Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, that country shaped like a boomerang. It is pronounced zah’-grrib. The second syllable is short and the r is a bit rolled. I had a waiter work on it with me until I got it right. I liked Zagreb and thought it deserved a post on account of all those who said, “Why are you going to Zagreb? There is nothing there.” But there is.

The Modern Art Gallery is quite good; I liked the cheerful, three-legged woman standing on the second floor landing. In Muzej Mimara is a statue of a Greek athlete estimated from 290-360 BC found in 1998 by a Belgian diver in the Aegean Sea. I’m told the fashion of wearing a necktie originated in Croatia. Cravata means neck tie and Karaka means pirate. Hmm.

A fun operetta, The Reluctant Bride, filled the National Theater while I was there. It had English subtitles too. The theater is one of those dreamy buildings of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; it was built in 1895. It had no center aisle. As I sat next to one end, I just waited for the crowd to file in after intermission; there was no point taking my seat.

And you can have a drink at a sidewalk cafe overlooking the National Theater. This is made better even still as having a coffee takes at least 45 minutes in Croatia. That is just the way it is. In fact, forty-five minutes in, the locals will still be stirring their coffee. I was there during the C’est is D Best Festival, awesome street entertainment in many venues. That was lucky.

The Botanical Garden is a good picnic spot. At a pond there, you can watch turtles and frogs from a foot bridge. Not your average urban pastime. I asked museum staff for restaurant recommendations. One retort that resonates is—“Unfortunately, I don’t eat at restaurants.” Zagreb is a good place to get picnic lunches at the grocery market.

At one market, there were no rolls and I ended up buying a quarter loaf. But it was good bread. At another market, I tried ordering two slices of meat and came away with close to half a pound. But if  you practice your Croatian ahead of time better than I did, you might get just what you want.

Even with my limited vocabulary, people who told me they didn’t understand me generally ended up helping me with more English than Croatian words. I think my lack of proficiency made bold those otherwise self-conscious types. Zagreb is friendly toward its tourists. Give it a try.

Click for a map of Croatia.

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