No different to any other city, opinions of Zagreb found there way to me heavily contrasted. Back in Zadar last week, one roomie said it was the best period of her travels so far having stayed there for five nights although granted, I don't recall how long she had been on the road for. Then another other girl said it was OK but you wouldn't need more than a day. Hmmmm....!? That's why you learn to often take what you hear with a pinch of salt.
I'm pretty certain that the people behind designing this tourist board would have something to say about thinking "you can do Zagreb in a day". Such an ill-thought-out statement would even raise to his his feet a pensive Nikola Tesla ...
Admittedly on closer inspection of the tourist board, the vast majority of attractions are either museums, churches or galleries so unless you're massively into any of those, you won't be reaching out to far to explore them all. That said, there is one museum that has done well over the years to get the tourists talking; the museum of broken relationships. Oh my. For £2.50 a ticket, this was just about in the limit of what I was prepared to pay for an experience I knew I personally wouldn't enjoy (but many others do) and indeed my gut was correct. Needless to say it was filled mainly with girls - a lot of whom had tissues in their hands at the ready.
In case its not obvious, its a site setup dedicated to failed relationships and includes personal objects left over from former lovers, accompanied by brief descriptions. Half of the objects are of slightly comical nature and the others are profoundly deep and thought-provoking. And a small portion are terrible, such as the router example below. Here are just a couple of examples of many to give you an idea...
Then by contrast, this sombre note:
Promptly moving on...
So which of the girls' statements from earlier was correct about Zagreb? Well, without wanting to sound too diplomatic, both kinda were.
As I've come to realise, it is often "external" factors that shape one's experience - rather than the place itself. Clearly that's not always the case but often it is. Put it this way, it's not a coincidence that the girl who had "the best time" managed to stay with a local who took her out and about and showed her all the things only a local person could. Whereas the girl who stayed one night travelled solo, met nobody and did some sights in one day. Seldom is there a right or wrong or black and white answer when asked such a subjective question and so I will take note of my own advice for future reference. Furthermore, one's experience is of course dependant on the individual themselves. My Dad for example, could visit London, go to the museums and thoroughly enjoy the experience. My Mother, who would be by his side, would thoroughly dislike the experience but yet they've would have both seen the same sights.
Like many cities, Zagreb is one of two halves. Here's where you think I'm going to use the 'old town' and 'new town' labels but I'm not. Instead, they have "upper" and "lower towns and the accepted boundary is pretty much where I'm staying so both parts areas will be easily accessible. Still, even if they weren't, trams are both cheap and regular. Having setup base in one of the longest "strips" of the city, Ilica street, I had everything I could ask for within walking distance.
One thing I got quickly used to were cars short-term parking in the middle of the busy main road as the left and right parts of the road allowed the trams to pass without interruption. Makes sense but was still strange to see.
Having wandered Ilica street several times over, myself and my point & shoot camera went exploring upper town on a hot but overcast day.
Over the next couple of days I would do some chilling with two awesome fellas. My new room-mate Brad from Perth, Australia and my Croatian buddy Nikola who resides here in Zagreb but whom I met for just half a day back in Split. With both men now formally introduced it wasn't long before we were all 'in sync' and therefore inexpensive impromptu Pina Colada's followed. I know, I know, sounds a little feminine to order a bunch of these but this was totally Brad's decision and I had nothing to do with it, right Brad? :-) Mind you, at £2 a go, you can't blame us...
I had one day left of my stay here in Zagreb and so I wasn't going to have left without also seeing what the lower part of the city had on display. This area proved to be really flat and therefore perfect for long strolls and eating ice-cream. It's a hard life hey folks, lol. Unsurprisingly then, I saw many open-parks in the lower town, along with impressive buildings of museums and art galleries. The business district will also be down in "lower town" but this was out of the way and I had no reason to visit it.
Amongst some other buildings, here we see the national theatre in all its splendour.
So did I enjoy Zagreb? In case you can't already tell, yes I really liked it. The really cool and funky hostel played a part, the chaps I hung out with played a massive part and of course the city itself played a role too. Oddly, I observed over the days that both the days and nights were more busy in the working week than on the weekend. I enquired further and discovered (unsurprisingly thinking about it) that the city folk do themselves really like to get away on the weekend. Then again, if you had the Croatian coast accessible to you just a few hours away I'm willing to bet you'd head on down there occasionally too after a draining working week
I often used to wonder over the years whether I could live in a capital city. If you're from a small town/village like I am, perhaps you have wondered that too?
I tell you one thing though - if these cities "felt" like Zagreb did, my once firm answer of 'hell no' has become a slightly muddled 'quite possibly'....