Zagreb, Croatia

I know I am way behind on this thing, but being on a boat, or on land but without any functioning equipment, makes it difficult. Finally got to a hostel with free internet and no demand from the other tenants, so here’s something from today.

Last night I met up with a couple of people I’d met in the hostel’s common room – Mike and Dominique (both Canadian)(not a couple). Really nice people good to talk to over a couple of beers after dinner. Ran into Mike again this morning and wandered aimlessly around Zagreb with him for a few hours, pastries, and coffees.

Checked email and printed out flight itineraries (I’m flying to Cork, Ireland, tomorrow, more on that later) at an internet cafe across the street – tired of the dodgy sticky keyboard at the hostel. While there I heard Jelena, the young woman running the place, recommend something to one of the other patrons, so on a whim I thought I would ask her for suggestions about Croatian music to buy. All I needed was the name of a store: I left an hour later with the names of 2 jazz clubs and their acts for tonight, an appointment with “Marko” at a music store across the square, and a CD full of Croatian and Bosnian MP3s.

And a recommendation for lunch, which at 16:00 I finally got around to: Stuffed peppers (wish mom could have seen me order, eat, and enjoy that, given that I never liked it when she would fix it for me as a child), potatoes, and an Ožujsko pivo.

It has been an awesome day. Walking and talking with Mike, chatting with Jelena at the internet cafe about Croatian music, listening to a 1/2 dozen bands with Marko at the Profil music store. I was only going to get 1 or 2 CDs for me, and one for Kamila (my host in Cork) as a gift: I’ve now got FOUR for me and two more for her! It’s really cool music: Afion, Tamara Obrovac, Darko Rundek, and Mizar, which I think is a neat mix of fairly radically different styles.

Marko didn’t have the one CD I’d gone in looking for, so he sent me to another store down the street, Aquarius. The man there showed me to the CDs I was seeking, then asked if he could help with anything else. My luck had been pretty damn good so far, so I decided to press it, and said “sure, got anything like this <pointing to the ones in my hand>” He handed me one, Afion, and put it in the player for me to sample. It was awesome. I knew after the first few notes that I liked it, and after two tracks I knew I would buy it for me and another copy for Kamila. Unfortunately he only had one in stock, so back to Marko for the second.

I’ve let my entire day be guided by strangers, not to mention dropping nearly 100 euros on CDs, and it has been fabulous. It’s great to have time to just chill out in a music store listening to different bands, talking with the salesperson, getting their informed suggestions. Good food from their favorite places. I haven’t looked at my guidebook since sometime yesterday, and I’ve barely needed a map – I’ve been over the streets of central Zagreb enough to know where things are. Neat place, in a calm way. There is not much where you say “oooh, wow”, but it’s just comfortable. There are so many cafes with tables on the sidewalks and pedestrian streets… really cool.

And now I’m off to a famous pastry place for some cake and coffee. :-)

20:07, sitting at “Ivica i Marica”, a well-known patisserie, eating a chocolate raspberry cake made with “healthy” ingredients like whole-wheat flour, and having a coffee. The guidebook – and Jelena – recommended this place for the good food and mildly-kitschy-yet-lovable folk costumes the staff wears. Nobody mentioned that the girls are cuter than heck too in those outfits. I guess I was expecting large old matrons, not young ladies in Croatian folk garb. Mental note to return in the heat of summer to see what the uniform is then.