Two weeks ago, Peter and I traveled to Croatia and Slovenia. It was a two-country vacation visiting the cities of Zagreb and Ljubljana. We had three nights in each destination, so the vacation flew by.
It was our second trip to Croatia and our first to Slovenia. We fell in love with both cities, which are only a two-and-a-half-hour train journey apart.
Most surprisingly, we really fell in love with Slovenia as a whole. More on that in a future post. This post is all about Zagreb.
We entered into this vacation with no expectations, especially for Zagreb. In my brain, Croatia is a country you visit if you want to be by the sea and relax. Zagreb is landlocked, so I was just kinda meh about it.
Our trip started out with a bang. A massive thunderstorm rolled through Zagreb whilst we were en route from Amsterdam. It knocked out the power at the Zagreb airport, which, as you can imagine, caused major problems for our arrival.
We were diverted to Marco Polo airport in Venice to wait out the outage. Here’s a view of Venice from my window seat.
Our plane sat on the tarmac in Venice for an hour or so. The flight crew opened the doors and came through the cabin with water. The pilots even emerged from the cockpit to explain the situation in more detail and answer any questions we had.
I give KLM an A+ grade for how they handled this unfortunate situation, but a D for the plane interior. It’s seen better days.
We stayed at an Airbnb in Zagreb (no longer listed on the site). It was in a perfect location, in the middle of the city center but super quiet at the same time.
I have learned that where you stay when visiting any destination is directly tied to the experience you will have in that destination. If you stay too far away from the action, you’re going to have a less pleasant time than if you stay close to the action – no one wants to spend a good chunk of time on transportation or walking to/from your accommodation.
At the same time, you don’t want to stay too close to the action. It’s a delicate balance and difficult to get right.
As an example, our Airbnb in Ljubljana was a 20-minute walk to the city center. It was too far away, and we spent too much of our vacation walking back and forth.
Our itinerary for Zagreb was very light, with the only planned activity being a visit to Plitvice Lakes National Park.
We spent our first full day walking around Zagreb, dodging rain showers. It wasn’t ideal, but it could have been worse. One powerful rain shower even forced us into a museum. Gasp! We are not museum people.
Museum of Broken Relationships
The Museum of Broken Relationships was a unique museum. The museum was filled with sentimental items of relationships that had ended. There were gifts given by one person to the other, articles of clothing, and other items that at one time meant something to someone. Every item was accompanied by an explanation of the relationship and why the item had so much meaning.
The majority of the items came from broken romances, but there were also items from broken parent-child relationships, like a heartbreaking suicide letter a mom wrote and left for her two daughters.
The purpose of the museum is to allow people to move on from their broken relationships by donating sentimental items. And then, of course, for the public to be entertained by their stories.
Many things surprised me about Zagreb, but one of the biggest surprises was how cute it was.
St Mark’s Church was not too far from the Museum of Broken Relationships.
It’s a medieval-style church that was built in the 13th century. We did not enter the church, but I did marvel at the tiled roof.
On the other side of Zagreb – about a 10-minute walk from St Mark’s – is Zagreb Cathedral. It’s a Neo-Gothic Catholic church that was restored in the 1990s. Neo-Gothic is probably my least favorite type of architecture. Nevertheless, it’s a big cathedral that demands attention.
We found Zagreb to be a cheap destination. It wasn’t as cheap as Krakow, but it was pretty damn close. As an example, one cafe offered a deal where you could get an espresso and a large smoothie for about $3 USD. To give perspective, I just purchased a small iced coffee at Starbucks in London and paid $4 USD, and I didn’t get a smoothie.
One of my favorite things about Zagreb was that businesses opened early and stayed open late. I wish England was more like this; I feel shops close early in England.
Coffee shops (cafes) open early, and as the day progresses, they turn into bars. I like that it is acceptable to drink a beer at 10am or drink an espresso at 10pm.
When we visited Dubrovnik and Hvar last year, I noted that Croatia had some work to do with its customer service skills. It was like they hadn’t realized that tourism was starting to pick up in their country and that they were going to have to adapt their customer service skills to better fit the many cultures that were beginning to flock to their land.
Either the residents of Zagreb are naturally more pleasant than those of heavy tourist destinations like Dubrovnik and Hvar or Croatia received the memo and has improved their customer service. The improvement is welcome, but they have a long way to go to match the hospitality of Greece. Nothing beats the hospitality of the Greeks.
Our day of touring Zagreb came to a close with dinner and a few after-dinner drinks.
Unfortunately, we only had two full days in Zagreb, and one of them was reserved for a day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park. It would have been nice if the weather cooperated for us, but this is how life sometimes works.