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The Croatian Coast
Concert Tour in Zagreb
July 10 – Bled to Zagreb, Croatia
on the bus - not a long drive, but now into the fifth country of this
trip, Croatia, once part of Yugoslavia. We had lunch at a mini-mart
along the way and arrived in Zagreb around 2:30.
Zagreb is a
strange mix of Communist era buildings (boxy and ugly),
Empire opulence, and lots of graffiti. There is a lot of road
construction, so driving in the city must be awful - turn a corner and
find that the intersection ahead is blocked because the road is torn
It took our driver lots of turns and maneuvering to get to the hotel,
the Best Western Astoria, which was very well located - about 1 km.
from the main square in town.
Our room was small, but pleasant.
Electricity must be very dear here, because the halls and rooms are
equipped with motion sensors that turn the lights off and on. The only
complaint with the hotel is that the bar, right at the foot of the
stairs leading to the rooms, is terribly smoky - it smells awful. The
deeper we travel into the former Yugoslavia, the more smokers we
encounter. They haven't managed to separate smoking from non-smoking
areas in all cases, so the smokers can make life rather unpleasant for
After we unloaded our luggage and got into our
rooms, we had a combination driving and walking tour of Zagreb. Our
guide is an art and history teacher. He told us that the streets change
every day - sometimes a street is open in the morning, but by late
afternoon it is closed. Makes navigating the city a real challenge.
city has some very fine Hapsburg era buildings - all painted the same
color, a sort of mustard. Maria Theresa mandated this a few hundred
years ago and the mandate has stuck. It seems that they don't suffer
from the graffiti that the rest of the buildings do - most likely the
authorities eradicate the graffiti.
Someone was told that the
reason there is so much graffiti is that the residents lived under so
much control for so many years and now the young people are being a bit
We went up to the lovely cathedral - currently being
cleaned and refurbished. Croatia is a very heavily Catholic country -
about 86% of the people are practicing Catholics.
tour guide took us through some of the old streets in Zagreb - for
example, the gate remaining from the original city walls. The evidence
of the country's Catholic devotion is everywhere - many statues,
churches and monuments. Evident, too, is the joy the people feel from
being released from the oppression of the Tito years, followed by war
and unrest. The streets at night a teeming with people - enjoying
themselves, conversing, flirting and being very sociable.
and I decided to have dinner at a restaurant near the cathedral -
"Leonardo" - rather appropriate considering that our showcase piece for
the choir tour is "Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine." We ate
outdoors rather than inside where it was sure to be smoky. Even
outdoors was a bit problematic - the Croats are heavy smokers and the
restaurants don't designate non-smoking areas. However, we had a very
nice meal - a caprese salad with wonderfu fresh tomatoes and fresh
mozzerella. I had a gnocchi bolognese and Tom had a gnocchi with
gorgonzola sauce. They were both very good.
11 - Zagreb
had a morning rehearsal today, which meant that our day was a bit
broken up. We trooped up toward the cathedral and beyond to the
performance venue, the Franciscan monestary only a few hundred meters
from the cathedral. It was a nice location and reasonably spacious. We
knew it was going to be hot, though - Zagreb is sweltering in the
After the rehearsal, Tom and I went to the nearby fruit
and vegetable market where we bought some raspberries and grapes. We
had planned to meet some of the rest of the tour members, but somehow
didn't manage to connect, so we had lunch in a place that was near the
city center. Italian food is very big in Croatia. Once again we shared
a caprese. Tom had a pasta with quattro formaggi and I had a pasta with
a pesto sauce. We shared some bottled water, which is more expensive
than beer in restaurants.
headed back to the hotel - I decided to do a little exploring on my own
and went into the large underground shopping area by the train station
- it is enormous - a collection of many small shops, mostly selling
clothes and shoes for a younger clientel. I was surprised at how many
American goods there were - Wranglers, Levi's, Champion, Nike, Addidas.
Time for the concert - change into concert dress and troop u
the hill with risers, music and programs in hand. There was a service
in progress when we got there, so we waited in a room to the side of
the church - my goodness, it was hot. We got everything set up and were
delighted that the church was packed - a much better turnout than in
Bled. The audience was very enthusiastic and we sang very well, even
though we were all dripping wet by the end.
congregated with the audience beside the church (outdoors). People were
so appreciative of our performance - they were very complimentary.
A few of us went back to Leonardo for a late night meal - pizza this
time. Even at 11:00 pm, the streets in Zagreb are lively.
don't think Zagreb is a place we'd chose to return - there isn't all
that much to see, but it does have some interesting sites.