Zig-Zag 26Jul08 | [Gill] 0

The 26th was our main day for conquering Zagreb, and so it was the usual early up-and-out.  A few stops down the tram line was the main square with a fruit market that looked and smelled delicious.  Despite best nutritional intentions, many of our meals this holiday have consisted of a slab of bread, with the possible bonus of rubbery ham or cheese, so this was a rare occasion when we fuelled up with Vitamin C.
Having deflated our chances of developing scurvy, we headed up to have a look in a church, only to hastily retreat when we discovered they were having mass.  Instead we went up a size and went to the impressive Zagreb Cathedral.  Inside was the sarcophogus of Archbishop Stepinac, and outside we visited a museum dedicated to his life.  This was rendered a lot more interesting than it sounds by an extremely friendly, if rather eccentric, nun.  In excellent English she gave us a detailed history of Archbishop Stepinac and hs life (very useful as everything was in Croatian), and then insisted we watched a video about him.

This should have been a simple process, but unfortunately watching the English translation required a bit more technical know-how than our 60 year old nun had.  I must confess that I don’t know muc about nuns, but I was quite shocked when she exclaimed “OH MY GOD!” as the TV screens flickered on and off wildly, and also “Argh…Blow it all up” as she strode off to find some instructions.  In the end, our very own Nick Stylianou managed to save the day by sorting it out, and we sat down to learn about Archbishop of Stepinac, who is revered by Croatians for strongly supporting peoples’ freedom and rights during World War II, and following Communist oppressors regardless of nationality, religion etc.

After this, we climbed up to St.Mark’s square, where we believed Parliament to be, found a fairly dull, classic fronted building – attractive but exactly like those which we have seen in about every capital city, but some furious map consultation revealed that this building, devoid of police or tourists, was indeed Parliament.

Somewhat underwhelmed, we continued to the Museum of Zagreb, which had an extremely detailed history of Zagreb, and an exhibition about the famous fashion designer, Zuzi.

After a big lunch to avoid rain showers that seem to perpetually follow us, we had a leisurely walk around the gardens, and puzzled other park visitors by taking pictures of ourselves in letter shapes so that we spelled INTERTHINK.

By the time we got back to the hostel we were all tired, and so were delighted to get our free beer and socialise with the Streatham girls we had met the day before, as well as a girl from Manchester and the 6th inhabitant of our room, a guy from Aberdeen called Jamie.  This group then headed out to central Zagreb to find womewhere to o out.  First we went to a bar that had about 5 other patrons and didn’t serve most of it’s menu (like cocktails…What kind of a beach-themed bar doesn’t serve cocktails?), and after contemplating ignoring the bill as the waiter couldn’t be found, we went to search for a more lively atmosphere.  This came in the form of a cheesy bar/club in a park, which despite not being too exciting, we managed to stay at until 4a m talking about films and weird things about Scotland.  And so we stumbled back to Hostel Lika, pausing only to set our alarms for 8am, a mere 3 and a half hours later.

Best Western 25Jul08 | [NickS] 56

After leaving Serbia with a fistful of dinars, we caught an efficient German train heading to Salzburg, via Zagreb.  This piece of wealthy engineering had air-conditioning and odourless compartments.  If that wasn’t an indication that we were heading West from here, I don’t know what else would have been.

Dozing on the train, ever fearful that we might end up somewhere we’d rather not go to (yeah, we’re still smarting from the Slovakia incident…), we pulled up at Zagreb’s main station.  Helpfully, the directions from the main station, where there was a rather large advert for our chosen hostel, included a rather cryptic instruction to get a tram to Slavonska and “follow the yellow feet”.

As it turns out, these yellow feet were a Wizard of Oz-style path to follow to our accommodation.  With a huge Croatian flag draped over the exterior, we were welcomed by a buxom Croat lass who instructed us to hold tight for a bit while her elderly workman friend welded some railings together.    The usual routine of paying and handing over passports took second place in our minds while we were contemplating what the huge signs saying “FREE BEER” meant, while totally ignoring what seemed like an endless list of “Rules” displayed on an adjacent board.  As students, we have to get our priorities straight.  Actually, it was exactly as described – turn up between 6.30 and 9.30 in reception and get a free beer.  Ice cold.  Awesome.

So it was a little cramped, there was no kitchen, and we met some girls from Streatham (I’ll leave you to decide on where that fits in), but it was clean and there was free beer.

Suitably sated, we headed into downtown via another tram we didnt pay for.  Of note, Budapest has been the only city not to operate a trust-based punch-in-punch-out ticketing system.  Simply put, it means that apart from Hungary, we haven’t paid a penny (or bani, or lei…) for public transport.

Finding a very well-recommended Italian restaurant, we settled in to some posh nosh, failed to find an exciting bar (as is our custom) and came home, where our sixth dorm member was asleep.