Zig-a-zig Zagreb

Zagreb’s charm is not immediately apparent when I first arrive. I’m staying at the Central Hotel, having failed to find rooms at the alternative Tyne Tees and Westward Hotels. (Again, a joke there for anyone over 50 and from the UK). So the hotel certainly lives up to its name – just across the street from the railway station.

Outside it has a modern air with glass cladding and a conifdnt feel to it. And while the inside is clean and functional, the rooms definitely have an air of the 1970s. To return to the earlier joke, this should really be called the ATV Hotel.

But enough of the broadcasting analogies, leading to the Old Town are three long, enormous parks. Boulevards evithe side carry traffic in a one way system, though at first glance there don’t appear to be any speed limits., and everyone waits for the green light to cross.

In the Old Town, the main square is named after Count Josip Jelačić, a national hero who earned his fame during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. And while old Joe might have a fancy statue, it’s a man standing next to it who catches my eye.

He’s playing a xylophone. Badly. Now to most readers this will mean nothing, But if you’re from Nottingham you’ll immediately remember our very own Xylophone Man. For years, Frank Robinson sat outside the C&A store starting a tune over and over, but never quite finishing it. Frank wasn’t quite as famous and Jelacic – and he doesn’t have a statue – but to me he’s every bit as much a hero.

The winding streets around the Cathedral are full of bars and restaurants, and as Saturday night gets into swing they soon fill up. But back towards the hotel is another brilliant drinking hole – The Beertja. Hundreds of craft beers are on offer and the bar is also showing the Euro qualifying match between Croatia and Wales. Despite being a home game, the match itself is being playing in Split, so there isn’t quite as much excitement as there might be. But the drinks are good – I end up having Three Dead Men, a Croatian Pils. Very nice.

One thing that immediately strikes me is the smell; people here are smoking indoors. While many other countries have banned it, here it appears to be a national pastime. Perhaps even more shocking is that just out of shot in the photo is at young child with her parents, both of whom are puffing away.

The football isn’t exactly riveting (in the end it’s a one all draw) so I head just a few steers away to Bacchus – a cellar bar specialising in jazz music. The style tonight is modern, and I share a table with a guy in his twenties from Switzerland, who is also InterRailing. Jonathan is an audio technician and works on music concerts in Lausanne. Tonight he’s making a cheeky recording of the band here, saying he always likes to record the atmosphere instead of taking photos. And with the light in here I can’t blame him.

Sunday morning starts with a gloomy blanket of cloud across Zagreb. But the day soon warms up after a trip up the funicular to Gornji Grad, the Upper Town. The fare of 70 cents is ridcuolously cheap (an all day tram ticket here comes in at less than €4) and provide views across the city.

From above, Zagreb is not the prettiest of sights, but here in the Upper Town there are more gorgeous winding streets and multiple museums. The city has over 40, which means there is something for just about everyone. You can see art, learn about history, soak in some culture or…

From the sad to the laughable, this museum has hundred of objects, each with its own true story about a breakup. Some are deeply personal and moving, others will simply give you a great idea of how to mastermind your next breakup. If Adele came here, she’s have her next ten albums sorted.

Sundays are all about church, and there are no shortage of those in the city. However, some of the bigger ones are off limits because of renovations. In fact, at the time of writing, Zagreb has loads of building work going on. Essential, but a pity because it hides what would be some spectacular sights.

A yet within the reams of redevelopment, there are still some perfect photo opportunities. Including this lovely fountain which somebody tried to have a swim in.

36 hours isn’t enough to do Zagreb justice. There are countless more locations I could have visited, including the Museum of Hangovers (yes, really). It may not be quite as attractive as Ljubljana, but the welcome here has been friendly, the food and drink cheap and the weather – just about – has held out.

From here it’s one more leg East to Budpaest – and a bit of a break from the whistle stop tour.


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