Saturday, 27 April 2013

Whiling away the days in Zagreb

This week I've been in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, with the boy for a few days of relaxation and exploring! We booked it at Christmas when EasyJet had a sale on and neither of us were stressed with Uni work but knew that we probably would be after a 15 week term!

We decided to book an apartment, right in the centre of the old town, as our base and AirBnB has some incredible choices - well worth a look if you haven't used the website before. Individuals rent out their apartments and villas meaning you find great places for a fraction of the price, in our case even cheaper than the Croatian hostels and definitely nicer!

So we set of on Monday, arriving in the city mid afternoon, and headed straight to the apartment to collect the keys. I didn't take any photos but it was clean, modern and perfectly central. We headed straight out for ice cold beers on Tkalciceva, a road in the Upper Town renowned for its choice of bars, and after a wander, onto supper at Nokturno, in the centre of the old town. Diners can sit inside or out and the theme is a mix of traditional Croatian dishes and Italian. I went for the squid and fries which was yummy.

The next day we continued our exploring if the old town, discovering tiny roads, each leading to something new. The Dolac market is filled with fresh produce, old farmers each trying to sell you something new and traditional Croatian souvenirs which we somehow managed to resist! Everything looked gorgeous in the 22 degree sunshine though and it was amazing to be in a little summer dress and not feel chilly. I wished I could have bought the sun home with me!!

I couldn't help but smile at the United Colours of Benneton window display on the walk to the Dolac!
There are layers of architecture and history in the city and climbing the watchtower in the centre of the old town only served to emphasise this. Heading up to the old town in the 60m cable car shows Croatia at its finest - sunshine, architecture and gorgeous
buildings such as the impressive cathedral.


We continued our wander around the old town, stopping to take a picture or two en route - with that background how could anyone resist!

After a few hours of soaking up the sun and another beer or two - how can we say no when it's £1 a bottle! - we decided to head south of the city for supper to a pizzeria that had been recommended by a local we'd got chatting to. When we arrived we weren't quite sure what to expect. The restaurant was set pretty much in the middle of a housing estate but we went with it, it was a recommendation by a foodie so we had to give it a try... And we were so glad we did! My pizza was bigger than me, I'm not even exaggerating that much! With the dough freshly rolled in front of us and cooked in a traditional pizza oven it was fresh and crispy. George said the lasagna was pretty good too but for me it was all about the giant pizza!!


Wednesday was set to get even hotter so we decided it was the day for a trip to the lake. A 20 minute tram ride outside of the city centre, the man made Lake Jurun wasn't quite what we expected - very Eastern European was the only way to describe it!- but it was lovely to just have a chill out day in the sunshine with the occasional paddle. I think it was just what we both needed. We came away smiling and sun burnt, more than ready for ice lollies and some more beers for supper!


The best thing about Zagreb is the price of things. It hasn't yet hit the European costs, although likely it will in years to come having just joined the EU, and a good meal can cost from as little as £3/£4, that for the equivalent in England would be closet to £10 or £12. So for supper we decided to push the boat out and headed to a slightly more upmarket restaurant back on Tkalciceva. I went for the asparagus and fennel risotto which was fresh and delicious and George chose a Zagreb steak with crispy potatoes. It was a really chilled out evening, the perfect finish to our lake day, only to be topped off watching Real Madrid play Borussia Dortmund. Zagreb seems to sleep early so it was nice to be somewhere with a bit of life after 10pm. We decided we liked the history bar!

The next morning, our last full day in the city we had a lie in before wandering out for breakfast for pain au chocolate and pretzels. We headed back to the old town, up past the cable car and to St Marks Square. We planned to go to the museum of Croatian History and after wandering around the side streets aimlessly looking a nice police man pointed us to the doors right in front of where we were standing!! Being a tourist is difficult sometimes!

The museum was a little bit of a let down unfortunately as had no permanent collections on display so we only got to learn about one minister which didn't really give us much of an insight! For 50p entry we couldn't complain too much though and headed off for ice cream and a chilled out afternoon in the park close to the apartment. At 28 degrees it was a gorgeous day and it would have been use to not have joined the locals for a beer in the main square to bask in the sunshine!


On the way back to the apartment we stumbled across a little alley way, with a sign for a shop, made out of a suitcase at the entrance. With our severe lack of the language I couldn't resist a little look and was really glad we did! The alley opened out at the bottom to play host to a gorgeous vintage shop. Laid out similarly to British vintage and with props such as record players around the shop it really was gorgeous, even if the Croatians haven't quite caught up with the difference between vintage and simply 'old lady'!!

Supper on the last night was at Boban, a renowned pasta restaurant. Said to be better than Italian pasta I went for the tagliatelle with shrimp, salmon, tomato, vodka and cream and George chose the same but with veal and garlic. The food was really delicious and I was too tempted by the pancakes so came away well and truly full, just in time for a cocktail or two back at the History Bar.


I've visited lots of European cities but this was my first experience of Eastern Europe and I can't recommend it enough. I think three full days was the perfect amount of time to see Zagreb and with the cheap prices, sunshine and perfect choice of company it really was a pretty good way to spend a few days away from the Uni bubble! 

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