Sunday 29 June 2014

Starting our Balkan adventure

Day 1 : Munich - Zagreb, Croatia

Summer time and time for another adventure…this time with my equally adventurous & foodie sister. We had decided to head to Croatia to experience the much-raved about coastline…1,778km-long coast and 1,244 islands! The Adriatic coast and it’s clear sapphire waters have attracted a lot of visitors in recent years…my sister is a fan of being in the water, I’m a fan of being by it in the sunshine! We also snuck in some Greek-time as well at the end to maximise our Balkan foodie experience.

We selected a trip by GAdventures - a travel company I love using because they favour small backpacker-style adventure trips which means you meet other like-minded people and see loads of interesting things but all without you needed to be regularly sorting out hostels / transport etc yourself - ideal!

To kick off our trip we met in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city at midday. We ditched our backpacks (at what turned out to be the wrong hostel!) before walking into the city centre for a little explore.
My navigator!
To be honest, I’d never heard of Zagreb before our trip - in my mind, Croatia was a coastal country and islands but, according to the Lonely Planet, “Zagreb is a great destination, with lots of culture, arts, music, architecture, gastronomy and all the other things that make a quality capital.”

I can’t say I 100% agree! The city was sunny but very quiet…there are cafe-lined streets and museums and galleries but it was alarmingly deserted - even at the tourist ‘hot spots’ we visited that afternoon. The city is split largely into two parts: the Upper Town (Gornji Grad) which is home to the older buildings and churches and the Lower Town (Donji Grad) offering newer buildings and museums. We made our way around all the highlights of Zagreb in half a day!

Trg Josipa Jelačića - main square with Equestrian Statue

St Mark’s church with an impressively decorative tiled roof

Dolac Market -unfortunately finishing up as we arrived so we made a note to return the next day

Iced coffee pit-stop

Entertaining ourselves on the 'bustling' cafe-lined streets...

Everyone needs a bear-chair!
Sweet trolley!

Botanical Gardens

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary - plus changing of the guard

Stone Gate - converted into a church like crypt

Lotrščak Tower - climb up hill for views over city (not that impressive) or get the funicular, the shortest and oldest in Europe!

Lots of museums / art galleries etc which we didn't visit but was intrigued by the randomness of the Museum of Broken Relationships

Also treated myself to an ice-cream…well I was on holiday! Opting for an unusual combination of lavender, almond and mandarin…

We headed out for dinner on the main Upper Town pedestrian street to tuck into some Croatian food - my favourite part of the day! Croatian food is influenced by a number of different cultures, including Italy, Hungary, Austria and Turkey and varies between the coast and inland.

We poured over the menu offering up hearty meat dishes and potatoes, selecting our tasting treats of ćevapčići (small, slightly spicy lamb popsicle meatballs) and an ill-formed stuffed crepe which came with ham, mushroom & lots of local cheese, producing an odd and not-that-pleasant taste!

To rectify our crepe-mistake we moved onto drinks…chosing Rakija (Croatian brandy, available in different flavours such as plum and honey) followed by cocktails.

"živjeli!" (cheers!)

Overall, Zagreb had nice pedestrian cafe/bar streets but unless you’re really into museums, you can do everything in half a day, maximum.

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