I’m not ashamed to admit I am a planner. When I travel anywhere, I make sure I have a jam-packed itinerary even if I know I won’t experience half of the activities I listed. So when I booked a flight Zagreb, Croatia departing three days after confirming, it was out of my character. Three days was not enough time to research and develop a list of activities that included some of those “must visit” places and “must eat” restaurants. This was something I would normally spend months doing to ensure a pleasant trip. Although I was accustomed to being well-informed about a location, the spontaneity of the trip forced me to accept that I cannot be in control of every experience.
My flight into Zagreb arrived late at night, and I took an Uber to my hostel. Subspace Hostel was similar to a hostel I stayed in while in Amsterdam, so I looked forward to the staying in another capsule. It was true to its listing, but it wasn’t my favorite experience. The check-in didn’t go very well, but the woman was very nice. Things were going fine until she asked for payment, but I had already paid in full when I made the reservation.
The hostel didn’t appear to have an adequate software system that could track all of the bookings. I was listed as reserved, but the woman at the check-in counter couldn’t verify that I already paid. I had my confirmation email and my credit card app available on hand to prove I paid at the time of the reservation and the amount was charged to my account. She checked my confirmation a couple of times, but was still unsure. She reassured that everything would be fine, but I wasn’t worried about it at all because I knew my end of things were taken care of. It was their system that needed to be corrected. Eventually, she showed me to my capsule and told me that she would contact me in the morning if there were still any unresolved issues.
The actual capsule was fine, but the air circulation inside was loud. If I turned them off, I got very stuffy. I wasn’t a fan of the showers and toilets either. The cleanliness could be improved, and the design didn’t seem as innovated as I imagined it would be. I did enjoy the location of the hostel, though.
The next morning I woke up starving and ready to see the Croatia’s capital city in the daylight. I chose the first restaurant I could find, which was a spot next door to the hostel called Choco Cafe. I sat outside for a late English breakfast consisting of eggs, a hot dog, bacon, toast, cherry tomatoes, bean, rucola, and lemonade. I had low expectations for Croatian food, so I didn’t even attempt to order any while visiting.
Coca Cola was hosting a Food and Film Festival at Park Zrinjevac with tons of food vendors with a variety of cuisines. The park was only two blocks away from my hostel, and offered so many foods I wanted to try. Every meal during my visit to Zagreb could have come from there, but I felt obligated to diversify. The one meal I did eat was chicken shawarma, and it was spicy goodness.
That night a friend and I walked up Ulica Ivana Tkalčića, which happened to be a busy street with plenty of bars and restaurants. We decided to skip Croatian food again and have dinner at Royal India. I still think about how good those lamb chops were.
Zagreb gets called the “city of museums” due to having the most museums per capita, but I didn’t want to spend my time amidst artifacts. Instead, I wanted to experience the city. There were lots of boutiques on the street where my hostel was located, and I watched as people walked by in their high-fashion wardrobes. I must admit that Zagreb had a culture of dressing well. They definitely dressed better than us Americans.
At the Food and Film Festival, I spotted this artistic tribute to the United States:
Oh, how it stings to be the laughing stock of Earth!
I met up with a friend who had obtained a map earlier and went exploring some of the city’s highlights. I told her the only spot I really wanted to see was St. Mark’s Church for the tiled roof. An actor approached us while we were standing in the square in front of the church admiring the colorful roof. There were several actors in front of the church in traditional Croatian garb from back in the day. This one was acting as a paper boy and walked next to a bicycle with a huge front wheel. He told us about Zagreb’s oldest bar close by. Pod Starim Krovovima was the name, and they sold Croatian wine for cheap. He didn’t have to say much more, we headed directly there.
The bartender was an older gentleman who gave us a history lesson on the bar, and told funny stories about Zagreb in general. I had a glass of the Croatian wine for a few coins, and sipped it slowly outside, while my friend had a beer.
That same day, I stumbled upon a basketball tournament hosted by Adidas across the street from the Glavni Kolodvor train station. It was some of the worst basketball I’d ever witnessed. And this is coming from someone who watched Belizeans play the game. What made it interesting was the American rap music being played uncensored during the event and hearing the n-word every other second while no one gave it a second thought. I don’t know who the artist was, but I was only person who appeared uncomfortable with the foul language. There were children around, but perhaps no one knew what the music was actually saying.
We discovered a Pop Up Summer Garden in the middle of nowhere hosted by Swanky Monkey. The DJ was playing a great set of songs we knew and loved, so we stayed a while and sipped on signature cocktails. There was lots of food and drinks available, as well as private film screenings and dog petting sections. The garden was beautiful, and I enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere.
On our last night, we met up for drinks at Swanky Mint, a hostel and bar spot. Some drunk guy kept bothering us, and thankfully the bouncer threw him and his friends out. No one in the building appeared to be American, then a couple walked in and gave us a hey. And it was an American hey. So we decide to be friends. Come to find out, the couple had just met on a dating app, and she was looking for a partner to go to Croatia with, and he was down for the trip. How wild is that!
We also met a guy from Norway with his lady friend from Hungary. When asked what they did the night before, he said he didn’t want to say. My friend and I both looked at each other and grinned because we assumed he was alluding that he and his lady friend spent the night sexing it up. In reality, he actually was visiting a cemetery. People are funny, man.
Zagreb overall was a nice spot to visit. I didn’t have one negative encounter with the locals. I do regret being unable to view as much street art as I would have preferred. The next day we headed to the train station to catch a train to neighboring Slovenia.