20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia

October 03, 2017
20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia

A city a day keeps the wanderlust at bay...
20 DAYS. 20 CITIES. 6 COUNTRIES.
AUSTRIA • SLOVENIA • CROATIA • BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA •  MONTENEGRO • ITALY

PART 4, DAYS 6 & 7: CHASING CROATIA IN ITS CAPITAL CITY OF ZAGREB

Croatia is a country that is very near and dear to my heart. So much so that I sometimes catch myself singing, to the tune of the famous Tourism Malaysia jingle: "Croatia, truly Aaaaasia!" (Wot). It's not that I know every nook and cranny of the country - far from it, my first and only (up to then) proper visit to Croatia was a sultry Summer of Love 2016 in Split. Rather, my affection for this gorgeous country is because someone close to me is half-Croatian, and their own embracing of their heritage (including egging me on to drink fiery shots of rakia) has made me also love Croatia by osmosis. 😚  Aside from Split, the only other time I had been to Croatia was passing through Dubrovnik to get to Montenegro 

I was more than ready to see more of Croatia than just the Dalmatian coast. So it was with eager anticipation that I left Ljubljana, Slovenia for another capital city - Zagreb🇭🇷




Arriving relatively late in Zagreb after a long drive, I was so looking forward to checking in...



◈ DAY 6 
SHERATON ZAGREB

I am well-acquainted with Starwood Hotels whether it's the W in Hong Kong, Amsterdam, or St Petersburg; or the St Regis Bangkok. As a Starwood Preferred Guest, I have seldom been let down by their hotels whether I'm in Europe or in Asia. Happily, the Sheraton Zagreb lived up to my standards of comfort, service, and what a 5 star hotel should be. The Sheraton Signature Bed was a dream to come home and sink into; the hotel's same-day laundry and dry-cleaning service, immaculate.

Both the Sheraton Zagreb's proximity to the city centre and the generously stocked breakfast buffet were incredibly convenient for my very short stay. The latter because I had to sacrifice culinary adventures for cultural offerings, so bulking up at breakfast filled me with much-needed fuel to walk non-stop around Zagreb. It's a shame I didn't have the time to enjoy more of the hotel including its wellness centre, but the few precious hours I spent reenergising in my Deluxe Room was worth every Kuna - and a bargain too, with rates from €100 a night.

SHERATON ZAGREB
  
20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia

◈ DAY 7 ◈
ZAGREB 360
ILICA 1A, 10000 ZAGREB

The first order of the day was to get my bearings. At 182 metres above sea level, Zagreb 360 is the best vantage point to see the city laid out like a Croatian charcuterie board ripe for picking. It's certainly my angle of choice to appreciate Croatia's tallest building - the gothic icon that is Zagreb Cathedral.  With a wraparound observation deck offering a full panorama; an air-conditioned lounge with hammocks, seating areas, and a bar plus unlimited entry with the Zagreb 365 Card, Zagreb 360 was one of the highest points of my city experience - in the figurative and literal sense.



20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia
Ban Jelačić Square - the centre of modern Zagreb social life - as seen from above...

...and from below.
20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia




 "...AND IT WAS ALL YELLOW... " 

It was only on ground level that I appreciated a detail of Zagreb: the more impressive buildings of the most historical and cultural significance are yellow. That would be one of Empress Maria Theresa's many legacies* from when Croatia was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire: having donated a princely (queens-ly?) sum to build a number of stately buildings throughout Zagreb, she had them painted "Habsburg yellow" to make her contribution as clear as a cloudless sky on a sunny day.

Rather handy for me, really - to have places of interest stand out like enormous, yellow dropped pins. My personal favourites were the Neo-Baroque and Rococo-style Croatian National Theatre (above) and the Art Nouveau exterior of the Art Pavillion (below). Also worth a nosy is the nearby (but not yellow) Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters for a fine art fix.

*Her other legacies being a) The only Habsburg #GirlBoss, b) The last ruler of the House of Habsburg, c) Perpetually pregnant for 18 years, and d) Mother of 16 royal rugrats including the infamous Marie Antoinette. 

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia

FUNICULAR FUNTIMES

Scream if you want to go faster

Having stomped my soles into dust all over the Lower Town, I wanted to give my tired (read: lazy) feet a break. Riding the funicular from Tomic Street to Upper Town seemed like a good idea. It has the word 'fun' in it! That's all the recommendation I need!

For the token sum of 4 Kuna (€0.50) I could enjoy the privilege of riding a form of public transport that enjoys the delightful, if wonderfully superfluous prestige of being the world's shortest cable car ride.

Yeah, the thing is...the funicular is a protected cultural monument; having kept its original shape, constructional and most of the technical properties since 1890, except for upgrading its steam engine to electrical engines in the '30s. That should've been the biggest clue that this was not going to be a comfortable journey, but I thought: "how hard could it be to endure the world's shortest cable car ride?" Turns out that even a mere 217 foot ascent feels like an eternity when crawling up one of the world's steepest, narrowest tracks in a rickety, tiny blue car. Good thing I didn't find out until after the ordeal that the funicular has been known to fail and passengers have had to push to get it going again...



20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia

I belched forth from the belly of the beast and found myself in Upper Town, where I quickly paid my respects to the Church of St Mark's (above) and popped over to Zagreb's most famous contemporary destination...

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia
MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS
ĆIRILOMETODSKA UL 2, 10000 ZAGREB

Judging by the long queue of international visitors, many of them young  and European, The Museum of Broken Relationships is arguably one of the attractions that put Zagreb on the map of cool continental capitals, making it an increasingly popular destination for city breaks. Of course it would - after all the language of love and heartbreak is universal.

"Given to me by an American "boyfriend" when I was 17 and inscribed "for ... who charmed the savage wolf". I didn't know that he would hound my parents for years, and would eventually have a sex change and steal their name for his new persona."
A BOB DYLAN TARANTULA BOOK 

On display are the corpses of dead relationships; laid bare in spartan, autopsy-like rooms, ready to be dissected. The objects in The Museum of Broken Relationships are relics that remain after a relationship ends, donated by broken hearts from all around the world.
20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia
THIS WAS SO UNCANNY IT WAS ACTUALLY PAINFUL FOR ME TO READ.
20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia
IF THE SHOE DOESN'T FIT... F*CK ME HEELS FROM A PIGALLE SEX SHOP


Ranging from the deliciously petty Toaster of Vindication ("When I moved out, and across the country, I took the toaster. That'll show you. How are you going to toast anything now?") to the satisfyingly savage Ex Axe to the downright soul-destroying, The Museum of Broken Relationships is more than just gratuitous 'tragedy porn'. The experience is raw, real, and intimate; filled with equal parts of comedy, despair, and vindication. It's not just about Bad Romance - The Museum of Broken Relationships also provides a platform for family relationships ripped asunder, for friendships lost, and for survivors of assault and abuse.

Initially, The Museum of Broken Relationships piqued my curiosity for the schadenfreude factor. However, I left with more sympathy and empathy than I expected for people I've never met but whose stories made me feel like they were friends confiding their deepest, darkest pains. Needless to say, The Museum of Broken Relationships is absolutely unmissable for even the most cold-hearted visitor to Zagreb. My friends stateside will be happy to hear that The Museum of Broken Relationships has recently opened a second location in Hollywood! 

You know what would be an absolutely brutal way to break up with someone? Take them on a "date" to the museum, then say to the staff *pointing at your soon-to-be-ex*: "Excuse me, I have something I'd like to donate to your collection..."

MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 4: Zagreb, Croatia

I had only just whet my appetite, not having sampled the city's culinary offerings and having only scratched the surface. But alas, it was already time to say goodnight to Zagreb and move on to the next Croatian chapter...

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