Pandemic travel: Zagreb in Croatia

I was dreading my trip through Dublin Airport. The news was full of horror stories of three hour waits to get through security at the airport. I arrived three hours  before my 9pm Ryanair flight. Having sailed through security in less than five minutes -which surprised me – what faced me after security was chaos. I had never seen so many people in the airport. Perhaps that is an exaggeration – throughout my extensive travels throughout the pandemic, I had perhaps become too accustomed to comfortable, deserted airports. Those days are clearly over. This was bedlam.

Museum of Broken Relationships

Landing after 1am I took a taxi to my city centre apartment and headed straight to bed in my top floor apartment, in a ten storey building.

Dolac Market

Friday was a day of walking. I visited the ‘Museum of Broken Relationships’ – a funny, poignant place examining the death of love. Located in the Upper Town of Croatia, it is located in the heart of the old city. Zagreb used to be two neighbouring, rival towns – the secular Grad where the museum is located and the religious Kaptol where the cathedral is located. I had lunch in the Dolac Market – the large farmer’s market, which is open seven days a week. If you live in the city it would be possible to avoid supermarket for most foodstuffs, thanks to this market. I wandered around the Grič Tunnel. This is an underground pedestrian tunnel located in the city centre. The tunnel was built during World War II to serve both as a bomb shelter and a promenade. After the war it fell into disrepair until the 1990s when it hosted one of the first raves in Croatia, and functioned as a shelter during the Croatian War of Independence. Now it is open to the public.

Grič Tunnel

Back in my apartment in the afternoon I met my landlady Anita and paid her for the use of her apartment. Some moments after she’d left the doorbell rang. It was Karlo – her 16 year old son.

‘Mom says you were looking for recommendations for places to see, and as my English is better than hers she sent me round,’ he said.

‘Oh I wasn’t actually, but I’d welcome recommendations’ I replied

He started laughing ‘I knew she was lying – she sent me round to practice my English’.

He gave me the name of a restaurant famous for local cuisine – the Stari Fijakker. I would dine there later.

Back to the centre I strolled. Unfortunately the imposing Catholic cathedral was closed to the public. It had been damaged in the 2020 earthquake. I visited the City Museum of Zagreb to learn some history. Having spent almost ten hours walking I made my way home at about 9.30pm to the horrible realisation that the lift was broken. I trudged upstairs in a morose state. I would sleep well that night.

National Theatre

Following Friday’s balmy 16 degree heat, I opened my curtains on Saturday morning to the sight of snow. Not fluffy, white snow though, this was sloppy, sleety snow. It quickly upgraded to rain. Inexplicably as I explored the city ‘Fog on the Tyne’ – the 1990 hit song by footballer Paul Gascoigne – became my soundtrack for the day. I sang it with a Geordie accent. I explored the Lower Town – built in the 19th century this part of town features grand boulevards and tree-lined streets. The Mimara Museum was closed. The Botanical Gardens were not. After six hours walking and drenched to the skin, I surrendered and made my way indoors to the cinema to see the latest Sandra Bullock film ‘The Lost City’. I couldn’t go back to the flat yet. The lift remained broken. When I went back I wouldn’t be going out again. As the film didn’t start for an hour, I decided to have a beer in the bar attached to a casino in the shopping mall. The first beer was on the house, announced the barmaid. She was betting that I would go gambling I reckon. Think again, I thought. I didn’t complain. Free beer is free beer.

St. Mark’s Church

Sunday was checkout day, The bus station was beside my lodgings which was convenient. Travel back to Dublin was uneventful. Landing in Dublin I dashed my through the airport. Outside I jumped on the number 41. Perfect timing.

Upon arrival in Swords I realised that I’d boarded the bus going in the wrong direction. Standing deflated and suitably chastened on a roadside in Swords, I decided that a return visit to Croatia would be welcome.

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