Thursday, July 24, 2014
Oh, Zagreb! I visited you without knowing a whole lot about you and as a result, I was pleasantly surprised by how walkable of a city you are and your metropolitan yet relaxing and chill vibe.
Kimmy and I found ourselves in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, for the day after taking the 2.5hr train ride from Ljubljana, Slovenia. Our plan was to wander the city, enjoy lunch, people watch, and then rent a car in the late afternoon to drive to our hotel in Plitvice Lakes.
Not having expectations of a city may be the best way to go into any city visit. The city center was just a short tram ride from the train station and it was perfectly walkable. Having arrived in the late afternoon, we caught the tail-end of the farmer’s market, unmistakable by its sea of red umbrellas that offer shoppers a small reprieve from the beating sun.
I love visiting markets because it’s such a fun way to get a sense for what it’s like to be a local. Markets are also great places to people watch and to sample delicious fruits and vegetables along with local treats like hams, breads, jams, or more. At the Dolac Market, which is the market we were at, Kimmy immediately made a dash for the souvenirs, but in my meandering, I got suckered into a conversation with a cherry vendor. Of course, after he let me sample one of the cherries, I was hooked by the sweetness (of the cherries, not of the vendor… although foreign vendors are often quite sweet, too) and just had to purchase a bag of them.
After visiting the market, we headed up the cutest street flanked by cafes, restaurants, and bars on both sides.
It wasn’t quite lunch time for the locals so there were still plenty of seats available but we were hungry so we made our way to one of the cafes for lunch. With all the dining options on this street, it was the perfect place to people watch over drinks. You could also tell that at night, this street must be buzzing with diners.
Kimmy and I love the outdoor dining vibe that is so common in Europe and Zagreb’s outdoor dining scene was no exception.
After lunch, we wandered the city and admired the charming architecture and the cute shops hidden down the side streets.
We saw the St. Mark’s Church which is famous for its fancy roof depicting multiple coats of arms…
…and the Stone Gate that houses a painting of Jesus and Mary. This gate was the only one of five that survived the 1731 fire and even more miraculously, the painting inside was unchanged. As a result, it has turned into a shrine and it is common to see people stopping by to pray.
Then, we came across the best part (for us, anyway). We haphazardly found ourselves at the front of the Museum of Broken Relationships.
Yes, that’s right. It’s a museum filled with paraphernalia significant in someone’s relationship along with a description of how that relationship ended (usually) bitterly. Actually, in hindsight, they could rename the museum to the Museum of Scorned Lovers and it’d be just as appropriate! I’m not going to lie – we got a kick out of reading some of the descriptions (unfortunately, I didn’t take pics of the accompanying artifacts, but you can use your imagination):
The hilarity and shock value of some of the descriptions were only surpassed by the souvenirs in the gift shop:
Or, if you prefer, you could send your lover a scratch off postcard to tell them what you really think:
Being swept up by the theme of the museum, we thought this museum was the perfect place to do a sort of a “spiritual cleanse” of our past relationships. Okay, this was really more so for Kimmy who just started a new relationship than for me, but honestly, can you think of a better place to say good riddance to your past relationships? I didn’t think so! So, we did a little song and dance and left entries in the museum’s guestbook to say do viđenja (“bye” in Croatian) to our past. Ever since that “cleanse” Kimmy’s relationship has been on the up and up and there’s no way that’s a coincidence!
We capped off the rest of our city visit with some shopping (mostly to escape the crazy hot summer heat that day since the stores were the only place with AC)…
…and then took a break from all our walking by resting inside the Zagreb Cathedral.
Incidentally, the cathedral is the tallest building in Croatia at about 350 feet which is to say that Croatia doesn’t have many tall buildings (hills, on the other hand, they have a lot of – especially in Dubrovnik!). We also found that the cathedral was a great place to escape the heat as well since it was nice and cool inside. I’m not sure if there’s AC pumping throughout or if the stone construction lends to a cool interior, but we liked that there was not only plentiful seating but no pressure for us to buy anything!
Hot weather aside, we both enjoyed our Zagreb pitstop. There’s probably not enough to spend more than a day there, but the city is worth a day of wandering and there are plentiful photo ops along the way. Oh, and if you want to cleanse yourself of your past relationships, you can do that in Zagreb, too!