Vote Charlie!

Relaxing week in Zagreb

Posted at age 26.
Created . Edited .

My stay in Croatia was a bit different than the other stops so far, as it was the first time I stayed by myself instead of with a friend. I ended up doing less than I imagined I would, but it was relaxing, and I saw some sights at least.

Last week I emailed my dad asking for any information he knew about our family history, as some of my ancestors were from Croatia. He gave me the names of some relatives and towns, and I checked that it would be feasible to get to them.


I started talking on the apps to a few people from Zagreb, hoping I’d find someone who might want to accompany me on a little exploration. I also rented an apartment using Airbnb a few days before I arrived.

Then the Tuesday came (I’ve been traveling every Tuesday for weeks now), after I spent Monday night at a Roman airport. I was quite tired, and had to transfer at Frankfurt.


On the way to Frankfurth from Rome


My first sighting of a German town


Frankfurt airport is so big they don't have enough gates for all the planes. Though there were also buses in Italy and Croatia so far.


If disaster strikes, this simple chart will get you to safety in no time at all. —Frankfurt Airport.

Due to high winds, the flight to Zagreb was delayed nearly three hours. Unfortunately the delay wasn’t announced until after most of the passengers boarded, so we got to sit on the plane for five hours for less than two hours of flying. It was a good thing I ate a sandwich and a chocolate muffin at the airport!


We are already late to leave Frankfurt for Zagreb, and the captain won't open the door!


I ended up giving this seat away to a very nervous and timid German woman, but man, the leg room! They converted this row to an exit row, so to make room for the door, they had to remove a seat. It was a little awkward to reach your tray table though.

Once I finally got to Zagreb, I was somewhat concerned about meeting my host, since even though I built in some buffer, agreeing to meet at 16:00, I still ended up two hours late getting there. I hoped it wouldn’t be a big deal and I could text, but of course getting data on my phone was not as smooth here as it had been at other places.

I didn’t see a phone company at the airport, so I asked the information desk. They told me I could buy a SIM card at the shop down the way. I asked the man, and after some awkwardness, he understood what I wanted. The SIM card didn’t come in the nano size, but I had a punch with me, so that wasn’t a big deal. It only cost $3, so clearly it didn’t come with any sort of plan. I tried to ask him if I could buy credit, but he semed to say I had to go elsewhere. So I put it in my phone, but as expected, I hadn’t any service yet.

So I headed to the bus stop. I probably could have figured out which bus went to town if I looked harder, but instead I passed by all the airport buses and just walked to the stop indicated on my Google map. The stop was almost a mile from the airport, and I had to walk on grass part of the way, so I don’t think people are actually expected to make that trek. I assume I at least saved a bunch of euros using the city bus instead of the airport coach buses.


Walking from Zagreb airport to the bus stop, a trek that I guess wasn't intended for tourists. But it reduces the cost of the bus about 20 fold.


Where I approached an old man, showed him my phone, and asked if it was the right place for the 268 bus. It was, and he managed to convey that it would cost me 10 kuna. Phew, I had no idea what to do, but it worked out!

Once the bus arrived at the point I was to transfer to the tram, I was slightly unsure where I was going, but managed to find it by following the crowd. Next I figured I had to buy a ticket for the tram, but was unsure where to buy. There were little candy and soda shops near the tram, but it didn’t seem official, so it didn’t occur to me that was where I was supposed to buy tickets. I thought I’d just buy it on board… but then ended up seeing many people apparently not buying tickets, so I just didn’t.

Twenty minutes later, I was at my stop, and I hopped out. I didn’t even need to find some switch or button to open the door, as this tram opened automatically on every stop. Other ones in this city didn’t, though.

Finding the apartment was straightforward, though once I got there and rung the bell, there was apparently nobody around. I didn’t see anyone waiting in nearby cars, so I waited a while. I couldn’t hear if the bell was actually working, so I started knocking as well, but there was no response. It was already after 6 and starting to get dark, so I decided to head back into town on foot and look for somewhere to buy credit for the SIM card. I walked 30 minutes and found one of those candy and soda stands, and asked the woman about SIM card credit. We had a hard time understanding each other, but she figured out what I needed and I paid the roughly $8 for the minimum amount of credit. I applied it to my account by calling a number from my SIM card package, and entering the code from the receipt I just received. But no Internet came. After going through the limited menu options a few times and determining there was no way to activate data without help, I started going through whatever emails were cached on my phone. Thankfully, I located the Airbnb host’s phone number, which I didn’t specifically save, and called him.

He answered, but I found out he didn’t actually speak English, despite messaging me online in English. He had his friend call me back, and I found out the guy lives next door and was home all along. If only I knew that before, or had the wifi password so I could have connected once I arrived… oh well. I eventually got in, so it worked out.

The apartment was very nice, especially compared to my expectations after walking down the funny little street to get to it, as many of the nearby buildings were sort of crumbly. It was also close to the tram line.


The place I stayed in Zagreb, which I found on [Airbnb](

Later that night, I met up with a friend I found online and he showed me the grocery store and a bakery shop.

The grocery store was fairly small, but had all the essentials. I wanted to buy some snacks at least for my friend, as thank you for coming out and helping me, but he refused. So I filled my basket with a bunch of random lunch meat, pasta, yogurt and more, which apparently looked like a weird selection based on his reaction. Then I checked out, awkwardly, as the man said the price in Croatian, and I asked my friend to translate. I paid with cash and put what I could in my messenger bag. It wasn’t clear to me if the cashier, a grey haired man in his fifties, was going to bag the remaining items or not, so I asked my friend. The bags were hanging on the outside of the register, it turned out, so I grabbed one and bagged the stuff myself. I guess I was supposed to announce this in advance so he could charge me for the bag, but I’m not sure I did that in time. Overall, I felt a bit unappreciated, as I thought my confusion was more than made up for by the fact I was making a rather large purchase, and no one was in line behind me. But the man seemed pretty cold, and didn’t say anything after giving me the change and letting me walk out. But my friend said that is typical, and it doesn’t mean he was annoyed with me.

Then we went to a bakery on the way home. The stuff was apparently made that morning and not kept warm, and I didn’t have a way to heat the food in my apartment, so that was not ideal. I ended up heating the cheese bread thing on the radiator, which only sort of worked. My friend’s selection was very hard, so he didn’t eat it.


My first Croatian dinner. Sort of.

After he helped me set up my phone, potentially unsuccessfully, he went home before the last transit.

For the next few days, I didn’t do much other than focus on work, which was fine, as the weather was somewhat cold. One person I was talking to told me he’d love to help me investigate my heritage, as he had helped someone do that kind of thing before. He also had a car, and mentioned we might be able to drive to some of those places my dad mentioned. He thought maybe Sunday or Monday, depending on Easter plans. So that seemed cool.


A Zagreb bus ticket

As the weekend neared, I expected to hang out with my friend again on the weekend and explore Zagreb together, but he let me know Thursday or Friday he had to go home for the weekend for Easter. I tried to find another friend, but everyone I talked to on Grindr and PlanetRomeo had Easter plans with family. Since I was running out of food and clearly wasn’t going to get any dinner plans, I went back to the same grocery store and made another awkward purchase. At least this time I knew how to handle the bag situation. The women working there did stare at me while I walked around. I usually would think this is because I look like a foreigner, but knowing I was in the land of my ancestors, I wondered if they could even tell I was a foreigner. Perhaps they just thought I looked like a troublemaker.

Friday afternoon, I went for a run to the nearby Maksimir Park, which is the oldest park in Zagreb, founded in 1787. It has undergone some development since then. There are some lakes that I don’t think are natural; perhaps they are dams. But they are very nice, and there are both gravel and dirt paths, established and less established. There are even some steeper hills, so it’d be fine for trail running and training, though I didn’t run that extensively there.


Running near Park Maksimir


Running near Park Maksimir


Running near Park Maksimir


Running near Park Maksimir


Running near Park Maksimir


Park Maksimir


Park Maksimir


Park Maksimir


Park Maksimir


Croatia has its own obelisk, like the many in Rome, but this one was not taken from Egypt.


Observing the observation tower in Park Maksimir


I saw lots of green carpet outside businesses in Zagreb


This one street was slanted, so all the restaurants built platforms for people to sit on an even surface.

The Airbnb listing said it had a washing machine (and a hot tub!), but I didn’t want to bother the friend to ask about it, and slightly suspected it wasn’t true. I opted to just wash my clothes in the sink. I thought it wouldn’t take long, but I ended up spending a good 45 minutes on it, scrubbing, soaking and rinsing… and then finding places to hang everything, and cleaning up the water all over the floor. I now value washing machines and driers even more than I did previously!


Doing the laundry

Saturday I went for a sight seeing walk so I could take photos of some of Zagreb before I left the country. Since I didn’t have any friends to show me around, I googled some photo spots (Top 5: Alternative Spots in Zagreb) before leaving and settled on some destinations. I emailed myself a screenshot of the map I plotted with all the stops, since I wasn’t sure if I had data service yet or if it would work. It was a good thing, as I ended up navigating mostly based on that screenshot all day.

So I set out with my audiobook and raincoat, because yes, it was raining.


Walking around Zagreb


Walking around Zagreb


Walking around Zagreb

The first stop was a prominent graveyard, Mirogoj. I was surprised half the graves had flowers and candles, many of them lit, but then I decided it must have to do with it being the day before Easter. I did see a number of people walking around, mostly older, who were apparently visiting decaying relatives.


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard


Graveyard garbage


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard

I happened upon a part of the cemetery without the giant stone boxes, but rather some marker stones that were more familiar to me. Most graves I’ve seen in the states are the standing gravestone type, but usually there are also some smaller stones that are more like plaques lying on the ground. That’s what these were, but I couldn’t tell what these people had in common.


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard

Nearby I found an area marked as a German military cemetery, apparently containing soldiers from the world wars, though the sign said this was opened to the public only in 1996. The area was rather beautiful, not containing an array of gravestones, but rather it was a large grassy area with a few random cross shaped stones in threes. Around the outside and at the center were large metal sheets with the names of all the 2000 of so commemorated souls.


The German military cemetery within Mirogoj graveyard, where the dead are a reminder of peace.


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard

Then I continued on, sort of cutting across to exist the graveyard, even though there was tons I didn’t see yet.


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard

I did find another place with some larger monuments, like this one that marked a mass grave for some assorted people of nearby countries.


The Tomb of the Fallen Warriors in the Mirogoj cemetery, which has three rooms holding about 110 Austrians, 450 Hungarians and 2800 “Slavs and other nations”. In 1994, some proud Croatians placed a plaque honoring the fallen Croatian soldiers, not realizing who is actually buried here.


The Tomb of the Fallen Warriors in the Mirogoj cemetery, which has three rooms holding about 110 Austrians, 450 Hungarians and 2800 “Slavs and other nations”. In 1994, some proud Croatians placed a plaque honoring the fallen Croatian soldiers, not realizing who is actually buried here.

Then I spotted a neat church building that was also apparently at an exit point, so I headed there. I got a glimpse of the vast expanse of graves I was missing, and it looked like a lot of the same, so I didn’t feel horrible about moving on. I’d also feel weird about spending all day in a graveyard, especially when I’ve never gone to visit my own ancestors wherever they lie. I should ask about that next time I’m home.


I wouldn't mind having a sleeping lion marking my grave.


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard


Exploring Mirogoj graveyard

Continuing on, my next destination was… another graveyard, as it happens: Jurjevsko groblje.


It looks like a weather station, but it says “Institute of Public Health” on it…


Walking around Zagreb


Walking around Zagreb


Walking around Zagreb


A little further down the hill from Jurjevsko groblje


The so called forgotten graveyard of Zagreb, Jurjevsko groblje


The so called forgotten graveyard of Zagreb, Jurjevsko groblje


The so called forgotten graveyard of Zagreb, Jurjevsko groblje

Next I headed to the supposed nearby Tuskanac summer cinema, but I didn’t find it.


Walking around Zagreb


Walking around Zagreb


Apparently the Embassy of Spain in Zagreb


I was looking for the Tuskanac summer cinema, an outdoor theater, but I failed.


Useful information for those embarking on this trail.


Walking around Zagreb


Walking around Zagreb

Having given up on the outdoor theater and not having a working map, I forged on to St. Mark’s, an apparently famous church with a cool tiled roof. I could say I’d heard of it, but I would probably be lying. It was indeed cool, though. There were also some touristy things in the area, and I saw some groups walking around, but the cold and rain prevented me from looking around as much as I would have otherwise. I wasn’t feeling up to spontaneously going to some museum things alone, either; sigh.


Walking around Zagreb


St. Mark's


Zagreb apparently uses diagonal bars, unlike in Portugal and Italy

Next I went down the hill to a pedestrian street called Tkalciceva. It didn’t seem super old or that fascinating… mostly newer style shops and restaurants, but it was nice, and there were more tourists there than I’d seen anywhere else so far. I think there are some hotels around there, and I saw at least one hostel.


Walking around Zagreb


My first sighting of a Chinese(?) tour group in Croatia


Walking around Zagreb

Finally I headed over to the central station area, passing by some of the prominent parks and monuments.


Count Josip Jelačić of Bužim was the Ban of Croatia between 23 March 1848 and 19 May 1859.


Archaeological museum in Zagreb, complete with a giant skull above the entrance


Walking around Zagreb


Walking around Zagreb


Zagreb bike path


King Tomislav and the birds

At this point I was pretty cold and tired of walking around in the rain. I originally planned to make a full circle and walk back, but now I was pretty sure I would take the tram home. But first I went to find food. I knew there were shops in the tunnel under the train station, so I went down there. Nothing screamed out at me, and I might have been a little nervous to try to order something, though I’d done it before… I didn’t see any restaurants with seating, so I let that be my final excuse to continue walking… to McDonald’s, on the other side. At least there I could just chill for a while and warm up and not feel too out of my element.


Tunnel under Glavni Kolodvor station, connecting the bus drop with the trams

I ordered a Big Mac and fries, and it was smaller than I hoped, but it sufficed. The restaurant was large, and pretty busy compared to everything else, but still there were plenty of open tables thankfully. I sat in a corner by the door and nibbled my fries while checking the apps to see if anyone was nearby, before I headed home. I chatted with one person a bit, but he wasn’t sure what he was doing, so I just went home to relax and maybe get some work done.

Later, a guy I had been talking to earlier, Ugi, wanted to hang out. I was pretty set on staying in, and wasn’t feeling up to the bars, but then he offered to pick me up and chill at his place. That sounded fine, so I went. We were going to watch a movie, but ended up chatting for a couple hours while drinking apple beer, a brand I hadn’t heard of. We talked about Croatia and how to pronounce my last name, which we spell Gorichanaz, but was apparently originally spelled Goričanec. Ugi told me I was without a doubt pronouncing my own last name “wrong,” or at least not doing it historical justice. I learned the “ch” is most definitely pronounced how it looks now, not with the softer “sh” pronunciation I grew up using. I also got confirmation of what I learned over the years seeing more and more Goričaneces show up on Facebook: there are many of us. The website shows a nice little map and explanation of the name.

Ugi also told me about a sort of gay sauna he had been to in Slovenia, only about an hour away by car. For a while he seemed game for going the next day, Sunday evening, and I was really excited for a while. It would be an unexpected new country, and potentially a new passport stamp. But the next morning, he dropped me off at home before his scheduled lunch plans, and I didn’t hear from him again till evening, when it was too late to go to Slovenia. Oh well.





Monday came, and I had to get in another work day. I was a bit sad about leaving my cozy little apartment, but of course also excited about the destinations to come. I hoped to get some dinner at an actual restaurant once before I left Croatia, but it wasn’t to be. I didn’t find any friends available for lunch or dinner. After dinner I did meet a student from Bulgaria traveling with a group, but that was the extent of my socializing Monday. So after walking around a bit more taking photos, I went to bed, and rose early to take the bus to the airport, and then walk the final kilometer again. Except it turned out to be three kilometers in the freezing wind, as I missed the bus stop, and then initially started walking the wrong way. Woo!


Walking around Zagreb at midnight