A weekend in Zagreb

To put it in one sentence: Zagreb turned out to be way better than I expected. Why? Probably because I didn’t expect anything and then it was such a lovely city! The city was small and everything was within easy walking distance (at least for tourists). From the international bus station (doesn’t that sound as if I am a world traveler and not a visitor from Austria?) I took the tram no. 6 and after five stops I was in the city center. Exactly right next to my hostel. Amazingly enough I found it almost immediately although it said in the hostels directions to turn north once you get off the tram. Since I had no idea where north was I figured the worst that could happen was to walk once around the square. Guess what, I found it right away. But really this is a question for debate. Why would hotels or hostels do that? Turn north, turn south, turn anywhere. For me that sounds like blah blah blah. Can’t they just write walk in the same direction as the tram is going and turn right? Is that so difficult? But I am digressing.

The Main Square Hostel surprised me with its “private” bunk bed concept which I loved, plus the convenient location right next to the main square (hence the name) at the beginning of the “pub and bar” street. Whatever happened the next two days at least I didn’t have far to walk.

I met Katarina (a former colleague) in the early afternoon on the main square and we toured together through the city, passing most of the highlights in one go. It ended after an hour when we both decided to stop for a drink. That was my introduction to the “pub and bar” street (I know it’s called differently, but it describes the street perfectly). We arranged a time and a meeting place for the evening and then I was on my own again. I was in the mood for more impressions from the “pub and bar” street and ended up in a coffee shop. Here I whiled away two hours, not even noticing how time was flying (G&T was helping).

But hunger was calling me and I looked for a restaurant to get dinner. My two places of choice (recommendations from a local) were fully booked so I turned into Boban, which was just 200m away from the main square. Food here was good and enjoyed especially the warm octopus salad. The main dish of pasta with radicchio and shrimps was slathered an cream sauce and made it too heavy to finish.

The after dinner program included a live concert at the Booze and Blues but I saw no a shirtless lead singer although Katarina’s friend hinted of it being a possibility. Can’t have it all sadly. The clock was changed that weekend and would add another hour to the night, but the long trip finally caught up with me and I headed back to bed. The cold night air made sure that I arrived with a clear head back at the hostel.

The next morning I slept forever even with the one hour more and then just had a quick bite from one of the bakeries on my way to the National Theater. This building looked exactly like some in Vienna. There was no denying that Austria and Croatia share a past.

From the theater to Mt. Medvednica it was a short drive but a longer walk up. I can still feel it today that I hiked again. Running apparently is not the solution to staying in shape. I really have to get some monthly hikes in as well. I didn’t bring the best of gear for this hiking trip but everybody else I saw on the trail and later at the rest stops was in perfect sports wear. Really amazing especially since when we walked down the mountain there were tons of cars going down too. So I guess at least some Croatians are sporty show-offs.

The walk through the woods was challenging but not too difficult. The colors of the leaves made for a super romantic backdrop which was a lost on me but Katarina and her friend enjoyed it. Once we made it to the top I saw the start of the FIS World Cup Slalom skiing, and then we finally stopped for lunch. On Katarina’s advice I tried beans with sausage (apparently very typical) and afterwards a strudel with berries. Really a lovely meal and well deserved after the hike.

Eventually I said goodbye to Katarina and her friend and made my way to the Tesla Power House for an hour of reading and checking my emails. While I sat there the guests changed at least twice and I wondered about all these people going out on a Sunday evening. Vienna is dead at this day and time of the week. Or maybe I just don’t know because on Sunday evening I don’t leave the house anymore?

Even with the big meal from the early afternoon I felt I deserved a little dinner and decided on trying my luck with one of the choices from yesterday. This time I was successful and Vinodol had a table available. I tried another octopus salad which was good and roasted calamari that were slightly to long on the grill. In case you are wondering why I was eating so much seafood, I was told that Zagreb, even though inland, had the freshest fish. The wine that I got recommend by the waiter was the perfect accompaniment for the two dishes. Really, service there was outstanding!

Monday then was my last day in Zagreb and I wanted to see a bit more from the city. But since I was on vacation I figured I would go for breakfast first. One cannot start the day without something to eat and the recommended Cookie Factory (also in the “pub and bar” street) looked enticing. A brownie for breakfast and with fudge at that, who can say no to this? Certainly not I.

From there it was a short walk through the “pub and bar” street to find the stairs again which lead to the upper town of Zagreb. I stopped at the Museum of Broken Relationships to buy a t-shirt. There was really no point of visiting the museum itself because what would they tell me that I haven’t heard already? The shirt is cheeky though, I will try to wear it soon and show to you.

I also made it up the Lotrscak Tower to view Zagreb from above. After this achievement I had enough of sightseeing and tried the last restaurant on my list. It was so gracious to be open for lunch. The Korcula restaurant was also a recommendation but also not the pinnacle of culinary heights. Here I had anchovies for a starter and octopus as a main dish. And while the octopus had a melt-in-your-mouth quality the potatoes which came with it were not fried enough and too greasy. Grease was also the problem of the anchovies. They were supposed to come with olive oil but if it was then the quality was miserable.

Never mind, my culinary senses were happy and quiet. It was time to go home and get some provisions for the trip. One should always go shopping on a full stomach, it comes so much cheaper in the long run. I bought a couple of tangerines and a burek filled with potato and was really happy about it since the return drive took 90 minutes longer.

I found Zagreb to be such an unexpected travel treat, enough to fill a weekend and with a hint for more. I will come back here one day! Yours, Pollybert


  1. the directions (north, south etc) are probably for US tourists – they are more into that…greetings from Princeton University

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