As the trip nears to an end, we find ourselves in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. It’s the kind of city that you get when you have a communist hangover but you’re rapidly getting drunk from a big cask of cheap capitalist wine at the same time. In other words, it’s quickly gentrifying. It feels like in ten years time, it will be a completely different, totally repainted city in the glow of bling, chintz and neon light. But there’s still plenty of sleaze and greyness to go around.
There’s many great things to say about Zagreb. The shopping is pretty good, evident in the women who are really fashionable and evidently good looking. It’s like they’re catching up on all those years in Soviet (well communist) darkness. There seems to be a bit of nightlife (too knackered at the end of a day of walking to find out). My traveling companion has had no trouble finding good fashion. For me, I’ve found some awesome music stores here – even some heavy metal stores.
Guide books tell you that there are some expensive restaurants here even by London standards. Sadly we’ve had our fill. Nothing to report on there. The food we have tried is good, heaps of truffles around too, but nothing to write home about except for some fantastic pizza slices in the main Square. Rovinj, Istria and all the really small islands like Mijet is where the great food is really at.
On the bizarre side, every day at noon, they fire a canon out of a tower window so people can set their watches to it! It’s just kinda done out of wacky tradition now, but hey, so is the English royal family!
Again the public transport makes rally drivers look soft. They have these 3 carriage blue trams that roar along at thrice the speed of those in Melbourne. I was almost ran over by one today just walking down the street. Just like that kid Screech, I was saved by the bell.
For the artisans, there’s plenty of museums and galleries. Some bona fide masterpieces too with paintings from Renoir and Monet. But for the love of god, if I see one more fifteenth century gold painting of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, bah! Unlike Split (Diocletian who retired and built his palace there was a Pagan), its ALL Christian stuff. Hundreds of paintings and paraphernalia. I saw one Pagan cup in the Museum Omimara today. And by default, it was a highlight.
A highlight of Zagreb is 20th century sculptor Mestrovic’s (Mesh-tro-vish) home. We saw his humble mansion in Split too, but his home in Zagreb just defies all superlatives. Until I found out about this bloke, I thought sculptors were frankly a bit soft. Mestrovic has changed that forever. He designed this house, made most of the furniture in it, and even designed the al-fresco mural one of the ceilings (he had to call in a mate to actually paint it though). He was a bona fide architect, artist, painter, sculptor and for all intents must have been a bloody good engineer. All this from a bloke that in Vienna couldn’t get his degree because he never even attended elementary school.
Zagreb is a bit of a surprise. Certainly not the cleanest or best culinary experience of the trip, but worth visiting for a few days. I just hope you like museums. If not you’re probably better off sticking to the beaches.