Almost a local in Croatia
I arrived to Zagreb at about 7:30pm. I took the tram (it’s right in front of the bus station) to my hostel. I stayed at Hobo Bear hostel. It’s centrally located between the upper and lower town. The place was really nice and the staff was very friendly and helpful.
As I approached the city, I felt this rush of energy and vibrancy. A part of me wished that I was entering midtown Manhattan in NYC. At this moment, I realized that I’m definitely more of a city girl. I feel more alive in the hectic, rowdy, busy kinda life. I enjoyed traveling and experiencing the southern part of Croatia but as soon as I got into Zagreb, I felt a new thrill and I suddenly wanted to extend my vacation.
It’s hard for me to describe the city of Zagreb. In my opinion, Zagreb is a mix of Prague in architecture, London in shopping on Bond Street, Paris in the parks and wider roads within the town, and then it had a Boston feel but I can’t say in what way. It is not a big city but it has majority of the things you’ll find in big cities. Lots of shopping, fancy restaurants with reasonable prices, bars and lounges, and most importantly Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants haha. (Any city that has these restaurants automatically has my heart LOL.) It was a completely different vibe than the other cities I visited on the Dalmatian coast. It was a lot colder in Zagreb and I didn’t like that. 🙁
After dropping my bags, I headed out to dinner at Vinodol restaurant. The ambiance is good and the service was good. I wanted to have the typical Croatian Peka style cooked meal but it had finished, so she suggested I call to make a reservation. The food here was really good and reasonably priced. The next day I used the “step by step Zagreb” guide book I got from the hostel to navigate to the main sights in the city. This guide is really good, you should use it when you’re in Zagreb. It gives you a walking guide on how to navigate both the upper and lower part of town. You can see the main sights in one day or maybe two if you’re taking it easy.
Oh I stopped at the pharmacy to pick up sunscreen for my body. I know this sounds irrelevant but I’ve gotten the craziest tan since I started my travels in December and my skin is almost looking burnt. Right now I miss that I didn’t experience winter (I don’t even like the cold) but I need a 6-month winter recovery period. You don’t want to see my tan 🙁
I met up with Filip (Selma and Azra from Bosnia linked me up) who lives in Zagreb. We planned to meet at the main square called Ban Jelačić. It’s always crowded in the square, so I suggested meeting at a cafe nearby. We met up at Cafe Enigma on Tkalčićeva street (popular street for most of the cafés and bars). Filip and his friend Matija (who is from Zagreb) took me around the city. They were my tour guides during my stay in Zagreb.
Behind these doors are huge parks, houses, and playgrounds. I love the road less traveled.
We walked the upper and lower town. Went to the various tourist sights. I enjoyed hanging with them because I got to enjoy the city as a local and not a tourist. We had great conversations about almost everything. Zagreb is one of those places you don’t want to be a tourist. It’s like being in NYC and being a tourist. You don’t get the same experience – you want to feel like you’re part of the city.
Anywhoos, we walked around and they indulged me as I stopped at every sight to take pictures. Later we went to lunch at Medvedgrad restaurant. The food was really good and yes, authentic Croatian type food. After lunch we met up with two of their friends for coffee at the Millennium Lounge. The Balkans love their coffee and cafes; everyone is always at a cafe drinking coffee. After coffee the boys walked me back to my hostel.
Matija being goofy
We planned to meet later at night but that didn’t quite work out because the weather was so bad. So I spent the rest of my night chatting with this 23-yr old Canadian boy traveling in a “unique” way. He said someone stole his money and passport, so he’s been sleeping in parks, train stations and camp sites and gets some luxury in hostels once a week. You’re probably wondering why he hasn’t gone back home?? Yup I asked the same but for him it’s all part of the experience. It’s makes his journal more fun to read when he’s older. I added him on Facebook just because I want to keep up with his eccentric life and stories.
my personal tour guides leading the way
I planned to stay 2 nights in Zagreb but I ended up staying an extra night. I wanted to enjoy the city like a local. Wake up late, write my blog posts, walk around town a little, sit for coffee and hang out with folks. You know that kind of stuff you do if you actually live in the city. So the next day, I did just that. Although it rained nonstop all day, I slept in, wrote some posts, went out for drinks at Medvedgrad (they brew their own beer) with some folks at the hostel, went to the Museum of Broken Relationships (which was cool, it’s worth a visit) and then I had veal and potatoes cooked authentic Croatian way “peka” at Vinodol for dinner (I called earlier to make reservation). This was just how I pictured my day but without the rain.
Tomorrow…well now today I’m heading to Budapest. I’m very excited to travel to Budapest but my border fears arise again. I’ll be entering the Schengen zone now and I’m hoping there’s no confusion with my stays in EU vs Schengen zone. Goodbye Croatia! It was an amazing time here. I’ll be back.