Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Viva Croatia

I've arrived in Zagreb just in time for their national independence day. It was on this day many years ago that Croatians decided they were done with being part of Yugoslavia and declared their own country.

And like The 4th of July in America, everything is closed.

Today, Zagreb seems like a sleepy town. It's calm, quiet and relaxed. It seems like a nice place to live. Nik assures me that by tomorrow the frenetic craziness of life in the capital city will return, and what have been easy commutes across the city will become traffic gridlock best beaten by bicycle, foot or street trolley.

The only problem with today has been the blazing heat. Hot, humid, heavy - it's nearly unbearable, like an average summer day in Baltimore.

We start off by heading down to a city square where the official independence day ceremonies are taking place. There's lots of police, lots of military and lots of pomp and circumstance. After a moment of silence to remember those who gave their lives for Croatia's independence, we listen to the president of Croatia give a speech before heading to the grocery store.

I always find it interesting to visit the markets to see just what people are eating. Life in Zagreb is pretty much like everywhere else. The proximity to Italy means some really nice prosciutto but there's still a lot of packaged foods to go around.

Back at Nik's flat, Eva prepares us what is an "average" sized meal for Croatians. After meager eating in Copenhagen, I'm nearly shocked by the amount. Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful. But when you go from eating a bit of yogurt and granola in the morning to a large spread, it's surprising.

First course was a platter filled with fresh cherry tomatoes in balsamic vinegar, olive oil and basil, with olives, capers, baguettes, prosciutto, smoked cheese and local beer. To be honest, that would have been enough. It was delicious. But that was only the beginning.

Next up was a simple pasta salad with tuna and mozzarella. Tasty. Third course was the meat. The nice thing about Croatians is that they love their meats. No finicky tastes here, just large portions of meat. In this case, a platter of roaster pork loin and potatoes with just a touch of rosemary. For dessert, just a taste of chocolate napoleon wafers for good measure.

After a bit of lounging around the flat for digestion, I headed back to the hotel for an afternoon nap because of the stifling heat and then in the early evening we headed down to check out the action at Lake Juran.

Lake Juran is a state built lake that offers something for everyone. There are areas for windsurfing, sculling, exercising, mini-golf, beachfront, nude sunbathing, running, cycling - you name it, and this lake has probably got it. It's immense and it's complete with nightclubs for the evening hours. And since it's independence day, it was packed to the gills.

The best part of the lake are the women. Sitting there with a cold beer in hand, all the beauty of Croatia lies before you. It's a wonderful thing.

More to come.

1 comment:

John J. Goddard said...

Nice blog, Jay. How long are you in Croatia? I too miss the beauty of Jarun... but not the Zagreb heat. You should get yourself to the coast quickly.

One way to escape the Zagreb heat is to go to Importanne Centar and sit one of the coffeeshops or beer joints in the "food mall" underground. It's also a bit cooler up on Sljeme (the mountains around town), under the trees. Nice hiking too.