Monday, November 20, 2017

Zagreb, Croatia: Beautiful City with a City Center Full of Options

The New Zagreb Airport Terminal
We arrived in Zagreb, Croatia to a brand new airport. Our hosts from the company "GIS Cloud" told us even they were surprised at how nice it was. They took us to our hotel where we quickly checked in and then headed for the town center where the evening temperature was 40 degrees and dropping.

There is something magical when the air is cold, Christmas decorations are going up in the city, and Chestnuts are literally being roasted on an open fire. When we arrived we thought we'd be visiting a small town square, but we were surprised by a massive, bustling city center that must have stretched over a square mile.

The was a small farmers market loaded with local goods like honey, salami, bacon, produce, eggs, lavender, flowers, and what looked like local essential oils. There were endless retail shopping stores and lots of heated street-style restaurants with a variety of food ranging from burgers and pizza to coffee and gelato. We ended up going with a burger which was delicious and some apple cake for dessert. It was a beautiful evening, but we knew we'd need to return the next day to cover the rest of the square.

The next afternoon, we decided to try the local tram. After about a 15-minute wait, we caught the tram right into the city center for about 30 cents each. For comparison, an Uber ride from our hotel was about $3.

We arrived at about 1pm and the temperature was again about 40 degrees. The low that night would be 28. Wearing our heavy jackets, beanies, and gloves, we walked the streets of the center. Since it was Sunday afternoon, many of the shops were closed but there were a few open for business. 

Most of the restaurants were open and at about 3pm, a hot coffee sounded really good. We found a nice cafe and ordered the "large" coffee which was quite a bit smaller than a Starbucks tall. It was really good though and it was nice to get out of the cold for a few minutes. 

We found the vendor who was selling chestnuts that were roasted on an open fire and decided to try some. Sheri put the first one in her mouth and immediately made a face. She said she was going to need a drink of water because they were kind of pasty. She offered me one and I could see what she meant. The chestnut was warm and soft, but it felt like it was swelling inside my mouth with a dry, pasty texture. One was enough for me until we could find some water.

We decided to head back to the hotel and got a workout in at the gym, and then caught Newbreak's video sermon online before heading back to the square for dinner. It was way cheaper to eat dinner in the square than to eat at the hotel, plus the vibe was way better. We ate at a restaurant called Submarina, but it was really more of a burger joint. We carefully picked our table outside so we could sit near a heater. We ordered and split the Smokehouse burger along with some cheese fries that were really tasty. It was a nice day in the city center and if you are ever in Zagreb, you should definitely check it out!

Tomorrow we meet with the GIS software company we use to track and map all of our clean drinking water projects around the world. For me, that is one of my favorite parts of what I do as we get to map and quantify the life changes that take place when people receive clean drinking water systems. We are able to eliminate nearly all of their stomach sickness, keep kids in school more days, keep adults working more days, eliminate the need to purchase purified water, and cut their medical expenses way down! I'm looking forward to finally meeting the Croatian team in person!

Although Zagreb is a really nice, clean city in Croatia, the people that live here tell us that we should come to Croatia in the Summer to experience some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Maybe next time. For now, it was a nice break from the warmth of the Southern California weather to experience the brisk temperatures of Europe in the Fall. I'm hoping Fall will be in full force when we return home to San Diego on Tuesday. I'll be home for 2 1/2 weeks, then off to Liberia, Africa for more clean water adventures in the bush!

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