Last month we met up with an old friend in Croatia’s capital and largest city, Zagreb. We’ve known Meagen since high school (middle school?) days so it was amazing to see her before she moves out of Europe.
Where is Zagreb?
About a three hour drive from Pápa, we drove through a very rural portion of Hungary, which was beautiful, albeit bumpy AF, before crossing into Croatia:
Zagreb is officially my new favorite city. The Roman town of Andautonia (1st-5th century AD) was the first settlement near the now developed city; the first mention of Zagreb dates all the way back to 1094 AD. Here’s the legend behind Zabreb’s name:
Somewhere in the early eleventh century, a young lad decided to leave his home and become a wandering knight. He spent many years on adventures throughout the area, doing good deeds with his wit and sword. Once he was going through a dark forest in the vicinity of Bear Mountain. As it came to be, he lost his way and became mortally thirsty.
There was no stream or pond to save him, and he sat in the dirt hoping for rain. Then, all of the sudden, a beautiful maiden came out of nowhere. At that moment, he was so thirsty he could barely speak, but the girl couldn’t help him as she wasn’t carrying any water. However, she advised the knight to dig on the place of his respite.
“Zagrebite!” said the girl. Or, in English if you wish, “Scratch it!” she yelled, pointing at the dirt below the knight’s feet. The young man scratched the ground to soon find water pouring from the shallow hole he dug.
The adventurer thought young girl was of elven kind, but she introduced herself as a poor human orphan, without anybody of her own. Her name was Mandusa. The young lad smiled, named the stream Mandusevac , and asked for her hand in marriage, with promises of building a huge city in which they would dwell. As she accepted, rays of sunlight engulfed the pair, and through some kind of enchantment, showed them the size and fame of the town in the future.
Therefore, Zagreb literally means “The place which is scratched,” while its heart, Mandusevac fountain on Jelacic square, is the place it was founded.
All the hearts emojis.
Back to our visit:
Museum of Torture:
We visited the Museum of Torture, a last minute decision that I’m glad we were able to fit into our weekend. The museum was small but scary; it’s insane to me how much time and effort humans go through to inflict pain on each other.
They also had a friendly version of the Chokey from Matilda–which if you haven’t seen you need to reassess your life–but I’ll provide an illustration for you:
Museum of Broken Relationships:
The Museum of Broken Relationships was one of my favorite spots in Zagreb. I love using stories as a narrative to share experiences (historical, cultural, etc) to connect people to others. While this museum might sound depressing–in some ways it was–I really enjoyed reading these stories. The exhibits encouraged a lot of reflection and discussion around identities, family, love, and justice.
This donation was one of the most powerful on display:
British Square Market:
I wish I would have taken more pictures of the market but I was so overwhelmed and surprised by the sheer number of people selling old things! Of course I was in heaven and wanted to buy everything. We randomly ran into our market on the way to breakfast and there were so many amazing treasures to see.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to buy any Croatian treasures (and Chris was getting crabby because he wanted to eat) but now I have an excuse to go back.
Chris loved the fact that you could smoke basically anywhere in Zagreb. We went to a number of awesome places to eat and have a drink.
We grabbed coffee near our apartment both here and the Treehouse Cafe. The Irish coffee at Treehouse was delicious.
A majority of the food (and mimosas) we enjoyed were between the two Kava Tava locations in Zagreb. The first, near our apartment, played the best smooth jazz versions of 2000s pop songs, which Meg and I happily sang while devouring this banana and chocolate dessert.
Vegetable panini, egg sandwich, and banana/chocolate tower
While enjoying breakfast at the first Kava Tava we noticed they had a second “airplane themed” location near the British Square. We found our way (after the great market distraction of 2017) and once inside Meagen basically yells at the hostess: “YES IS THIS THE AIRPLANE RESTAURANT?!”
When she asked if we wanted to sit in their repurposed airline rows, of course we enthusiastically nodded.
Otto & Frank:
We had a couple of dinners at nearby Otto & Frank. A cute restaurant with great coffee, Chris and Meagen had wings one night while I enjoyed this flatbread:
Tommy’s Street Burgers: (Tkalciceva Street)
If I didn’t have a photo to prove its existence, I would have thought this burger was all a dream. While wandering down Tkalciceva Street we came across a small street vendor selling diner-esque burgers and fries. A super tiny spot, we came back later that night to order and alas they were closed. Heartbroken, the next day we made sure we were there in time to order. Honestly, the absolute best seitan burger. Homemade and with fries, it was my favorite meal of Zagreb. Tommy’s isn’t listed anywhere except this list of best burgers, but I promise it exists.
The Cookie Factory:
Located on Tkalciceva, the Cookie Factory was the cutest dessert shop we stopped at.
We stopped at so many places on Tkalciceva and Radiceva that I can’t list them all but a few of our favorites included Destino, Valhalla Metal Bar (Croatian metal bands yaaasssss), and basically any bar on Tkalciceva.
I can’t wait to go back.
It is absolutely insane to me that 15 years ago Meagen and I were part of the JV Cheerleading squad in a small town in Ohio, and now we are wandering around Croatia. Crazy.
It’s been a long February. Power through my friends. It’s almost March.