J and I hanging out with a barely cold big beer in the empty dining car. Our original car had no openable windows and the AC wasn’t working. It was a sausage cooker, and I dripped sweat. Luckily, we were able to move to one of the empty first class cabins pretty soon into the journey.
On the neutrally cursed day of Wednesday the 13th, J and I’s slow train pulled into Zagreb’s central station.
The evening air was hot and heavy with humidity and allergens. Local youth, unburdened tourists, and lovers strolled around like extras from The Truman Show.
We huffed our duffle bags along the edge of Park Zrinjevac and checked into our nearby hotel ($130/night).
The elevators were two times the size of our last hotel in Athens, meaning they could hold two people simultaneously. Red carpet floors and fake burl wood walls gave the lifts class.
Our room had a bed and two types of chairs. It was our castle. We dined on leftover peanuts and water while decked out in bathrobes, much like royalty would.
I slept poorly due to a deep sound that rumbled numerous times above us. It might have been a water tower pump, or a murderous shadow beast.
The next morning, we gorged on the free continental breakfast and rushed out into the streets.
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It’s located in the northwest of oddly-shaped Croatia, along the Sava river. It’s the only metropolitan area in Croatia with a population of over one million.
The old section of town felt quite small, but it was full of colorful buildings, clean streets, parks, and the famous blue trams.
Our walk took us by the Cathedral of Zagreb and the nearby Dolac Market. We walked north along a pedestrian street that was formerly a river, then cut west into the Upper Town to admire the old buildings and beautiful tiled roof of St. Mark’s Church.
The red tents of Dolac Market.
Ground level view.
Old woman and her spuds.
No little dogs allowed.
All the tech in the world can’t buy cool.
Cathedral of Zagreb.
Mr. Fountain had a wild night.
I don’t think these decorations are real.
Batman’s Croatian courtyard.
The iron watches.
Courtyard of reflected light.
Steep urban vineyard.
Just stick it out the window.
The empty plaza.
St. Mark’s Church.
Afterward, we cut across one of the numerous valley parks and into a suburban neighborhood. Between the well-maintained residences were numerous abandoned or unfinished buildings. Some were overgrown with vines, others were crumbling. Neighborhood cats claimed some of the territory.
The roads naturally took us back down into the city center. We stopped for a late and sweaty lunch at the excellent Mundoaka Streetfood. The servings were delicious and massive. J had a pulled pork sandwich, fried potatoes, paprika sauce. I had pork lion over carrot quinoa with a miso butter dressing and a side salad. To drink: red wine and a dark Spanish beer in a weird-shaped bottle.
Stairs in an alley.
Colorful row houses.
I’m glad J likes taking photos too.
Abandoned y junction house.
Rusty personal ad.
Hydrant Man’s emblem.
Abandoned house covered in ivy.
Another abandoned ivy house.
Primitive pole painting.
A massive abandoned house behind the trees.
Purely an illustrative warning. Not much of a warning if you like German Shepherds though.
Tunneling through apartments.
Half a massive sandwich went into the hotel mini fridge, then we went on a search for tram tickets. A corner store clerk said that the tobacconist sold them. The tobacconist said they sold them on the tram. The tram operator didn’t acknowledge us. A newsstand owner said that the driver should have acknowledged us. We hopped onto another tram and successfully bought tickets (10HRK/$1.5 each, one way).
Our destination was a fifteen minute walk from the closest tram stop, and one of my legs began to have mysterious pain. I worried that it was the start of varicose ulcer, and that I had to conceal my pain from Big Brother.
We passed by CCTVs through a neighborhood of fruiting cherry and fig trees, wild strawberries, and ivy.
Mirogoj Cemetery was a stunner. Dating from 1876, the vast, well-maintained complex has an ornate entrance complex with a chapel and two burial arcades. Pleasant tree-lined walkways lead between the remains of famous Croatians, but mostly non-famous ones.
J and I wandered the complex, stopping to tip our hats to a funeral procession. I coaxed a shy lactating cat to eat some bits of digestive crackers since I had no better food for her.
The cemetery was beautiful, but it was pretty dead this time of year.
Brushes of glop.
Don’t mess with Rugjer.
Crowded blue tram.
The cemetery chapel.
A view down both arcades. Pretty nice, but no Cruis’n USA machines anywhere!
The hungry cat.
Side view of some plots.
Cemetery dump full of candles and old flowers.
Dark clouds were blew in and started drizzling. Another route by the stone carvers, elementary school, and empty college brought us back into town. The drizzle had stopped at Ban Josip Jelačić Square.
Orange door and blue truck.
All abandoned everything.
I went back to hotel to rest while J went shoe shopping.
After a few hours, she came back bearing new shoes and two small takeout boxes of sushi.
After a full day of walking, we fell asleep quickly as the Inception note blared.
Friday morning, we checked out, tram hopped, and caught the private bus (30HRK/$4.5) to the airport rental car counter.
We regretted that our time in Zagreb was so short, but like lobsters we were ready to roll. Also, like clumsy man trying to cross the street, we were ready to road trip. And finally, like Enya, we were ready to “sail away,” but in car.
J and I hopped into our budget ŠKODA ($340 for two weeks) and peeled out of the airport parking lot. We fueled up on euro diesel paid for by the liter, then headed southward on the well-maintained toll highway.
We were excited for the rest of our adventures, so it’s true what they say about the capital of Croatia:
Two nights in Zagreb and the world’s your oyster.
The roofs are tiled but the floors ain’t so sweet.
You’ll find a key in every silver ŠKODA.
And if you’re lucky then the upgrade’s free.
I can feel the scenery zooming next to me.