Images of our trip
in Zagreb


Back in the early 1990's, Raymond hired a young Yugoslavian man as a Computer Analyst Programmer. it turned out after two weeks of work that he could not be legitimately paid since he had entered Australia on a tourist visa. The young man explained that he wished to seek asylum in Australia with his girlfriend, who was travelling with him to escape his country which was in a midst of a civil war.

The younger generation may not have heard of Yugoslavia as the civil war resulted in the division of Yugoslavia into many countries. In 1991 Slovenia and Croatia declared independence followed by Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia & Montenegro. Finally, in 2006 the UN recognised Montenegro as a separate country.

While we were impressed with our trip to Slovenia's capital Ljubljana, our curiousity from the many good stories of the beauty of Croatia's mountaineous regions, lakes, beaches, seafood and people got the better of us. The journey to Zagreb, Croatia's capital took us past Austria and Slovenia. 560 kilometers and 30 euros in road tolls later, we arrived at the Croatian capital. Unlike most European countries, a schengen treaty did not exist so passports were required at the border. The kuna is Croatia's currency.



DIscovering Zagreb was a pleasure after three days of relaxing walks about town and to the many theatres, museums, galleries, churches, squares and parks. A complimentary city mini-train and a "hop on hop off" tourist bus service made the place easy to get around, if you're not into walking that is.

For us, it was important to see how the locals lived - at the marketplace, sidewalk cafes, squares and their very pleasant tree lined parks told us that life beyond the civil war some 20 years ago was pleasant. Over the Corpus Christi long weekend, Zagreb was celebrating the "Cest is D'Best" festival. We didn't know what the festival was for but it brought extra life to the city; attracting street pantomines, stilt walkers, jugglers, streetart and all sorts of performances one would not normally see.

With a population of only 800,000, the city isn't large compared to where we had lived before (Munich's 1.3 million, Melbourne 3.8 million and Greater Seoul'S 27 million population was greater than the population of Australia itself). Zagreb was a pleasure to walk through; the nights came alive by the sound of music in squares and bands playing in a nearby park, with the style of music gradually heating up the music ran into the evenings.. It wasn't hard to see many people - many of them at a young age - frequenting sidewalk cafes, restaurants, bars and other culinary establishments throughout the city. We enjoyed this as the relatively large crowd did not exhibit a rowdy behaviour.

Raymond in front of St. Marks Square
Raymond in
St. Mark's Square

 


Josipa Jelacica Square
is the central square
of Zagreb.

 

 


Croatian child playing at
the Fountain of Life

 

 


Gold Status right outside
St. Stephen's Cathedral


Croatian cuisine
was generally made up of the 4S's : salad, seafood, soups and steaks. The distinct Italian twist in some of its dishes was due to the fact that it shares the Adriatic Sea with Slovenia and Italy.

Whilst oysters, scallops, prawns were supposed to be plentiful, we were not able to find them in Zagreb, we guessed because the city was inland. Perhaps we would have better luck closer to the sea but we did taste two great salads; the Grilled Octopus and Hot & Cold Prawn Salad.

The Veal stew and Dalmatian Rib steak (tip: it's not white with black spots all over), Baked Bass and Filet Mignion with Gorgonzola Sauce were all very good. The Veal Steak came without its normal healthy dripping of sauce (my favourite was peppercorn sauce even though this wasn't served) but lightly salted roulade style. To our pleasant surprise, it was delicious.

At the best seafood restaurant in town, the waiter's recomendation of grilled Octopus and Fish (Sea Bream) turned out to be the best Octopus and fish we've ever tasted. The Octopus, including its tentacles did not have a rubbery texture nor a stale aftertaste. It was fresh, succulent and juicy.... we must admit that based on our "raw O'Ching'a" experience in Seoul, we were a little apprehensive at first. As a reminder, this was the experience in South Korea where the Octopus was served raw, dipped in a soy-sauce mix while its little "sucker pods" were all still in working order. Not for the feint hearted!

The waiter even gave us recommendations of where to find the best seafood in Croatia, although one has to drive a minimum of 170 km to get there! Finally, the local Dubrovnik variation of the Creme Caramel is not as sweet as the original French variety but a very pleasant experience indeed.




A Bizzare Image showing a taxi parked smack in the middle of the street
to load passengers' baggage


The city isn't large, so walking didn't seem to be a hastle. It was easy enough walking between Bana Josipa Jelacica Square (the centrepoint for old Zagreb), via the very exciting Dolac market through to the hilly streets where most of the museums seems to be found to Ilica, Zagreb's longest street filled with people and shopping experiences to Marshal TIto's Square, Croatia's most beautiful square flanked with historic buildings and sculptures to just about anywhere else. Museums showcasing art, life, ethnicity etc., churches, squares and historic dwellings to occupy oneself seem to be spread all over town.

Apart from the sidewalk cafe's and eateries, we enjoyed looking through their stores, experiencing their service along the way. Central Zagreb itself is lined with all kinds of stores, although apart from UCB (United Colours of Benneton), we did not find too many famous brands on display. Large shopping centres were located out in the suburbs served their local clientele. We visited Westgate City and drove past King Cross, just to see what it was like. Westgate is a "modern concrete pre-fabricated" shopping centre showcasing international brand names - although we were a little put off by the distance and its rustic location. The experience getting to Westgate was easy enough with two navigation systems (one in the car and a second handheld one), except if you didn't pay attention or can not read Croatian and missed the turnoff, you'll be forced to pay the expressway entry and exit toll just to come back to experience it all over again. Guess what we did?

We also discovered a large underground shopping centre next to the main Raiway Station not mentioned in tourist pubications. With about 200-250 stores, the centre was fileld with generally small stores, restaurants and cafe's in the midst of narrow walkways. It reminded us of the underground shopping centres in Banpo and Kangnam back in Seoul.

Apart from the evening hotel people who tried to keep our car keys (we think to take the car for a joyride), We have to say though that the morning hotel people were exceptionally good - giving us great tips, directions and even scoring us a free "Time Out Croatia" magazine to ensure we were well informed of sights outside Zagreb. Croatian people were friendly although largely kept to themselves. They seem to enjoy partying as loud music could be heard late into the night from open air concerts held in the city's centre. We enjoyed great service from all restaurants - one even gave us a great tip and detailed directions of how to get to the best seafood experience in Croatia.

Whilst having dinner one evening, 3 Japanese ladies that sat on the next table had trouble communicating with the waiter. They were grateful for Jeanette's help in interpreting and making their meal orders for them and thanked us (the 45° bow) before they left. Surprisingly, we bumped into them again on three separate ocassions during our walk the next day in town, each time greeting each other with wide smiles and laughter, the 45° bow, hello and sayonara!

We will return to Croatia but this time to experience its coastal region.

 

Jeanette and Raymond Han
June 18, 2010

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The colourful tiled roof of
St. Mark's Church

 


Sidewalk Cafe's and Eateries along the hilly streets of Zagreb

 

Zagreb, HR

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