Zagreb May 2012
May this year was mine and Nick’s five year anniversary so we decided to take a four night break away somewhere to celebrate. I had never really thought about going to Croatia before, but I’d heard good things about it and the flights were cheap so we decided to head for Zagreb.
We stayed in a small hostel called Swanky Hostel:
I’d picked it because, although it was a little further away than some of the other hostels I was considering, it looked very modern and clean but with lots of character which is important for me when staying somewhere. At first Nick was concerned that it was too far from the centre of town and wondered if we should have picked somewhere closer, but as soon as he got inside he completely changed his mind. Swanky is more like a hotel than a traditional hostel. With all modern facilities, fully equipped kitchen, large modern bathroom with bath and shower, huge, welcoming reception room with comfy sofas and wide screen tele, murals painted on the walls, an outdoor social area with bbq and clean, contemporary rooms, it feels more like being in some rich guy’s private apartment than a hostel. Once again I can’t remember how much we paid but it was one of the cheaper hostels in Zagreb and unbelievable for what you get for your money. We decided to pay a bit extra and go for a private double room. We were presented with a fresh, modern room with comfy bed, linen, blankets and towels, a tv and door that opens straight onto the balcony. Just to get towels and linen in a hostel is pretty rare and I believe the dorm rooms all have the same facilities too. I am definitely planning to go back to Swanky some time and if I ever hear of anyone going to Zagreb I will seriously recommend they don’t stay anywhere other than Swanky!
The best thing about the hostel we were staying in was the people. We were greeted at the hostel by the lovely Lovro, our host during our stay who made us feel right at home with a couple of welcome shots – we were immediately won over! Lovro had a couple of friends from Ireland, John and his sister Mag, visiting him, and before long we were all getting to know each other. We’d planned to go out and experience some of the Croatian nightlife during our stay but ended up staying in the hostel every night drinking and having a laugh over a bbq with everyone while Lovro rocked out some old school hits on the guitar!
Food and Drink
Like much of Eastern Europe, food and drink is both dirt cheap and tasty! Aside from our bbqs at the hostel, we were eating out everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Zagreb is full of little bakeries (that normally have a few tables to eat at if you like) that sell a huge array of both sweet and savoury pastries which made a perfect breakfast. Of course everything is written in Croatian so it’s a bit of a lottery which one end up with but in my experience you can’t go wrong if you just close your eyes and point at random – you are bound to end up with something delicious! For the first day we thought we would eat near by the hostel, not wanting to go into the centre and end up in the expensive touristy restaurants. However, I’m pescatarian and we found it pretty impossible to find anything I could eat except for green salad (Nick was presented with an array of grilled meats and was in his element), so after that we decided to head into town to look for more variety. As it turns out, the restaurants and cafes in the centre of the city, although a little touristy, aren’t expensive at all and serve a variety of meals to suit anyone’s tastes. Nick was particularly taken with the Zagreb steak, (a kind of schnitzel stuffed with ham and cheese), and I think ate that pretty much everyday – in fact he had it twice one day!
Booze is also very cheap. Apparently a lot of bars brew their own beer which is really tasty but being so hot we stuck mostly to lager and fruit radlers which I’ve only ever found in Hungary and are really tasty and refreshing. They have a real cafe culture in Croatia and at any time of the day every cafe in town is packed full of Croat students taking three hour coffee breaks in the sunshine. It creates a really nice vibe, much nicer than the boozey pub culture we have in England!
Zagreb is a really beautiful, vibrant city. It has that typical look of an eastern European city – grand city centre, communist style concrete housing complexes, big open main square complete with statue of a hero on a horse…
Zagreb is one of those kind of places where there is plenty to see and do if you want to but not loads of stuff that you feel you should go and see and do, if that makes sense. We walked round the city and took in all the main sights in about half a day, but if we had wanted there are lots of museums we could have visited too. As it was we were quite happy to get all our sightseeing done on one relaxing afternoon as that meant we could take long lunches, sit in cafes and have a snooze in the park without feeling like we were missing out on anything. Zagreb is an amazing city; very chilled out but still with a buzz in the centre. It’s left me with a real desire to go back and see what the rest of Croatia is like.