Three sharp raps on our compartment door at 6:10 wake us in time to brush teeth and dress for arrival at 6:30. Sleeping on a train is not easy (even for Dick). We're both pretty groggy and have developed the gait to stay upright on a train. Quite a sight. Instead of turning lights on when reaching the station, we were immersed in total darkness groping for our belongings. Again so thankful we are traveling light.
We're on the streets of Zagreb by 7:00, pretty much alone. Per Rick Steves, we catch the #6 tram into the commercial district, only three stops, and within the free zone. These really move people around quickly.
We had about 4 plus hours to eat a little breakfast and see Zagreb. We did a good job. Since it is the capital of Croatia and a quarter of the entire population of Croatia live here there is lots to cover.
The main square is called Jelacić Trg where we start our walking tour. It's the heart of the commercial part of the city. Great tourist office there! Good people watching spot. They're all set up for Christmas.
The Cathedral of Mary has two towers that dominate the skyline and a beautiful domed arched entrance. Mary is the patron saint of Zagreb. The churches are really busy today, not with tourists but locals. It must be St. Nicholas Day, although Croatians are strong Catholics and regular church-goers.
We take a brisk walking tour of the two Medieval villages that form the old town portion of Zagreb. Gradec, the upper village, contains many marvelous museums. Kaptol, the lower village, has several churches. We reached Gradec by going up a cute little funicular. It's free for senior citizens like us.
We read about the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, a marvelous small venue in the upper city. We were there when it opened at ten. There are six small rooms of paintings and sculpture by untrained (naive) artists from the early 30's up to the 80's. Grandma Moses in the USA is considered a naive artist.
Our train to Ljubljana takes us into another country, Slovenia. While on Croatian tracks, officers on the train inspect our passports. The train stops at the border, Slovenian officers and agents board and they repeat the procedure. Seems like duplication, but both countries want to protect themselves from illegal old people.
Ljubljana is seems more Austrian than Balkan in architecture and economy. The old town is more than quaint. It is beautiful, much like I imagine Prague to be (having only seen pictures). Interesting architecture, stretching along a river with many bridges (including a triple bridge), many people on bicycles, lots of activity in the various squares, and all decorated for Christmas. It truly sparkles.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Morning in Zagreb before Leaving for Ljubljana.