Hello from Zagreb, our final destination in Croatia. We are really going to miss this country!
Friday, June 5 – Thursday, June 11
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia with a metropolitan population of over 1.2 million. It is located in the northwest of the country, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. The majority of its citizens are Croats. Their economy is pretty good, the city has lots of museums, sporting and entertainment events. As of January 2013, the average monthly net salary in Zagreb was 6,699 kuna, about €900 (Croatian average is 5,399 kuna, about €725).
Zagreb has the potential to be a big tourist center, but many visitors from Austria, Germany and Italy fly into Zagreb, and head directly for the beaches along the Croatian Adriatic coast and the old historic Renaissance cities of Dubrovnik, Split, and Zadar.
The people of Zagreb love their sports and recreation! We stayed a block off Jarun Lake in the southwest of the city.
The lake had swimming beaches with fishing and wakeboarding and the river had a world-class regatta course.
There was a jogging lane around the lake plus a bike / rollerblade trail! The cyclyists and bladers moved very FAST and we really had to pay attention in front and behind us, as one wrong step would easily result in a collision! We wondered if we mised a revival of rollerblades; there are hundreds if not thousands of people with them here! We also saw tournaments in many other sports happening during our Saturday stay. It was so nice to see such an active community!
This apartment location was perfect with many cafes and restaurants and a few night clubs. It was a nice place and very homey.
We took public transportation into the Centre of Zagreb a few times and really enjoyed the big city sites and sounds.
This is group of mimes were staring me down:
The biggest crowds were on the streets around Flower Square and in Tkalčićeva Street, also known as the ‘street of cafes and party street’. We sat one afternoon and watched three very young gypsy children working the tables and crowds across from us. The youngest, a girl, had to be about 4. The oldest boy, around 9, was a pro already and had a dramatic flair. The mother arrived on the scene later with a toddler strapped to her. We didn’t see anyone give them money but later saw two of the kids head into the Exchange office; perhaps to get bills for their coin? Soon after I watched as the mother pulled a nice stroller out of the trees for the toddler in. Another tour group had just arrived on the street, so the family disappeared in their midst. Before long a different woman, with what looked like the same stroller, appeared – canvassing the same coffee drinkers yet again. That would have been at least seven ‘open hand’ requests during the 45 minutes we sat there. We think they were banned from our side of the street. Very sad, disturbing and annoying at the same time.
Ban Jelačić Square is the central square of the city of Zagreb, and the main pedestrian zone.
Ban Josip Jelačić:
This house on the square was built in the beginning of the 20th century. Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic created this ceramic relief of farmers:
On Saturdays and Sundays there is a ceremony in the old town revolving around the changing of the guards. These guys are dressed in traditional uniform of Croatian soldiers from 17th /18th century; some of them, like these gentlemen, are on horseback. They rode by us twice while we were sitting in a cafe – so cool!
Apparently midday Saturday is THE time to be in the Centre and enjoy coffee with friends for hours. They refer to this as Špica, meaning ‘the peak’ and it’s the highlight of the week. The locals get very dressed up during this social event; it’s a time to see and be seen. That would be so fun – we need some socials customs like this! Just like the European custom of the evening walk. So incredible, so good for the family unit and of course, such good exercise.
The Zagreb Cathedral is the tallest building in Croatia, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and to kings Saint Stephen and Saint Ladislaus. The cathedral is typically Gothic; its’ spires can be seen from many spots in the city. This reminded us of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
This example shows the erosion of the spires that were new in 1901 and then restored in 1990. Each stone was removed, one by one, and replaced with a new one, carved after the original!
The Church of St. Mark is the parish church of old Zagreb. The roof tiles represent the coat of arms of Zagreb. Quite unusual!
Statue of Marija Juric Zagorka, Croatia’s first female journalist and one of its most widely read authors. We thought she looked like Mary Poppins!
St. George as he pays respect to the dead dragon:
Other interesting structures:
We replaced our runners in Zagreb! We didn’t realize how bad they were until they were beside the new ones!
We wore our hiking boots all winter so our runners really took a beating this spring. They got really dirty a few days ago when we were walking in Opatija; it was SO hot that we steered ourselves directly (knee high) into the water, shoes and all. We peeled off our shirts too, dunked them in the water, put them back on and continued walking. Did that twice.
Here is Joe’s overview of our time in Croatia (Hrvatska):
We spent 37 days in Croatia; basically most of May and half of June. We stayed in the coastal cities of Dubrovnik, Makarska, Split, Zadar and Opatija, and finally Zagreb, the inland capital.
A few words come to mind:
Weather – great! Hot and sunny almost the entire time.
Scenery – takes your breath away, through the entire country…beautiful!
Beaches and Adriatic Sea…Awesome!
Geography – great, situated directly across the Adriatic Sea from Italy.
People – very friendly, outgoing, easy going, laugh a lot and most speak very good English. Passionate and proud about their country, always wanted to know where we were from and what we thought about Croatia.
Food – Dalmation food can get a bit repetitive and almost boring, but it was always delicious (we did not lose any weight).
History – fascinating and goes back to Roman times. A lot of historic sites are very well preserved.
Special – for us it was extra special as we got to share the experience with our sons and daughters-in-law.
Overall – a fabulous, beautiful place to see and spend time in…put Croatia on your bucket list if you can.
Leaving the Schengen Area:
We have now completed our mandatory 90 days outside of Europe’s Schengen area and are free to return to (basically) Western Europe. Once we finished our escorted tour of Turkey and arrived in Albania, we were a little skeptical about filling our days in countries we knew absolutely nothing about. We even pondered about heading to the UK at one point. But what at first was trepidation, turned to delight as we experienced the wonderful countries, cities, scenery, amazing history, wonderful food and people, of Eastern Europe. This proved to be the most fascinating part of our adventure. The people in this region were the friendliest, our expenses were the lowest, the weather was incredible and we stayed ahead of tourist season. We were amazed at every place we visited.
While we are glad to be starting the next leg of our adventure, we are leaving with many unforgettable memories.
Thessaloniki, Greece – here we come!
So enjoy your company on this journey,
Paula and Joe