Exciting Zagreb + Plitvice Lake
Much is written about the fabulous Croatian coastline, so to be unconventional, I decided to fly to Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb. I did not know what to expect and if Zagreb was worth three days of my time; was I in for a surprise! Zagreb is a warm and friendly city; it draws you in slowly with its hospitality, walk able tourist attractions and fun eating hangouts. Wandering around is one of the best things you can do in Zagreb. With no itinerary to follow except for an excellent bike tour the first day (great way to get oriented and to get excited about what to do and see the next day): http://www.lobagola.com/tours-and-services/tours/zagreb-guided-bicycle-tours.html
More of the adventure; Lovely accommodations, I booked a 3 night stay at a centrally located and wonderful B&B (4 city windows) – my review below:
The city; divided into Upper Town which has narrow streets and will draw you in with a treat around every corner, while the busier Lower Town is great for shopping and people watching. Trams and buses are simple to figure out and almost everyone I met spoke English.
We wandered the streets, visit the numerous statues (make sure you visit the “Nikola Tesla”statue) and if you are in the mood to do something unique and different, visit the Grounded Sun sculpture then search the city for various metal spheres (more like small metal plaques) that are placed in locations throughout the city representing the various planets in the solar system. I was only able to find two planets. My unplanned walking tour went like this: walked to Ban Jelacic square which is more or less the main city center/square.
From this point, you can make your way to most of the various sights etc. From the square, I made my way up the plaza steps located behind the square and found myself at the start of Dolac, a large open air food market with refrigerated items on the bottom level. Once I had my fill of the lovely fresh foods and vegetables, I walked to the Cathedral which is about 5 minutes away.
The Cathedral is partly surrounded by the remains of the Renaissance Walls. Facing the Cathedral is a statue of the Virgin Mary with angels symbolizing Christian virtues of faith, innocence and humility. Slowly making my way to Upper Town, I passed “the Bloody Bridge” which is a small street with nothing but a few stores (the street has numerous legends behind its name). Passing the statue of St. George, I walked through the Stone Gate, and I was in Upper Town.
Walked to St Mark’s Square and admired the awesome church rooftop (church is usually closed). Directly facing St Mark’s is the Lotrscak Tower with a fun activity if you arrive just before noon: you will get a chance to hear and watch the famous canon being fired daily at noon (pay the admission, climb the tower, great city view plus you can actually watch the canon being loaded).
A few minutes before firing the canon
With enough treats to include a visit the Museum of Broken Relationships, I rode the world’s shortest passenger funicular back down to Lower Town. I hopped on a local bus and traveled a tad outside the city to visit Mirogoj –Zagreb’s main cemetery built in the 19th century and featuring monumental arcades, domed gatehouses and pavilion chapels.
This was a somber but interesting journey to visit the grave of a former colleague (the picture taken is at the grave-site of “Kress”a legend in bringing Croatian basketball to the US. I met Kress a few times in college and he (Kress) decided to forgo a promising NBA career and return to Croatia.. sadly Kress passed away at a very young age). My entire day was packed with surprises and ended with a wonderful Croatian meal and fine wine.
On another day I booked an terrific tour with http://petros.hr/en/
Lake Plitvice; The day started with an hour drive from Zagreb, our first stop was a visit to Rastoke …..a small village surrounded by waterfalls; it was like a fairy tale story then real life. The view was simply stunning.
About 20 minutes away from Rastoke we spent the rest of the day hiking Plitvice Lake park , words can describe this incredible beautiful park with waterfalls and lakes throughout. Plitvice Lake and Rastoke are a MUST.
I loved Zagreb so much that I will return.