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Published: July 25th 2019
Republika Hrvatska, like it’s called in Croatian, is one of my favourite countries in Europe. It was my third visit to the country, the first two being in 2007 and 2013. Also this visit was just to catch up with friends, in this case with Viktor and Melita who I met in 2007 when working on a campsite in Rovinj, Istria peninsula. After we met the second time in 2013 we had a deal that we won't wait another 6 years to so see each other again and this visit happened after 4 years (we'll see when the next one will happen, now that I'm writing it's already been 2 years). I arrived at Zagreb airport where Niko, their son, had a sign with my name written on it. So cool!! Zagreb
is the capital and largest city of Croatia with roughly one million inhabitants. I already visited Zagreb in 2013 and saw a lot, but yet I went again to reexplore the city for a bit. My friends had to work during the week so I mostly went out by myself until later in the afternoon after they finished working. Zagreb lies along the banks of the Sava
River and just to the north you’ll find the Medvednica Nature Park and the Sljeme mountain, where you could snowboard and ski during wintertime. The city has many beautiful, colourful historical buildings. Especially when strolling through some parts of “Gornji Grad” (upper-town) I sometimes got an impression of being a few decades earlier. This historical part of the city lies higher and is connected by a funicular a.o to the lower part. This short funicular was built late 19th century and costs just less than EUR 1 for a ride, definitely something you should try when in Zagreb. In Gornji Grad you’ll also encounter the St. Mark’s Church, built in the 14th century and is iconic with its beautiful with colourful tiles covered roof. Other parts in the city you shouldn’t miss include the Ban Jelacic Square. It’s the main square in the city where thousands of people (a year later) gathered after Croatia finished second at the World Cup Russia 2018. You could easily guess which team I was supporting since the start of that tournament! Not very far there is the Zagreb Cathedral dating back to the 13th century and also the lively Dolac Market is worth a
visit. Walk further through the charming Tkalciceva Street consisting of many bars, cafes and shops. I was in Zagreb in the heart of the summer 2017 and it was at least 36°C most of the days. On hot days like that it’s good to visit King Tomislav Park due to the many trees, especially the part behind a yellow art gallery, offering the much needed shadow and cooling.
In Zagreb I visited the Museum of Broken Relationships, a very peculiar but very interesting and entertaining museum full of objects telling a story about a particular relationship.
Even though my friends were busy, they often made the effort to take me around after their work time. Luckily it became dark pretty late because it was summer. On such a day we went to the Maksimir Park, the oldest public park in Zagreb opened in 1787. The park has an area of more than 3 square kilometres and houses also the Zagreb Zoo. The park has many meadows, a couple of lakes, several creeks and also different animal and plant species such as the middle spotted woodpecker which is an endangered species in Europe. Many people visit the park to walk,
run, read a book, picnic etc. Another day we also visited the Medvedniva Nature Park. This time not to Sljeme like in 2013, but to Medvedgrad which are ruins of a fort built on top of a hill in the 13th
century. It was built for defense purposes, after the Mongols attacked Zagreb mid-13th century. They also took me shortly to Mirogoj Cemetery, a huge and chic cemetery of more than 140 years old where people of all religions are buried together.
One of my friends works close to home and goes on a bike. Therefore I was able to use his car, which was great. People do not often trust others with their car, neither do I, but depending who it is. It’s the same friend, who then was working for a car-rental, who arranged a car from Split to Zagreb for me in 2013, which had to be returned at Zagreb airport. On my friend’s advice I decided to visit Samobor
, a small medieval town about half an hour west of Zagreb. It’s a picturesque litthe town where traditionally many tourists have been going to, also due to its location near the border with Slovenia. One of
the main attractions in the ruins of an old castle on a hill. Climbing many steps to get there in the heat wasn’t a good idea, so I did not do it. You don't need many hours in this town of about 30.000 as it is very small but could be good to relax.
The next morning I left the house early, around 5:20am. Just after 7am I was at the entrance of Plitvicka Jezera (Plitvice National Park).
It is one of the most famous attractions of Croatia and in the high season it gets very busy, therefore it’s always advisable to get there as early as you can...and I am not exaggerating! I had to stand in a short line and I managed to get in pretty quickly. Plitvice National Park consists out of 16 different lakes connected to each other. The water is turquoise blue, beautiful, clean, full of fish and with several waterfalls. The scenery sometimes looks surreal and it’s a heaven for photographers. You are not allowed to swim here, which is an excellent thing, but you hike through the park on well-marked and maintained trails. It was my second visit to the
park, the first time being in 2007. It is and remains a stunningly beautiful place with I highly recommend to visit. This time I was by myself and not as a part of a group, so it was different as I was more flexible and could take as much time as I wanted. And this time I took better pictures too. The national park has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979, when Croatia was still a part of the former Yugoslavia.
On my way back towards Zagreb I stopped at Rastoke
, also on advice of my friends. It’s a tiny, historic village along the Slunjcica River with less than 100 inhabitants. Here you can swim, catch some sun (not me), play some (beach-)volleyball and there are also some little waterfalls in the area. I went prepare to swim, but at the end I didn't. I visited the guesthouse Slovin Unique, where you find the "Pod Rastockim Provom" restaurant. In the garden they have several old objects and artefacts, including rooms where you can see old furniture and materials that were used back in the day. From their premises you can also get close to the little
waterfalls of the Slunjcica River which are nice.
During the weekend we went to Zagorje
, the region located north of Zagreb until the border with Slovenia, where Viktor’s parents live. The residence is in a quiet area with a lot of agriculture and several small vineyards, excellent to relax and to be away from the hectic Zagreb. In Zagorje we also visited the Trakoscan Castle, built as part of the defense system of the region in the north of the country in the 1200's. The castle belonged to the Draskovic family from 1584 until 1944. After that it became a property of the state and since 1954 it was transformed into a museum.
It was a pleasure to see my friends again, hoping it’s not going to take a long time to spend some quality time with them again! Hopefully next time it's Curaçao! My next entry will be from a neighbouring country which wasn’t planned ahead, and I enjoyed it very much.
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