If you haven't noticed already, there is a list to the left of my blog posts that has all the places I want to travel to someday. Croatia happens to be one of them. Where in Croatia? I'm not exactly sure. But I was reading the travel section of the New York Time--as usual--and I saw an article about the country's Capital City, Zagreb.
Croatia is part of the Balkan Peninsula--an area I have never ventured to--and boasts some of the most exotic views--courtesy of the Dalmation Coast--and dynamic cities. Dubrovnik anyone? In the mood for some good food, head north to the coastal city of Istria, quickly becoming the next Tuscany. And a wonderful way to enjoy the city and the trip up there is by bicycle, speeding along the same paths the Romans, Hapsburgs, and Napoleon took on the cone-shaped Peninsula. But for someone who wants to experience a truly unique and inspirational city, Zagreb seems to be a good start.
The city began as two townships, known today as Upper Town. Kaptol was a largely clerical area, while Gradec was home to artisans and merchants. They joined together in 1850, despite constant feuding, but still hold their individual personalities today. Kaptol holds the symbol of the city, the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Gradec, just a 10 minute walk from the cathedral, has the Zagreb City Museum, which showcases the city's political, architectural, and artistic history. Both are certainly worth a visit.
I am definitely one to see the sites of a city: the museums, churches, ruins, etc. But something that truly gives a city its vibe is the food. I was fascinated when I read about the pedestrian-only street Tkalciceva, once a stream that separated the two cities. It is now loaded with cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and ateliers. Not only does this street allow for some prime people watching--which I love to do--but it gives visitors a chance to sample some of the local cuisine, clothes, and art. Caffe Bar Cica uses recycled washing machines as tables. How cool does that sound? Also, it is a good place to sip some local Velebitsko beer.
While I was living abroad in Italy, one thing I could not get enough of was the local markets. There is, of course, one in Zagreb as well that I am dying to attend. Dolac is the main fresh market with stalls full of nuts, honey, cheese, spices, and flowers. This is what the locals call food, we call it organic. And after enjoying the market, there are lovely parks in Lower Town where one can just relax and take in the gorgeous architecture.
But a park is not outdoorsy enough for me. So I would probably make my way to Medvednica National Park, a 56,000 acre area of mountain trails towering over Zagreb. A hike does the body good. Plus, I could then have an excuse to stuff my face with the delectable delicacies of the region. How about frog and eel stew? Perhaps not, but how about the roasted lamb, grilled sea bass, or a cone of schwarzwald — a mixture of cream, Cognac, chocolate and cherries? Having the sweet tooth that I have, what do you think I'd pick?
If I wanted to go to Croatia before, imagine how my desire has doubled after reading about Zagreb.