This post may or may not contain affiliate links, meaning if you happen to click on one I might earn a little bit of dinero at no extra cost to you. And you’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling inside for helping to keep the site alive. Go you!
It’s been almost four months since I returned from my mad dash to the Balkans, yet here I am, still waffling on about how pretty Croatia is.

(If Procrastination and Dragging Things Out were Olympic events, I’d be a double gold medallist for sure.)

Croatia is pretty though, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that enough. I also think that it’s so out-of-this-world amazing that the word ‘pretty‘ doesn’t really do it justice. So, in order to add a little more pezzazz to this post and for the sheer amazingness of Croatia to really hit home, I just did a quick search on Thesaurus.com to try and come with a more flowery alternative.

And you know what it gave me? Pulchritudinous. What a word.

Waltzing through the narrow alleys of the Old Towns of Split and Dubrovnik, I had to constantly pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was almost as if I was walking through the streets of every fairytale I’ve ever been told.

This is where your minds are filled with romantic images of me gliding through the cobbled streets in my Cinderella gown, clutching a pile of books to my chest, effortlessly dodging mysterious puddles of water and singing along with a choir of pitch-perfect songbirds.

And that is exactly how the trip went down. 

Minus the Cinderella dress, the pile of books, mysterious puddles of water and songbirds. So it wasn’t at all like how the trip went, really.

And to be 100% completely honest with you, when I say it felt as if I was walking through the streets of every fairytale ever told, it was actually more reminiscent of the Kingdom of Far Far Away, Duloc and all the other little villages on Shrek. That particular vibe was probably something to do with the fact the Old Town was all kitted out in medieval dress for the filming of Robin Hood (in cinemas 2018, very excite), but I digress.

TL;DR – Croatia is a very, very pretty country. 

And I didn’t even scratch the surface of it on my visit!

However, one location I did visit which totally took me by surprise in Croatia was Zagreb

Let it be known now that I am not big on cities. Coming from a country with a population of about 3 million, a mere tenth of which reside in the capital (Cardiff, in case you didn’t know), cities do not bode well for me. Especially those big old metropolitan cities, or capital cities in general.

Crowds, noise, pollution? Ych a fi.

I’m much more of a cutesy little town or village kind of gal. You know, the kind of place where people really do skip around in ball gowns clutching a pile of books to their chest, and the baker knows the butcher’s name because they’re more than rivals; they’re also second cousins twice removed.

Which is why I didn’t plan to spend a lot of time in Zagreb. Zagreb is not the kind of place where the butcher would be on first name terms with the baker.

 

In fact, had I not been told about the Museum of Broken Relationships, I probably would have used Zagreb solely as a point of exit from Croatia into Slovenia. As it so happens, the prospect of a museum dedicated to failed relationships and heartbreak was just too enticing for my sadistic soul, and so I booked myself in for a 2-day, 2-night stay in the capital of my newly-nominated favourite country in Europe.

Sorry Italy, you’ve been benched. 

Zagreb and I got off to a flying start when, after walking all the way from the bus station to the train station (18 minutes according to Apple Maps, 10 minutes according to my feet), an absolute hero of a man shoved a bunch of McDonald’s vouchers into my hands, and I bought potato wedges for next to nothing.

Please don’t judge me for resorting to the safe haven that is the golden M. It was about 10:30pm, my phone had about 3% charge left, I had no mobile data and, to top it all off, I couldn’t even remember the name of the hostel I’d booked myself into, let alone the full address.

Those potato wedges – and the free WiFi that came alongside them – tasted like Heaven.

Zagreb 1 – 0 My Preconceived Idea of Zagreb

Zagreb’s 2nd point came when, after finally establishing the name and address of my hostel (Dots Hostel Zagreb, in case you’re wondering), I arrived there more than ready to block out the sounds of 5 other people snoring for a good night’s sleep, only to find that they were giving me a complimentary upgrade to a private room.

Because there was only me and one other guy in the hostel, apparently. Perks of off-season travel? I think so!

Now obviously this is just circumstantial, and Zagreb as a city had nothing to do with the upgrade. But I’m awarding it the point anyway because I’m the referee in this match and I make the rules.

Point number 3 was awarded for the city being super veggie-friendly, point number 4 for the hilarious Museum of Broken Relationships really living up to all expecations I had, point number 5 for the mere existence of the Mushroom Museum (which was closed when I visited, very sad about that!), point number 6 for there being an Indian restaurant that served pretty tasty food, point 7 for the random giant whale painted on a wall and point number 8 for the city just being really bloody cool.

zagreb-grafitti

1 point was deducted for the Museum of Illusions, because it left me feeling ridiculously queasy, and another point deducted for the Museum of Torture being pretty mediocre as far as torture museums go (I’m an expert), leaving the final score at Zagreb 6 – 0 My Preconceived Idea of Zagreb.

Now let’s move on from what I did in Zagreb talk about the city itself.

One of the most important things I always take with me wherever I travel is a good book. Kindles are absolutely great, especially when you power through books faster than the Road Runner trying to escape Wile E. Coyote, and especially when you’re limited to a 30cm x 40cm 10kg bag. Mine is one of my most valued possessions, but you just can’t go wrong with paper and ink.

In between getting off the train in Cardiff and onto the Megabus to London, I stopped in WHSmith to pick up something new to read. I was thinking something light and easy, not too tasking on the brain, and nothing too emotional. Maybe a nice easy breezy YA fiction.

Then of course I spotted I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork, and silly old me didn’t even bother reading the blurb, thinking “Oh it must be fate because I’M TRAVELLING ALONE“.

The book’s not about travel, guys. 

The book is intense. It’s terrifying, and it’s fantastic. Highly recommend – A+++++ for you Mr. Bjork!

Anyway, I finished reading it on the bus between Dubrovnik and Split, and not wanting to spend the best part of 7 hours book-less on the bus from Split to Zagreb, I popped my head into a little internet cafe right next to Split bus station and bought a second hand version of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four for what I thought to be a very good price.

It wasn’t a very good price.

I’m absolutely awful at calculating foreign currency (proof: I once withdrew the equivalent of £50 in Omani rials at Oman airport when all I wanted was £5 to buy a Subway. Most expensive 4-hour stopover I’ve ever had!) and it turns out I actually paid £20 for a 2nd hand copy of something I could have paid half the price for brand new back home.

You’re sat there right now wondering why I’m educating you on my reading habits, right?

Well, I haven’t gotten very far into 1984 yet. I read about 4 chapters while I was away, but as soon as I got home it was put on the shelf in between the Life of Pi and Obama’s Blackberry.

But the 4 chapters I did read were absolutely brought to life by Zagreb.

Aside from 2 hours of blue sky on my second day in the city, Zagreb was grey the whole time I was there. And I’m not just talking about the weather, but the whole city just seemed grey. The walls seemed grey, the buildings seemed grey, there was an abnormal amount of grey umbrellas flying about, and even the pigeons had a particular grey-ish tinge to them I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a pigeon before. And I’ve seen a lot of pigeons in my life.

It’s kind of funny because since coming home, I’ve read countless other blogs about Zagreb, many of which portray it in a totally different light. That light being sunlight. 

My favourite of the bunch has got to be this post by Christina aka Happy to Wander which makes Zagreb look like a beautifully colourful, sunshine-y city full of things to do. And I’m sure it is a beautifully colourful, sunshine-y city full of things to do.

But on my trip, there was an obvious lack of colour and sunshine (except those precious few hours on my final day!), and what I got instead was a not at all unpleasant grey.

And I loved every single minute of it. 

It’s almost as if Zagreb, with its grey skies, grey walls, grey floors and grey everything else, was just a moody teenager trying really freaking hard to make you dislike it, but failing because it’s just so naturally awesome without even trying.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I really, really loved Zagreb, grey sky and all.

And I would absolutely love to go back, maybe when it’s a little brighter, just to see if it still has the unassuming sullenness when the sun is shining. And to give the Mushroom Museum another go, of course.

Have you ever been taken by surprise by somewhere you thought you’d hate? And more importantly, have you been to the Mushroom Museum?!

 

26 Comments

  1. Such great timing for this post, I’m actually going to Zagreb tomorrow! I’m really excited for the Museum of Broken Relationships. It sounds so cool and a nice break from the usual art and history museums.

    • rhiydwi Reply

      Oh wow, tomorrow?! So exciting! Have an amazing time!!

  2. Love the post Rhiannon, it has certainly come from the heart. We are hopefully off to Croatia later in the year on a road trip, so I’ll be reading your other posts with intrigue. Any places we shouldn’t miss out?

    • rhiydwi Reply

      Hi Janis, thanks so much for reading and commenting! I’m so jealous of your plans! Learning to drive has been pushed to the top of my to-do list JUST so I can return to the Balkans and explore at my own pace one day!

      To be honest, I only really visited Dubrovnik, Split & Zagreb as it was off-season so a lot of the national parks and such were difficult to reach by public transport. But with that being said, it’s an obvious statement but Dubrovnik is a must! The Old Town is really atmospheric and views from the City Walls are unrivalled! From Split I’ve heard great things about taking day/weekend trips to Plitvice Lakes, Krka Waterfalls, Hvar & a few other little islands. I wish I’d have been able to do a few myself but, like I said, off-season made it all the more difficult! The only day trip I took out from Split was to Klis Fortress, which I’d highly recommend as it’s kind of off the radar of most tourists not obsessed with Game of Thrones, so I had the entire fortress to myself! It was amazing and the views over Split and across the sea were incredible. Really cheap entry too.

      And if you do by chance end up in Zagreb you really must check the Museum of Broken Relationships. I’ve been to a fair few museums in my life and it’s honestly the most enjoyable one I’ve ever visited!

      • Thanks for the advice, I had also heard that the Plitvice Lakes were a wonderful place to visit. I’d quite like to hop over to a couple of the islands as well. I’d better get planning…

        Best of luck with your driving lessons 🙂

  3. I was in Croatia, ages ago. As I did’t go to Zagreb, you now gave me a good reason to return.

  4. When you need that someone to tell you prioritize places to go among the long lists of places you ned to go to. Throughout the post, all I could hear was ‘go to Zagreb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’

  5. This city looks beautiful, I’ve never even heard of it before now but will add it to my bucket list. Alos, thanks for the book recommendation, I’m looking for a new book anyways.

  6. Wow it really sounds like you fell in love with Zagreb even though it wasn’t full of sunshine and rainbows! Sometimes it’s nice to see another side of the city though – we fell in love with Croatia as well but didn’t manage to make it up to Zagreb. It’s on the list for another trip back!

    • rhiydwi Reply

      I don’t think I’ve spoken to one person yet who wasn’t wowed by Croatia! Such a stunning country, it really is. Hope you make it back one day! 😀

  7. So interesting. We were supposed to go to Dubrovnik last year, but the plans were switched. Now you have me thinking about Zagreb too!

    • rhiydwi Reply

      Ooh that’s a shame! Hope you were able to visit somewhere equally as awesome instead 🙂

  8. Love this pictures! I really get a sense of the city, dreariness and all! Hopefully I can visit in the next couple of years.

  9. OK so I’m totally sold on Croatia! It looks pretty amazing. That giant whale is unbelievable. I want to go just so I can see it!

    • rhiydwi Reply

      Croatia’s beautiful, it really really is! The whale was a bit randomly placed but still pretty darn cool 🙂

  10. That whale mural deserves ten points! Yes, please do go back soon – I want to hear about the Mushroom Museum.
    I really wish I could have spent more time in Zagreb – it seemed like such a cool city. Unfortunately was only there for a day after going to Spring Break in Croatia (such a terrible mistake). Will have to go back one day. Am down for that hypothetical road trip – I’ll even drive!

    • rhiydwi Reply

      Missing out on the Mushroom Museum is my biggest disappointment in life to date. Seriously.
      I want to go back! 2 days wasn’t enough and, despite not really caring about most of what people say Zagreb is good for (cafes, night life etc) I loved it! Rooooaaaaad trip (YAS!).

  11. I was actually just looking at flights to Dubrovnik this morning, but oh my, I’d need to sell an arm and a leg to take the flight! 🙁

    Nonetheless, Zagreb looks absolutely amazing, even with its greyness! I’ve read about the Museum of Broken Hearts before, what a weird and wonderful little place! I would spend hours there…either crying or laughing!

    • rhiydwi Reply

      Where are you looking to fly from? If you have the flexibility it may be worth looking for flights to Podgorica, Montenegro! For me to fly UK – Croatia when I did, it would have cost at least £120 one-way. Instead I flew UK-Berlin for £15, spent a night in a cheap hostel for €10 and then flew on to Podgorica for £10. The bus from Montenegro across to Dubrovnik then is super cheap! All in all it cost me max. £50 including the 1 night in Berlin 🙂

      And girl you’d be laughing AND crying in the museum – it’s such a hoot!

  12. I can relate with what you’ve experienced in Zagreb. You didn’t expect too much but it just became one of those places that you need to go back to. I experienced it too with one of my recent travels, at first I thought of it as just a gateway to another destination but as it turned out, there was so much to discover from that tiny city. I hope to visit Zagreb and check out the Mushroom Museum too.

  13. True! I’ve lost count of the number of Croatia posts you’ve put up on your blog! Lolz!!!
    Yeah, I too come from a city, so the glitz and glamour and lights of the city is actually a turn off for me!
    It does remind me of Italy with those cathedrals and statues! Let’s see if I get a chance to go too!

  14. I want to visit Croatia more with each post of yours I read. I loathe mushrooms but love that there’s a museum dedicated to them. That humpack whale graffiti is amazing.

    I kind of love seeing places in different seasons and light. Some of our less adventurous family who came to the wedding were utterly bemused by our lack of panic at the weather. I quite fancied photos of me in my wedding dress, stood in the middle of a grey lava field, obscured by fog. But they didn’t get it. They said it was ‘bleak’. And whilst I know what they mean, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with bleak.

  15. I visited Croatia for the first time 11 years ago from Australia and fell in love with it so much so have now been three times as is my favourite European country and the world. I have now covered all pockets of the country but there is so much to see you could spend months here. I have however discovered some amazing hidden treasures. Please Google image these and you will be booking another trip immediately. In Central Dalmatia the beautiful town of Betina on the island of Murter, Gorgeous Town of Sibenik and the Krka Falls, Primosten and Rogoznica. On the North coast the gorgeous town of Rovinj, slightly inland the hilltop Tuscany reminiscent towns of Motovun and Groznjan. Opatilja and the gorgeous island if Losinj. In the Northern interior and great day trips from Zagreb other than the amazing Plitvice Lakes you have Varazdin the Baroque former Croatian capital and the gorgeous castle setting of Trakoscan. The little village on waterfalls called Rastoke and the rolling hillside region of Zagorje with the town of Krapinja,which has the largest finds of Neanderthal remains in the world and an amazing museum. One thing that makes Zagreb awesome are it’s daytime options. Marija Bistrica and Samobor are two more great places to visit nearby and I hear it has more museums per capita than any other capital and from all reports they are awesome. Apparently there is even a stuffed frog museum in the country. Last but not least you can’t go to Croatia and not visit the beautiful island towns of Hvar and Korcula on the islands which carry the same names but my hidden treasure is Pucisca on the island of Brac and the island where they are now filming Mama Mia two called Vis. Croatia is just too beautiful they should just declare the whole country a UNESCO heritage site. Be sure to google all these for your jaw to drop.

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.