No, it wasn’t a comfortable night at all: there were just enough people on the train to make stretching out properly an impossibility and the sauna-level heating meant that some of us wanted the windows open while others wanted them closed. At least I managed to dry my jeans which had had to be rinsed in the station bathroom after getting covered in sugar syrup from an upturned carton of baklava pastries. Not so humorous, however, was the feeling of arriving in a new city at 6am: fatigued, aching all over, without even enough cash for the toilets and without much of an immediate plan. To say that we were not really “in the zone” would be an understatement.

Given the choice of admitting defeat, getting on another train to “anywhere” or pulling ourselves together to explore the city centre we thankfully chose the latter. A headachy exploration of the station yielded a cashpoint, breakfast, clean wash-rooms and not-too-difficult-to-operate left-luggage lockers and so, with the addition of a couple of painkillers for poor old Aunty Nicola’s aching joints, we were good to go. Izzy snapped a successful picture of me running away after planting Boris in a flower pot in front of the civic fountains and we headed off into the old town to visit the cathedral the market place and the historic Upper Town. Not very original, I grant you, but we had to start somewhere.

It quickly became apparent that Zagreb suffers from a “Confusion of Museums”, there are so many within a small area that its hard not to think the city is going for some sort of a record while the finger-posts on the directional signs go down all the way down to the ground. This municipality boasts a Mushroom Museum, a Torture Museum, an Eighties Museum (whatever that is) and a Museum of Broken Relationships as well as all the standard artistic, historical and artistic fare. We decided that we would not be able to do justice to the choice and resolved to leave them all for another visit. The Gothic cathedral was magnificent and the busy market square supplied all sorts of fresh fruit for our next picnic and an extremely helpful “stew bundle” of vegetables and herbs which would make a delicious and warming evening meal at our next hostel stop.

One of the most distinctive things about the city is that it is built on two levels, connected by one of the world’s shortest funicular railways. Now that it has been electrified the total journey time is 64 seconds and, given that the earlier steam driven version broke down so frequently it was rarely in operation, one wonders why the 19th century burghers of Zagreb even bothered. We climbed the equivalent height of 100 feet (that’s feet not meters!) without even getting out of breath and were greeted by the arresting sight of St Mark’s square. The 13th century church was closed to visitors but the outside is a marvel. Its walls display the oldest coat of arms in the city, the South door a beautiful Gothic portico created in the 15th century by artisans all the way from Prague and the 19th century tiled roof is resplendent with crests picked out in the national colours of white, blue and red.

We dodged the tourist shops on the way down and stopped at a small and rather ordinary cafe (the more exotic sounding Tree House had recently closed down and the Witches Brew turned out to be a bistro) and made our way back to the station for the 1236h to Ljubljana and country number eight. I can’t say we really did justice to the city but at least it has been elevated in my consciousness to more than just the first railway station offering a proper service after the journey up from Greece. Maybe one day some of those museums will tempt me back.

Categories: Europe

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