Euro Trip Part 6 – Zagreb

Picture of Adam Berkelmans
Adam Berkelmans

The Intrepid Eater

Zagreb, Croatia

The departure and bus ride to Zagreb (ZAH-greb) was slightly more organized and comfortable than the Italian bus experiences, and it afforded us beautiful views of the mountainous countryside, dotted with beautiful villages. 


The ride took about two and a half hours with stops, then we were pulling into what looked like a slightly gritty city from the outskirts, but gradually got more beautiful towards the centre. 


We were a little early for check in and the Airbnb annoyingly wouldn’t let us drop off our bags. They suggested leaving them at the bus station, but the bag locker was a manned kiosk charging per piece, per hour. It would also necessitate another two cab rides to retrieve them, so we just kept them on. 


We took a cab to an antique market in the west side of downtown and strolled through, trying not to break anything with our back packs, and checked out the cool old European antiques. 

From there, we walked to Pivnica Medvedgrad, a Croatian beer garden, to sit down for a bit. We ordered beers and a small Croatian charcuterie plate. Quite lovely. 


We got word from our host that our apartment was ready, so we walked across town to drop off our bags. 


Zagreb seemed to be quite lively, with lots of beautiful old buildings and lots of fading splendour. We particularly loved the yellow buildings, something we’d never really seen before, except in Rijeka.

Zagreb had been a last minute choice for this trip. Kathy was going to book us in another seaside town for a night but was having a hard time making it work logistically, so I had suggested Zagreb for something different. We had just been to three seaside towns already, so why not something inland? 


The city was beautiful like Rijeka, but had a little more grit too, which we always enjoy. There were also lots of cool statues and architecture there. 

We arrived at our apartment after walking in circles for a while, and were pleased to discover a super beautiful and unique place with old school charm mixed with contemporary design. 

We had booked a walking tour for 5:00pm, something I was a bit leery of, but something Kathy had done on trips without me and really liked. I figured I’d try it once anyways, and keep an open mind. 


It was only 3:30, and I was torn between being too tired to do anything and wanting to do something. 


Not doing anything won, and I laid down for a quick nap. I have to be careful with naps, as I usually wake up groggy and grumpy as hell, but if I can wake back up after only 20 minutes, I’m fine. 


I mostly did that, though I did feel a little blah when I woke up.


We went to the main square to join our walking tour, where we met a lively young Croatian woman with an orange umbrella, who directed us to wait in the shade. 


She said the sun was dangerous and someone had recently collapsed on the walk. Of course they did. What is it about tourists that makes them so unprepared for normal life? How often do you see someone collapse while walking around their neighbourhood in the summer?


Our shady spot quickly filled up with about thirty tourists; an alarmingly large group. 


I was already annoyed with half of them before we even left; the stupid hats (we’re in a city for Christ’s sake, do you wear those hats when you go outside at home?), the selfies, the junebugginess of it all. 


A small procession of young actors pranced by, dressed in different old timey fashions, and pushing around one of those old big wheeled bicycles. Everyone around us shot up, whipped their phones out and surrounded them in full on paparazzi mode as they preened. 


My stomach sunk… this was going to suuuuuuck. I scolded myself, just keep an open mind, it’s probably fine. Don’t be such a stick in the mud! 


The tour started, and we shuffled around the two old sections of town that were once separate warring villages. 


Outside a chapel surrounding a miraculous religious painting, the guide pointed out that the steeple was topped with a spiked mace rather than a cross. This was meant to catch witches flying back over the town at night after whatever it is that witches do in the woods. 


“Alas, no witches were ever caught, though hundreds of poor souls were burnt at the stake for being different or outspoken,” the guide declared. 


One amazing example of everything I hate about tourists stepped forward, adjusting her ridiculous Tilly hat (with neck cape attachment, perfect for walking slowly around a normal city) and asked in complete seriousness, “Well, did they catch any witches on that thing?”


“Um. No. They didn’t. Witches aren’t real of course.”




It took everything in me not to walk away and do my own tour. 


We slipped the guide some cash and took off just before the end of the tour to escape the 20 minutes of questions and pleas for reviews. The tour guide was great and did an amazing job storytelling and projecting her voice to the large group, but the whole experience just wasn’t for me. At all. 

Kathy thanked me for being a good sport and promised I wouldn’t have to do any more of them. It was worth it to try one out anyways. 


Much of the statues, churches, and monuments were covered with scaffolding due to earthquake damage from the spring of 2020. 


Apparently very few people were hurt, despite the earthquake’s severity, due to everyone being in their homes for lock down. Sometimes things work out for the best. 

Wanting to try some local specialties, but lacking the room in our bellies for any heavy meat stews, we opted to grab some Bosnian/Serbian street food, popular in the region, instead. Cevapi are cylindrical meatballs and often served in bread (in Zagreb at least). 


We went to Bistro Dolac after finding a few better-rated places to be closed (it was Sunday evening), and tried the cevapi. Really good! Nice and tender, very juicy. We also had a meat burek which was pretty tasty, though we both thought our cheese and spinach one from earlier was better. 

After dinner, we were feeling like a cocktail as we were all beered and wined out. We found Roots cocktail and juice bar, which was attached to a backpacking hostel. 


Despite the action on the patio, we sat inside to enjoy the cool brick interior and the enlarged travel photos adorning the walls. 


When the menu came, we were delighted to see that the cocktails were country-themed, with super interesting ingredients (very juice-forward, which makes sense as the cocktail bar doubled as a juice bar during the day). 

I ordered a Croatia, followed by an Argentina, and Kathy ordered a Greece, followed by a Portugal. 


The winner of the night was Greece, which was a clear cocktail which somehow had yogurt in it and tasted just like a cooling cucumbery tzatziki sauce in cocktail form. 


All of the cocktails were really tasty, but the Greece one was especially so. 

The Croatia cocktail

For our last stop of the night, we went to a bar called The Old Pharmacy, which had a very cool theme of old school leather chairs and bookcases, as well as framed advertisements for insanely dangerous “cure-alls” from the early 1900’s (creosote – soak a rag in it, breathe it in and it will cure what ails ya!). 

They didn’t have any cocktails, so we ordered a whisky soda and a couple schnapps. The bartender recommended a blueberry and a hazelnut schnapps for us to try. Both were great, but the hazelnut one really blew my mind. I thought it would just be like amaretto, but it was definitely its own thing, so nutty and delicious, almost like a hazelnut Christmas chocolate. 

We’d meant to go to bed early, but found ourselves returning to the apartment at 11:30. Oops! 


The tour guide had mentioned that it would be smart to arrive at the central market when it opened at 7am to avoid the crowds, so I set my alarm and woke up early to take advantage of it. 


I went out by myself and made my way to the market, only to find the vendors just unloading their trucks. I guess I could have slept in a little more! 


I grabbed a coffee on the edge of the market and watched everyone setting up. Eventually there was enough to go buy, as evidenced by several nuns showing up and bartering for fresh vegetables, so I walked around and picked some stuff up for breakfast and for hiking or on-the-road lunches. 

I was able to buy a quarter watermelon, which was nice, since I was craving watermelon something awful after seeing it in the Rijeka markets. 


I also grabbed a couple small bureks (still warm), some wild strawberries, two dried sausages, and a cucumber. I really enjoyed strolling around the market at my own pace, and dreaming of what I’d cook if I could. 


I walked home and enjoyed the watermelon for breakfast, once again lamenting the fact that I couldn’t load myself up with goodies to cook. There were so many interesting meats, cool regional noodles, wild mushrooms, and fresh spring vegetables. The urge to cook was becoming overwhelming! 

We made our way to the bus stop and waited at the platform, watching three older women harassing a pour young guy for help in broken English. 


“We miss bus, two minutes! You tell driver wait, we go buy tickets.” There was much flapping of hands and lips and shoving of phones and tickets in faces during this conversation. 


The young man, who barely spoke English himself, tried to tell the women that he couldn’t help, but they were having none of it. 


The women were way too annoying for me to step in and help save the unfortunate soul, so I just minded my own business, which is quite unlike me. I think I’d had enough of pushy annoying people at this point. 


We boarded the bus, and to our horror, the three women somehow managed to sit all around us. The pour guy also got stuck sitting beside one of them, who proceeded to talk his ear off. 


All three were sitting in different aisle seats and started jabbering at the top of their lungs non-stop. 


We got to a rest station and were let off the bus for 15 minutes and we suggested to the guy that he should trade seats with one of them so he could escape. He was too nervous to take the advice, but looked longingly at me once the bus and the women’s non-stop conversation continued. 


We ended up putting on noise cancelling headphones with loud music on to escape the nattering idiots, but we could STILL hear them despite that. One would thrust her phone in the aisle yelling about something, then the other ladies would talk over her, then she’d settle back for 45-50 seconds and do it again. Over. And over. Annnnd over.


At one point they had a heated conversation as to what time it was, since one woman’s watch said one thing and the other’s phone said another. I think they settled on the watch being right. 


I fantasized about being a rude person and telling them to shut the hell up, or knocking the woman’s phone out of her hand after the FIFTIETH time she thrust it into the aisle demanding attention, but I just stayed quiet, as did everyone else on otherwise VERY quiet bus. 


We arrived in Ljubljana, pulling up to the bus station, and the women jumped up, pushing everyone out of the way, barged to the front and one yelled to the bus driver, “WHERE BUS STATION?”


“RIGHT THERE!” he said through clenched teeth, pointing directly beside us. He had obviously had enough of them too. 


I focus on these women so much because everywhere we went, the journey or the destination was somewhat marred by some idiots that had no consideration for the people around them. Just be slightly aware of your surroundings; how hard is it to do that??? 


Anyways, I digress, bitching session over; though it did set up the mood for our day in Ljubljana. 


I really enjoyed Zagreb, and I wish we could have spent a little more time exploring the city; even two days probably would have been enough. It was a place I know literally nothing about, but was glad to soak up a bit!

Next stop - Ljubljana, Slovenia!