Zagreb is the largest city in the Republic of Croatia and also its capital. This was the last stop on my Fall mini-Balkan tour. I arrived at night and I had enough time to freshen up and meet up with a friend for my first taste of the local food, pizza. It was yummy and it reminded me of Terroni’s pizzeria back in Toronto. And I think it’s becoming the norm when in a liquor store an employee tells me about a local drink called rakija that they figure that this Canadian has never heard of before. I smile at the thought. If they only knew the truth.
People in Zagreb are friendly and polite. This level of hospitality was evident almost everywhere I went. And the exchange rate of the Croatian currency the Kuna is roughly CAD to 5 Kuna which is pretty simple math when sizing up your purchase. Though the city is more expensive than the other places I’ve visited, prices are relatively reasonable unless you’re buying a non-staple item.
The weather was getting colder and wetter and luckily even though my used up shoes were breaking down I found myself wearing my gore-tex socks. My shoes could be soaked but my feet were dry. I could be walking around in sandals in the middle of winter wearing these waterproof socks (carrying a pickle jar) and my feet would still be dry even though I’ve committed a major fashion faux-pas.
The train ride from Belgrade was relaxing and I met some travelers from Macedonia whom I hung out with the next day. It was the same type of train used during my Sarajevo to Belgrade travels. Also, the same mix of city trams are being used through the region where you self-stamp your ticket on the tram and then show it should an inspector board the tram. What I liked about taking the Zagreb tram is that you can purchase a ticket via short message service (SMS). Just get on and message “ZG” to the phone number 8585. So when an inspector comes just show him/her the electronic receipt. What was interesting is that inspectors don’t work on weekends so many used to ride for free. Then the city hired more inspectors to crack down on fare cheats. You can comically watch people suddenly get up and head towards the exit as soon as they see the inspector checking peoples tickets.
I rented a basic apartment using the AirBnb service which was located by Jarun Lake. The apartment was an 8 minute walk to the tram stop then roughly 20 minute ride to the city center. It was warm and cozy, had WiFi and a comfy bed. Though the last few days the internet went out and like an internet junkie or geek (depends on your point of view) I had to adapt and go to more cafes and pubs; my kanji.
The spirit of the holiday season was shown throughout the colorfully lighted streetscapes. I enjoyed walking the pedestrian-only streets and grabbing a bite to eat at an outdoor food kiosk.
Arena Centar – Here I managed to watch the movie Skyfall in a VIP theatre with plush leather seats that recline with a foot rest and a button to press to call your server for additional drinks or popcorn.
The Museum Of Broken Relationships is where you go to see remnants of heartbreak in the form of personal artifacts. Bicycles, broken side view mirrors, hats and sex toys all have their place in the small museum.
Jarun Lake is a located in the Southwest part of Zagreb and is a popular place to getaway and hang out during the year. It’s lively during the summer months with daytime cafes and nightclubs that sprinkle the area and is next to one of the universities. You can swim, row and windsurf or jog and bike along the trails.
Maksimir Park is a 320 hectre park where you can get away from the city and recharge in picturesque natural scenery. With forests, mini lakes and streams you can sit and relax or at one of the two cafes in the park.
Ban Jelačić Square is the central square of the city where people go to meet up, hang out or start and end their day. Almost all the trams pass through this square. And from here you can walk to many museums, cafes and pubs.
I went inside the Sciences and Arts Academy to check out the building architecture. Members of the academy have discoveries in the areas of science, philosophy, music and math.
The Technical Museum was a interesting place. It is home to a mix of mechanizations from the oldest know steam engine to a mini Italian submarine, a makeshift mine and a Nikola Tesla study for visiting students on school trips.
Mirogoj Cemetary is a multifaith cemetery that is on a grand scale of architecture with its beautiful arcades and home to many deceased prominent Croatians.
The Museum Of Contemporary Art is the biggest museum in Croatia so wear comfortable shoes when visiting. I found myself spending more than a couple hours checking the exhibits. There’s also a double slide you can go down but it was closed at the time.
The Steve McCurry “South-Southeast” Exhibit at the Zagreb Art Pavilion was powerful. His photos really had a strong intensity to them and I found myself spending a lot of time there taking it all in.
The Vertigo Bar is located on top of Hotel Antunović. This bar has a rotating floor on it’s upper level. It’s a cool place to hang out at any time of the day.
There was also a solar system scavenger hunt where I ended up traveling around the city looking for planets.
There’s a mix of food that can satisfy anyone’s stomach. I found myself hanging out and eating at Oliva Pizzaria, Good Food Burger, Mansoku Sushi, Bull Dog Pub and enjoying tapas at lunchtime.
Zagreb is a city to see if you’re in the Balkans. It has a little of everything for everyone. I did manage to leave right before their heavy snowfall so I don’t know what it’s like in the winter time (yet).