Continued from Prague
When we landed at the Franjo Tuđman Airport in Zagreb, it turned out that our driver, arranged for a price by the hotel, was equally worried. Apparently, the last time he had waited for the last flight and it had been delayed, the passengers he was scheduled to pick up weren’t on the flight! In half an hour, we were dropped off a few steps from Hotel Dubrovnik, which was practically on the Ban Jelačić Square, the central square of Zagreb. And what a pretty one it was, visible from our hotel window. A good time to note that the hotel staff was really helpful.
After a buffet breakfast, we set out to explore Zagreb. Everything we wanted to see was a walkable distance away, and Google Maps all we needed. The first stop was Dolac Market, but apparently they believed in really early starts to the day. We got a fairly empty market, but spotted some fantastic graffiti. Heh. The next stop was Stone Gate, a gate to the town, which is now a shrine, with an altar pretty much in the middle of the road! St.Marks Church was a short climb away and the lego like rooftop looked very cool! The thing that struck us about the city (or at least this part of it) was how quiet it was. That, and the relative absence of people, made sure it was love at first sight!
A Museum of Naive Art we wanted to visit was closed. I was thankful for that a while later, because that would have taken away time from the phenomenally fantastic Museum of Broken Relationships. The name is self explanatory – this unique place contains objects left behind after relationships are broken. All donated by people from across the world. We saw one Indian story too. The stories range from funny to poignant to profound, from early twentieth century to this decade, and across a diverse set of ages. We spent quite a while here, you should too.
Lotrscak Tower was the next stop though we didn’t feel obliged to climb it for the view. We had other plans to get that. Right next to this is the Strossmayer Promenade, which has a few shops, and street side restaurants with a fantastic view of the city. With lovely trees around, it’s a great place for a walk, which finally landed us in front of what we later got to know was Grič Tunnel. Since lunch was the next plan and our stomachs were fine with a wait, we decided to explore it. Funnily enough, it landed us closer to our intended lunch stop than our planned route did!
Lunch was planned at Opatovina Street because it housed a lot of outlets which served craft beer. After passing through a park with an excellent Gulliver graffiti, we reached the street. Turned out to be quite empty, though we easily spotted Craft Room and Ro & Do, two of our options. The latter is the first craft beer outlet in Croatia. We looped back to find Tolkien’s House. Turned out it was right at the beginning of the street. Opposite a church! We wondered about the possibility of this happening in India! The church was quiet, calm and everything you would want in an establishment of its kind! We tried a couple of beers at Tolkien’s House, but the food options were exactly two, so we decided to go someplace else for lunch. The place, meanwhile, is full of LOTR ‘things’, from posters to weaponry!
We did wonder about the emptiness of the street though – maybe it was more of a night phenomenon and at lunchtime people wanted actual lunch options. That’s exactly what the parallel Tkalciceva street offered. It also happened to house Mali Medo, one of our dinner options. This was a busy street, but we were on time to find a shaded corner table. More craft beer followed, and D also asked for a cherry brandy that we both loved!
After a short break, we stepped out again on to the square, where the ISKCON folks had been creating a ruckus since early afternoon! We picked up tram tickets for the next day, and proceeded to the Zagreb Cathedral. Elegant and majestic, with the calmest of surroundings! Zagreb is really so awesome! After some trinket shopping, we walked to the Nikola Tesla statue. There he sits currently, deep in thought. The next stop, a short walk away, was the Zagreb Eye. (Zagreb 360) It’s the tallest view point in Zagreb and also hosts a cafe. The views are truly fantastic and the ticket also allows you to come back at night for that view. Very helpful folks, I must add.
An early dinner was planned at Mundoaka Street Food, and even at 7 ish, the place was really crowded. A reservation would have helped, but we managed to get a nice table inside (the street seating is more popular). After a healthy dinner (salad and soup!) balanced by more craft beer and wine, we got ourselves some fantastic ice cream, and sat in the Petra Preradovića square (also known as Flower Square) observing once again the excellent quality of life around. Sigh max!
I wouldn’t have minded another day in this lovely city at all, but nature had other plans. Nature as in Plitviče Lakes National Park. We had to get out quite early – 6.30 – and the hotel guys were kind enough to pack us a breakfast. D’s super planning got us to the bus stand (via the tram which stopped right next to the hotel) early enough to wolf down most of our breakfast. We had booked our tickets online, all we had to do was pay for the luggage storage. We reached the park around 9.45 and after getting tickets and storing our luggage (for free!) set off for what would take around 4-6 hours of walk. The park has 5 different routes depending on how much time you’d want to spend walking! (2 to 8 hours) The one we chose was the second longest.
The views for the first hour or so were just mindblowing! Haven’t seen this colour of water anywhere else. But given that I wasn’t really the most nature loving guy around, I was making faces after the first couple of hours.
A couple of things didn’t help – my headache which chooses the most inopportune of times to appear and the fact that the eating options at the park were a little oddly placed. The first one we saw, at the ferry, was too early (11.30 ish) but after a couple of hours, we realised we should have at least packed something from there. We continued to walk until we finally arrived at the bus stop. Thankfully there was an ice cream shop here. Two bus rides with a hot chocolate in between, we reached the final leg. A short walk, with splendid views again, and we were back at the starting point.
It had taken us 4 hours, and we were very early for the bus we had tickets for. Thankfully, we happened to be just in time for the bus earlier, but we really didn’t want to pay more. That was easily resolved because the lady at the counter just changed the time on the ticket, and got us on the bus. We found seats, but were worried when more people got on. Unlike the Zagreb bus, this one didn’t have seats assigned beforehand! Luckily, we didn’t run into problems and were on our way to Zadar.