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Published: August 11th 2019
I have a full day in Zagreb today plus all tomorrow morning, before catching a lunchtime train to Ljubljana, and I am looking forward to exploring this city. My only fix point today is meeting Vlatka at 5pm. She is the local guide we use in Zagreb, and from our email exchange she seems delightful . She has kindly agreed to meet me in the hotel lobby so she can explain how she runs our tours. After a great breakfast I head off to the main square, armed with a city map, courtesy of my hotel. I want to orientate myself, and try to walk as much of the city centre as I can. It is a much smaller city than Budapest. During my own ramble I actually get to see a great deal of the city (and surprise Vlatka later with the amount of information I have apparently taken in!). The city is really easy to navigate - partly because it is built on a grid system and partly because it is fairly small, and it has excellent bi-lingual signs Croatian/ English) to all the tourist attractions, museums etc. What strikes me straightaway is how green the city is. There
are small parks and gardens everywhere, and beautiful inner courtyards all over the place. I subsequently learn that I have stumbled across the Lenuci horseshoe. This is a patchwork of central squares and parks named after the 19th century urban planner. The area also features many landmark buildings such as cultural institutions, museums, galleries, ministries and hotels as well as Zagreb's central railway station and the Botanical Garden. I just wish the area surrounding Euston station was a tiny bit this nice! Many of the parks have fountains and several people are enjoying a moment of peace and quiet, and I do too. It is very hot and sunny, and sitting by the fountain is lovely. It does actually seem really quiet in the city. I find out from Vlatka later that this is the time of year when most local people get away from the city, and actually some bars and shops are closed.
I have a couple of tasks to fulfil. One is to buy my ticket for the train tomorrow. I head to the station and pay the princely sum of 67 Kuna for the advance purchase for my ticket from Zagreb to Ljubljana
Museum of Broken Relationships
Just one page of 1000s of messages
(this is approx €9!! It costs almost that to buy a single from Horwich to Manchester!). I then head off to view the hotel where our groups will stay next summer. Sue has told me that the hotel has a great location but is fiddly to get to as coaches can't stop outside the hotel. We will have to park the coach a couple of streets away and lead the guests across tramlines into the fairly unobtrusive entrance to the hotel. This is why doing these reccy tours is so important. I now know what I have to do on arrival next summer. Moreover, I met the owner and the receptionist, Robert (owner's nephew). Robert was kind enough to show me a couple of the rooms which look comfortable and modern.
Jobs completed, I feel it is time for a coffee. I start walking up a quiet hill and eventually realise that I have arrived in the historic Upper Town via a different route than most tourists. This is the historic centre of Zagreb and apparently has changed little since the 13th century in terms of the street layout. I enter a peaceful-looking courtyard and
Museum of Broken Relationships
Seemingly the most popular museum in the city!
enjoy a wonderful coffee in delightful surroundings - in a restaurant called Stare Dura. Vlatka tells me later that this courtyard has featured in several films. I have my second wind after the great coffee and explore the Upper Town. It is all charming (and quiet). The main attraction has to be St Mark's Church with its stunning, multi-coloured roof. Close by is the Museum of Broken Relationships. Apparently this is Zagreb's most popular museum. It investigates failed relationships of all kinds by gathering memorabilia from people from around the world. There is a huge guest book that has been signed by 1000s of people from all over the world. There are some very poignant messages and some downright angry ones. After lots of pottering I head back down towards Zagreb's main square to locate a pleasant cafe that I noticed earlier. I find a table in the shade and enjoy a simple lunch.
It is extremely hot now and I return to the hotel for a refreshing shower and change before meeting Vlatka. I am so pleased that I arranged such central hotels. I meet Vlatka in reception at 5pm. She is as delightful
Funicular to Upper Town
The world's shortest cable railway used for public transport. Costs 5 Kuna one way.
as she appeared from the emails. I thought we would simply have a quick coffee and chat, but she has brought her car to give me a panoramic tour of the city. Vlatka is typical of the guides that Sue uses for all our tours. She only uses the best ones and books them extremely early to ensure that all our dates are firmly in the guides' diaries. Vlatka is charming, extremely interesting and understandably proud of her native city. She more or less follows the route that we will take next summer with the coach, pointing out loads of landmarks and making lots of recommendations for excellent cafes, ice-cream places and restaurants. She seems pleased that I noticed several of these on my earlier walk. A real highlight was the stunning Mirogoj cemetery. As a burial ground for people of various faiths, Mirogoj is a testament to religious tolerance where the segregation of graves is strictly forbidden. This is a beautiful space and a serene oasis with its beautiful domed buildings, 500-metre long Neo-Renaissance arcades, pavilions and sculptures set against the backdrop of nature. It is also a wonderful open-air sculpture park with a fabulous network of walking trails.
The incredibly beautiful burial ground
Vlatka is very knowledgeable about the cemetery. We wander there for half an hour, but I could have stayed for hours. From here we make our way to the Upper Town, and, leaving the car in an underground car park, we continue on foot and make our way through one of the tunnels to the Upper Town. The Zagreb Tunnels, some of them stretching as far as Mount Medvednica, remain classified information even to most locals. However, Grič Tunnel was recently opened to visitors. Originally built in 1943 as a WW2 air-raid shelter, this tunnel now connects some of the key central streets. Vlatka points out a white-painted house on one of these streets and explained that the owner resisted the tunnel until he received a million euros! Even then he refused to let the authorities put any signs pointing out the tunnel. Fortunately Vlatka has shown me how to spot the entrance for myself next time! We have already spent considerable time together and I know that Vlatka has a family commitment later on so we finish our walking tour in a lovely spot high on the Upper Town where there is a string of appealing kiosks and pop-up
bars. We enjoy a mocktail together looking at the lovely views over the city.
I am enormously grateful for the time with Vlatka, and I look forward to seeing her again next year. She has also made me want to come back at advent time with her detailed and exciting description of the advent markets, lights, ice-skating, festivals and general atmosphere at that time of year. watch this space!
I finish my lovely day in Zagreb with dinner on Tkalciceva. This is the street full of bars and restaurants, recommended by Vlatka, that runs between the Upper Town and the Cathedral area. As proof that I was listening carefully to her I follow up dinner with a delicious ice-cream at the cafe Zagreb on Ulica Nikole Tesli, recommended by Vlatka as the best ice cream in Zagreb. I had the special (rich chocolate) - also called Zagreb!
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