|quirky museum in upper town|
Sunday, June 3, 2012
In my recently concluded trip to the Balkans, I could not have done much better than starting at Zagreb. After a long flight, I really appreciated a low-key, relax and most of all, a European city not overrun by tourists. Do not get me wrong, Zagreb is anything but boring and there are actually plenty to see and do here. The first thing that greeted me though was the heatwave as it was unseasonably warm here on the last day of April. I rented a room near the bus station which in certain cities mean undesirable or unsafe location. But the neighborhood is really nice, pleasant and about 15 minutes walk to the Upper Town. Walking to the center for the first time, with the quiet streets and closed shops in the mid afternoon, I could hardly believe that I was in the capital and biggest city of Croatia. Things though were a lot livelier in the center. Trg Josipa Jelacica, the main orientation point and heart of the city is a good place to people watch as tram-loads of people get out, greet each other and disperse. Though a bit tired by then, I ventured on to the Kaptol Square. It is dominated by the 13th century Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (formerly known as St Stephen's). Nice but one of its twin spires was under construction. I settled for dinner at a beer garden style place near my apartment building. It was the worst meal of the trip. Why is it that the first meal on the road is seldom good?
It was a Sunday and the local market next to the apartment building was closed so my plan to have a local breakfast there was off. There was not much option on the way to the center either and I was getting the impression that maybe breakfast is not a big thing here. By late morning, I finally decided to just buy a sandwich from a stand in Trg Josipa Jelacica. After my less than satisfying brunch, I began my walking tour of the Upper Town. All of the buildings here were restored or rebuilt after a massive earthquake of 1880. They now house the political and cultural centers of the country. Some of the ancient palaces have been converted into museums. There are several churches in the old town and the most notable one must be the Church of St Mark with its colored glazed tiles roof bear the coats of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, Slavonia and Zagreb. The Dolac Market which borders between the Upper and Lower Towns was also closed that day. Back at the Lower Town, along the series of parks and open spaces, people were having picnics and other outdoor activities. The major museums are all located here and it is such a nice area to have a stroll. Dinner was pit roasted kid goat and grilled trout with almond at a restaurant near the parks. I also sampled some Croatian red wine for the first time .... the first decent meal of the trip.