Making My Way To Zagreb
Arriving by train from Budapest, I’d enjoyed the stunning Hungarian countryside views, and had added a new place to my holiday wishlist – Lake Balaton, if you need some holiday inspo – before arriving in Zagreb late in the evening. It was already dark, so it was straight to the hostel to check in, drop off my stuff and find some dinner. I was the only one in my dorm for the night, and I’d opted for a top bunk for a bit more privacy when other people would arrive, so at least there was some time to practice having to climb down a ladder before doing it in front of anyone.
My First Taste Of Croatia
Waking in the night freezing cold, I had just turned the air-con off. Waking up in the morning, I was absolutely roasting, and couldn’t work out how to turn it back on. Eventually sussing it out, I got ready and was out to explore Zagreb, the Croatian capital! First stop of the day was to the market, which seemed somewhat lacking in the number of stalls open. It’s an open-air market, with tables laid out in rows under necessary umbrellas to shield the stalls and produce from the sun. Deciding it may be that I’d just come too late to see it in full flow, I picked a direction and just wandered.
Up past a number of permanent stalls, I stumbled upon a church that was mid-service so just admired the outside before continuing on to a small park where I spotted some cool artwork on a wall. As I wandered over to check it out, I walked through a spiders web and had a small freak out because there was a big – not really that big, but felt HUGE – white spider hanging from me and I couldn’t get it off. Thankfully a nearby man with his family came to my rescue, and I couldn’t help but laugh at how stupid I’d probably looked. Never mind!
Spider free, I carried on to Zagreb Cathedral where I spotted a well dressed lady fishing for coins in the fountain. I was told that there aren’t really homeless people in Croatia as the government is good with providing housing, but that they still have no money for food. Possibly was someone who’d have otherwise been homeless, possibly just a lady that had forgotten her change for the carpark…I’ll never know! I took the opportunity for a quick tour of the cathedral before heading to the shop to get supplies in case things close early on a Sunday in this small capital city.
Come afternoon I ventured over to Britanski antique market, that was basically just a square lined with tables of old books, surrounded by uninviting cafes. Finding somewhere nearby that looked a little more welcoming, I stopped for a coffee, then took a walk through Tunel Grič, an old bomb shelter tunnel, through an arty park where the trees were decorated with knitted patterns and up to Strossmayer Promenade where it was decked out like an outdoor living room. Stopping for another drink, I sat and watched people going about their days, with some people dressed up in old traditional Croatian clothing just wandering up and down for the tourists.
I’d seen that the Museum of Broken Relationships was just around the corner from Strossmayer Promenade, and umm’ed and ahh’ed about going in. It was highly rated, but did I really want to spend time and money reading about people’s break up experiences? Deciding the only way to find out was to go, it turned out to be one of the best things I did in Zagreb. It had a couple of relationship break up stories as you’d imagine, but the museum is mostly based on other kinds of relationship break ups. Stories of broken relationships with food, such as a woman who’d been diagnosed lactose intolerant and couldn’t eat pizza any more, of broken relationships with parents, children and loved ones through death or life events, of broken relationships with bodies, such as one lady who submitted her bra as a symbol of her saying goodbye to her breasts after a cancer diagnosis. The museum was entertaining, moving and inspiring all at once, and I 100% am glad I visited.
I couldn’t really beat that for the day, so made my way back to the hostel to find that the ‘kitchen’ was actually just a fridge and a microwave. I’d already bought pasta to make dinner, so a quick google search told me how to cook pasta in a microwave, and I spent the evening chatting to an older Canadian man also staying at the hostel who told me all about his years of travel. He walked everywhere and after I laughed when he told me he might walk to Romania after Croatia, he shared some of his best walking travel tips with me. I didn’t realise people actually walk that far!
Parks, Bakery Food and Awesome Umbrellas
Although Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, it’s not crammed full of things to see and do, so the next morning I woke up with no plans other than have a wander. It’s not possible to book Croatian trains on RailEurope, and the Croatian site confused me too much, so I decided I’d talk a walk through the parks back to the station and book my ticket out of Zagreb and on to my next stop. There are three small parks next to each other that lead the way from the centre of the old town to the train station, and the first had been filled with huge fabric umbrella shades, deck chairs and lounge furniture. It was hot, so I took the opportunity to take a seat and eat the breakfast I’d picked up in a nearby bakery, before continuing on through the next two parks.
As I neared the station I realised I didn’t know what my next stop should be – Ljubljana where the weather wasn’t looking so great, or head straight to Split on the Croatian coast. Instead of getting a ticket and making a choice I didn’t really want, I decided to think about it and just come back later in the evening to watch the concert in the last park and get my train ticket.
I hadn’t explored Old Town fully yesterday, so wandered back up to the square and up a street I hadn’t yet been up. The intention was to end up at the church from yesterday morning that had been mid-service, but I got distracted by all the bars and restaurants and ended up stopping for some lunch and having the best chicken gyro I’ve ever had. It’s also the only chicken gyro I’ve ever had, so the competition isn’t strong, but it was still really delicious. Continuing up the street, it was full of bars and restaurants, and barely any people due to the heat.
Continuing with the theme of just wander wherever I felt like, I saw some steps and decided to see what was at the top. Turned out to the be spider park – new, not-so-official name – from yesterday, so I walked through quickly to try and avoid any repeats of yesterday’s spider incident, had a look inside the church then back down to the bar street.
Hunting out the shopping region, I had a quick look to see if I could find a strapless top to go with my bikini. No luck, so I settled for a drink in one of the nearby street bars that were near empty at this time of the day. Come evening, I knew they’d be teeming with people, but the temperature was climbing with the afternoon sun so I decided to join the masses and head indoors.
Making a decision that Split would be my next stop – no one wants to explore a rainy city, right? – I booked an apartment for a couple of nights there, and after making myself a bit more presentable I made my way out to enjoy the concert in the park and grab my train tickets for the next morning. It was fairly simple to get the train tickets, but there was still a fair amount of doubt that I’d bought the right ticket at the machine and just decided to hope for the best and spend my time soaking up the cultural vibes at the concert, which I quickly discovered was a classical concert with full orchestra. Not usually my first choice, I actually really enjoyed spending the warm summer evening relaxing in the park with a bit of culture. I love how lucky I am to time my visits to cities when they have events like this on!
Ending the night with a huge slice of pizza for €1, I had to turn in before long as I needed to pack before my early morning train journey to Split. I’d been told that the best way to get around in Croatia was by bus, and that getting the train to Split wasn’t a great idea. I thought it was because it was such a long journey, which I was used to by now and didn’t mind, but I’d soon find out that it was one of the worst journey’s I’ve had yet…