Trip Start Apr 01, 2011
Trip End Jan 26, 2012

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Friday, June 17, 2011

I just realized we are now in the middle of Europe! The weird places that you may not really think about when a person says "Europe"; the places that used to be communist not that long ago and that don't even show up on a map of the world or a globe made before the mid 1990’s!  Six months earlier, I don’t even think I could have named the capital of Croatia and now here we are in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia!

I have not figured out if we just happened to show up in Zagreb on the most awesome weekend of the year or if the 4 days we spent here are just normal life in Zagreb.  We picked up a bunch of maps and guides to the city and headed into the down town on a Saturday morning to follow the 90 minute walking tour of the lower town that was on a map we had.  It took us almost 5 hours to complete the 90 minute walk because of all the cool things we saw.  There were street performers doing acrobatics, bands playing, an antique car show, street side coffee shops, and a massive botanical garden that we could have spent an entire afternoon exploring.  Once we finished the walk through the lower town, we decided to head back to our hotel, pick up some food and have a picnic at the park across from our hotel.  We packed up a couple blankets, our picnic food, and our books and headed to the park.  We had explored the park a little bit the evening before and knew there was a small lake there so we set up close to the end of the lake, had our picnic, and read for a while.  After reading, we decided to take a walk and see where the music we kept hearing was coming from.  It turns out that there was a stage and beer tents set up on the other side of the lake and three different bands were performing a free concert.  Only one of the bands was playing anything in English and they were quite good, but even the other two bands were fun to watch and listen to them play and sing in Croatian.  As we were walking around the area where the bands and beer gardens were, we came across a few guys who had set up tightropes between some of the trees and were practicing tightrope walking.  After watching this for a while, I got to thinking “hey it doesn’t seem THAT hard,” so I went over and asked them if I could give it a try.  Well…  It turns out that it IS that hard.  I think I was able to get both feet on the rope for about of a second and actually taking a step was totally out of the question.  After giving it a couple tries with the same or worse results, I decided that if I wanted a career in the circus, I should work on being a clown car driver instead.  

Our next day started out similar with a trip in to town and a 60 minute walking tour of the upper town.  This time we were able to complete the 60 minute walk in only 2.5 hours.  In that time we watched a changing of the guards ceremony in front of the cathedral, saw a few historic buildings including the oldest operating pharmacy in Zagreb which has been in business in the same location since 1355 and visited a farmers market where we were able to pick up another picnic lunch.  Since we had such a great time at the park by our hotel the previous evening, we decided to head back there again with our picnic.  We were saddened to see that the stage was no longer set up at the lake so we just ate our lunch and started to read but then we heard music so we went for a walk.  It turns out that the stage was just moved over to another area of the park and this time in addition to live bands, they had a BBQ competition and more food tents to go with the beer tents.  The bands playing were different than the night before and the music was again very lively and completely in Croatian but it was still a lot of fun to hang out on a wonderful summer night, clap when the locals did, and pretend that we had a clue about what was going on.

Our last day in Zagreb was spent mostly planning our bus ride to Plitvice Lakes National Park the next day and finding a place to stay that was close to the lakes.  After a few trips between the tourism office to get information and McDonalds to make use of their free Internet, we were able to arrange a place to stay that was in walking distance to the national park entrance.  The entertainment for the evening was again at the park next to our hotel and that night they were showing a live broadcast of an opera being performed in Spain on a giant screen that was set up on a floating stage on the lake.  The opera was all in Italian but they had English subtitles so we were able to follow along.  The opera was being broadcast live to cities all over Europe as part of a “Day of European Culture,” and I found it a little interesting that the subtitles were only in English.  I guess that the people in Europe who don’t understand Italian or English just have to miss out on the culture.
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Carol on

Croatia...who would have thought that this country would be such a hot holiday destination

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