Croatia in 35mm: Zagreb (Day 1)

Arriving in Zagreb, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by clear, blue skies and warm sunshine, a welcome respite from what Philly had been dishing out the past few weeks. Driven by habit, I immediately opened the Uber app on my phone to see if I could find a ride from the airport to our Airbnb accommodation. Uber apparently operates in a somewhat limited capacity in Croatia, or so I was told by the Uber driver. So, while its not exactly illegal, riding with Uber apparently doesn’t cover one with all of the legal constructs that surround the regular taxi union. Regardless, I was pleased to have scored a deal by ensuring a commute at 1/3rd the price of the regular taxi fare. The Airbnb accommodation we’d booked was very close to the main city square, and while it didn’t sport any city views (or any views at all!), it was very tastefully decorated, modern and very centrally located within the city. Our hostess was very gracious and had reached the apartment before time to make sure we got in without any issues. We were also provided with maps and some brochures to ensure we got off to a good start with regards to exploring the city. One thing I realised, which will be something you may read in future posts, all the Airbnb hosts were extremely professional, polite & helpful during the course of our travels in Croatia.

On the first day we just moseyed around trying to shake off the exhaustion from the flight and get acclimatised to the city and its surroundings. Given my penchant for finding good coffee shops everywhere I travel, I was delighted that there was one right under our building. For the next three days, Cogito (pronounced Co-hee-to) Coffee was where I got my caffeine fix three times a day.

On the second day, we found a free two hour walking tour which isn’t very extensive, but takes you to all the highlights the city has to offer. I can’t recommend this tour enough, the guides who volunteer for this are highly motivated young individuals who foster a true love for their city and are eager to show you everything that Zagreb has to offer. Over the course of the day we visited most of the key attractions the city had to offer. One that really stood out for me was a very unique (and odd) museum known as, “The Museum of Broken Relationships”. This museum exhibits memorabilia donated by real people from around the world, each of which constituted a relationship that had ended in some way or the other. Each exhibit was accompanied by a story which ranged from simple to very complex tales of love & heartbreak. I’d never seen anything like this before, I’d be surprised if everyone that visited this place didn’t find at least one story that they could relate to. Another very interesting spot, but not nearly as dramatic, is a street called, “Kravi Most”, otherwise known as, “The Bloody Bridge”. Without getting into the details of its history, this place is named after the original bridge which has the distinctive reputation of being host to some of the bloodiest days in Zagreb’s history. This is from a period dating back to a time when the people from the old and new towns didn’t get along and were constantly at war. What was once an actual bridge that connected these two part of the city, is now a very nondescript street with a few souvenir stores that I’d have easily missed, had it not been for the walking tour. 

After the heavy dose of emotional stories, I needed a beer and some food in my belly. Just off the main city square is a food hub where there are plenty of restaurants, neatly situated in a single file. Thanks to this place, I discovered a local delicacy known as Ćevapi, an absolute must-eat unless you’re a vegetarian. Ćevapi is a local sausage usually made with ground beef and an assortment of spices. Served with flat bread, chopped onions, yogurt, cheese and a relish made with sweet peppers, this is a dish easily found at pretty much every eatery in Croatia. Close to this row of restaurants is also the main city market which opens daily at 7am and closes at 3pm. This isn’t a permanent market and is propped up and torn down daily, thanks to a perfectly choreographed setup process that has seemingly been perfected over the many years that this market has been there. There is also an underground market where one can find meats, sauerkraut and all the other provisions that aren’t sold at the daily market. 

Its always nice to visit the most popular places in a city, however as a traveller, I truly believe one must try and take the time to walk around and explore a new place by foot during both day and night. Its amazing how it can sometimes feel like being in two different cities all together just by virtue of the lights and activity one sees before and after sunset.

Hope you enjoy these photos, they were all shot on Kodak Portra 160, 35mm film.