On a bus trip from Ljubljana to Rovinj, nearly a week after our very brief introduction to Croatia, my memories of Zagreb are already fuzzy. We were immediately comfortable in our new and modern apartment (Cylinder) near Jelacic Square and in the heart of the pedestrian only old town. With only one true full day to soak up the sights, we had to meander with purpose.
The most notable sites were:
- Dolac Market – This is what a farmer’s market should be – a square filled with table after table, laden with the freshest vegetables and fruits, all in-season, meticulously organized, and at reasonable prices. Underneath the outdoor produce section, we found all of the meat, cheese, bakery and specialty shops, sampling the cured meats until we found the perfect salami for a coming train trip.
- The Museum of Broken Relationships – An exhibition of perfectly curated, unhappy love stories accompanied by a single object or symbol of representation. This was a spot to take your time to read the words, and try to stifle laughter and tears. Surprisingly, Stella & Gabriel were patient, wanting us to read the tales, which were frankly well above their heads. The only frustration was caused by a tour bus of Asians, who read nothing, yet found it necessary to pose and smile for photos with the objects. A depth of understanding had to be lacking.
- Croatian Museum of Naive Art – Wow! One of my favorite little gems. Sometimes referred to as peasant or rustic art, the pieces on exhibition were in no way simplistic. My favorites were painted on glass with great detail and used vivid paints, which could not possibly be captured in any photo or art book.
- Seeing the changing of the guard – a procession of soldiers on horse and foot in old military garb parade through the city, stopping to pray in the old Stone Gate and ending at the St. Mark’s Square in front of the 13th century Church of St. Mark with the lego-like roof depicting two coats of arms.
- The free botanical garden in end of summer bloom – My favorite sections were a rainbow garden of flowers, each row representing a different color theme found in nature, the giant lily pads which could support the weight of a baby, and an international variety of trees and plants presented in a thoughtful and organized manner.
- Tkalciceva street with the cafe culture spilling out into the cobblestones – bars and restaurants, one after another up a slightly curving lane. Multiple squares for people to gather (all free of cars!), admiring a flower vendors bouquets, cathedrals and statues, the occasional festival (like the week-long vintage fair with music, performances, and antiques of the 40’s through early 60’s), and each other, decked out in fashionable attire.
Zagreb had a youthful vibe and energy, in the midst of an old and well-preserved city. September had brought all the locals back to its’ streets for commerce and school, yet with the traces of a summer tan still lingering. We knew immediately that Croatia was a country that we were going to love.