It may sound like a lot of time but it wasn’t. We arrived tired and itching for a bath and scrub from Rijeka, passing Opatija and Pula from the Istrian Peninsula. And the hum and drum of a real city — the state capital, at that — welcomed us late that day. We dragged our suitcases from the parking lot to the pedestrian street where our hotel is, amply warned that the city thieves are busy on the lookout for arriving tourists too tired from a long trip. Ding Ding Ding. Suitcase and all, we managed to walk the block — like we didn’t even break a sweat anytime that day 🙄 — towards the hotel, safe and sound and ready for a bath.

Border Between Upper & Lower Town

Ban Jelačić Square

Dinner at Lanterna na Dolcu

Dinner was serious business as we all felt famished after a bath and a change of fresh dry clothes. We glimpsed the Ban Josip Jelačić Square and the Zagreb Cathedral of the Assumption first in broad daylight and then later, lighted up at night. Both are quite a sight, especially at night when it’s all lighted up. The tram stops at the central square give a touch of nostalgia, though we’ve grown overly careful crossing the tracks from our hotel to the square. As in one needs to look left and right as the trams come in short intervals. There’s a chance to see these Zagreb attractions again in the morning when we do our walking tour of the city. But cameras aside, evening strolls around the city are quite interesting. Our hotel location allowed us to walk to many of the attractions as well as many shops and restaurants. Being a city, the choices are more varied and have a more international flavour. Even the bars are more modern. We passed one where there were no stools, only big fat cushions on the outside floor. Interesting. The Upper Town is even more festive with free film showings “under the stars” — best enjoyed while sipping beers or vinos. But this first night in Zagreb, our sapped energy only allowed a leisurely stroll, a proper dinner and an early night. 😴

Dolac Market

Zagreb Cathedral

Woke up early, refreshed and energised enough to explore around the hotel. We walked past the square, explored the Dolac Market and went inside the Zagreb Cathedral. We even stumbled into a tiny park, another church, and a 30-meter long street mural of Gulliver being tied by petty Lilliputians. We walked away from the Cathedral, its old walls and rounding back, found our way through the steps leading to the market, square, and back to our hotel. By the time we joined our walking tour later that morning, we have clocked nearly the day’s 10,000 steps. We could have been all wasted even before the walking tour began but Luca, our very competent Croatian guide made sure he got all our interest and attention. Such a fine, young man speaking so clearly with his compelling spiels on Zagreb history and trivia.

St. Mark’s Church

Stone Gate

We met Luca right under the statue of Ban Jelačić in the Central Square. (Trivia: Ban in Croatian means “Governor” and Jelačić is the city’s first back in the 19th century.) From here, Luca first brought us to the Upper Town where many of the historical sites are. No funicular. We walked. Rather, we climbed. There’s the Stone Gate, Porta Di Pietra, where the miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary is venerated behind iron bars. All whole and unscathed from the fire that burned everything around it. Next we walked towards St. Mark’s Square where 3 important structures are: the St. Mark’s Church, Parliament and the HQ of the Prime Minister. The 13th century parish church is an iconic symbol of the capital, especially with the coat of arms of Zagreb prominently displayed on its colourful tiled roof.

Opatovina Park

From St. Mark’s Square, Luca walked us through a few of Zagreb’s quirky museums. Like Museum of Broken Relationships. And there’s also the Museum of Naive Art on the same street leading to Lotrsčak Tower where Luca timed our arrival just before noon. He promptly advised us to ready our cameras, zooming in on the cannon at the top of the tower, and to wait till he tells us to stop.

See the video below to check what happened. No spoilers here.

Unlike the little towns we visited, this Croatian capital offers a more vibrant nightlife. On our second night, we found a row of outdoor cafes and bars with many locals and tourists having cocktails and dinners. Old and modern blend seamlessly in the Upper Town where the oldest parts of the city remain. Glasses clink in sync with the ringing of the bells from nearby cathedral and churches within the Kaptol area then ran by the religious in earlier times. Many churches, monasteries and other spiritual centres are located on this side of the former river. Kaptol was then one of 2 towns of Zagreb. The other (Gradec) is just across the now non-existent river that used to divide the 2 uneasy neighbors. Interestingly, the 2 neighbors were connected by what was then called “Bloody Bridge” spanning across the river. Luca brought us to the spot where the bridge used to be — now a very busy road lined with many shops, bars and restaurants. Obviously, the two uneasy neighbors have blended and made peace. ✌️

Bloody Bridge No More

Tomorrow being another day trip (to Plitvice Lakes), we did our shopping after a simple but good Croatian lunch in the Dolac Market of ćevapi. This Croatian dish is very much like kebab. Luca recommended it, and even claimed visiting and eating here at least twice a month. Post-lunch shopping was a breeze, as we made time for an afternoon siesta back in the hotel. Did my packing too as I doubt there’d be enough time, nor energy, after tomorrow’s activities. So there. Three nights in the Croatian capital but really just a whole day and a couple of nights to enjoy Zagreb. All’s well. No rants here. Tomorrow is another day.