Croatia is about the size of West Virginia. With 1,100 miles of mainland coastline, it has one of the most beautiful beaches along the Adriatic Sea. Do you know that it is one of the most popular destinations in the world? And, it is home to seven UNESCO heritage sites?
Continuing my journey from Ljubljana, I took a train to Zagreb. A 2-hour train ride cost €12. Located at King Tomislav Square (Trang Kralja Tomislava), Zagrebački Glavni kolodvor (Zagreb Main Station) is the largest railway station in Croatia. Zagreb is much bigger than Ljubljana. I had to admit that I made a mistake for not booking a place to stay before coming to Zagreb. After hours of walking with two bags in tow, and a blister on my foot, finally I had to settle for a hotel near the Main Train Station. It cost me $115 a night! I learnt my lesson.
I left my bags in a locker at the train station the next morning, and started exploring the city around Bana Jelacica Square, which is the main square in the Old Town of Zagreb. An equestrian statue of General Jelacica stands tall in the middle of the square. Further up, there lies Zagreb Cathedral, the most famous building in Croatia with its spires seen from many locations in the city. There are two other famous cathedrals in Zagreb: St Mark's Church - tiles are laid on its roof to represent the coat of arms of Zagreb and Triune Kingdom of Croatia, Slovania and Dalmatia - and The Church of St. Catherine - famous for its stucco and wooden Baroque altars.
Further down the road from St Mark's Church is the Stone Gate, a shrine to Virgin Mary where people can light a candle and pray. It's a very sombre atmosphere here, and if you happen to pass by, please be quiet as a respect to the locals praying, and hoping their wishes would be granted.
Time to visit a museum. I decided to go to Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters, a 19th century neo-Renaissance building which housed permanent European paintings from the 14th to 19th centuries. That day was hot, and it was hot and humid in the museum. I was told that the air conditioner was already running to its full capacity. I wonder what that condition would do to the paintings in the long run.
That night I decided to do a little 'people watching' at King Tomislav Square. It was pretty interesting as people hung out till very late at night. I saw so many men used the place as a public loo, and it made me wondered what would the women do if they have to go? After a sleepless but interesting night, I decided to take a bus (#106) at Kaptol Square to Mirogaj the next morning. Mirogaj is the central cemetery of Zagreb. The mortuary, and the impressive arcades with the church of Christ the King made it one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. This is where Dr Franco Tudman, Croatia's first President was laid to rest.
The day was getting hotter. I was beginning to feel agitated after 24-hour without a shower. I got a train ticket to my next destination, Zadar, (cost 156 kuna, approximately $28) departing at 9pm., and then, I took a shower at the Main Train Station (cost 45 kuna, approximately $8). Then I went to a bar for a beer, and watched the Olympic Games.
Later I've learnt that in the summer months, most tourists and locals would travel to cities located along Croatia's coastline. This explained to me why the city of more than a million people seemed deserted in some areas. Zagreb has good transportation, spacious boulevards and squares. It has twenty theaters and over forty museums and galleries. Therefore, I think it would be a worthwhile stop for two or three days before you decide to head to other cities along the Adriatic Sea.