Monday, September 18, 2017
There was no avoiding it -- today was going to be a long day. First one woman forgot something in her room safe after we started so that was a 30-minute delay. Then we had a rest stop 1-1/2 hours into the trip. About 30 minutes later we reached the border with Croatia. There was a long line of trucks exiting Serbia and entering Croatia. All of our border crossings have required 2 stops (exiting and entering) with about a half mile in between. It took us 2 hours to get into Croatia. We all had to get off the bus and go into a facility to see an agent. Every exit and entry requires a stamp in your passport so it is starting to get full.
Shortly afterwards we stopped at a small hotel where we ate a bag lunch. The hotel also had a campground with large barrels for rooms. Very quaint. The trip was still about 4 hours with another stop. There was no scenery to look at, just miles and miles of farmland, much of it harvested and ready for winter - which is very cold here. I spent my time reading a book called "How we survived communism and even laughed." It was about all the hardships women in Yugoslavia faced trying to be women -- like finding makeup and even sanitary napkins because these were not a priority for "the state" to make. Even toilet paper was a precious commodity and the state-run newspaper was an uncomfortable alternative.
We reached Zagreb about 4:30 and didn't have time to check into the hotel. We picked up our guide and we drove around the city. He gave us a little more information about Croatia. It is shaped like a "C," is about the size of West Virginia, and has 3,600 miles of coast. There are 4.5 million people, of which nearly 800,000 live in Zagreb, the capital of the country. The population has 90% ethnic Croats (Catholic) and 4.5% Jews.
We were all blown away with how beautiful the city is. There are multiple buildings, done in the neoclassical or art nouveau style that hold large art collections or exhibits. Many of these buildings were constructed during the Austro-Hungarian rule and are done in "Habsburg yellow," a tradition started by Empress Maria Theresa for important public buildings. In fact, our guide said there are 630 art museums and galleries (that includes small ones) in the area. I couldn't get the names of all these buildings but they are all worth including here to provide an overview of the style of the city with expansive green spaces. I did not expect this.
Then he took us to the most beautiful cemetery I have ever seen. We have Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, which is very park-like, but this one has amazing architecture. Known as Mirogoj's Cemetery, it was designed by famous architect Hermann Bolle. Here are a few of the burial sites. There is also a church on the grounds for funerals.
Then our guide took us downtown where we did a walking tour of the Upper Town. The most remarkable thing about this was St. Mark's Church which has the Coat of Arms for Zagreb on the right and the region on the left.
We passed some shops and town squares, one where the city market is held every day. One of the more unusual museums is the one of Broken Relationships. I did not have time to visit it but there are artifacts and stories about people's love lives that didn't work out.It was starting to get dark but we went to a street where we could get an overview of Zagreb.
It was really getting dark, so we walked to our restaurant Vinodol near our hotel. After dinner I took a walk and caught this shot of Zagreb's Cathedral in lights.