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Published: June 15th 2019
I had very few expectations from Zagreb, which was Croatia's capital. When researching whether to visit Ljubljana or Zagreb the responses where mixed, some overwhelmingly in favour of one or the other. I had decided in my mind that I might prefer Ljubljana but Tomas was weighing towards Zagreb and then I managed to find what looked like a great place to stay in Zagreb, so that's how it came to be.
I still want to get to Ljubljana sometime, so another one to add to my bucket list.
Our self contained room was in the grounds of a small hospital easily walkable to the city. It was peaceful with a security guard on site, newly renovated and had only been listed a few weeks. Yes, everything was new, fresh and modern but it reeked cigarette smoke which was a big negative for me. I asked for the host to bring us a fan so that I could try to flush it out but over the 4 days it was useless. She was extremely appologetic and said she would not allow smoking in the unit any more. I noticed a cigatette burn in the almost brand new sheet as well.
Zagreb Old Town Cathedral
Roman Catholic built in 1217 and rebuild several times since due to wars and earthquakes.
She was naively letting smokers destroy her lovely new unit. There are a he'll of a lot of smokers in Croatia.
Zagreb was a really lovely city and I reread the online comments, one saying it can be seen in 3 hours and not worth an overnight!
It is civilized, green and cultured with lovely restaurants, inner city area and historical centre. It is easy to get around with many parks and gardens and a large young population due to the University.
After arriving quite late our first day from the bus trip from Budapest we didn't have much time or energy for exploring and we were both still recovering from our head colds. We just cooked in our unit with the hope that food smells might drown the cigarette smells.
Our first day exploring we walked though the city and to the historic, upper town arriving just as the noon cannon was being fired after which was a huge downpour and thunder storm where we could take shelter in the cathedral and meditate for a while.
It cleared pretty quickly and we found surprising little nooks and streets. Tkalceva Street felt very Mediterranean lined with outdoor
restaurants and plenty of locals and tourists. The other nice aspect of Zagreb is that it is not so heavily populated with tourists. It feels authentic and down to earth. This is evident by the lack of Costa and Starbucks coffee shops which we have noticed would be more plentiful in a tourist town.
Once the sun appeared summer was here to stay and I prepared to donate all the heavier items of clothing in my luggage as they were no longer worth carrying around. The rain seemed to be behind us after the first day downpours.
Late afternoon we took a siesta before I returned to meet the same bus we had arrived on at the bus station to retrieve some clothing that I would need that I had left on the bus. More thunder and lightening as I walked to meet Tomas to continue exploring some of the city's parks and have some dinner.
I kept staying up late trying to decide on the next 2 weeks in Croatia debating in my head whether to take it easy and just rest at a beach location or to be more adventurous and venture into Bosnia Hertizigovina.
13th-century St Mark’s Church
Its colourful tiled roof, constructed in 1880, has the medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia on the left side, and the emblem of Zagreb on the right.
The fatigue, my head cold, the newly introduced heat and my ambition to explore were in conflict. I could always come back now that I felt the confidence to explore this area more and there would certainly be enough reason to justify a return visit. I think I should do the return visit outside of the hot summer season though.
On the Thursday I wanted to cover all that we had missed in the maze of streets the day before.
The farmer's market was first on my list and after lunch we wandered through to find surprising tunnels, disused air raid shelters that are now used as express walking routes under the old town.
In the tunnel were displays of a Virtual Reality festival. We tried headsets that took us to exciting virtual worlds. It was a first such experience for both of us.
In the evening it was again warm enough to wander without coats. We watched a huge public presentation for a Delta Car Rally in the main square before seeing the night life in the old upper town. Firstly discovering a parkland lookout area which used to be a 15th century warrior's grave site,
Funicular overlooking City
The shortest, steepest and safest in the world
many bones and coins had been found.
In the dark we explored areas of the old town some of which we had all to ourselves. The bars and cafes had a great spirit at night. So nice just to sit outdoors in the old town which was elevated over Zagreb city and listen to music with popup food and drink stalls and fairy lighting all around.
Our last day was rather lazy, with no urgency. Tomas had found out about an animated short film festival which he wanted to go to. We went to one session before exploring the botanical gardens which was still quite young and full of specimen plants rather than landscaped gardens. It had a lovely lake full of tiny turtles. After lunch another session at the animation festival where we could cool down and where I had a good sleep.
The evening ritual continued as sitting in the warm outdoors listening to music and people eatching in the old town.
There were different outdoor areas offering music, food and seating for different age groups. Some kind of music festival had celebtity DJs and hip hop bands for the young and also areas of
more mellow cabaret type music in very casual public, relaxed settings. People were well behaved despite alcohol being served and obesity, we noticed, was rare amongst the Croatians. Their down side was with the cigarettes.
We caught the bus to Zadar on a beautiful, sunny, peaceful Saturday, enjoying a slow stroll through the parks full of people walking their dogs on the way there. Disappointingly my backpack didn't feel much lighter. Much of what I had got rid of were items that I would have normally been wearing when it was colder. Despite this it was still under 7kg which was my goal weight.
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