totally shocked, until that moment I had waved even to the military trucks that passed through me, they were looking for a gas station to leave me but since they didn’t find they actually left me in the road again, I was quite close to the border though. After 30 seconds I got out of the car I saw a police car, and they were actually coming in my direction, I was like FUCK! While they approach me I hide the paper, kept walking with a calm face. When they finally stopped by my side I looked at then opened a smile and said “Szia, I’m a bit lost, happy to see you, do you know a good spot here to hitchhike to Croatia?”, they answered me with a plain “documents please”, they were 4 police officers, 3 of them talking to each other and the 4th in the radio checking my passport and residents permit, all in Hungarian, finally after a couple of minutes that took forever, the one that was on the radio said: “you can’t walk in the Autoban” and I was making a surprised and desperate face: “OMG, I had no idea, I’m so sorry” (which was half true, cause until 1 minute before I actually had no idea), in the end they felt sorry for me and gave me a ride till the border! In the gas station in the border I met a truck driver who gave me a ride until the entrance of Zagreb, and after that I got a city bus to get to the hostel, happy I survived the first day of hitchhiking, even though my jacket and my journal didn’t, the last one I lost in the city bus itself.

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Zagreb: One night to walk around the city

Zagreb was a beautiful city, but my focus on this trip was get to the Adriatic Sea and enjoy as much as possible of what is left of the sun, cause after all, winter was coming. And the Plitivice Lakes were also a priority, so there was not much time to stay in Zagreb. In fact I only had one night to walk around the city and discover it.

Started with a delicious cake in AIDA in the main square of Zagreb, and kept walking through the city, unfortunately there were not many places open cause it was night already, and I was to tired for clubbing, but the streets of the old city and the crescent moon were so beautiful I couldn’t complain. I also had an amazing dinner at the Trilogija.

My biggest regret in Zagreb was not being able to check the Museum of Broken Relationships, when I saw the name it immediately draw my attention, even though I had to read 2 or 3 times to be sure that was the name of the museum, and I’m still trying to understand how does it work exactly, I only manage to go to their cafe, they explained me a bit, but I wanna go back there and see for myself. The idea is to give people a place where they can say their good byes to relationships that are broken, people can donate to the museum a photo, an object along with their break up story and it might integrate their exhibitions, it started with only Croats, but each day they receive more donations from people from all over the world, in their website they say: “Our societies oblige us with our marriages, funerals, and even graduation farewells, but deny us any formal recognition of the demise of a relationship, despite its strong emotional effect. “. I couldn’t agree more, and to be honest I think the person who had this idea is a genius! Important to remind, in 2011 they won the Kenneth Hudson Award for the most innovative museum in Europe.

Alley in Zagreb's Upper city

Zagreb's Cathedral

Cathedral's watch

Zagreb's Cathedral

Zagreb's Cathedral



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