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Croatia boasts an unimaginable number of talent, from
sculptors to painters, poets and composers, architects and inventors and not
forgetting some impressive musical theatre and dance.
Croatia borders Bosnia–Herzegovina and Serbia in the east,
Slovenia in the west, Hungary in the north and Montenegro and the Adriatic Sea
in the south giving it unique weather of partly European climate in the city
and mountains, and a coastal area offering sun worshippers a truly
Mediterranean climate. The weather in Croatia though not like the Caribbean was
pleasant and sunny during my stay in May. Temperatures were around late teen to
mid-twenties and although there was a little drizzle, it was nothing to disrupt
my sightseeing plans.
I was secretly happy to arrive in Zagreb Croatia's capital city with the whole
afternoon ahead of me to start discovering a city which is fairly new on the
horizon in terms of tourism. I was not disappointed as the city simply oozed
cultural treats at every turn. I couldn't wait to get stuck in.
I found the people very welcoming, the food delicious, the
wines irresistible, the accommodations full of charm and character, paired with
a city full of industrious people.What
was most noticeable to me was that for a city, it offered masses of green quiet
spaces.It was so relaxed and on
occasion I had to pinch myself as it felt as if I was in the Caribbean.It certainly exceeded my expectation of a
city and felt more like a new discovery untouched by tourism. What I loved most
was that there were no tourist traps and you could easily immerse in the laid
back style of the Croats!
I stayed at the
Palace Zagreb an imposing building like many of the buildings dotted around the
city. http://www.palace.hr/The hotel
offers comfortable rooms for an affordable price and is within walking distance
to most of the attractions. There is free WiFi and the hotel has a full service
restaurant where I had lunch al fresco shortly after I arrived. The meal was
delicious and the hotel staff were very friendly.My room was quiet and comfortable with all
the amenities you'd expect and I'd certainly recommend it as the perfect base
for exploring the city.
which offers facilities for business and
leisure both of which offer a high standard of facilities.
I mention The Espanade because it is steeped in the history
and romance of the Orient Express and its luxury and lavish decor does not fail
to impress, especially its Emerald ballroom which is unexpectedly breath-taking.
There are a number of hotels within the main circumference
of the Square and so you can be in the main square within matter of minutes
The city itself is quite a small area and believe me you
will find your bearings a lot sooner than you think...take my word for it! When
I realised how easy it was to get around I felt satisfied that in a few days I
would be able to fully explore the city to my heart’s content. But at the end
of my three days I could easily have spent a further three as I was ambushed by
the open air events in the main square.
On this occasion it was the wrestling
championships which was an interesting show of strength by men and women. I
stood in awe watching the competition and the refreshing support of the locals
and tourists to the competitors.
As I walked through the city I noticed that there are a few
steps in the old town and so it might be a practical challenge for those with
mobility issues. However, although I didn't see any wheelchair users, I would
imagine that as the hotels had whelchair accessible accommodation so the
primary taxi firm Eko taxis are equipped to serve this need. Taxis and trams
are frequent with buses running on the outer routes of three main square from
04:00 till midnight daily. It comes as no surpirse that Zagreb offers a tourist
card which offers great deals on travel and free and reduced price to
attractions, shops, restaurants and much more. www.zagrebcard.hr
The city comprises of the old and new city even-though some
of the newer parts date back hundreds of years. The older part of the city is
elevated and provides colourful tales of a past era for history buffs. As I
stood in the old town overlooking the new town I listened as my tour guide Iva
explained about the events which led to the development of the new town and the
bloodiness which ensued as a result.
As for the culture I
was impressed with the quality of the night tour I went on. Iva appeared just
before dusk and we started an interesting walk through the city under the
guidance of her ancient lantern and distinctive and intriguing sillohuette. Iva
Silla specialises in a variety of historical tours about Zagreb took us on a 3
hour tour starting in the old town and ended in the new town. Iva led our tour
with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm. She provided historical accounts
of the city's expansion and even talked about the secret society of Zagreb and
the Black Dragons! Interesting or what! Iva's way of presentation is
unforgettable and will certainly be one of the main highlights of my visit to
Zagreb. I would definitely do another tour with her when I visit again.
One of the other things that fascinated me was the abundance
of art and culture that I stumbled upon as I explored the city. In the old town
there were monuments, sculptures, busts and buildings which exuded great
architectural and historical significance. The ambiance was very relaxing and I
felt my flying visit to the Art Pavilion for the exhibition ofAugousteRodin and the innovative Broken Relationships were both interesting and
insightful well worth a visit.
The new town boasted several green spaces which offered a
tranqul and relaxing space within the city with fountains and even an outdoor
library in the park!
Eating out is even
more pleasurable when you can dine out for less than £40.00 enjoying a three
course meal and maybe a bottle of local wine for two.With a plethora of bars and restaurants there
is something for everyone. Whilst I was there I had the opportunity to taste a
number of Croatian wines and now I have come away with a new love for wines.
Throughout my stay I visited a number of restaurants had
some delicious meals so my recommendations for these restaurants mean you will
be sure to experience dining in Croatian style.All the meals I had were extremely tasty and you will certainly get your
money's worth....as the portions are quite hefty! Croatioans love their meat
and potatoes and there is a potato like dish which is served in most
restaurants called and it usually comes as a starter or an accompaniment to
At Restaurant K Gabreku 1929, Samobor, tel. 00385 1 360 722,
www.gabrek.hr I was able to enjoy the taste of wild boar, duck and vegetables
which was a generous meal, so make sure you're hungry when you visit. The
waiter here offered wine which was a great complement to our meal and they have
a variety of local wines to choose from.The experience of tasting some delicious wines produce of Croatia has certainly
awoken my wine-buds and is now the catalyst to a new-found passion. There are some
local wines well worth tasting and the places I'd recommend to do so are at The
Agava restaurant, Zagreb, tel. 003851 4829 826, www.restaurant-agava.hrand the Restaurant K Gabreku. 1929, Samobor,
tel. 00385 1 360 722, www.gabrek.hr for an authentic taste of Croatian food.
Most of the restaurants offer a relaxed and stylish ambience
and you will be delighted with a mixture of local dishes along with a selection
of Croatian wines. If you are a foodie like me then you must try a local
speciality of strukli which is a potato dish served either savoury or sweet.
Throughout the city you will see the blue trams pass by
frequently. Transportation is fairly cheap. A ticket bought for £1 equivalent
last 90mins can be used on the tram or bus, and can take you to your
destination despite changing so long as you continue your journey in the same
direction. There is also a Zagreb city card well worth buying if you plan to
stay a while and want to venture further afield.
For airport transfers these can be arranged by most hotels
at a good price and so it recommended that you book in advance. It will be
cheaper andbecause of certain
restrictionstaxis are limited in where
they can drop off.
Croatia uses Kunas its own currency. I took Kunas and found
this worked really well especially in the Dolac market in Zagreb and Samobor.
The exchange rate is nearly £1 =10 kunars which offers great savings and very
good value for money. You will come across some things priced in Euros and you
can expect to pay for these with your credit card.
Croatia is becoming
more popular as a health tourism destination. An increasing number of visitors
are keen to access cosmetic and dental care treatments at a great price and of
the higest quality and service offering incredible savings when compared to
those in the UK and other European countries.With the sterling being so strong at present you can expect to get some
good deals on any purchases you make.
Because of the geographic location of Croatia you have
plenty of options for exploring the area. You could easily spend a few nights
in Zagreb and then finish off a week long break at the coast. However if a city
break is all you're after then fear not because only a few miles west of the
city Jarun offersplethora of things to
do. There are plenty of beachside cafes, restaurants, lakes with boating
facilities and rowing lanes. On land the younger ones can enjoy mini-golf,
rollerblading whilst cycling and walking are a breeze. So if you decide a
further flight is not for you then a short drive to Jarun will fulfil your sun,
sea and sand holiday ideal.
You'll be pleased to find modern as well as traditional
styled shopping in Zagreb. There a number of souvenir shops close to the Dolac
market where you can also expect to see the locals buying their groceries; local
produce, fish, meat, fresh fruits, vegetables and fresh flowers. As an avid
shopper I was happy to find a wide selection of locally produced items perfect
for souvenir gifts at the Dolac Market in the city, and where you can buy local
items at a fraction of the price you'd pay in duty-free. The market place is a
gentle hustleand bustle of stalls all
neatly arranged offering lavender, flavoured olive oils, the paprenjak an
aromatic biscuits and much more, all perfect for souvenirs.
At the end of shopping you could always relax at one of the
many bars which roll out onto the piazzaeach afternoon and enjoy a cocktail or take coffee and a kremsnita (a
Samobor custard creamcake) like the locals! After shoppping I went to the famous pedestrianised are for a drink and joined locals and tourist alike just relaxing and chatting as the evening turned to night.
For a day trip I went to Samobor and arrive within the hour,
where I enjoyed the day walking up to the castle ruins along the river after
having coffee at the local coffee shops in the main street. The village boasts
a number of coffee shops, restaurants as well as local shops and some
unmissable points of interest. Look out for the wishing well and the statues of
the famous sculptor and poet. http://www.gabrek.hr/eng/samobor.html
Although I only spent 3 days in Zagreb, I could have easily
spent a further three days. Zagreb has a serious cultural offering of
cathedrals, galleries, theatres, museums, festivals and concerts all throughout
the year and so without a doubt I'll be back to soak up this city's
I'd certainly recommend flying into Zagreb on the national carrier Croatia Airlines where you'll experience the hospitality from the moment you board.
I'll be writing a newsletter soon with offers to Croatia so
watch this space.