Our travels in the Balkans: Zagreb


If you missed it, read Part Five about Split.  

We went to Zagreb by bus as for some reason our train had been cancelled. The landscape was mountainous most of the way, the vegetation sparse and there were many rocky outcrops. We drove through forested areas and long tunnels. As we approached Zagreb the land became more open and fertile.

Rather than hire an apartment, we had chosen to stay in a hotel here as it was close to the railway station so it was not too far to carry our backpacks. We enjoyed the cooked breakfasts (champagne included).

zagrebZagreb, the capital of Croatia had a European vibe with its tall buildings, town squares, green spaces and statues. It is seen as a very affordable holiday destination by Europeans. Eating out here was much cheaper than in Dubrovnik. Our total dinner bill for a very substantial meal and two beers was under $30.

The main part of the town was very walkable but we had to watch out when crossing the streets for the trams which sped by at frequent intervals. As the weather was very hot it was a relief to be able to sit down for a while in one of the shady parks.

We walked through the only intact old town gate and found a tiny chapel inside, a place of pilgrimage as it holds a painting of the Virgin Mary, the patron saint of Zagreb.

And we visited the oldest pharmacy in Zagreb which was found in 1355 and was still operational.

zagreb marketI love markets and Zagreb is famous for them. They are always vibrant, colourful, and provide a great opportunity to sample some of the local produce and find some affordable handmade gifts. The Central market was very extensive, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, local honey and arts and crafts.

paski sir cheeseThroughout Croatia we had been on a mission to track down some Paski Sir (from the Island of Pag) sheep’s milk cheese which our son had tasted here years ago and highly recommended. And we found some at the market at last, very tasty and slightly crumbly.

The old part of the city is divided into Gorniji Grad/Upper Town and Donji Grad/Down Town. They are linked by a short funicular ride but it was being repaired. So there were more steps to climb! Oh well, we were used to it by now.

We visited two museums in the Upper Town. The Museum of Broken Relationships was full of personal reminiscences and momentos of relationships which had ended. Some were funny but many others were tragic. It was a real tear jerker, but something we hadn’t seen elsewhere.

art - zagrebMore to my liking was the Museum of Naïve Art containing the works of self-taught artists from about 100 years ago. Many were of wintry scenes. This was the time of year when peasants could take time out from their hard labour to paint.

Downtown we visited the Modern Gallery of Art which was conveniently located in the centre of the city in an old palace. It gave us an outstanding overview of paintings and sculptures by Croatian artists of the 19th and 20th Centuries (pre-World War Two) many showing the influence of artists from other European countries such as Spain and France.

Two days in Zagreb was all too short. But our three weeks in Croatia were over and it was time to leave for our next destination, Salzburg, taking with us many special memories.


By Lyn Potter

Parent and grandparent, Avid traveller, writer & passionate home cook

Read more by Lyn here.