Friday, November 25, 2011

From Z(agreb) to B(russels) Part I

At one point we thought about trying to squeeze in a day trip to Antwerp so we could say we'd gone from Z to A but it wasn't in the cards.

Day 1
This trip did not get off to the smoothest of starts.  A few hours before I was to leave I realized the spot on my camera lense wasn't just a spot but some sort of scratch.  I took some test pictures and thought maybe I would be able to live with the spot but then I thought more about it and realized I wouldn't.  So I jumped into the car and took off for Best Buy.  I got a brand new camera in under 10 minutes.  Which is a miracle in itself that I was able to decide on one in such a short amount of time.  But then again, I basically chose my old camera - just a newer version.  Crisis #1 averted.

And then it was time to leave for the airport.  In the car I did my usual check.  Passport?  Yes.  Credit cards?  Yes.  Debit card?  Ye....no.  No?  No!  What?!  I don't know if I can make it through the trip without a debit card.  Fortunately we hadn't been on the road too long and were able to turn around and pick up my debit card.  Whew!  And I still made it to the airport in plenty of time.  Crisis #2 averted.

I quickly checked everything else - camera, phone & kindle.  I don't have much to say about the long flight or the short flight except finally we were in Croatia.  (I met up with Jana in Frankfurt.)  We had a super chatty taxi driver.  We got to the hotel and found out (to our dismay) there was no elevator at our hotel.  Ugh.  So we lugged our suitcases up the stairs.  Fortunately we only had to go two flights of stairs.  Other than the lack of lift (or elevator), the hotel really was great.  It was in a fantastic location.  And it was quite large.   

We set off on a search for food as we were both starving!!  I'm sure you aren't surprised we found a pizzeria.  It wasn't the best pizza I've ever had, but it wasn't the worst. 

To keep awake (and shake jet lag) we wandered around, looking at the Cathedral and walking through Jelacic Square.  But finally we gave up the fight and went back to our hotel and went to bed, figuring a long, good night of sleep would be just the ticket.

Day 2
Well, that long night of sleep turned into a very long night of sleep.  We woke up with just a few minutes left before breakfast is over.  We threw on clothes and went downstairs.  Breakfast was good - the usual spread of meat, cheeses, rolls, yogurt and cereal.  And cappuccinos!!  Delicious cappuccinos!

We got ready to explore Zagreb.  The funicular took us up to the Upper Town (or Gradec).  I do so love funiculars!  Our first view after stepping out of the funicular was the Burglars' Tower.  It is from this tower a cannon is fired every day at noon.  And that cannon is loud!!  Next stop was the Church of St. Catherine which was absolutely beautiful on the inside.  There was a panorama view of Zagreb near the church.  Continuing up the street we ran into another church, the Church of St. Mark.  This church had a very colorful tile roof.  I can't really tell you about the inside because it wasn't open.

A block from the church was Ivan Mestrovic's former house which has been converted into a museum.  I like to think of Ivan Mestrovic as a Croatian Rodin.

The City Museum was close and so it was our next stop.  It was a very cool museum but it did start to drag on towards the end.  Our old friend (from Vienna) Maria Theresa (of the Hapsburgs) made a few appearances.  Surprise, surprise - Croatia was once part of the Hapsburg empire.

We had lunch at the self proclaimed oldest pub in Zagreb.  The menu didn't seem to have any food listed but when the waiter came over he assured us they had food.  In fact, he would make us a sandwich himself.  It was a decent sandwich followed up by a delicious cappuccino.  Have I mentioned I love drinking cappuccinos in Europe?

Our next stop was the Museum of Broken Relationships.  There was a lot of funny stories (one about Frisbee was my favorite), some sad stories, and a few fairly disturbing stories about the end of relationships.  It was a good museum.

We wandered around a bit more and did some shopping before heading to dinner.  Our waitress was great and recommended a good wine and pepper schnapps.  The pepper schnapps was quite interesting.  We also split a chestnut cake for dessert.

Towards the end of our meal, two priests walked in dressed in full priest garb.  (Doesn't that sound like a joke?  Two priests walk into a restaurant...)  We weren't sure what was going on and our waitress explained they were baptizing the new wine.  It is a tradition every mid-November to bless the new wine year. 

Day 3
So, we did not spend the most restful night.  I don't think I slept for more than an hour at a time.  Instead I got to listen to the stupid bells that seemed to go off at random times.  I think I finally fell really asleep right before the alarm.  Figures.  Apparently that long, long, long night of sleep caught up with us.  Stupid jet lag.  I had a much needed cappuccino at breakfast.

We walked up to the Upper Town to the Croatian Museum of Naive Art which was a really enjoyable museum.  My favorite was a portrait entitled "Cross-Eyed Steve" and sure enough it was a portrait of the artist's cross-eyed neighbor. 

The next museum (Natural History Museum) was not my favorite.  It seemed like a bunch of collections haphazardly thrown together.  I could have done without the rooms of stuffed birds or the ginormous shark but the minerals and fossils were interesting.

The Arts & Crafts museum (in my opinion) had little to do with arts and crafts.  But instead it had lots of furniture.  And a room full of clocks (one of which was a hidden Mickey!).  I'm all the way in Zagreb and I find a hidden Mickey!!

We walked over to the bus station to catch a bus to the neighboring town of Samobor.  Once we arrived we tried to follow Rick's directions into town but they were completely useless.  My theory is this was a new bus station and Rick's directions were from the old bus station.  We finally made it to the main square and by that time we were starving!!  It didn't help that daylight was fading fast either.  So we took a few photos and looked around before finding a place to eat.  I wasn't up to being adventurous so I had gnocchi, which was delicious.  After dinner we walked along the river in the freezing cold towards what looked like the ruins of an old castle.  We reached a little shrine to some saint and figured it was time to turn back.  When we reached the main square it was definitely dessert time!  We split a cream cake, which was the specialty of that area.  No espresso or cappuccino for us, because unfortunately the machine was broken.  So instead we tried Bermet, also a typical drink of the area - a sweet red wine.  It reminded me a little of sangria.

Our adventure in Samobor over, we took the bus back and then took our first ride on the tram back to the main square. 

Day 4
I slept much better, which was good because we woke up early to catch a train to Ljubljana (in Slovenia).  After breakfast at the hotel, we caught the tram (since we were now experts) to the train station.  And Jana bought us tram tickets in Croatian!  (Although, there really wasn't a language issue - they spoke better English, for the most part, than I did!) 

This would turn out to be the day of passport stamps.  Right before crossing over to Slovenia, the train stopped and Croatian officials came on the train and looked at our passports.  And then right after crossing into Slovenia, Slovenian officials came on to the train and looked at our passports.  When we first stopped Jana and I looked at each other.  We were both thinking "did we need a visa to enter Slovenia?"  But no, this was just standard border crossing. 

In our train car was another woman who was Croatian and ended up getting roped into helping someone who was on the wrong train.  Woman 1 (who was lost and spoke a little Italian) was trying to get to Belgrade and was going in the wrong direction.  She kept asking Woman 2 (the nice Croatian who spoke a little Italian) where we were going and where we were.  Woman 2 kept answering her and was very nice and very patient about it.  Literally she (Woman 1) kept asking basically those same questions for an hour.  Over and over and over again.  The train is going to Villach, Austria.  We are approaching Ljubljana, Slovenia.  It was bordering on the ridiculous.  Hopefully she was able to finally get where she wanted to go.

Rick's directions from the train station to the main square in Ljubljana were much better!  We walked along the riverside market (which was decently active for being such a cold day) and ended up at the Dragon Bridge.  I do love dragons!  Another random thought - I always associate St. George and the Dragon with England but St. George is everywhere!!

We turned around and walked back along the river to a pizzeria recommended by Rick.  I had - you guessed it - margherita pizza!  It was much, much better pizza than what we had on the first day.

After lunch we continued our meandering with our destination being the funicular to take us up to the castle.  Yay!  Another funicular!  There wasn't much left of the castle and the view ended up being a bust as there was this haze/fog that had settled on the city.  We watched a little movie about the history (or Jana watched and I listened while closing my eyes) and went through the museum.  We took the funicular back down to the lower town, wandered around some more, did a little shopping and then headed back to Zagreb.

For dinner we wanted to try one of Rick's recommendations in the Upper Town, so we took the funicular up but they did not have any availability.  Darn.  So back down to another Rick restaurant (and a pizzeria) where I had the gnocchi (I was trying to branch out from just having pizza).  It was good, but I have had better.

Day 5
Our last day in Zagreb.  And our last breakfast at the hotel (as we had booked a stinking early flight the next morning). 

First on the agenda was to visit the market and do some shopping.  Foremost on my list - postcards!!  I had been looking and looking for postcards but had not found them anywhere (well anywhere in Zagreb - I did find some in Ljubljana).  Success!  I finally did find postcards along with other treasures. 

Random fact - the cravat (the ancestor of the neck tie) was first invented in Croatia.  So of course I had to do some tie shopping.  The proprietor of the tie store was really cute and sweet and didn't speak a lot of English.  And I swear he was mixing some German in with his Croatian.  It was probably the most fun shopping I did.

We dropped off our packages and headed over to the Cathedral to look at it during the day before heading back up to the Upper Town to see if we could have lunch in the restaurant we were turned away from yesterday.  And we could!  Our waiter recommended an appetizer and it was yummy!  Some sort of fried puff things with cheese.  Lunch was steak with fried potatoes - yum!

On our way to the Archaeological Museum we started noticing lots and lots of people in Croatian soccer scarves, shirts, hats - you name it.  Sure enough, the Croatian national team was going to be playing Turkey that night.

The Archaeological Museum was very well laid out and it had a mummy!!  Which I just think is fascinating.  It had been in someones collection and they decided to donate it.

Our next stop was the Old Masters Gallery which was a small museum on the top floor of a building and by the time we were done, everyone else in the building had gone home and it was very dark. 

As we walked back to the main square we were seeing more and more soccer fans, some of whom were singing and carrying on. 

We had dinner at the pizzeria we had eaten at the night before and this time I did have pizza - but pizza funghi!  Mixing it up a little from my regular pizza margherita. 

We could no longer put off the inevitable and we went back to the hotel to pack.  We turned on the soccer match, which ended in a tie.  But not long after the game ended we could hear singing from the main square.  Guess the tie was a good thing?

So ends Part I - stay tuned for Part II where we get to eat chocolate and fries and waffles in Belgium!

Cathedral

Feet picture - on the funicular

View of Zagreb

Church of St. Mark

St. George

Ad for the Zagreb marathon

Hidden Mickey

Samobor

Market in Ljubljana

Dragon Bridge

Not the greatest view from the castle

Jelacic Square

Yummy appetizer

2 comments:

Heather said...

wow what beautiful pictures!!! sounds like so much fun!
I am always so afraid I am going to scratch my camera lens!

Fruit Fly said...

There was so much to comment on --- but I'll narrow it down.

I got all excited and said to myself "Ooh, a Hidden Mickey!" - and then that's what your caption was. Silly me, of course you noticed that too. Duh!