Posts Tagged ‘eastern europe’
Budapest, Hungary—take two. My train rolled into this magical city, known locally as “Budapesht,” for the second time in 15 years. The Hungarian capital, divided by the Danube river into the districts of Buda and Pest, was as picturesque as I remembered it from decades ago, although the city itself had undergone major changes since my initial visit. Back then, I remembered a quality of darkness—both in spirit and physical appearance. Buildings were stained black. The city was a bit rough around the edges—a little bit seedy you could say—and there was a certain heaviness of spirit in the air. It was also winter, with fleeting hours of daylight and a frigid bite in the air. The impression was very much one of recovery from the aftermath of soviet occupation.
Zagreb? Where the hell is that? Words that I’ve heard countless times about the narrow alleys and side streets that lay hidden just outside of the regular tourist’s tunnel vision. If you ask the average person, they probably have no idea where Zagreb is. In fact, they probably have no idea where Croatia is, and the only Dalmatia they’ve heard of comes in the 101 variety. Zagreb is not the standard issue city. It does not drown in the web’s bucket list. Even the name sounds fairly strange and distant.
This is a living city first and foremost. You won’t see the roving, multicolored gangs of tour bus riders. Instead, you see Croatians living their lives. You see them lounging in the park with their friends, or enjoying the numerous free nightly music performances. You’ll bump into them as they flood the quaint main streets for happy hour, and you’ll stumble across them watching a free movie in an old town square while drinking wine and eating popcorn. And while the city has seen its share of war and bombings and death, the Croatian people are resiliently carrying it forward into the modern age. And while you can feel the history throughout the city, Zagreb belongs firmly to the future.
So by now you may have got that I love Zagreb. If you missed my last article on Why I Love, Love, Love Zagreb, Croatia, you can read all about the many reasons here, as well as what prompted me to extended my stay. In the meantime, here are the highlights of my time in Zagreb:
I love Zagreb for so many reasons. Off the beaten path and away from the tourist radar, Zagreb is refreshingly local. Still relatively inexpensive compared to the rest of Europe—and even Croatia—the city is filled with regal architecture, a gas-lamp old quarter where time stands still, and inexpensive hearty cuisine. I was charmed by Zagreb’s unpretentious attitude and abundant cultural pursuits, especially its unique museums, architecture, art scene, and live music scene.
Zagreb is a place I knew little about beforehand. I decided to head here to round out my tour of Croatia, which was deservingly beach heavy. Essentially, I wanted to see what Croatia was like away from the sea.
Zagreb, Croatia has become one of my all-time favorite cities in the world, equally rivaling my favorite Croatian city of Dubrovnik. I was pleasantly surprised at the loveliness of Zagreb’s cobblestoned old town, where time seems to stand still. In the old quarter, the gas lamps are still lit by hand every evening. Boasting friendly people, plenty of culture to go around, and both tasty and inexpensive food and beer, Zagreb is one of Europe’s best kept secrets.
Stay tuned for our Zagreb coverage, coming up all this week!