(TRIP REPORT) Croatia Airlines flights Zagreb - Frankfurt, Zurich - Zagreb

We are all familiar with booking options for one-way and a round trip, right? This time I decided to go for a third one– the multi-city option. Though I love to call myself an AVgeek, I have to admit that up until now I didn’t really pay attention to this option. One-way flights usually cost almost as much as round trip ones making them pretty pricey for the passenger. Thus my conclusion was that two one-way flights can’t be a good option for my wallet.

Thus my conclusion was that two one-way flights can’t be a good option for my wallet. Recently I’ve discovered that airline doesn’t care where you fly but that you fly with them both ways. So for the NYE 2022 we flew from Zagreb to Frankfurt, continued upstream the Rhine River to Zurich from where we flew back – for the price of a regular return ticket. More details about the entire trip you’ll find in the text below.


Flights and airport experience

[ZAG - FRA] Kind of a tradition is that right after the Christmas packing begins, and so was this year. Only three days later we were on one of the earliest flights from Zagreb Airport where we got at 5.45 that morning. We were greeted by thick fog and temperatures barely above zero – the usual winter morning in Zagreb. Though our final designation was Switzerland, double-digit temperatures awaited us. So let’s fly away!


As you could imagine, at the airport at those hours there aren’t any big crowds what came in handy for all our procedures – check-in, security check and boarder control. Just 15 minutes after our fight, two Ryanair morning flights departed (since Zagreb Airport is now one of Ryanair hubs) and I noticed that on their desks the lines were significant. After the short plane spotting of Croatia Airlines parked Airbuses (A319 and A320), our boarding began on time – at 6.20 am.

When we booked the tickets (some two months prior for the best deal which was even better than the Ryanair’s due to their new baggage policies) our aircraft was Croatia Airlines A319. However, due to equipment change we flew on one of their 6 turboprop Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 aircrafts. Don’t let the jet-bridge fool you, its solely purpose for these flights is to lower you to the runaway where your bus awaits. Short ride, quick boarding and in a no time we were taking off, just like scheduled. Since it was still pretty early it was coal-black outside. Soon upon our ascend exactly that allowed us to experience the sunrise above the biggest mountain massif in Europe – the Alps. It was truly one of the most breathtaking experiences I got to witness though the airplane window. Cruising altitude of our flight OU 410 was 7315 m while the Alps in this Austrian part are as high as 4000 m which made us feel as if we could touch them and just sleigh our way from our seat to those snowy peaks of theirs. After that sight we had some hour or so left of our flight to rest before landing in Frankfurt. For a few moments before the landing through the fog and clouds we managed to get the glimpses of the city centre and high skyscraper peaks tearing those clouds. We were greeted by a rainy welcome upon landing on the north runaway of the airport.

What I love about flying on smaller aircrafts such as this one to airports as big as this one is that this means you have to continue your way by the airport bus. That gives you unique panoramic views of both parked and mid take-off and landing airplanes. You don’t get to drive under the tail of a Boeing 747-8I every day! We enjoy this ‘sightseeing’ to the max since the Arrivals on the airport aren’t as equipped as Departures are. In addition, some amenities are further closed due to pandemic. However, there are still a lot of facilities here since Frankfurt Intl. Airport is currently the 3rd busiest in Europe and thanks to its central position it’s often called the intersection of the European and sometimes world air traffic. With no complications we passed border control, reclaimed our baggage and departed from the underground of the airport to the city center. Soon enough we continued our adventure towards Rhine River in direction of France and Switzerland but more on that a bit further below.


[ZRH - ZAG] As mentioned, the return flight thanks to the multi-city option was from the biggest Swiss airport – Zurich. We took a train from the city center directly to airport. The train was from the same manufacturer as our plane that we boarded few hours later – Bombardier. Though the train was bigger, especially since it was a double-decker one! Since the trains are fast and the airport is really close to the city, our ride was just around 15 min.

Being there two plus hours prior the departure, we had some time to spare and to explore the airport. The first thing that caught our eyes was a sign for something called ‘The Circle’. We had no idea what it stood for but knew that we want to find out. Good thing we did! The Circle is futuristically designed area (that goes in circle representing the infinity) and consists of basically everything you can think of; shipping area, bars, restaurants, offices, medical quarters, hotels, exhibition and festival areas… While passing by we saw even F1 simulator, doesn’t sound like a bad option to kill some time before or between flights, right? Though we had plenty of time until ours, through The Circle we just walked around for a bit and then got back to the check-in area.

Soon enough that turned out to be a good decision since from what seemed to be an endless number of check-in desks, only a handful were open. Due to changing restrictions worldwide, time at these desks significantly increase so we waited for about 45 minutes here. On the other hand, all of the other procedures went faster than ever. For the first time in my life I wasn’t asked to take off my big winter boots during the security check! To reach border control we had quite the distance to walk over since the airport is pretty big, however all that way and we didn’t encounter one person! Those big hallways were so empty that it even got unpleasant at one point but definitely better than big crowds, don’t get me wrong. Even though Switzerland isn’t part of the EU and Schengen area, we had no problems neither entering nor leaving the country. Only few minutes after reaching our gate, our Croatia Airlines Bombardier Dash-8Q400 was ready and the boarding began. I wouldn’t mind waiting at this gate for a bit since those were the most luxurious seats I’ve seen in front of any gate yet!

Our flight was mostly empty meaning we were boarded and prepared for take-off in a no time. The take-off was again a dark one since it was 7.20 p.m. However, right after a lift-off the city lights of Zurich and surroundings illuminated the cabin. For all of you that enjoy these sights as much as I do, I recommend you to check the flight path of one or more prior flights on your route to see what landmarks, cities or interesting terrains you’ll be flying by and on what side!

Thanks to that technique on our flight from Portugal to Frankfurt we got a panoramic view of Paris from the cruising altitude! More on that experience you can read in the Trip Report Visiting Portugal and flight back to Croatia.

Let’s now get back to this flight. After a few beautiful sights of the Alps and small valley towns, we entered the clouds and some mild turbulence that followed us for the bigger part of the flight to Croatia. We approached the capital of Zagreb from the north further eastern and continued to the southeast of the city where the airport is located. This maneuver allowed us to admire the city lights of Zagreb as well (this time unplanned).


Rhine River cruise (France, Germany) and visit to Switzerland

Our destination for this NYE was a river cruise on the Rhine River from Düsseldorf to Strasbourg. We chose the first morning flight to Frankfurt so we could explore the city (and not just catch another flight there as usual). What a pleasant surprise it was!

Such an interesting combination of old German historical center and the modern district just meters away with skyscrapers’ peaks disappearing in the clouds. Later that day we continued our trip in the direction of Düsseldorf. The 220km journey took just over an hour due to German high-speed trains and since that part of the rail is the fastest one in the country where trains can reach speeds up to 320km/h. The cruise was 7 days upstream Rhine (The river that flows towards north!) and on our itinerary we visited: Düsseldorf, Köln, Bonn, Koblenz, Mainz, Mannheim and Strasbourg. New Year’s Eve was organized onboard the ship as part of the all-inclusive service meaning there’s no extra fees for anything onboard including food and drinks. The food comes in courses, for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is safely to say one of the tastiest cousins I’ve ever tried. Mentioning safe – my gluten-free food was safely prepared separately. For me that is the key factor when traveling but also I think to have secured meals in every new city you visit every day, is a luxury for everybody. More on the cruise itself, from the ship to prices you can find on my Instagram profile (at the end of the article).

Since the return flight was departing from Zürich day after the cruise was over, we decided to stop over on our way there from Strasbourg. First up was a small French town from the postcard – Colmar. We got there on the iconic TGV train and spent a few hours enjoying the walk around colorful houses and small canals. After one last French coffee we were back on the train proceeding to our first stop in Switzerland – the city of Basel. There we spent the night since prices are much lower than in Zurich. Geographical location of this city is pretty unique and interesting since it’s located on the border of three different countries: Switzerland, France and Germany. You can visit a landmark where each surrounding coast is a different country. Just don’t miss the stop because you’ll end up abroad! That’s also the only place you can catch EU roaming service since Switzerland isn’t in the EU and cellular prices are extremely high. Basel is a smaller town alongside the Rhine with a beautiful old town, main square and great student life. Keep in mind that in this country everything both opens and closes early, meaning that at 7 p.m. on a weekday most of the shops will be closed and streets empty with only bars still open.

The following morning we continued on another high-speed train via Zurich. High-speed rail is the most common way of transport in this country being extremely reliable and precise. Just on this Basel – Zurich route there is 92 operations daily! Zurich is located on the north side of the same named lake while the view spreads to the Alps rising on the south – a sight you expect to see in Switzerland! Also I have to mention how green their grass is, even in January!

For the country’s biggest city counting below half a million habitants it’s not as large so you can easily see it in a day or two. As for the prices, they are high. From the coffee for 8 CHF (around 8€) to souvenirs for 10 CHF for a magnet while the prices in restaurants I won’t even mention. Mostly because after a coffee or two we had no money left to explore those. As per usual, prices are lower in supermarkets so sandwiches are also an option! Of course, there is plenty of things you can enjoy in without spending money, especially in a country with nature as beautiful as this one’s. A walk along the lake with the view of mountains covered in snow, through beautiful parks or to save on transportation and take a walk through the city enjoying the shops and first class cars parked in front of them.


COVID restrictions:

We’re all well aware how fast the regulations change these days so I won’t be getting into details for each country. Those you can find on the official government or their health organization web pages alongside the Re-Open EU web page where you have brief info about all the European countries and useful links to the official local sites. I’d just like to point out that the COVID passport is something that is not only necessary to enter all of these countries but also to enter almost every restaurant, store, mall and basically every indoor public space. They are extremely strict on this matter and the correct way of wearing masks no need to even mention. That’s the situation for both Germany and France. Switzerland brought it to another level demanding a negative rapid antigen test within 24 hrs prior to entrance despite of being fully vaccinated, even with booster dose!


TOP 5 MUST-SEE:

  • Old town of Frankfurt with Römerberg square in the classic German stlye and the view (and visit as well if there’s no fog) of the modern part of the city nearby,

  • Köln – city center with the world’s 3rd highest cathedral (Europe’s 2nd) and the most visited German landmark,

  • Coblenz – small picturesque French town (as the alternative visit part of Strasburg called ‘Petite France’ and Strasburg generally I’d definitely recommend to visit – has surpassed all our expectations!),

  • Dreiländerck – landmark in Basel where 3 countries meet,

  • Ride on one of the fast German or Swiss ICE or French TGV trains is definitely an unique experience for itself.

More advices and fun facts about this trip but also my other adventures you can find on my Instagram profile preparefortakeofff.


Until the next adventure, travel safe and have a pleasant flight!