Friday, September 6, 2013

Zagreb, capital of Croatia

The train from Ljubljana to Zagreb had few stops but there was one long stop for the border crossing.  For some reason the Slovenian officials came through and checked our documents. Then minutes later the Croatian officials checked them again. In the meantime the Slovenian engine was swapped our for a Croatian one and we were finally off again.  

Zagreb is a far bigger city than Ljubljana. Ljubljana is more appealing from a touring perspective. But what Zagreb lacks in charm and outstanding attractions, it makes up for with the food options. We had little idea about what we would do in Zagreb other than see the city and visit a few museums. What we found was a Culinary Experience with fish, meat, and other dishes very well prepared paired with fine Croatian wines.

They say that historically, Zagreb was comprised of two rival hilltop settlements. Oddly enough only one hill is at all noticeable, and it isn't very high. This hill is home to the "upper town" which is reached by an easy walk or a very short funicular ride.  (Do keep in mind we have recently made serious climbs to castles in several nearby cities. …)
The upper town is most visited for the St Mark's Church with its two shields (one for each settlement, I think) on the roof (interesting for a brief visit) and the Naive Art Museum (housing very fine examples of art with a primitive childlike simplicity...totally worth visiting.) 

St Mark's Church
Naive Art by Mijo Kovacic
Naive Art by Ivan Vecanj
We found a third reason to visit the upper town -- Trilogia Restaurant. Very small. No standing menu.  The meals all depend on what was available at the market earlier in the day. With each course we had our waiter select an appropriate glass of wine. For starters Pat had baby mackerel and Bill had fried cheese; this was followed by mushroom risotto for Pat and veal with polenta for Bill. Dessert was "apple pie and ice cream".
Baby Mackerel & Zucchini 
Pie & Ice Cream

The architecture of central Zagreb (housing the theater & several museums) is dominated by buildings from the late 1800's to early 1900's. (Newer Communist architecture is simple and not especially memorable.) What struck us was that so many of the public buildings were kind of a basic mustard yellow color...see a few samples below. Pat has never cared for basic mustard nor does she care for the color. Maybe this also colored her perception of Zagreb?

Arts & Craft Museum (Mustard Yellow)
National Theater (Mustard Yellow)
Buildings on the main square (Only one in Mustard Yellow. Phew!)
Confused Building- Not quite sure why someone thought this worked.
We enjoyed exploring the Ethnography Museum and the Arts & Craft Museum. The Ethnographic Museum included artifacts representative of each of the continents plus samples of the range of the typical dress of the people of the Croatian region throughout the ages. Bottom Line: They seem to have had as many variants of costumes as the people of Mexico.  And equally colorful as well. The Arts & Craft Museum focuses on the lifestyle of the pampered aristocracy of Zagreb through the, artwork, dinnerware and such. Fun to see but nothing outstanding. 
Folk Costumes at Ethnography Museum

More Folk Costumes at Ethnography Museum

To get a better sense of the city we road the Hop-On Hop-Off bus.  It really should just be termed a sightseeing bus because the routes are so infrequent that while you can hop-off, it is highly unlikely that you'll find a later bus convenient to hop-on.  However, this did give us a good view of the city.  There are many green parks but there is a very notable modern park area. – quite huge with many water focused activities.  The folks from Zagreb are big on their olympic sports participation.  But the coolest thing at the park was the water skiing area.  We couldn't see it closely but it looked like someone arranged a flat, circular ski-tow that water skiers hitch onto and ski away.  

A couple evenings we actually kept things light and had a little wine with small plates of cured meats and excellent cheeses.  Our last dinner was a Vinodel.  It was far larger than we expected and likely we would have thought it too commercial if it hadn't been so highly praised.  It did live up to it's reputation (and hence was quite busy…but the service was quite attentive.) For a starter we share roasted red peppers.  Bill had veal ""under the peka (roasted in a special pan) with potatoes, Pat had veal with cheese & spinach. For dessert we shared a Croatian "flan". Delightful.

One surprise in Zagreb was the ceiling lamp in our room.  It was a crystal chandelier made in a rainbow of colors…and basically the same as one we arranged to have transported to San Miguel for our friend Anado. 
The Ceiling light in our room

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