Croatia Day 1: Zagreb

The great adventure to Croatia begins first with a flight from Cleveland to Chicago and then a 8 1/2 hour flight to Munich, Germany. Once in Munich, we board a quick plane down to Zagreb. We meet our tour guide, Nika, and she loads us up on a bus and we are off to the city center.

We arrive in the heart of Zagreb when we check into our hotel and have 3 hours before we can check in. We leave our bags at the desk and then set off to explore the city. Its absolutely GORGEOUS out at 77 degrees with a beautiful breeze blowing. We walk past clean, tall tan, yellow and beige buildings with red tiled rooftops all with intricate detailing and flower boxes in the windows. Bright blue trams run the center of the streets as tourists hurriedly avoid them.

We head first to the Botanical Gardens. The gardens cover an area of 5 hectares and is home to over 10,000 plant species from around the world, including 1,800 exotic ones. It has large ponds for aquatic plants. We explore the jungle-like gardens and stop to enjoy a slew of giant bullfrogs all ribbit-ing in a lily pond. After the gardens, we make our way north towards St. Mark’s Church. As we walk, we pass stunning flower beds all bursting with a multitude of now blooming tulips and spring flowers. We pass bubbling fountains, glorious statues and incredible displays if art and architecture.

We then come across the Zagreb Funicular – situated in Tomić Street, connecting the Ilica Street with Strossmayerovo šetalište to the north. Its 66-metre track makes it one of the shortest public-transport funiculars in the world. We walk alongside the funicular until we reach the top of the hill, now at the foot of the Lotrščak Tower.

The Lotrščak Tower is a fortified tower located in Zagreb, Croatia, in an old part of town called Gradec or Gornji grad. The tower, which dates to the 13th century, was built to guard the southern gate of the Gradec town wall. We are unable to enter a lot of sites and shops as they are closed due to the Easter holiday. We the walk up the street to the magnificent St. Mark’s Church.

Now this is the most beautiful church roof I’ve ever seen! On the roof, tiles are laid so that they represent the coat of arms of Zagreb (white castle on red background) and Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia. It’s crisp, glossy tiles shines against the sun as we watch a changing of the guards. Such a must see if you ever come here!!

After St. Marks, we venture around the corner to to the Stone Gate. Stone Gate is one of the most noteworthy landmarks of the Upper Town of Zagreb. It was built in the 13th century.

Rachel and I then took a few minutes to rest our feet and sat on a charming bench to people watch before heading to our next stop – Meštrović Gallery. The Mestrović Pavilion is an art gallery and an architectural masterpiece created by Ivan Meštrović. Built-in 1938 it changed its purpose several times but ended up as originally intended, a Home of Croatian Artists.

It was then time to check into our hotel so we walked the two blocks and were finally able to take an hour to rest up and get ready foe our 2-hour walking tour of Zagreb.

We meet the group in the lobby and with our local guide, Martin, make our way on our city walking tour. Our tour was wonderful, as we learned about the history of the city and its layout, and one big piece we missed earlier – the Cathedral.

The Zagreb Cathedral on Kaptol is a Roman Catholic institution and not only the tallest building in Croatia but also the most monumental sacral building in Gothic style southeast of the Alps. It is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and to kings Saint Stephen and Saint Ladislaus. An incredible building that towers over the entire city! We enter and get a quick peak during mass before resuming our walking tour.

After the tour, we make our way back from the tour to the hotel where we have an hour to ourselves to get ready before dinner. Rachel takes a power nap while I work on the blog.

Before dinner, we meet in the lobby of the hotel for a welcome greeting and champagne toast. We mingle until the bus arrives and takes us to our restaurant – Kaptolska Klet.

It’s a charming restaurant right across fromthe cathedral in which we enjoy a group dinner of wine/beer, leafy salads with pumpkin seed pesto and baked smoked cow milk cheese, samobor sausage, fries and chocolate mousse and banana dessert. It was fantastic and very filling.

After dinner, we enjoyed a glowing nighttime walk back to the bus. The streets are still alive with people eating dinner, the bars slowly getting more full, and tourists out and about, enjoying the now crisp summer air.

Tomorrow, we are up bright and early for our morning journey to the city of Split.

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