The Train from Rijeka to Zagreb

Ask any Croatian what’s the best way to get somewhere and they’ll always tell you that it’s the bus. The Croats do not like their train system and they take it a little as they can.

Now, I’m not sure what the exact reason is, but I think it may have to do more with historical relevance than anything else. You see, the train was a big modernism symbol of the Communist and Socialist regimes. The bus and the independent companies that run the bus lines are a symbol of Capitalism and what is perceived to by the current ideals of modernism. So, I think that has something to do with the reluctance to use the trains.

There isn’t any price difference really. The buses and trains are about the same cost on comparable routes, but the train is a bit more laid-back and you also get a bathroom, so I was wondering why on earth you wouldn’t take the train. Well, as it turns out, there is a very good reason and that is reliability.

We took the Rijeka to Zagreb line, since we had a pass that we wanted to use some of (go visit Balkan Flexipass to read more about that damned pass.) The ride was fine for the most part. I luckily caught at the start of it that we were on a smoking car. The only non-smoking car was at the very end of the car, which we thankfully boarded.

For the majority of the ride, it was a lovely trip. The train wound through the hills and then the mountains of the Croatian hinterland. Towns were scarce along the route, although we occasionally would stop in ones that had a few people in them. As we went through the mountains, we were confronted with a massive, snowy landscape. I’m sure it was extremely cold outside, but thankfully we never had to experience the true temperature as we watched the pillowed snow banks drift at a leisurely pace. And this was in April! I can only imagine what it must be like in the middle of the winter.

The train then parted from the mountains and drifted through the valleys that lead into the Zagorje area of Zagreb. As we neared Zagreb, the scenery wasn’t as pretty. There was a bit more garbage and remnants of a Socialist Republic in the form of construction methods and general layout. Then, about 20 minutes out of Zagreb the train simply stopped. And stopped it stayed. We waited there for about an hour or so as they tried to do something with the electrics of the train. Finally, some other kind of train engine came down, locked up with the back of the train and gave us a shove, which it appeared was all we needed to get going again. Don’t quite understand how that all worked, but in the end, we started rolling again and the booster engine disconnected from us.

We rolled in Zagreb and after our five hour turned six hour trip was over, we headed for our hotel. Got some nice pictures of the ride though.

2 Replies to “The Train from Rijeka to Zagreb”

  1. You got it all wrong. Traveling by train is not so convenient for us as the train network is not so extensive, so to reach your final destination you have to use bus or car anyhow. Not to mention that the trains aren’t quite punctual, delays in order of hours can be expected sometimes. This has nothing to do with the “communism” (mind you the tracks you rolled on were laid down in the 19th century (1873), far before the “communism”). Please don’t view everything through prism of the evil communism.

    1. Wow, I had forgotten about this article. That was nearly five years ago. Since then I’ve taken just about every bus and train line through the former Yugoslavia with the exception of Macedonia. It’s always the same thing. First choice: driving. Second choice: the bus. Third choice: the train. I don’t get it and I’m a Croat as well. All my family over there will always insist on driving everywhere. Everyone in the Balkans loves to drive and drive long distances. I just happen to be one who doesn’t drive. I live in the US and have had cars in the past, but now I don’t. I’ve been without a car for five years and it’s been great. I take the public transportation here, which usually means the train and it’s far worse than in Croatia, but I stick with it because I like to sit back and enjoy the ride.
      By the way, the only line that I haven’t taken is the Split-Zagreb line. Every time I was in Split, that line was being worked on. So, I haven’t gotten to experience the speed of the tilting trains on that route. I have experienced the bus ride several times as well as driven it by car and honestly, I really wish I could have taken the train. It’s a damned long trip.

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