OK, so exile might sound a little extreme, but we were told to leave Austria, the EU and the Schengen states for at least two days in order for our residency application to be processed. As a tourist from America one can enter Austria and other countries in the EU for 90 days without an extended tourist visa required.
Kevin and I normally have extended visas, but this year we decided to apply for residency because we will be here for so much longer. We intended to file this application in November when we re-entered the EU, however, after requesting, birth certificates, marriage certificates and even criminal records (there are none, just to let you know) we began bumping up to against our 90 days. We finally made it down to the Vienna office to apply, and we wrongly assumed that they would give us some piece of paper to let others know that we were in the process of applying for residency. Ha ha, nope, they told us to leave the country for two days so that our 90 days begin again. (This is actually not the official stance, but one that is apparently a common practice).
Eight years ago when I first came to Vienna, this was a very easy thing to accomplish, a quick trip to Budapest to enjoy the sights and the Turkish baths, and voilà tourist visa renewed (kinda). Since our application will not be processed until our original 90 days were up, the office told us to leave the EU for two days. This is much easier said than done. Our visa is considered a "Schengen States" Visa which includes many countries, most of which are in the EU, but a few that are not and have travel agreements with the EU. So our options were: Albania, Croatia and Turkey. We chose Croatia. Then we had to figure out if we wanted to drive, fly or go by train, and we chose the latter, but this was after a few days planning.
First, we decided to go to a coastal town called Opatija. We had heard many good things about Opatija and it looked pretty interesting. We reserved a room online, only to come back the next morning to hear they were all booked. After much deliberation we decided to head to Zagreb, it was closer and it is the capital of Croatia. Kevin had briefly been there, and the area which he had been left a sour taste in his mouth, so he wasn't too excited, but we had to leave, so it seemed the easiest option. The funny thing, is that our many guide books on the Balkans, and Croatia said very little about Zagreb, and this is funny because as I just mentioned Zagreb is the capital. We had no idea what to expect, and sometimes those are the best surprises.
My expectations of what Zagreb may be like all came from our multiple visits to Prague (and by multiple I mean twice a year for the past eight years). If you want to read my thoughts on Prague read this blog entry. If you don't feel like reading it, then here are my thoughts on Prague, the condensed version: It is probably one of my least favorite cities EVER. Prague's City ScapeFrom the moment I step off the train, I am constantly watching my back, if someone comes too close to me, I jump away. There are people everywhere, the streets are crowded with a million tourists, and every corner someone is trying to hawk their overpriced souvenirs to gullible tourists. It is a beautiful city, but one that can be done relatively well in a couple of days. For the life of me I don't understand why students go there to "study," except I know why, because they have told me they want to drink, party and do drugs aka "party abroad." See, I knew there was a reason I didn't like Prague, since that is not my thing.
Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when Kevin and I stepped off the train at 11:00pm in Zagreb and weren't the least bit nervous. Zagreb is home to one of the least sketchy train stations I have ever encountered. We waited in the taxi line, and even though there were six taxi cabs waiting, none of the drivers were anywhere to be found. We called the hotel and they sent a cab. Our hotel was in a nice area about a 15 minute walk from the center of town.
Since we were in exile we took our sweet time getting ready the next day tour the city, but once we left the comfort of our room we were so happy. It was a beautiful mild day, and we had a yummy lunch of Burek and Cevapcici (essentially a meat pastry and spicy sausage in pita-like bread.) With Jameson strapped to my front, we walked all over the inner city.
Zagreb still has much of its old wall standing, and there were still many buildings built up against the wall. This wall was a form of defense as you can see from the slits (where the archers hung out) built into it. I was really surprised at how old some of the buildings appeared. I tried to capture the beauty of the city on camera, but it doesn't do it justice.Jameson was quite happy hanging out, and people watching and as usual flirting with all the girls who passed him. This is my view of him on a daily basis, and while he may not look entirely comfortable, I assure you he is most comfortable, he even sleeps in it if need be. Sometimes he wraps his little arms around me, and sometimes he has them out and is playing with my hair or poking me in the mouth or occasionally attempting to pick my nose, and sometimes he has them pinned down by the straps. However, he can get them unpinned by himself. The Ergo is by far the most comfortable carrier I have ever used and its a good thing, because I use it all the time!
There was a beautiful cathedral that was, unfortunately being restored, so we didn't go inside. My favorite memory of the church though was the group of pre-teen boys play a game where one boy stood against the wall and the other boys would try and peg him with a tennis ball. Are boys everywhere the same? It was a very entertaining game, I must admit, especially the group of giggling girls waiting on the sidelines for the oblivious boys to notice them.
In another square of the inner city was a great open market that had a ton of different fruits and veggies. I got a few pictures of the flower market, but for some reason my camera ate the pictures, truly I have no idea what happened to them. Most likely a little boy named Jameson is what happened.
It is late, and I am getting tired, so part two of our exile adventure will be written tomorrow.