Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thoughts on Zagreb

Zagreb is a compact, beautiful city of which there are two parts; the old and the new. The new is as one would think; new high-rise business buildings much like we have in the U.S. The old is divided into two parts (high and low - according to the terrain) of which one is controlled by the Church with all their buildings and monuments and the other which was the "political" side of town. The old town was once divided by a stream of water which has since been filled in and a lovely old cobblestone street with shops, restaurants and sidewalk cafe after sidewalk cafe is present.

As I said, they have a lot of sidewalk cafes which people are addicted to. My hostess, Joan, said many are the "in places" where people go to see and be seen! They have a local magazine dedicated solely to the activities of those in the "in" crowd and she says the paparazzi hangs around various cafes to snap photos of those people. The magazine is called Glory or Gloria according to Joan. Haven't seen it yet, but Honduras has an equivalent on the mainland. Many of these sidewalk cafes have big, comfortable looking chairs which are protected from the sun and rain by umbrellas, a few have your standard metal chairs.

Joan, doesn't speak much Croatian but can can get by with a collection of rudimentary words. I learned the word for "thank you" (Hvala - H is silent), but to me the Croatian language sounds like a collection of Italian and Slavic, however I heard a Spanish word the other day!

Weather has been cool but tolerable....London was just too cold, about 45 degrees when I landed. It is warmer here, at least it was when I arrived. Yesterday a cold front came through bringing overcast skies, light rain and on the chilly side. I would guess about 55 degrees as I did not see a thermometer anywhere telling the temperature. But, I'm enjoying the experience and am looking forward to the rest of my trip and meeting up with my son in Germany. Just wish I would have brought another pair of long pants with me!

I have been very impressed with their transportation; that being a tram which runs on rails and by electricity, or the other mode: a fuel-powdered "stretch bus". They are frequent and many stops are located around the city. At some stops they actually have an electronic sign telling you how many minutes away the bus is. Out of all the people boarding, Joan seems to be the only one paying! She thinks students can ride free but this is only confirmed by the number of students that get on the bus and don't pay! She also thinks the elderly can ride free. However, this still leaves us with the "middle of the road" group and in two days of using the bus line, I have only seen one other couple pay. You enter the bus and about 2' behind the driver is a small machine that you insert a strip of paper into which has been purchased at kiosks near the bus stops. The machine stamps a date on the paper and, evidentially, the strip is useful for more than one trip. David (Joan's husband) says that if anyone is caught (I guess by the bus Nazi - and I should not use this word here as communism fell here in 1990 I believe) they are fined 100 Kuno (the current exchange is 5 Kunos for $1 U.S.). Plus, blessed relief! There are not a thousand taxis running around town, beeping their horns every chance they get as in LaCeiba or San Pedro which means the noise level is a lot more tolerable!

Finally saw a "Smart Car". This vehicle is a small, two-seater car which is meant for short distances and, evidentially, very economical. I have yet to see a gas station and suspect they must be on the outer limits of town as everyone in town uses the bus, tram or walks. Oh, there are cars driving around but I believe they are coming in from the outskirts, especially in the morning when they come into work. Of course the old City having been built a long time ago did not take into account cars and parking. Most people who park their vehicle on the side streets position it half on the sidewalk and half on the street which appears to be an accpted policy - at least by the citizens. Once in a while the police or someone from traffic control goes around, picks a car from random that is parked thusly and it is towed away. The individual incurs a heavy fine, towing charges and storage charges!

The city is very clean and in the process of renovating a lot of old buildings here. Since there are a lot of old, baroque buildings, many of them are in various stages of renovation. Those under renovation are usually covered with a large tarp or a special type of plastic hung from framework. On the majority of the coverings there may be printed the name of the manufacturer of the material. However, in the City Square one building that had just recently completed its renovation had a tarp on the front with a painting of how the building would ultimately look. Next to it were two more buildings under tarps but both of these display large ads for clothing - really tacky I think. (You can see the signage behind the photo of the statute pictured below.)

I have not seen an over abundance of the "military-type" statutes I believe I will see in Germany and Italy, but they have their share of huge monuments to war heroes or beloved leaders. They also have a lot of various sculptures around the city - old and modern. The one in the City Square is of some famous individual on a horse with his sword drawn. Most people refer to it as "The Horse" as in, "I'll meet you at the Horse."

Evidentailly, there was an anticipated election coming up the second day I was here and in one part of the square was a poster displayed which was strongly against Communisim. It depicted the face of Stalin, Lenin and another individual in the middle that who, unfortuntely with my lack of world affairs, I did not recognize. It was covered in swaths of "blood" and human skulls.

There are banks, phone stores, clothing stores, restaurants, ice cream stores, a modern department store, museums, an Opera house, government buildings; everything you would expect in a modern city with an old flair. One store still puzzles me.....

Here is its picture with the name on the front. Have no idea what was inside!


  1. You mean Diesel? Isn't that a brand name? Watches or clothes or something like that.

  2. I did not know what it was. I was told that it was some type of clothing after the fact! Who in their right mind names a clothing shop Diesel???
    Guanaja Sharon

  3. The pictures are great!!! You are off to a great start on your trip!!
    Sharon S.