Days 269 to 270 - Reuniting in Zagreb/Fall Season

Trip Start Jan 10, 2011
Trip End Jan 08, 2012

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

We awoke more to the vibration than the sound of the jackhammers themselves. Evidently the hotel was doing some excavation in the basement.  They started at 8am but we weren't too put out since we had planned to rise about this time to get into Zagreb and check into our hostel before meeting Mia’s Mom & Stepdad.

Breakfast was a collection of hot and cold, eggs and sausages with cold cuts and hearty bread (very 'mountain’).  The ride into Zagreb was clear of traffic but not of weather as brooding clouds of dark rolled in.  We found the area of our hostel with an normal amount of figuring (observation & educated guesses) but actually arriving at the hostel proved more difficult having to contend with a labyrinth of 1 way streets.

We settled in for a 2 night stay and got our hatchback organized for the next 2 weeks in Croatia.  Mia worked on some photo stuff while Eli magyvered a solution to the broken security flap/hatchback cover in our car.  When we set out, the light rain had turned into a downpour.

As we drove downtown, the inclement weather (and shoddy wipers) upped the ante of driving in a new city.  Without too much trouble we found the hotel where Mia’s folks were staying.  In fact their bus had just arrived and we met them in the lobby.  There were tears – of joy – and we hung out with them catching up while the rooms and then bags were organized.  They are travelling with a tour and we worked out a rough idea of when we will hook up and when we will travel separately.   

We ventured outside for some fresh air but only lasted about 30 minutes as it sprinkled rain amid a persistent wind and the coolest temperatures we’ve had yet.  We reassured the new arrivals that the weather in Croatia was not all this gloomy this time of year!

It was Friday night and Saturday was the holiday celebrating independence and it seemed as though many people had vacated the core.  Just as were about to head back to the hotel Mia poked her head down an alley and into a quaint basement pub where we had dinner.  The atmosphere was cozy and our server friendly as we ate freshly made gnocchi and breaded chicken and sampled the best Croatian (so far).  Eli & Mia shared a strudel for dessert – this time apple with vanilla drizzle – not quite as good as last night but still tasty to be sure.

We exchanged anecdotes from our trip and eagerly listened to updates on family and friends from home.  The new arrivals were tired from their travels and we walked them back to their hotel before seeking out an adventure store (a la M.E.C. aka Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada).  Unfortunately they didn’t have what we were looking for but gave us some suggestions.

Mia did a great job navigating our way back to the hostel while Eli masterfully kept the car on the road while avoiding pedestrians bursting out of the blackness and the confounding tram lanes. On one occasion a tram was coming at us BETWEEN two lanes of traffic going the other way (our way) as we rounded a corner.  The tram was well off but signaled our apparent error with a loud horn.  That is the last time we follow a student driver assuming it is legal and safe! 

We made it back to our hostel but were really glad we knew where we were going because finding it in the dark would have been a mission!

The next day we walked around Zagreb while Tony & Marina toured the area with their group.  We parked at their hotel, downtown, and walked up into the pedestrian zone of the old city.  The main square was pleasantly busy with couples and tourists bundled up for a walk in the fresh autumn air.  Up the steps we walked through the market with healthy & vibrant fruits and vegetables and of course touristic trinkets.

Up another few short staircases we emerged in front of an impressive catherdral, one of a number of churches we admired in this city.  There were also monuments to famous politicians (recent and more historic) set about the old city.  We stopped at a pub called the Tolkien House where Eli had a very appetizing pint of the house beer while Mia enjoyed an absolutely exquisite hot chocolate: made with melted chocolate and cream!

The patio culture in Zagreb was obvious with multiple pedestrian only streets lined with outdoor areas decorated in nice ‘teak’ outdoor furniture invariably sponsored by one beer company or another.  We stopped in one that seemed local, they had their own brewery and enjoyed a few pints and a snack.  Eli had a ‘bear claw’ which was basically small sausages on a  bun with the protruding tips ‘resembling’ the claws of a bear: a popular local animal though they no longer habitat in the woods surrounding Zagreb’s suburbs.

We met up with Tony & Marina at their hotel and feasted on the buffet dinner.  After dinner we walked together into the city centre and perused the lively scenes as the patios had filled up despite the 8 degree weather.  Curiously some places were smoke free (patio excepted) while others promoted the fact that they were a smoking establishment.  We selected our patio based on the lack of active smokers and enjoyed a dark Croatian beer and some coffee & tea. 

We said goodbye and made plans for tomorrow to follow their tour bus and meet them at lunch.
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