We only planned a brief stay in Zagreb – a day and a half to wander the city and see the sights before heading to Slovenia. Though we didn’t spend a ton of time there, it seemed like an agreeable enough city.
After the disappointing encounter with Split’s over-priced central market, it was nice to see a great local market again, with homegrown produce at good prices. Jenn caught sight of a giant basket of spinach, and by the time we left we had an assortment of vegetables and fruit weighing down my backpack. We spent a while wandering the city, taking in the churches, monuments, and historic buildings. Next to the Cathedral of Zagreb, an imposing 13th-century church, a beautiful clock hung on a nearby wall, its hands unmoving. A nearby sign indicated that an earthquake damaged parts of Zagreb on November 9, 1880. The shaking caused a number of clocks to cease their timekeeping duties, so the large timepiece was removed from the church and preserved, its frozen time forever marking the moment of the tremors. On our way through the historic district, we passed through the Stone Gate, a dark passageway marking the entrance to Gradec, a section of Zagreb that is one of the oldest parts of the city. Within the gate is a shrine containing a painting of the Virgin Mary, which was the sole surviving artifact inside the gate during a particularly bad fire in 1731. Citizens now come to light candles and make prayers in front of the sacred painting.
Aside from the buildings, Zagreb seemed to be full of small, charming décor. Statues of locally-important people dotted the city, and cheerful sculptures and paintings were scattered everywhere. They certainly have a lot of local pride, since we saw a number of signs proclaiming a love for the city. During our walks, Jenn even paused to smooch with a pleasant, though stoic, man on a quiet park bench. I was momentarily jealous, but his somewhat cold demeanor suggested they would never be a good match.
We made a stop at a local craft beer pub in the afternoon, where we chatted with a friendly bartender who was clearly a beer enthusiast, and he poured us a number of samples as he pulled some of his favorite bottles out of the refrigerator. We told him we were fans of hoppy IPAs, and to our great amusement he proudly presented us with a bottle of one of his favorites – a Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA, widely available in grocery stores around the U.S., but a special rarity on this side of the world. We sipped a number of local beers from both Serbia and Croatia, while our enthusiastic bartender described the local beer scene, as well as his intent to take a 3-month journey through the U.S. on a Harley. He almost convinced us to stay a few more days in the country, as a craft beer festival was being held that weekend, but Slovenia was waiting for us and we decided to press on.