Sunday, March 31, 2013

Signs Of A Smoking Society

We do notice a lot of smokers still in this part of the world (and in many others, including China). We can remember in our younger days seeing various types of public ashtrays in our part of the world.

It slowly dawned on us this trip that almost every trash can we see on the street here includes a little ashtray on top.

Ljubljana: Our First Soggy Impressions

The exits at the Ljubljana railway station point in two opposite directions. After some figuring and interpreting and pulling out our GPS, we manage to head in the right direction, fending off the rain with our travel umbrellas, and are checking in at the Grand Hotel Union Executive within about 15 minutes.

Our first impression is that we've been spoiled by the, yes, American chains we've been staying back. This hotel is one of the landmarks of the Slovenia's capital city, numerous celebrities have stayed there (Queen Elizabeth II is proudly featured in the hotel's magazine), but we're not all that impressed.

We walk a considerable distance from the friendly check-in clerk to the very small elevators in the new (and cheaper) section of the hotel we reserved. We ascend and find our room. A private bathroom but no tub - just a shower. No coffee and tea in the room, not even a teakettle. No iron and ironing board, although there is one of those fancy pants pressers on one corner of the small room.

We'll survive just fine but we feel we've gone back to the 50s - or maybe the early 60s - as we experience Ljubljana's version of a really classy hotel.

The hotel is right on the verge of the Old Town and a beautiful place it is. Unfortunately, at this point it's raining and cold as well and we soon retreat to our room. Thank goodness for the free Internet.

Shortly after 6:00 p.m. after a lot of restaurant research we venture forth once again. Now it's pouring - really pouring - and we walk as promptly as possible to find a place that's open and reasonably priced.

Just as we're about to give up, we stumble upon Paninoteca and manage to salvage the evening with soup, stuffed mushrooms, chicken for Kathy and Veal Saltimbocca for Brian, along with Slovenian wine, Tomas Malabri (okay but not too memorable).

We're back in our room, hoping for better weather tomorrow, and a chance to wander around what appears through the moisture to be a very charming area.

Easter Sunday: Zagreb To Ljubljana

Happiness is a nearly empty train and a compartment all to ourselves...

We enjoy the scenery and watch the high water along the way...
Before long we're back in Slovenia. The Croatian authorities check our passports as we depart, and the Slovenian authorities check our passports as we enter. In a few months, when Croatia joins the EU, these employees will no doubt be reassigned other duties.

We notice at every station we pass than the official we would call the Stationmaster stands at attention in a station doorway as the train passes. We'll have to ask somebody the reason.

About 2 1/2 hours after the start of our trip we pull into Ljubljana.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Zagreb: Sofra Bosnian Restaurant

Wow! We walked out of the Doubletree, rode down an escalator, walked through a passage and there we were in the basement of the building housing Sofra - or at least this branch of the restaurant as the the original is downtown.

As promised when we made our reservation, live "gypsy music" was being performed by a six-member ensemble that sounded Mexican at some times and Russian at others.

We had done a little advance research by reading recommendations in Wikipedia and in the restaurant's  Trip Advisor reviews and the waiter generally approved of our choices. What an amazing meal it was, with new tastes and textures, all washed down with a glass of Sarajevska Pivara and a half-liter of the house red.

Meat skewers, Bosnian ravioli, a meat pie, and a full plate of Bosnian-style bread...
Yes, we had plenty to eat and the total bill of about $35 was also good for our digestion.

You can watch and listen to our video of  20 seconds of the gypsy musicians here.

Zagreb Doubletree By Hilton: What A Gem!

We've mentioned already how impressed we are with this property.

As our stay progresses, it just keeps getting better and better.

This morning's breakfast buffet was excellent. The employees are sincerely friendly and almost tripping over themselves to be helpful.

Since tomorrow is Easter Sunday Brian asked at the front desk how to purchase a one-way tram ticket to the train station. The employee told us the hotel could hire us a taxi and charge it to our room for about a dollar more than waiting for a tram on a possibly rainy morning. Problem solved!

We wandered around the Old Town for awhile but then it started to rain and Kathy has a cold so it was time to retreat to the hotel.

She was hoping to find another packet of Twinings Green Tea & Lemon in the room stash but there were only minty varieties, not at all to her liking.

Brian found a housekeeper still working on our floor and asked if he could trade. The poor woman couldn't speak much English but let Brian check the tea packets - no lemon in sight. Brian muttered "limone" and "citrone" and made sour faces. The lady asked for his room number and no more than five minutes later another employee knocked on the door with five packets of Green Tea & Lemon, delivered with a smile!

Everything about the hotel is modern. For example, you touch your key card to a symbol on the elevator to gain access to the floors, and you touch another pad beside your room door to unlock it automatically. There's a touch pad inside to turn on and off various lights and even to display outside "Do Not Disturb" or "Please Make Up Room." We've seen similar arrangements in Asian hotels but this property is pretty well state-of-the art.

Tonight we've made reservations for the well-reviewed Bosnian restaurant next door, Sofra. We gather there will be live gypsy music and we gather we should try Buredziki (meat pie with yoghurt) or Klepe (ravioli filled with meat and baked in sour cream and garlic sauce).

Tomorrow we have a 12:30 p.m. train to catch to Ljubljana and the penultimate stop of our current trip, but we'll leave with happy memories of the Doubletree and of Zagreb, despite the rainy weather.

Zagreb Upper Town: The Church Of St. Mark

Church of St Mark

The Church of St Mark is easily recognizable by its brightly colored tile roof, bearing the coats of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, Savonia, and Zagreb city. The roof was actually a recent addition, which took place in the late 1800s. The first Church of St Mark was documented as far back as the mid 1200s. Since that time many changes have been made to the church but a Romanesque window, and a Gothic doorway by Ivan Parler, still remain from the original structure. A series of niches in the door contain statues of the twelve apostles, along with Jesus, Mary, and St Mark.
Even the cobblestones around the church impressed us.
It was worth the walk, even on a rainy day. Oh, and there's a good reason it's called the Upper Town...

Zagreb Graffiti and Tagging: Vandalism Or Street Art?

Maybe some of each. All we know is that we saw more here than in any other single city in our memories. You be the judge. Here are just a few examples from one tram ride and a few minutes in the Old Town...

Zagreb By Tram: Riding The Rails

About ZET

Zagreb Municipal Transit System or ZET (Zagrebački Električni Tramvaj) is a branch of the Zagreb Holding specialized for passenger transportation in the city of Zagreb and one part of the Zagreb County. It uses buses, trams and cable car to organize a transportation of students and also provides special transportation to people with disabilities. It is exclusively owned by the city of Zagreb and it is mainly financed through its budget.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Zagreb's Arheoloski Muzej (Archaeological Museum)

What better place to be on a rainy afternoon that touring through Zagreb's wonderful archaeology museum, especially when we only had to pay the 10 Kuna (2 US$) entry fee.

We spent a couple of hours there and we could have easily spent even longer. Bronze, Copper, and Iron Ages, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans on three floors in an interesting old building. We're glad we found it.